A Weekend In Ottawa – Part 2

The day of my daughter’s graduation we did some more shopping and returned to Andrew Haydon Park.  It was still windy and still stormy but we like this park because there are a lots of geese and you can see the St. Lawrence River from there.

As a chipmunk foraged around us, I drew this sketch of a spit of land that sticks out on the other side of the marina associated with the park.  I forgot to include it in yesterday’s post.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (8×5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

A Visit With Claude Simard, Sort Of

Just before I left for Ottawa our group went to an exhibit of Claude Simard’s work at the Centre d’interprétation historique de Sainte-Foy. This is a very large house on the grounds of a large church/cemetery.  The church is a stone building that was gutted by fire a while back and was renovated into a place for semi-outdoor (walls but no roof) theatre.  Anyways, the grounds of this building complex are very nice and very sketchable.

We spent some time sketching outdoors before going to the Simard exhibition and I drew this small building where they used to keep corpses in winter when the ground was too frozen for burials to take place.  I apologize for the “lines” in the color.  These were produced when I used a cheap gray marker to indicate locations of tone because I ran out of time and needed some guidance for later when I added color.

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

I really enjoyed Claude Simard’s work.  His paintings, mostly done in acrylic are bright, very colorful and impressionistic.  While it’s clear from sketches on display that he is an excellent draftsman, this is not reflected in his paintings, which are almost caricatures of their subjects.  Nevertheless, it’s clear where he got the moniker as the Happy Painter.

What excited me the most, however, were the cabinets that displayed some of his sketches.  Some were in sketchbooks while others were done on watercolor paper.  All were simple sketches with loose watercolors added to them.  I loved them all.  In fact, I started drawing some of them with the idea of playing with watercolors in as close as I could get to his style.  This was a lot of fun and I did several of them.  Here’s one example.  The original was about 5×7, as is my copy of it.  I’m afraid I fell short of doing his watercolors justice.

Sometimes Small Is Fun

With decent weather coming late this year, I’m in the mood to walk, and walk, and walk.  My pedometer has been smoking hot from all the activity.  At the same time, my arthritic hand has been giving me fits and so it’s been hard for me to be motivated to sketch.

But small formats fit into the walks and don’t pain the hand too much so I’ve used my trusty 3.5×5.5 Stillman & Birn Epsilon book to work some sketching into my walks.  Here’s a couple of those results.  I might have gotten carried away with the color but I’m trying to figure out the why and how other sketchers do this sort of thing.  I think I like the results.  Do you?

An Interesting View While Out Of The Wind

It got pretty windy when during our sketching session and because our temperatures are still cooler than normal, it got uncomfortable.  We all started looking for a place to draw while out of the wind and I chose the leeward end of Maison Dorion, a large house that is the headquarters for the St. Charles River Society.  I drew this scene.

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

Quick-Sketching A Landscape

I’m convinced that I’m the slowest sketcher on the planet.  I’m not proud of being number one, but a man has to know who he is.  Sketching isn’t a race but nevertheless, this is often a problem for me because I’d like to capture a scene without growing a beard at the same time.

I figure that the only way to crack this problem is to force the issue so this morning, I went to a park near “my river,” sat down and started drawing trees as quickly as I could.  I did the pen work for this scene in about 25 minutes and reached for my color tools.

Oops…I’d forgotten my watercolor stuff.  What I did have was a handful of watercolor pencils and the smallest waterbrush known to man.  The pencils were ok for the color source but that waterbrush… yuck.  It was woefully inadequate for the task.  Nevertheless, I worked quickly and in less than 40 minutes I had this sketch.

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

This doesn’t compare well to Liz Steel doing a painting  in the blink of an eye and it’s not even close to how long it takes me to do a one-minute sketch a’la Marc Taro Holmes, but for a scene with this many trees, I feel it was pretty quick.

I’m hoping to do a bunch of one-minute sketches and another bunch of continuous line drawings this summer.  They won’t be as detailed as my normal drawings and certainly not as accurate.  But I’m hoping these exercises will speed up my hand.  Wish me luck.

A Sad Tale Of A Great Success

I got up yesterday morning full of enthusiasm.  I was going to drive to Montreal and sketch with some Montreal urban sketchers and I was going to get to meet Koosje Koene of Sketchbook Skool fame.  My trusty weather app reassured me that I would be greeted in Montreal with 15-17C and sunny skies.  So off I went, listening to CBC radio and doing my normal “Oh, that would be great to sketch” dialog with myself as I sped through the countryside.

I was going to arrive a couple hours before everyone else but Jane Hannah said she’d meet me, but a bit later.  I parked in a very convenient parking dungeon (seven stories below ground) that Jane gave me coordinates to and walked out into the beautiful sunshine ugly rain.  Hmm…not so good.  But I was confident the rain would stop and I’d never been to old Montreal before so I just started walking around, taking photos of the amazing architecture and statues. Tourist am me.

Eventually I wandered back to the meeting place and there was Jane.  And the rain had stopped.  We talked for a bit but eventually sat down to draw.   Not being versed in the rules of Montreal, I didn’t realize that this was the cue for the rain to begin.  It did.

