Sketching On The Island

I got the chance to hitch a ride with Claudette and Yvan, who were headed to the Ile d’Orleans for a day of sketching.  It happened to be on a “good” day for my leg and hand so I was optimistic.  The day was ideal.  We’re still experiencing high temps and humidities but I’m learning that Quebec City’s “colder than everywhere else” translates into “cooler than everywhere else” when the world is facing heat waves.

We ended up in the town of St. Jean, which is on the northern end of the island and we parked near a large church and strategically positioned to walk across the street for coffee when our session was over.  We headed off in the other direction, though, down onto the intertidal zone near the St. Lawrence.

This rock-encrusted area is gorgeous and affords great views across the river as well as back towards the church and other houses along the river front.  For me it was slow-going as I walked like a drunken sailor over the uneven surfaces, trying not to upset my new overlord – my knee.  It was so nice to be out sketching that I hardly noticed, but people watching must have wondered what was wrong with me.

I decided on a scene and to work in a little 5×7 spiral bound book from Winsor & Newton.  The paper is 100% cotton and the size is really convenient.  I was only half content with the results but since I’m trying lots of different watercolor techniques I’ve never used before, I expect very little from the results.  It was fun, though, to play around with some dry-brushing and wet-n-wet (complete fail on that one).

Then it was time for coffee and we had a great time looking sketchbooks that Claudette had filled while on a recent trip.  When we finished we drove to Miriam’s cottage, though she wasn’t on the island this day.  It was threatening rain so Claudette and I set up inside a large barn and drew outward from it.  I wanted to emphasize the framing of the scene by the barn door but I feel that I let the depth of the scene escape me so I was pretty disappointed with the end result.  The doing, as always, was a lot of fun.  Funny how it works that way sometimes.  I sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t stick with pen and ink and leave the watercolor to others.

 

A Bit Of Quick Sketchcrawling

People say that getting “out of your comfort zone” is a good idea.  So, I drive twice the speed limit, drink excessively and pick fights with NFL players.  Just kidding…maybe that isn’t what they mean, though in the art world these catch-all phrases are ill-defined and hold little real meaning.

But this week seems to be a week where I’m doing things different from my norm and a couple days ago Yvan suggested that we do a ‘real’ sketchcrawl, where we go to a spot, sketch something quickly and then move on to the next spot, repeating until the day got too hot to continue, or until Larry got completely frustrated (grin).

And that’s exactly what we did.  We hopped a bus and headed to a neighborhood where we’d never sketched and decided that we’d walk until one of us (took turns at that) decided it was time to stop.  There, we would choose a subject and spend only a few minutes capturing the scene.  Easy peasy, right?

For Yvan it was.  He’s a superb sketcher and with decades of experience, he’s also really quick when he needs to be.  Me, not so much.  I’m still vying for the “slowest sketcher on the planet” award and I think I’m still in the lead.

When I start sketching quickly all sorts of things go wrong as I lose control of linear perspective, proportions, and relationships.  These things cause my sketches to be barely recognizable as the scene before me.  But heck, I was out of my comfort zone.  That has to be good, right?  These are three sketches I came up with during our quick-sketchcrawl session.

A Sketching Adventure To Miriam’s Cottage

One of the nicest people in the world has a cottage and a large tract of land on the south side of Ile d’Orleans, which itself resides in the middle of the Ste Lawrence River.  Her name is Miriam and she invited Yvan and I to sketch with her and we jumped at the chance.

We started the day with tea on the deck, watching for boats going by.  Miriam has decided to draw the large ships as they go by, not a small feat since the view of the river is little more than an opening in the tree canopy and these ships, big as they are in reality, are pretty small when seen from her cottage.  But binoculars and a sketcher’s will surmounts these minor problems.

After tea we hiked up the hill to sketch a small barn sitting at the top of a hill.  It’s a beautiful scene but I confess that I got overwhelmed by the sea of green which, we concluded, was a field of bok choy.  Throw in a forest on the other side of the road and I didn’t know what to do with all that green.  I didn’t really need to tell you that; it is evident in the sketch.  Still, the weather was wonderful and the shade plentiful so I was a happy camper.

Jinhao ‘el cheapo’ pen, R&K SketchInk (Lily), DS watercolors.

As we were walking back to the house we were blessed by a conga line of four young racoons as they made their way up a creek bed.  That was quite fun.  Eventually they entered a culvert under the road and we never saw them again.

Lunch required a return to the deck, more ship watching and a session of “let’s get our palettes out and start making blotches of color  and mixing them together.”  Everyone plays that game… don’t they?  Well we did and had a ball for at least an hour.

When it was time to return to sketching, Yvan and Miriam wanted to draw the large rocks in the forest next to her cottage.  We walked in to the forest and all I could see was green, green, and more green.  This wasn’t reality but my PTSD from the morning’s greenery wouldn’t let me see anything else.  So I started wandering until I found this lonely shovel leaning against the barn wall.  It needed to be sketched.

