Draw The Cool Stuff First, Then Stop

I’m the sort that just draws stuff.  My sketching lacks attempts to generate good compositions, to capture large panoramic scenes, or achieve balance and unity.  I simply draw stuff that interests me.  I realize these other things matter but for me, the fun comes from making lines on a page.  What they define is a very low priority for me.  Goofy view of art, I know, but it is mine.  I’m trying hard to learn these other things, to worry about them, and somehow bring them to my sketches, but sometimes I just like to draw the cool thing and then stop.

Along Rue St. Paul, across from the train station, there are some really great old buildings with lots of gables, towers, and, as my dad used to call it, “gingerbread” that makes them special.  I was walking along and decided to draw one of the towers on a corner building.  But this building goes a long way in both directions, with a bunch of windows and cables.  I didn’t want to spend that much time on it, so I just drew the cool part and stopped.  I was happy with that result.

Too Far Away, And The Need To Make It Interesting

I was walking along the river and decided to draw part of the skyline.  From where I was, these buildings were very small, and very far away.  I decided that I could “improve” things by drawing the buildings larger/closer to me so I put on my ZOOM brain and went to work.

There was only one problem with that idea.  If the buildings were close, I should be able to see a bunch of details.  I could not and so I started stumbling around (figuratively) trying to figure out what details I “needed” to imaginate.  This is harder than it sounds and clearly I need to think about this a lot.  I’m used to drawing what I see and I always err on the side of too much detail, which is the opposite of what I should probably doing here.  So much to learn, so little time.

A Quick Look Down The River

No far from my house is Pont Drouin (Drouin Bridge).  There are benches on either side of the roadway where you can sit in the middle of the bridge and ponder your navel, or maybe sketch.  I chose to do the later, quickly trying to capture the scene without much detail.

A Proud Building In Limoilou

When I came to Quebec I was struck by how people would completely change their schedules if the sun shined, cancelling meetings so they could go on a picnic, taking the day off from work so they could go get a tan, or maybe just to do a happy dance.  Coming from Arizona, it never crossed my mind that sunshine was something to be savoured when it was around.

I’ve learned, though, that rare things have that affect on behavior and it couldn’t be more true this year.  Three of us skipped off to Limoilou to sketch on Tuesday because it wasn’t raining – the sun was shining.  It was a rather short adventure but sketch we did.

I’m working on doing my sketching more quickly than my norm and chose to apply those efforts towards this stately building along 4th Avenue.  It almost looks out of place as it’s far more elegant than those around it and I suspect it once served some special purpose.  I even got to work on my tan while I drew it.

Stillman & BIrn Beta (8×10), Platinum 3776, Diluted DeAtramentis Document Black, Kuretake #13 w/Platinum Carbon Black

Emergency Road Trip

This summer has become one for the record books in terms of how little sketching I’ve been able to do.  The lousy weather was bad enough but being rushed to the hospital with heart problems really put a damper on my sketching just when we started getting some good sketching days.  Happy as a clam following recovery from that, though, I was starting to get out sketching until…

My daughter is still in Ottawa and she decided to fall down a bunch of stairs.  It could have been worse, but she badly sprained her ankle and was suddenly on crutches.  To put this in context, she’s in Ottawa alone and needs to walk 20-25 min each way to work every day.  To make matters worse, her timing was unfortunate because she had arranged to take the bus to Montreal to pick up the keys for her new apartment.  And so she called mom and dad.

The result was that we dropped everything and drove five hours to Ottawa and the next morning we drove to Montreal and back (another four hours).  Back in Ottawa, we spent the night and the next day we drove back to Quebec City (another five hours).  What a weekend.  I’m old; I was exhausted.

So…not much sketching time that weekend, but we did sit in a park or about an hour and once we got Jodie sitting and her leg propped up I did some quick sketching.

Certainly not the best scene ever but this is what I could see over the trees.  It was nice to scratch out this sketch in a Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10).

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Platinum 3776, diluted DeAtramentis Document Black

I then go out a small Stillman & Birn Epsilon (3×5) book, looked around and quickly drew these two apartment buildings on the other side of the Rideau River from where I was sitting.

I took a short break and took a walk along the river.  The Rideau River has bike/pedestrian paths on both sides of the river and it was nice to get out and do some walking.  When I got back I drew this little scene, again, viewed across the Rideau River.

Sketching At Lysander Waterfalls

A river, northeast of Quebec City, creates a spectacular display as it tumbles through a small series of rapids and waterfalls near Inverness, Quebec.  At the lip of the river canyon, fellow sketcher and all-around great person, Claudette and her chum have a really nice place and we were invited to spend the day sketching.

It was a great day and I wish I’d been feeling better.  The drugs I was given for my heart, while fine now, weren’t doing me any favors that weekend.  Nevertheless, it was a great day in spite of this small problem.  There were nine of us and we headed into the canyon shortly after we arrived.

Everyone started to draw and, of course, it started raining.  Some had brought umbrellas but I was not so equipped and as the rain hit my ink, it blossomed across the page.  What a frustrating mess that was.  So, I grabbed my 3×5 Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook and drew Lisette in her “July in Quebec” sketching suit.

The rain was not long-lived, though, and the rest of the day was under a bright sun and warm temperatures.  Rain free, I made a second attempt at drawing the road bridge over the river and above the falls.

Fabriano Artistico (CP), Platinum 3776, diluted DeAtramentis Doument Black

Eventually hunger drove us from the canyon and we headed to Claudette’s place for lunch and conversation.  I confess that my limited language skills are not up to the task of keeping up with the rapid fire French that occurs when so many fluent speakers are together, but lunch was fun anyway.   At one point, though, I got up from the table and took a seat outside the fray. Again, in my small sketchbook I did this quick sketch of the party.

I wasn’t feeling that well and so didn’t get much accomplished the rest of the day but it was really nice to get out of the city.  Thanks Claudette, for a great day.

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.

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