Last Trip To Ottawa For A While

We made our final trip to Ottawa for a while.  Our daughter just graduated from University of Ottawa and we moved her to Montreal where she’s entering law school at McGill.  I gotta tell ya, I’m too old to be moving from school to school.  Been there, done that, even have souvenir t-shirts.

But since we were there, it seemed only appropriate that I should do some sketching.  The first chance came when we agreed to meet our daughter in Rideau River Park.  I don’t know if that’s what it’s really called but it runs along the Rideau River and Chantal and I had parked our butts on a bench while we waited, so its Rideau River park to me.

I got out a Stillman & Birn 6×6 Beta spiral book and just started quick-sketching everything and anything.  No rhyme or reason to it, which is fun sometimes.  Find a white space on the paper and fill it – easy peasy.  Here’s a couple of the pages I did.

I drew stuff; I drew people, and I even drew some of the birds on the river.  But then my daughter showed up and there were other things to do.  We hadn’t seen her in a while.

A couple days later, Chantal and I went down to the Parliament area and sat on a picnic bench in the shade.  I’m showing this next sketch to make a point to those who feel “I’m not good enough” to sketch around other people.  I was scribbling this teeny, tiny sketch (3×4) in the tiny sketchbook I mentioned in a previous blog post.  I’ve been having fun doing these really tiny sketches but they’re really crude and mostly just warm up sketches. Even that gives them too much credential.

Anyways, a really nice lady from Italy asked if she could sit because she was waiting to take the Parliament tour.  Chantal started talking with her, she saw my sketch and got genuinely excited about it.  She took a photo of it to show to her friends.  My point is, people are amazed that anyone can draw anything.  You don’t have to be good to sketch in public.  You just have to sketch in public for people to think you’re good (grin).

I started drawing this next sketch because we were sitting right near the corner of a building called East Block on the Parliament grounds and we  were on a hill, affording an interesting view where I wasn’t having to look up a lot to see the top of the building.

While I was working, a Chinese family from Manitoba came to sit.  They were waiting for a tour too.  Their son, a young teenager was excited to see someone drawing and showed us a couple of the sketches he’d done.  He wanted to be an animator and was making a good start at it.  They watched as I did this sketch and I confess that half a dozen people asking questions was a bit distracting, but Chantal fielded many of them so we sort of formed a temporary clan as I sketched and they waited for their tour.

Chantal and I were both getting hungry so we headed off to forage.  Once sustained we decided to go sit in the center of the busiest intersection in Ottawa.  Well, sorta.  There is a triangular piece of land near Parliament with a lot of traffic passing on all sides.  This place is filled with statues, including a memorial to Canadian military actions complete with honor guard.

I drew the Laura Secord statue, the famous candy lady.  Some defend her statue status with stories of her running for kilometers to warn the British of an impending attack by Americans during the war of 1812 but I know its the chain of chocolate stores that brought her fame.  It just had to be, though most deny she had anything to do with the candy business.

When I finished that sketch I was getting pretty tired but I quickly draw this part of Chateau Laurier, a posh hotel that’s nearby.  All sorts of errors in this one but it was a fitting end to the sketching day.  When I was done we headed off to meet our daughter for dinner.

The Hurrier I Go, The Behinder I Get

I shouldn’t write titles like that.  Some of my Francophone buddies will be saying, “Ca va dire quoi?” and file it away as further evidence that I’m a crazy person.  Apologies.

It’s been a week since I’ve posted.  The reason, in part, is because I’ve been gone for a week, to Ottawa and Montreal.  While I had to share my sketching time with other activities, I’ve got scanning to do before I can post my sketches from that trip.  I’ve also got sketches from before the trip.  I’m so disorganized at this point.

In the meantime, here’s a sketch I did before I left.  It’s a small shed and basement access to the Maison Dorion-Coulomb, the home of the St. Charles River park association.  Everyone draws the front of this beautiful, multi-gabled house from the front, including me, but I thought it fitting to give a bit of love to the lesser portions of the building.  Besides, I could sit in the shade.  Back soon, with more.

Stillman & Birn Beta (6×6 spiral)

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.