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

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

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