Ottawa’s Museum Of Nature

When my daughter was home for Easter I offered to take her back to Ottawa so she wouldn’t have to take the bus.  This would save her the long bus ride, garner dad some brownie points, and give me several hours worth of discussion with said daughter as we drove to Ottawa.

A not-so-well-hidden reason behind this gesture on my part was my desire to get back to Ottawa so I could sketch at the Museum of Nature.   It never really makes much sense to spend ten hours driving (round trip) so that I could spend four hours sketching, but then we sketchers are a sorry lot when it comes to logic.  I got to DRAW!

We left at 5AM and I got to the museum by about 10:30AM.  I walked around a bit, and ended up in the mammal exhibition.  I generally draw bones in the dinosaur exhibits and so I’ve neglected the mammals.  Time to make up for that.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10)

I started with a grizzly bear.  It was a disaster and I include it here only as an example of sketching gone wrong.  I got the bright idea to try wet-in-wet while sitting on a tripod stool in a museum and with my extensive background of never having tried it before.  Eeeeeekkkk!  I wet the entire bear.  I can’t say whether I wet it too much or too little as I had a hard time seeing just how much water was on the paper in the subdued lighting.  What I do know is that when I started dropping in browns, I created something more akin to the big bang than a painting.  There was brown exploding everywhere and in an instant I had a bear-shaped outline that looked like something that came from the south end of a cow.  I quickly started dabbing at it.  I’m sure the other patrons thought I was under attack by some invisible creature as I flailed around.  As I said, it was/is a disaster.

With that mess behind me I decided it was snack time so I could regroup.  Then I returned to the mammal exhibit, determined to redeem myself.  I targeted the head of a thinned-horn sheep and, leaving wet-in-wet techniques for another day, achieved what I felt was reasonable redemption.

Stillman & BIrn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Across the corridor was an antelope scene and since I only had a short time remaining, I decided to give it a try rather than doing my typical walkabout to find a subject.  I worked fairly quickly and, I suppose, there are some errors but nevertheless, it was a fitting end to a great day.  When I was finished I realized that I was about 10 minutes late for my rendevous with my daughter.   Sketching and time just don’t mix well.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

A Downtown Coffee Break

A few of us ended up at Paillard’s, a nice coffee shop in downtown Quebec.  I got a large café au lait in a bowl and settled into a seat with everyone.  Of course we all had sketchbooks and everyone started quick sketching everything and anything.

These sessions don’t yield great art.  That’s not the goal.  But it’s great practice for capturing things on paper, getting the old visual cortex thinking the way we need it to think.

I was working in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (8×5 landscape) and I started drawing the counter and the machines who live there.  No goal in mind other than to draw those machines.  When I finished with that I drank some coffee, talked too much, and started randomly drawing stuff, just filling a page.  I ended up with a chef’s head floating in my in my coffee.  It was fun.  Sometimes I want to do more careful drawing, sometimes not.  This was a not day.

Can’t Get Enough Of Sketching Animals

Three of us headed back to the Federation of Hunters and Fishermen museum on Thursday.  We really love this place because the people are really nice, the facilities are great and because there’s soooooooo much to draw.  Once the snow melts it’s going to be a great outdoor site as well as they have hiking trails through a nature preserve that’s maintained by the organization.

I decided to draw a Merganser sitting on a post and, I’m afraid, I got more excited about the post than the duck.  Here’s the result in any case.  Hope you like it.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

We took a break, ate lunch, and then decided to do another, quicker sketch and my target was an otter.  I was trying to do more saturated watercolors this day and I’m not sure I succeeded but I did learn some things.  Practice, practice, practice.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Sometimes Sketching Doesn’t Take Time

My daughter came home for Easter and she wanted to go to our downtown area and wander around, so that’s what we did.  We’d been walking for a while and decided to sit down and take a short break.  As we sat, taking in spring sunshine and watching tiny icebergs floating down the St. Lawrence River, I asked if it would be ok for me to do a quick sketch, no more than 10 minutes.

