Drawing Leaves In The Park

I had fun at the park this week.  I sat down to enjoy the fresh air and all the greenery and noted that in spite of the end of September date, our leaves have ignored the day length changes and had not started to change colors yet.  It has, indeed, been an odd weather year.  It was 25C as I sat in the sunshine.

But I noticed a couple red leaves on the ground.  There must have been blown there because I couldn’t see where it came from.  It gave me a leaf to draw so I put it on the bench next to me and quickly sketched and painted it.  This motivated me to look for more and while I did find a couple more red leaves on the ground, what caught my eye was a tiny little maple tree, sticking out of a garden area.  I decided to sketch a few of its leaves and add a splash of red to them as well.  If I were a real nature journalist I’d write stuff on this spread.  I guess I am not a nature journalist (grin).

I’m becoming quite fond of the Hahnemuhle Cappuccino sketchbook.  It’s definitely not a watercolor sketchbook but it’s a dream to draw on with pen and as long as I don’t get carried away with the water, adding watercolor works pretty well.  I suspect I’ll buy another when this one is full.

lHahnemuehle Cappuccino sketchbook, Platinum 3776, DeAtramentis Document Black

I’m A COVID Victim… Sort Of.

Today is Sep 22nd.  I’m supposed to be in an operating room, getting my bum knee overhauled.  It’s not happening.  The reason it’s not happening is that some Quebecers felt that having Karaoke night at a bar while others were having large group parties was more important than keeping the COVID case numbers low in Quebec.  We even had a bunch of anti-masker idiots protesting in Montreal just to add some spice.

The result?  We’ve got a couple hundred cases a day of COVID in a province that had successfully suppressed COVID transmission (lockdowns, slow_openings, and mask mandates were doing the job) to almost nothing.  We were having day after day of zero deaths…and then the parties began.

How does this affect me?  Well, I was supposed to have surgery in the spring, but COVID came along and the province shut down all elective surgeries.  That was understandable – they needed the bed space.  But we “flattened the curve” as the media are fond of saying and, just a while ago the surgery troops started working again.  My operation was scheduled, until it wasn’t.  The province has shut down surgeries again and thus I will continue to hobble my way through life.  I take some solace in the fact that those who believe that masks are too much of a bother and cancelling a party is hard on their libido have now given me nowhere to go either.  What is wrong with humans?

But it was apple-picking time here in Quebec and Chantal and Jodie like to pick apples every year so we went last week to pick some.  I confess that I find it a bit odd that you pay a premium to pick your own apples, but they tell me it’s fun and so I go along.  I don’t pick apples, however, I draw them.

A Visit To Baie St. Paul

Shari Blaukopf recently spent several days in the Baie St. Paul area painting up a storm.  As I read her blog posts I thought of times when Chantal and I had visited the area and how much fun it was.  While we couldn’t go for several days, we decided to do a day trip there and back.  That meant a two hour drive in each direction so we wouldn’t have much time there but heck, it would satisfy our wanderlust.

The drive was enjoyable.  Just getting out and driving through forest and field was a treat.  When we got there we hunted down the place Shari mentioned that made 100% cotton paper.  It was nice, but I found the papers too thin (seemed mostly for writing) and too expensive.  So, we walked across the street to the Maritime Museum of Charlevoix, another of Shari’s stops.  It’s an interesting place, a place where cargo ships were stored during winters.  Since the display ships are all out of the water and sitting at an odd angle, I didn’t draw any of them (excepting a small, quick sketch of the tugboat that showed up in a previous blog post).

Instead I was thrilled to find tractors and stationary steam engines on display.  These provided power to move the ships around.  And so I drew one of the steam engines.  The sketch isn’t my best.  I found the subject more complex than I thought it would be and didn’t devote enough time to blocking in its proportions and relationships.  Oh well.  We had a great time anyway.

I’m both fascinated and frustrated by the effects the COVID scourge has had on my feelings and decision-making.  One of the really fun things to do in Baie St. Paul is walk down Main St. (don’t think it’s called that), visiting the high-end boutiques and art galleries.  Of course we had to do that – or did we really.  As we were wandering I felt that I shouldn’t be there.  The very notion of being in a store “just to look” has left me and all I wanted to do was get out of there.  Chantal felt the same way.

Ultimately we had our first meal in a restaurant since February and I had to chuckle over the fact that our choice of restaurant had little or nothing to do with what they were serving and everything to do with how few people were in the restaurant.  Such is life these days.  Hope COVID is treating you well.

Why I Don’t Do Sketchbook Tours

A couple people have asked why I don’t do sketchbook tours like so many people do.  My first thought is that I’m not set up to shoot video, but I could be if I wanted to do so. No, the real reason is that my sketchbooks are not done to be presented.  Lots of people approach each page as part of the whole, a place where a significant sketch must be completed to fit with the rest.  Others do everything with carefully organized graphic and text presentations.

