My Love Affair With Street Lamps

Long ago, Pete Scully introduced me to the notion that the mundane in our lives could be great sketching subjects with his series of fire hydrant sketches.  I started drawing every fire hydrant and garbage can in sight.  When you start looking at these things as art objects, they become art objects and that Pete’s important lesson to the rest of us.

I feel the same way about street lamps.  I draw them all the time.  They serve as practice; they serve as fun.  They also serve as the basis for sketches that give me joy.  Here’s one I did recently in Tadoussac where my family spent the day last week.  I’ll talk more about sketching Tadoussac in a future post but for now, imagine a place with these all over the place.

Stillman & Birn Beta (6x9), Esterbrook J9550, diluted DeAtramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Beta (6×9), Esterbrook J9550, diluted DeAtramentis Document Black

Taking A Break By Drawing A Bridge

I was out walking the other day and realized that I’d forgotten my stool.  This limits where I can sit to sketch so I started looking for the magic sketcher’s triad.  A shady spot, a subject to sketch, and something to sit on.  Eventually I found a bench under a tree and the end of a bridge I could sketch.  This was the result.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5x8), Esterbrook J9550, diluted DeAtramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5×8), Esterbrook J9550, diluted DeAtramentis Document Black

Backyard Urban Sketching

You don’t have to go far from home to do urban sketching.  All you have to do is get a wife that’s an avid gardener and scenes worth sketching just pop up around your house.  I have one and this is a sketch I did one afternoon.

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Esterbrook J-2048

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Esterbrook J-2048

Trinity Church Entry Gate Sketch

Yvan and I had been quick-sketching people at Place d’Armes in Quebec City when the sun just became too much for us so we started walking around.  We decided to sketch the entry gate to the small parking lot in front of Trinity Church.  Mine is rather spartan as my arthritis was acting up and I was having some difficulty directing my pointy device.  Thought I’d share it anyway.

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Esterbrook J-2048

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Esterbrook J-2048

Summer Sketching On The Plains Of Abraham

The largest park in Quebec City is officially called Battlefield Park.  It’s just west of the “old city”, the walled part of Quebec City and it was named Battlefield Park because this is where the British climbed the cliffs and fought the French for control of the city in a famous battle.

But we locals still call it the Plains of Abraham because, well, that’s what it’s called.  Abraham was a farmer who farmed the land before the Brits came along and it’s not likely that we’ll start calling it Battlefield Park anytime soon.

On this day, however, we were there to sketch, near a large open area that has rollerblade and running circuits that measure, I think, a kilometer around.  I sat in the sun and made this sketch of what used to be the natural history museum before it was decided that we didn’t need one 🙁

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5c8.5), Platinum 3776

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5c8.5), Platinum 3776

Nouvelle France People Sketches

2016-07-09-57TraitCarre2Yvan and I went to Galleria Margelis-Paradis in Trait Carre because the Charlesbourg Watercolorists were having an event to promote the gallery, their group, and their upcoming participation in Quebec’s annual Fete de Nouvelle France celebration.

2016-07-09-57TraitCarre1I’m not much of a people sketcher, particularly when the targets are moving, which was the case as the watercolorists were talking with visitors, showing them period items and paintings.  But, practice makes perfect and I’m sure I only need to draw a couple thousand more before I figure it out.  Anyways, here’s a few of the sketches I did that day.  All were done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha softcover sketchbook with my Platinum 3776 pointy device.



The Trials Of Creating An Urban Sketch

Many artists never do their art on location.  They’re happy sitting in a studio, laying out drawings, tracing the layout onto their watercolor paper, and then painting from a photo, or some such approach.  For me, sketching is all about the chase.  I have to go somewhere.  It might be just down the street or even into my backyard but I’ve got to actually ‘discover’ my subject.

There are compromises in this approach.  Anyone who does it knows them.  Time, weather, interruptions and sitting on a tripod stool balancing your sketchbook are among them.   Some times are better than others, however, and I’d like to share a couple “oops” sketches with you.

The first is a train engine.  I’ve wanted to sketch this small switch engine for a long time.  It’s tied to our large grainery and is responsible for moving the grain cars around.  I saw an opportunity to draw it and sat down to draw.  It was going pretty well until…well…it drove away.  I could follow its tracks (pun intended) and did, which allowed me to complete, sort of, the engine but the mood was broken.  I became disinterested in completing the sketch by including some entourage behind and in front of it.  So here it is, as is.

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Last week we were supposed to meet on the Plains of Abraham for a group session.  Only three of us showed up because it was raining.  We ended up huddled under the overhang of a building with only a single subject, the realty business across the street. So we drew it.  It was cold and I had a hard time keeping my mind on drawing and I worked fast – too fast.  Sometimes urban sketching isn’t what it’s cracked up to be 🙂

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Platinum 3776

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Platinum 3776

With urban sketching you sometimes win and sometimes lose when it comes to the end product.  When it comes to the fun, however, it’s always more fun than sitting in a studio.

Editor’s note:  I’m getting behind in my posting.  I apologize for that and hope to get a bunch of sketches posted in the upcoming week. 

Tugboats Are Cool

When I was a kid, one of the characters, in books and later in a Disney series, was a tugboat named Little Toot.  I don’t remember anything about the stories and don’t have a clue whether it was as good as the modern maritime character, Sponge Bob, but in some strange way I was touched by that character as I have an undying affinity for tugboats.

This is really odd because I’ve spent most of my life living in places like Phoenix, Arizona and there aren’t any tugboats in the Sonoran Desert.  But there are tugboats in Quebec City and I love to draw them.  They all live in a basin with an opening to the St. Lawrence where they push and pull large ships in and out of port.  Here’s my latest effort.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5x8.5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5×8.5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Sketching At Domaine Cataraqui

It’s clear that Domaine Cataraqui was once the humble abode of some rich folks.  These days, however, there’s a public component to the estate grounds, including a large parking lot, a communal garden and a bunch of picnic tables.  The main building now houses a cooking school.  Still, there seems to be an active staff maintaining the place.

For our regular sketching group, it’s a wonderful place to go sketching because one can sketch nature or architecture and so we headed there on a nice sunny day to burn some ink.

I found a nice spot under a huge elm that had a good view of the greenhouse attached to the mansion and went to work.  For some reason I found it more complex than I thought it would be but I got lost in the sketch and well over an hour had passed before I came out of my haze.

Stillman & Birn Delta (8x10), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Delta (8×10), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

I spent the next few minutes wandering around, mostly taking a break but I found this large pile of equally large rocks with flowers planted in the crevices.   I always find drawing rocks to be lots of fun and these were no exception.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5x8.5), Platinum 3776, PLatinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha (5.5×8.5), Platinum 3776, PLatinum Carbon Black

Then it was time for a snack and sketcher talk.  Hope you like the sketches as much as I liked doing them.

Ottawa’s Agriculture Museum

I forgot about this sketch yesterday when I was posting building sketches from my Ottawa trip.  My daughter and I spent part of a day at the Agriculture Museum in Ottawa and I drew this beautiful old barn.  It should have been included in the last blog post.

Stillman & Birn Delta (8x10), Platinum 3776