The only sketchbook I had with me was a 3×5 Stillman & Birn Epsilon book (love these).  My pointy device was a Platinum Plaisir.  I chose a scene and started quickly sketching a piece of the Chateau Frontenac.  It took me less than 10 minutes and I added some color when I got home.  No plans were interrupted and no need for “I’m too busy to sketch.”  If you carry a pen and a small notebook, you always have time to sketch.  Besides, now I get to say that I’ve gotten to do TWO outdoor sketches this spring (grin).

Sketching Group Heads To Louise’s House

Louise is one of my favorite sketching buddies.  I call her mom, though I think she’s younger than I am.  This is mostly because I want her to adopt me so I can live in her incredible house.

That house was where all of us went last Tuesday.  She invited us out to sketch, chat and eat soup, the later being the best part.  On this day, however, it was raining so we were trapped inside one of the most beautiful houses I’ve ever gotten to sketch within.  Her husband is a master craftsman and his work exists everywhere in this house.  Louise is an artist and so her ‘eye’ is reflected everywhere, with great stuff to sketch everywhere you look.

I found myself standing in front of well-stocked bookshelves, looking at the dozens of artbooks and sketchbooks from others that she has accumulated.  I could have spent the entire day there but eventually I decided I should draw something.  I made a mistake, choosing this small cabinet as my subject.  I didn’t really have time to do it justice as lunch was scheduled and I had to finish by then.  Shouldn’t have spent so much time with the art books I guess.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

I’m not really pleased with the result but I’m sharing it anyway.  You win some and lose some.  We broke for lunch and spent the next hour or so eating the best mushroom soup I’ve ever had, cheeses, fruits and veggies.  I was so stuffed I wasn’t sure I’d ever move again.. and then she brought a wonderful apple cobbler smothered with pecans.  It’s been said that there’s always room for Jello but I learned that one can even make room for apple cobbler.

I waddled around the house the rest of the day, making lots of small sketches of smaller items on various shelves.  I have to confess that I’m too lazy to scan all those so you’re stuck looking at one ugly sketch.  Sorry.

First Outdoor Sketch Of The Year

We’re starting to get a few days that are warm enough to get out and some of them are coming without rain.  I finally got to sit on my tripod stool, in the corner of a parking lot, and draw this house.  I was working more quickly than normal but thoroughly enjoying the process. A couple people came by and we talked about spring finally arriving and I felt that finally, really, really, it had.  Hope you like this sketch.  I hope to be presenting a lot more of them in the coming months.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Stopping By The Local Plant Nursery

Gosh, it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately, maybe because winter just won’t leave us (it’s snowing right now) and I haven’t been sketching as much as I normally do.  A group of us did go out to one of the plant nurseries for a day of sketching, though, and I was attracted to a collection of plant boxes.  It’s not a fancy scene as the boxes were sitting on simple boards supported by concrete blocks, but I found the shapes interesting.  Here’s that sketch.  Hope you like it.  Hope we get some decent weather soon, too.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Sketching A Boat With Holes

Several recent posts featured sketches I’ve done at the Quebec Federation of Hunters and Fishers museum.  Most of those sketches have been of birds, mammals and fish.  The museum is a wonderful place for drawing these subjects because the people are friendly, the lighting good, and the displays rival those of any natural history museum.

Because of all those animal subjects available, it’s been hard for me to draw any of the other objects they have on display, but I’ve eyed this “boat” every time I’ve visited.  It’s not really a boat at all.  It’s a homemade live well, used to hold fish.  Its bottom is made of screening so that water can enter.  It’s only about two feet long and truly a beautiful piece of folk art.  Hope you like it as much as I enjoyed drawing it.

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

My On-The-Go Pen Pouch

Another name for this post could have been “How I prevent losing my pens.” Maybe that’s not a problem you need to solve, but that was what caused me to talk about my pen pouch.  It came up in a discussion on Facebook about a sketcher who lost a pen so I thought I’d show you my solution to my scatterbrain-itis.

