Where Have The Alligators Gone?

The Artistes dans les parcs went back to what is now called Parc des Moulins, but the area used to be the Quebec zoo.  Oh how I wish we still had animals to draw but politics brought the zoo to an end, a needless end.

Anyway, it was a hot day but I set up in the sun at one end of a large impound that used to house the alligators. It’s a pond with small islands for alligator basking and a building at one end so people could look down on the critters.  The islands are now overgrown so while this sketch doesn’t have any alligators, it does have lots of plants.  The mandatory alligator-proof wall is still in place around it and it seemed only fitting that it be included in the scene.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, Wing Sung 8009, Daniel Smith watercolors

The Urban Sketcher View

I’ve only been an urban sketcher.  Yes, I’ve drawn stuffed animals and a few flowers but mostly I go out somewhere, sit down and draw what’s in front of me, on location.  I like this because I don’t have to make stuff up.  I can see the objects ‘in the flesh’ and from all angles.  Drawing from photos is boring and, somehow incomplete.

But there’s a downside to urban sketching.  You’re always faced with cluttered, complex landscapes.  Drawn verbatim, you end up with confused, messy sketches.  Everyone says “simplify,” but in my opinion, this is the hardest thing to do in art.  What to leave out, what to leave in.  Where should the border of the sketch be>  How do you treat those edges?  Do you zoom in or out to capture a subject?  Too many decisions… too many choices.

I went with Yvan to draw boats.  Specifically we wanted to draw some of the tugboats that are moored in the Quebec City harbor.  I found a place out of the wind and set up to draw a tugboat on the other side of the harbor.  I had this view.

I’m not a master of composition but even I know this is a cluttered view and that having a big rope cutting across a drawing with no reason isn’t a good idea.  So, “simplify” is what I’m told so that’s what I do.

Even so, it was going to be hard to make that tugboat the star of my sketch if I drew it from that far away.  So, the solution was to zoom in, forcing the tugboat onto center stage.  I also decided to greatly simplify the background.  And I started to draw my tugboat.

I was happy with this result but zooming in did present a new problem.  If the boat is drawn that large, don’tcha want to see a lot of detail?  Of course, but because the boat is actually so far away, you can’t see the details.  Some details are faked as a set of textural marks.  Others are left out completely.  It’s a balance I guess.  A balance that makes me realize just how much I still need to learn about sketching.

Cap Rouge Marina Sketching

We were at the Cap Rouge Marina last Sunday and it was a wonderful day, though a bit on the warm side.  I relish the heat, partly because I’m from Arizona and partly because I know that all too soon we’ll be back in heavy coats and complaining about winter.

I was in the mood to draw rocks and found a bunch of them on the other side of the mouth of the river that flows into the marina and out into the St. Lawrence.

When I finished I walked down to where some other people were sketching and I started sketching a sailboat that was moored on the ‘flats’, which turns into a giant grassland at low tide.  I’d just gotten started when it was announced that it was time to gather for lunch.  I share it in its unfinished state as I never got back to it.  By the time lunch was over the boat was laying on its side in a sea of grass, waiting for the tide to come back in.

After lunch I walked to the other side of the marina and drew this scene, that is looking across the marina.  By then it was blisteringly hot and I cooked on my tripod stool for the duration of the drawing.  It was an end of a great day and, once again, I owe Denise a big thank you for organizing the event.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, Daniel Smith watercolors

Are You Afraid Of Clowns?

Many people are afraid of clowns for some reason.  They might be scared to death if they walk down rue St. Paul in the old port area of Quebec City because, between two buildings there is a humongous inflatable clown head scrunged between the two walls.  I think it’s cute but it could also be scary, depending upon your point of view.  I had to draw it.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), DeAtramentis Document Black, Wing Sung 8009, Platinum brush pen

Our New Cow

My wife is a gardener and she loves to visit garden centers.  She was doing just that a couple weeks ago and they were having a big sale.  She came home with a car full of plants and a plaster garden cow that, to me, looks like a sheep with horns.  I think it’s the stone fur that does it.  In any case, it’s cute as can be so I drew it.

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

Why Draw A Squash?

Why would anyone draw a single squash?  Because it was there, of course.  There need be no other reason.  And so it was as the squash sat on our kitchen island and I drew it.  This one was odd-looking in that while most Sunburst squashes are round, but flattened, this one was almost as high as it was round.