We gathered for another cup of tea and discussed future plans.  Miriam agreed that if we’d leave, she’d let us return ‘real soon’ so we did.  I can’t wait to get back there.

A Little Store Called “Ketto”

The heatwave has driven us into the parks because we can sit in the shade.  But before that happened, I’d drawn a little store on the corner of rue Cremazie and rue Cartier in Quebec City and I’d forgotten about it.  I added some color to it this weekend and thought I’d share it as a change of pace from all the trees I’ve been drawing lately (grin).

Jinhao ‘el cheapo’ pen, R&K SketchInk (Lily) and DS watercolors

Sketching With The Artistes Du Parc

Last week Yvan told me of a group, the Artistes du Parc, who were meeting at a large park, Domain Maizeret, and that he was going there to sketch with them.  They are a watercolor group and I tagged along. We had a great time in spite of the heat wave.

When we arrived there was only one person there.  She was painting the large community building that’s the centerpiece of the park.  It turned out that she was the organizer, Denise Bujold.  Denise is a bubbly, enthusiastic person whose personality says “Join us, we’re about to have fun.”  I now have a brochure with a schedule of another half a dozen events that she has planned.  If you look up the word organizer in a dictionary you might find her picture.  Yippee!

Yvan and I did the sketcher thing, which was to wander around, looking for something to draw and then we proceeded to ignore one another for the next hour or so.  I went to the other side of the large building and decided to draw the scene shown below, mostly because there was a good patch of shade where I could plunk my butt on my stool and draw.  Here, courtesy of Denise, is a photo of my fat self doing just that, or rather faking that I was painting because by then I had finished.  I don’t normally have a big, silly grin on my face when I draw but heck, she was taking my picture.  Ya gotta smile for the camera.

I’ve got to do something about that tiny tripod stool though.  It’s really hard for me to sit down and even harder to get up.  I’m convinced that some day I won’t be able to (grin)

 

I did get to meet another person who came to the event, Nicole.  I suspect that most stayed away because this was in the middle of our heatwave and by then we were all hearing about the people dying because of it.  Still, it was a great day and the beginning, I hope, of a new sketching/painting relationship.

Garden Sketching On A Hot Day

I’ve mentioned the heat wave that’s occurring on planet Quebec City and it still rages on.  Yvan and I thought that maybe we should sketch in my backyard, which is shady and close to a fridge full of ice cold water.  This turned out to be a good idea and we had some fun in spite of the heat.  Here’s a sketch I did of part of the perimeter of our yard.  Too many leaves.

Fabriano Artistico, Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis diluted brown/black

Sketching With The Collectif In Ste-Foy

I’ve mentioned the Collectif before, whose complete name is Collectif des ateliers libres en arts visuels de Québec because people here love long, impossible to remember names.  They are mostly a portrait group and like nothing more than to sit around a naked person while they draw in a stuffy room.  In recent years, though, they’ve discovered that sketching outdoors is fun, too, and so have started scheduling outdoor events during the summer.

They scheduled an event at a large garden in Ste-Foy, or rather Quebec City.  Which name you use depends on whether you acknowledge the aggregation of the small cities into what now makes up metro-Quebec City.  For me it will always be Ste-Foy though I realize that people reading this blog might be confused by my using the two names to refer to the same place.  Such is life on planet Quebec City.

The garden is a large one but mostly rows and rows of different species of plants, and thus most of it is not the same as a typical botanical garden.  If I knew more about gardens I’d probably know why this is the case.  In any event, it’s a great place to draw flowers but I didn’t do that on this day.  Instead, I drew a small kiosk and the surrounding vegetation.  It was a nice day and the sketching was relaxing.  When I was done I walked around to talk with everyone and to look at what everyone was drawing.  By the time that was done my knee was screaming at me and so I settled for the one sketch for the day.  I hope you like it.

Fabriano Artistico (7.5×11), Pilot Cavalier, R&K Sketch Ink (Lily)

Sketching The Mundane, The Ugly, The Unseen

When I was first learning about urban sketching my mentor (though she didn’t know it) was Cathy Johnson.  I fell in love with her sketches, many of which appeared to me in books by her about nature, historical reinactment, and art books.  Another thing she showed me how interesting and beautiful an artist can make the mundane and ugly.  She’d paint broken down buildings as seen through rusty chain link fence.  She did a sketch of a bridge being torn apart.  And she did these things in a way that made you want to hang them on your living room wall.