When I’m sketching on location I use, principally, a fountain pen, or maybe a couple fountain pens.  But I might add to the mix pencil, white gel pen, a black brush pen, and occasionally a waterbrush.  You get the picture.  I have several pointy devices in use.  I used to lay these in my lap, on the ground, slid into a pocket, and I’ve been known to stick one in my hair.

The result was a couple things.  While I’ve never lost a valuable pen, I have lost a couple cheap ones.  I once had a Platinum 3776 take a walk and nearly fall through a sewer grate.  It’s also the case that I was endlessly hunting for the tool I need at the moment.

The solution was my pen pouch, an idea I stole from my buddy Yvan, though his is fancy and hand-sewn.  I’m too lazy for that so I hunted around until I found a cheap, easy solution and it came in the form of a sunglasses case.

These cases are typically colorful sacks with a couple pieces of spring steel that can be compressed to open the case.  They are also perfect for clipping pens into the sack.  All I did to “create” my pouch was buy some D-rings at the fabric store and hand sew them to the sides of the sack.  To try it out I temporarily used a piece of a shoelace as the strap.  That was 8 months ago.  As I said, I’m lazy.  The only other thing I did was fold up some cheap watercolor paper to act as a divider so that pens clipped to opposite sides of the pouch don’t rub against one another.  As you can see in the photos, the divider is getting pretty beat up after 8 months.  I should have changed it before showing you the pouch but, as I said, I’m lazy.

This is the pouch with little pressure on the sides. The pens clip on either side of the opening.

Aside from preventing pen loss, once I got in the habit of only having one (ok..sometimes two) pointy devices out of the pouch at any one time, I no longer have to do the whirling dervish act of looking for my pens as I draw.

If you squeeze the edges of the case, it opens up, making it easy to replace the pointy devices. Here you can see the paper divider. I started with a plastic divider but the pens complained and yet they’re happy with the paper, which compresses and extends as I open and close the case.

Another benefit, that wasn’t anticipated is that with all my pens in one pouch, it’s easy to switch from my big “serious” sketching sack to my small, carry it everywhere sack.  I just move the pen pouch.  This has meant that I no longer have to duplicate everything.  Hope this helps someone.

Sketching From Graphic Novels (Comics)

Our group often talks about sketching opportunities and options and almost as often the idea of sketching from graphic novels comes up.

If you’re only familiar with US comics, I’m not talking here about drawing superheros in spandex.  The French comic industry is another thing entirely, targeting adult consumers.  The books are generally hardcover and run the gamet from mysteries, science fiction, political commentary, humor, historical, and adventure genres.

What happened to cause us to actually act on the idea was that finding sketchcrawl venues during Quebec winters is difficult and Yvan learned that the library had a large collection of large-panel examples from French graphic novels.  He scheduled our March sketchcrawl to take place in the art viewing room of our library.  As you can see from the photo that Yvan took of me, it was a much more comfortable setting than sitting on street corners on a tripod stool.  The eight of us who showed up had a ball.

The photo shows me drawing Jim Cutlass, a classic character by Jean-Michel Charlier, one of the best adventure writers and drawn by Christian Rossi.  I hope I did Rossi’s work justice as I created my depiction of the character.

Upon completion I wandered around, enjoying the company of the other sketchers.  A friend of mine, that I hadn’t seen in quite a while, came to the event so we spent a bunch of time talking.  Then I spent a lot of time looking at all of the panels and books available for us to draw from.  This, of course, created a whole bunch of “Oooo…I gotta draw that” feelings, but it didn’t get much actual drawing done.  It sure was fun though.

I’m a building and city sketcher and after looking at a bunch of books with monsters and fantasy world landscapes, my brain was hankering for something weird.  Ill-equipped for drawing such things, I remembered Cathy Johnson’s mantra “they’re only shapes” and I tackled this guy.

I wouldn’t want him chasing me and while this guy looks like one of the orb weavers I remember from Mexico, I couldn’t help but think of the big spiders that chased Ron and Harry in The Chamber of Secrets movie.  As the day came to an end, I was pleased with this ‘out of the box’ endeavour and I think I may do more drawing from graphic novels.