This was the extent of my sketching. I increased the contrast so you could see my mental discussion with shapes and proportions in anticipation of actually drawing this structure.

Jane suggested we walk to a restaurant she wanted to show me.  We did but it was closed so we walked a bit more.

The rain stopped.  Of course it had; we weren’t sketching.  We decided to draw part of an amazing building so we set up, sat down and I started block in the basic shapes I wanted to capture and, you guessed it – it started to rain again.

It was getting near time to meet Koosje so we headed back to the meet location, stood with a few urban sketchers and along came Koosje.  It was not going to be much of a sketching day so we went to a restaurant and spent the next three hours talking, eating, and some sketched people.  I’m not much for sketching in restaurants so mostly I watched and kibbitzed.  There were a dozen of us so there was lots of potential for kibbitzing.

In the end, the day was a big success because of the people.  I’ll do sketching some other time.  It did seem that I needed a souvenir of the day, however, so this morning I did this quick drawing of part of city hall, depicting the dreary nature of the day, I hope.

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

Sketching Along The Riviere St. Charles

We are starting to get some outdoor sketching days and so you’ll start hearing me talk about my river as it’s one of my favorite places to be.  Its real name is Riviere St. Charles and it’s only minutes from my house, though the river is at least 50 kilometers long, running from Lac Beauport down to the St. Lawrence River.

Yvan and I were there on Saturday, at a spot that’s no more than a 15 minute walk from my house.  I was practicing sketching standing up.  This probably sounds crazy to many of you but I really struggle with it, though I may be getting closer to wrestling this bugaboo to its knees.  The thing is, I enjoy sketching while standing up.  It’s a more natural point of view than sitting low on a stool.

It’s also the case, because I hold the sketchbook relatively high and shoved into my chest,  I do a lot less head-bobbing than when I sit on a stool with the book resting on my legs.  I think this improves my accuracy because the sketchbook is easier to compare to the subject because the sight line is nearly the same for both.  I also find this approach easier on my back, though my legs get tired.  Win some, lose some.

Some other benefits to sketching standing up is that I don’t have to carry around that stool, cutting the weight I’m carrying in half.  I also feel more free to choose sketching positions.

You’ll think this next reason silly but people say it’s good to take a break every 15-20 minutes, just to remain fresh while sketching.  This is easier to do if all you have to do is start walking.  If I’ve got to get up from a stool, walk around and then sit back down, both my brain and my knees are reluctant to take a break.  I told you that you’d think it was silly.

I was also practicing the idea of drawing landscapes.  I don’t do it enough and I need a lot of practice with forest textures and such.  Anyways, this is what I did and I was generally happy with the results.  It’s sort of looking down on the river and up at the building, which made for an interesting scene.  I may add color but generally, once a sketch is a couple days old, I rarely go back to it.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), 0.5 mechanical pencil, Pilot Falcon

Finally…Some Outdoor Sketching

Here it is, the middle of May, and we’re still having a hard time getting outdoors in Quebec City because of cool weather and a lot of rain.  But it happened.  In fact, we had a bright, hot summer day on the 16th and our little sketching group took advantage of it.  We headed to an older part of the city where they have alleyways.

Alleyways provide sort of grungy views but views with lots of shapes that make for great sketching subjects.  I just love them.  In this scene you’ll find two large “towers.”  These are actually enclosed stairways, loosely constructed but effective in keeping the snow off the stairs.  They are very common in these neighborhoods.  I had a lot of fun doing this one.

Alley scene in Limoilu

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

 

Isn’t She A Doll?

When I was a kid I remember Howdy-Doody and Buffalo Bob, Captain Kangaroo, and Sheri Lewis and Lamp Chop.  When my daughter was little she watched Mister Rogers and Sesame Street.  Kid shows with a mix of adult and puppet characters have always been popular.

A show I never did see was very popular in Quebec and involved Bobinette, a wooden-headed puppet, and Bobino, a guy sporting a vest and bowler hat.  I’d heard of Bobinette but never seen her until, because of rain (again) we were forced into the museum.  A new display provided some insight into this early TV show and provided a chance to draw her.  The show was called Bobino and ran from 1957 to 1985.  Bobinette was Bobino’s sister.  Isn’t she a doll?

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10)

In The Museum – Out Of The Rain

This crazy spring is causing us to be drawing in museums even into May and we found ourselves, once again, sketching at the hunting and fishing museum in St. Augustine, Quebec.  I should consider myself lucky because many in Quebec are dealing with their houses being flooded from all the rain we’re receiving.  I’m just disappointed that I can’t sketch outdoors, which pales by comparison.

I spent some time with a wolf on this day.  I have to admit that I’m really getting a bad case of cabin fever and less and less in the mood to draw in museums but what’cha gonna do?  Unfortunately, I think this is beginning to show in the results.  Here’s the first drawing I did.

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

I decided to compliment this drawing with one of a wolf skull.  If you extend the back of the skull in the drawing just a bit, you’ll see a pretty decent rendition of a wolf skull.  Fun thing about this is that while I was drawing I kept thinking I was drawing everything too long, when in fact, I’d drawn the back of the skull too short.  Better luck next time.