I still aspire to have her abilities but one of the great things about being a sketcher is that with only a dollup of persistence you can try and try again.  I’ve spent more than a little time drawing the alleyways of the older parts of Quebec City.  These are cluttered, ill-maintained places that are mostly out of sight and out of mind.  While I may not have Cathy’s expertise, I do have her zeal and I’ve done another alley sketch.  Here it is, warts and all.  I really enjoyed doing it.

Fabriano Artistico (7.5×11), Pilot Cavalier, R&K Sketch Ink (Lily), Daniel Smith watercolor

Playing Through The Pain

In sports there are regular references to athletes who play through the pain.  I feel like I’m trying to do that right now with my sketching.  I’m at a point where I can walk and stand but doing so requires a lot of energy because of my pronounced limp.  Then, when I get on site, I further abuse my knee by sitting on my tripod stool.

At the same time, a star finally appeared over planet Quebec City, or at least that’s what the astronomers call it.  The result has been that we’ve got these things authorities are calling shadows and a lot more light than normal.  It has also gotten warm enough that we can sketch outdoors.

A fairly large group of us were downtown sketching.  I learned later that everyone thought I’d gone home, I suppose, because of the grimace on my face when I walked, but actually I’d limped down to the south side of city hall and drew a street view.

Normally I lose track of time when I sketch but on this day I knew every minute because my knee kept sending out tweets screaming about being harassed and abused.  But eventually I did finish the sketch.  I didn’t notice, until now, that I didn’t draw any of those shadow things I mentioned.  I guess I’ll get used to those in time.

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

When I finished I limped back to where everyone else was sketching.  They were finishing up sketches and starting to talk about getting coffee.  I sat down and with a couple minutes to fill, I started drawing some of the roof lines.  Then we went to get coffee and reflect on the day.  I think it’s going to be a long summer.  I think I should be on the disabled list but don’t tell coach.

Rohrer & Klingner Waterproof Sketch Inks

When I started sketching, there were two reasonable candidates if you wanted to use heavily sized watercolor paper and wanted to use watercolor over your pen sketches.  You could use Platinum Carbon Black ink, a pigmented ink, and Noodler’s Lexington Gray, which relied upon bonding to cellulose for its water resistance.  Lex Gray was only passable because it was a gray and when it smeared it didn’t create really bad smears.  I used both of them – a lot.

When DeAtramentis Document inks came to market, the stampede could be heard worldwide as we all rushed to our ink store to buy these waterproof inks. They’ve made a lot of us very happy, though these inks are a bit on the pricey side ($20/35ml).

The story could end right there except that I’m like a bass in the weeds, lunging out at every shiny object trolled in front of my nose by the pen/ink manufacturers.  When the Jet Pens newsletter featured Rohrer & Klingner Sketch Inks, my credit card warmed up, some buttons were pushed and I had three bottles of ink winging their way to chez moi.

There are actually 10 different colors in this ink line.  Each ink carries a female name and the bottle features a sketch of a woman.  Maybe I’m supposed to know who these women are but I don’t.  What I do know is that they are INK SKETCHES of women.  Did I mention that the inks are called Sketch Inks?  How cool is that?

More important, these inks are nano-pigmented inks that are suitable for fountain pens and they’re a lot cheaper than the DeAtramentis inks I use.  For $12 you get 50ml which works out to 24 cents/ml vs 57 cents/ml for DeAtramentis inks.  And the sketches on the bottle are really nice.  Did I mention that the inks are called Sketch Inks?  Very cool.

I bought bottles of Frieda (dark blue), Lily (dull brown), and Thea (dark grey).  The dark grey is the most exciting to me because it’s a gray like Lexington Gray but absolutely waterproof even on Fabriano Artistico.   The dull brown is very close to a color I’ve mixed using DeAtramentis Document Brown with a bit of black thrown in to neutralize it a bit.

One thing that’s great about the colors I got, and I presume the rest of the line, is their matte quality.  One thing I’ve never liked about Platinum Carbon Black is the shiny line quality.  They should blend well with watercolor.  Also, at least on the Emilio Braga paper I used for a quick test (below) these inks dry fast, really fast. (ed note: just tested on Fabriano and the ink didn’t smear after 5 seconds, maybe less).

I haven’t had a lot of time with them (just arrived last night) but I stuffed Frieda into a Pilot Cavalier (fine), Lily into a Lamy Safari (Xfine) and Thea in to a Pilot Falcon (SFine).   I scribbled a bit on photocopy paper and went to bed.  Figuring I needed something to show you beyond a picture of the bottles, I stopped while I was out and drew a lamp post and trashcan.  I drew this same thing with each ink, spending a few seconds more than 5 minutes on this scribbly page.  I apologize for them being different sizes; I didn’t plan as well as I might have.  Ultimately, you’ll be seeing a lot of sketches from my use of these inks; particularly the grey and brown.  I think I love my new lady friends.

Left to right: Frieda, Lily, Thea, Emilio Braga 4×6 notebook.