If I were Charlie O’Shields (Mr. Doodlewash) I’d have a charming story to tell you about how Philippe prepares squash or how his mother forced him to eat it when he was young.  I’m not nearly as talented.  I buy squash, I cook squash, I eat squash and now I can say I’ve sketched squash.  Anyway, I had fun sketching it.

 

Sketching With Roger Van den Hende

You probably don’t know who Roger Van den Hende was but that’s ok, neither do I.  What I know is that he was rich and left a lot of money for the purposes of establishing a botanical garden in Quebec City.  It’s one of my favorite places to sketch, particularly since my bad knee has limited my ability to wander the city.

So, when Denise scheduled an event there for the Artistes dans les parcs I headed there to sketch.  This was actually a couple weeks ago and I forgot to write about it.  We had a good day but it wasn’t without some challenges.

The day started great.  Predictions were for hot and sunny so shade was at a premium.  Finding the combination of shady spot and something to sketch was challenging.  I had fun trying to follow the  growth pattern of this vine.

The ‘hot’ that was predicted came to pass and so water and rest was in order so I took a break, drank a lot of water, and then started wandering around looking for more shade to sit in.  Finding shade with something in my view became particularly hard as we were nearing mid-day but eventually I found a lily I could draw while sitting in the cast shadow from a small building.

I decided to try to sketch it “paint first”, always a mistake for me but I’m determined to learn this approach regardless of the frustration level (grin).  I began with a light wash in a lily shape and then I started adding some shadow tone… just as the clouds rolled in, killing all shadows on my flower.  If only I had better visual memory.  I persevered, sort of, doing my best to make up a shadow pattern.

At that point I had to wait for the paper to dry so I decided that I would take a break and make a trip to the restroom, which was a short hike through the garden.  I left all my stuff laying on the ground in front of my lily and headed off.  When I came out of the bathroom it was raining… on my sketchbook… only a one minute run from where I was, only I couldn’t run.  So I hobbled with a pained look on my face.

By the time I got back, my paper was now VERY wet and there was little I could do besides pack everything up, take a photo of the flower, and head for home.  I tried to salvage the sketch at home and this was the best I could manage.   DeAtramentis Document ink and Stillman &Birn Alpha paper hold up pretty well to a rain storm.

DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6)

 

Flowers On The Deck

We were enjoying cheeses, a baguette and some wine while sitting on our deck last week.  It was a delightful evening, one of the evenings that we dream about during our long winters.

Eventually I got the urge to draw some of the many flowers we have all over the place, courtesy of Chantal’s green thumb.  I only had a small sketchbook with me and was too lazy to go get something larger so I just started drawing little flower drawings. Here’s a couple of them.

Plains Of Abraham Reservoir

Quebec City has several artificial underground reservoirs and one of is under a part of the Plains of Abraham, a huge park that overlooks the St. Lawrence River.  Originally owned by a farmer named Abraham, it’s now officially called Battlefield Park because of the famous 1759 battle when the British defeated the French.  Everyone who lives here still calls it the Plains of Abraham and the other name is relegated to the tourist brochures.  Recently the entire reservoir was uncovered to replace the top surface.  This is a sketch of that area of the park.

The building holds the support equipment for the reservoir and each of those little strips of foliage hides an air vent.  The grass is beginning to grow back but it’s still pretty sparse and a bright yellow green.  I thought it made an interesting scene.  Besides, I could sit in the shade as I drew.

Stillman & BIrn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, Daniel Smith watercolors

The Used To Be Zoo Part Two

I almost titled this blog post “Oops… I forgot.”  When I wrote my last post I got pulled away from the writing for a while.  When I returned I read the last paragraph and it seemed like an ending so I did a quick copy edit and posted it.

Later I realized that the ending was really just a stopping point and that I’d forgotten to add a second sketch I’d done at the old zoo park that day.

So, as I was saying in my last post, we were having fun at the park and I decided to do a sketch of the bridge that carries foot traffic over the small river running through the park.

This required that I get down to the river level which put me in shade, among a bunch of foliage and near water.  What could go wrong?  Mosquitoes, mosquitoes, and more mosquitoes.  What made them worse was that I was drawing.  I’m oblivious to my surroundings when I’m sketching, even the swarm of mosquitoes that were biting me.

I didn’t notice until the next day when my arms and legs started itching like crazy (shorts and t-shirt day).  I’m sure the sketch suffers from blood loss effects but here it is.  I didn’t really finish the paint stage but I hope you like it anyway; the mosquitos sure liked me.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document brn/blk