Sketching My Barber Shop

Quebec City has the fancy hair cutting salons found in any large city.  I prefer to go old school. The shop I go to is a cute little place, squashed between two larger buildings, and I’ve been going there for at least a decade.  Two hair cutters, and somehow they’re busy enough that I have to make an appointment.

I decided it was time for me to sketch it so I took advantage of some sun and did this sketch in my Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7), using a TWSBI Mini and Platinum Carbon Black ink.

My barber shop

My barber shop

To Pick Apples Or Sketch – That Was The Question

We apple picking in St. Nicolas on Sunday.  It’s a great place on the south shore of the St. Lawrence.  Very agricultural, very beautiful.  As I always do, I took my sketching stuff with me but didn’t figure I’d get a chance to use it.  We were foraging.

Apple picking is pretty light duty.  We had a large bag and wandered around pulling the red orbs off the tree.  Made me wish that money really did grow on trees as that would really be fun.

We’d filled a bag of McIntosh apples and had started on a new bag, to be filled with Lobos, when I saw this old, three-legged ladder.  I couldn’t resist and handed the bag to my wife, saying “I’ll do it quickly.”  She continued picking and I sat down, pulling out a small sketchbook of brown paper and my TWSBI Mini.

I became a kid magnet and a bunch of kids surrounded me to watch.  It was fun.  They were all very young (less than 10) and very shy but curious of this big person doing what they do all the time.  None of them were art critics.  Wanting to put on a show, I guess, I sort of cut short my actual sketching and got out some watercolor pencils.  I showed them around and then added a bit of color to the sketch.  In the end, I had an incomplete sketch but a fond memory.  Location sketching at its best.

3-legged ladder

TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black, watercolor pencils


Sketching Behind The Scenes

Moleskine watercolor sketchbook (3x5), TWSBI Mini

Moleskine watercolor sketchbook (3×5), TWSBI Mini

The older parts of Quebec City are very tightly clustered.  There are no front yards and no space between the buildings.  The result is many access portals into the rear parts of the buildings.  Sometimes these are simple corridors.  Often, though they are wide enough for a car, sometimes with parking available behind the buildings and/or courtyard gardens.  I like the ones that lead to lots of clutter.

Here’s one such portal.  It was done in a 3×5 Moleskine watercolor sketchbook using Platinum Carbon Black in my TWSBI Mini.  Hope you like it.


Sketchcrawling Through The Garden

Yesterday I reported on our 44th Worldwide Sketchcrawl participation.  What I didn’t do was show you my sketches and talk a bit about them as that post became quite large because of all the photos.  Here be the follow up post on my sketchcrawl sketches.

The sketchcrawl was supposed to start at 10AM but I ended up getting there around 9:30.  As you enter the botanical gardens there is a large water feature amounting to several lily-pad-filled ponds with small water features between them.  I located shade, my first prerequisite for sketching on a sunny day, and started sketching next to the second of these ponds.  It was a great place to be as I could meet people as they arrived while sketching.  It breaks my meditative sketching state to have to get up ever few minutes to say hi but gosh… isn’t that what sketchcrawls are all about?  I think so.

Stillman & Birn Delta (6x8), Pilot Prera, Lexington Gray ink

Stillman & Birn Delta (6×8), Pilot Prera, Lexington Gray ink

By the time I’d finished this sketch, I was sitting in the sun as at this time of year the sun swings across its southerly track across our sky fairly quickly.  So, I was once again hunting for a shady spot.

I found it on the other side of the entrance, with several sketching options.  I decided to draw the main kiosk that faces the entrance.  Lots of brightly-colored flowers, a nice shape and the girl who manned (womaned?) the kiosk obliged by wearing a red shirt.  I switched weapons for this sketch as I wanted to get some more experience with my Hero pens.  I’ve got several of them and I don’t use them enough.

Stillman & Birn Delta (6x8), Hero 578, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Delta (6×8), Hero 578, Platinum Carbon Black

It was lunch time so we all met together to swap sketchbooks and wish we were as good as everyone else.  For me, this is the best part of sketchcrawls.  I do a lot of solo sketching and it’s really fun to get together with other sketchers, though my French is sufficiently bad that I’m more than a little bit limited in my ability to talk like an adult.  Quebecers are quite patient, however.

After lunch I decided I should draw flowers.  I don’t know flowers beyond red flowers, purple flowers, orange flowers, etc.  I can tell you the names of all their parts, discuss at length the mating ‘habits’ of plants, and all the rest, as in another life I was a research scientist but when it comes to naming flowers… I got nada, or as we say around here, rien.


Stillman & Birn Delta (6×8), Pilot Penmanship XF, Lexington Gray

But flowers are cool.  Depending upon how accurate you want to be while drawing them, they can be quite challenging as the more you drill down into their details the more difficult they become to properly depict.  I’ve drawn very few, and it shows (grin).  Here’s a couple.  At least they look like flowers.

Stillman & Birn Delta (6x8), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Delta (6×8), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black

Quick Sketching My River

Yesterday was the day before the official beginning of summer and so, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, I headed out on a long walk and sketching session.  The sun was shining and I was whistling a happy tune.  Ok…ok… so I wandered into writing the opening for a musical.  Suffice it to say, it was a nice day.