I’ve tried doing both and, frankly, both approaches seem far too limiting to me.  I want to be able to scribble down whatever I want and however I want.  My sketchbooks are more about trying stuff, having fun, and generally putting in the work to improve my ability to draw.  I don’t feel I can do any of that while trying to produce something for presentation.  If some presentable sketches come from this, so be it but that’s not my goal.

And since I’ve been talking about the Hahnemuhle Cappuccino notebook recently I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and talk about it some more while I show you a couple pages I did this weekend.  They reflect how this paper responds to different media and how miserably disorganized my sketchbook pages are (grin). I’ll discuss these pages in the order in which it occurred.

We were at the Maritime Museum of Charlevoix this past weekend and we were sketching.  At one point I decided that I needed to sit down (my knee still limits my energy/mobility) and so I did.  Chantal took the opportunity to investigate views to a church she wanted to draw.

In front of me were some rocks so I got out the Cap. notebook and drew a small cluster of them.  I used thin watercolor washes to give them some life.  Then I started drawing a woman who was standing far away. This was a signal to her that she should walk behind a ship.  She did and I was left with a scribble.

I sat for a while, enjoying the sunshine and the fact that one of the virtues of the pandemic is that these museums are nearly devoid of people.  But eventually I started doing a quick, scribble of an old tugboat.  The point of view was weird but I was comfortable and didn’t feel like moving.  Besides, I was just going to draw the cabin roof and a few windows.

I didn’t worry about proportions and ended up with a tugboat with a shortened bow.  I also had a tugboat that had bumped into my little rock drawing, so I drew a square around the rocks.  It wasn’t a great sketch, but like all sketches it was fun to do.

Then Chantal came back.  We got into a discussion of faking perspective because she’d been trying to sketch a church.  The little scribble in the top left was my pen brain trying to assist my mouth brain in describing things.  After that lively discussion I put the sketchbook away and we continued our visit.

When we got home I decided to see how the Cappuccino would handle gouache.  So I painted the tugboat.  I didn’t worry much about staying inside the lines or doing careful shading.  I was only looking at how the gouache and paper interacted.  It does quite well, by the way.  For me, one of the advantages of gouache is that you use much less water and the paint sits on the surface so paper quality/type isn’t nearly as important.

Someone on YouTube mentioned using a Tuscan Red Col-Erase pencil and presented a few portraits done with it.  Looked good to me so I hunted down my box of Col-Erase and drew the guy you see here.  The drawing isn’t finished but I’m finished with it.  As a proof of concept this was a winner and I’ll investigate further my Tuscan Red pencil.

So, you see, none of these partial sketches are tour-worthy.  None of them are even finished drawings. They reflect me learning, trying, doing.  I place most of the emphasis on that last word.  Do you have sketchbooks like this?

Micro Portable Palette: A Review

Steve Padden is a genius when it comes to designing small palettes that excite the wandering sketcher.  His original Portable Palette is still being used by yours truly, though I confess I’ve found it most handy for painting while I watch TV.  When he launched an Indigogo project to fund a Portable Palette Micro I quickly dropped the bucks to buy a seat.

But poor old Steve ran into a world economy buzz saw we call COVID right in the middle of dealing with prototyping and production.  His suppliers were shut down by China, shipping stopped, and all he could do was worry about satisfying his customers.  Lucky for him, we artists are tolerant souls and, if I’m any indication, we were all tied up in our own COVID buzz saws and so we waited patiently as Steve apologized and kept us informed about what was going on.

But the Portable Palette Micro has arrived and WOW.  As my dad used to say, “It’s a doozy.”  Steve’s engineering prowess has created an amazing little palette.  It’s tiny, everything fits precisely, there’s lots of mixing space AND there’s a place for water.

It comes in a nice carrying sack that I may or may not use.  The main lid pops off and its underside provides two mixing areas.  When you take the main unit out of its case, the case serves as a water container and when the lid of the main unit is flipped up to expose six half-pans, the lid provides two more mixing areas. 

The three pieces slide together to create a single unit that you can hold conventionally or you can pull down a little T-shaped gizmo that’s supposed to serve as a thumb ring substitute.  It’s sort of hard to explain why, but I don’t like it.  It’s just too unstable for my tastes.  It’s so easy to hold this palette between thumb and forefinger, though, that I don’t see a need for it.

It was raining today so I couldn’t get out to paint anything so I drew a carrot.  Notice the beading up of the paint in the mixing trays.  This is typical of all plastic palettes and all you have to do is scuff them up.  I typically use a kitchen scouring pad (not metal) and a few seconds of rubbing.  Oh…and the half-pans are removable/replaceable so swapping colors around, as we’re prone to do, isn’t a problem.

Thanks Steve, for a fantastic solution to our micro palette problems.