But as I walked I noticed the clouds moving in.  I noticed the winds pick up.  I noticed my happy tune whistling had stopped.  I decided to sit on a fake log chair along my river and sketch a bit.  I also noticed that I was bordering on being cold and that I would need clips to keep the sketchbook paper from rattling in the wind.  So much for a summer day.

I’ve received a couple emails asking me what, exactly, I do with a pencil as a precursor to my ink drawing so I decided to try to illustrate the couple ways I use one.  Here is one of them.

This sketch was to be a large-scale, for me, urban nature sketch so I started with a very lightly drawn bunch of scribbles just to locate the various bushes, river, and building.  I shot a photo of the pencil layout with my cell phone and later manipulated the heck out of it to get the lines dark enough so you can see them….kinda.  This pencil work took 20-30 seconds.

2014-06-20 Pencil

You’ll notice that there’s no detail, not much more than vague lines that locate the various components.  All I’m thinking about is location and size of the various shapes and their relationship to one another.  By identifying these things I’m then free to concentrate on any part of the sketch without having to think about whether that part will connect to other parts.  For instance, because I know where both sides of the river will be in my sketch, I can draw the foreground plants, knowing where they should hide the river.

So out came the pens.  I started drawing the foreground using my TWSBI Mini filled with Platinum Carbon Black.  The rest of the sketch was done with a Pilot Prera and Noodler’s Lexington Gray.  No eraser was abused in the creation of this sketch.  Those light pencil lines just disappear behind ink and color.

I worked quickly and admit this is not my best work as, quite frankly, I was getting cold.  Yes, that’s right – cold – in middle of June.  Who’da thunk it.  Total time for this sketch was 23 minutes.  I kept track so I could report that as well.   I’m sure glad that tomorrow will be summer.  I’m getting tired of the cold.


Stillman & Birn Alpha (9×6), Pilot Prera and TWSBI MIni


St. Charles River Walk

Last weekend I went for a leisurely walk along my river.  There are those, of course, who would point out that I don’t own the river, but I always call it ‘my river.’  Actually it’s the Riviere St. Charles, which is the backbone of a very long, unevenly developed park that runs through Quebec City.  I’m just lucky enough to live within a five minute walk of ‘my river’ and I spend a lot of time walking along it.

When I got to my river on Sunday I found a lot of other people using it.  Seems I was in the midst of the St. Charles River Walk as there were lots and lots of people, each sporting a number pinned to their stomachs, who were participating in the event.

As I walked I realized that the end point for the walk was in a park that’s just south of the bridge near my house so I headed there, figuing there might be something fun to sketch.  I grabbed a bench and did the sketch you see here.

I tried something new, for me.  I made a few organizational marks with pencil and then started adding blotches of color.  Ink lines came later.  I felt like a fish out of water as my watercolor abilities are very limited, but it was still fun.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9x6), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9×6), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black

A Quick Monument Sketch

Our sketching group arranged a tour of the architecture school.  Sadly, they don’t teach drawing with pointy devices anymore.  Everything is 3D graphical presentations, a shift that James Richards (an architect) says, in his great Freehand Drawing and Discovery, generates a lot of work for him as he’s often hired during planning/pitch sessions because he can do freehand sketches of proposed ideas.

But we live in a “latest must be greatest” world.  Like the trains and warehouses we dismantled when gas was cheap when we ‘knew’ that continuous streams of trucks on the road were ‘best’, I suspect architects will start learning to draw by hand again after there is a generation of ill-equipped architects who can’t.

The tour was fantastic as the architecture department is in one of the old “seminaire” buildings, with vaulted ceilings, Hogwarts-like staircases, and small doorways with, in some cases, the old steel doors you only see in medieval movies.

I got downtown about 15 minutes before we were supposed to meet so I sat down and drew this sketch.  There’s a large statue in the square and it’s surrounded by a granite fence on three sides and at each corner one of these smaller monuments.

cheap brown sketchbook, TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black

cheap brown sketchbook, TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black

Rocks In My World

2014-05-13rocks_smOne thing I want to do this summer is draw rocks and trees.  I struggled with both subjects last year so they became part of my ‘figure it out’ list.  There aren’t a lot of rock piles in the middle of our city but there are some, scattered around in our parks as points of interest.

As I was walking home I sat down in a park and drew these.  Note little bits of green on the foliage.  We’re just starting to see leaf buds bursting and even our grass is starting to green up.  It’s a welcome sight.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9x6), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9×6), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black


Sketching Parliament

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9x6), TWSBI Mini, Noodler's Lex Gray

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9×6), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black

The Quebec provincial parliament building is huge.  The front of the building is actually the narrow side of the building and yet it’s a couple blocks long.  When it gets a bit warmer I hope to find a view where I can capture the entire face of the building.

On Tuesday, though, the temperature was border line so I decided just to draw the main tower over the entrance.  Even so, by the time I’d finished the ink sketch I’d cooled down enough that I felt the need to move so I quickly dashed on some color when I got home.  It was good to see the sun while sketching.  It’s been a long time coming.



Are You Sure It’s May?

I was walking back from the museum and found this guy, sitting in the park, looking out at the river.  I could almost see what he was thinking.  All of us who live in Quebec City are thinking it.  Note his heavy coat.  Note the lack of vegetation of any kind.  This is nearly mid-May and while Quebec City is known for its cold, this is getting ridiculous (grin).

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9x6), TWSBI Mini, Noodler's Lexington Gray

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9×6), TWSBI Mini, Noodler’s Lexington Gray