Ottawa’s Museum Of Nature

When my daughter was home for Easter I offered to take her back to Ottawa so she wouldn’t have to take the bus.  This would save her the long bus ride, garner dad some brownie points, and give me several hours worth of discussion with said daughter as we drove to Ottawa.

A not-so-well-hidden reason behind this gesture on my part was my desire to get back to Ottawa so I could sketch at the Museum of Nature.   It never really makes much sense to spend ten hours driving (round trip) so that I could spend four hours sketching, but then we sketchers are a sorry lot when it comes to logic.  I got to DRAW!

We left at 5AM and I got to the museum by about 10:30AM.  I walked around a bit, and ended up in the mammal exhibition.  I generally draw bones in the dinosaur exhibits and so I’ve neglected the mammals.  Time to make up for that.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10)

I started with a grizzly bear.  It was a disaster and I include it here only as an example of sketching gone wrong.  I got the bright idea to try wet-in-wet while sitting on a tripod stool in a museum and with my extensive background of never having tried it before.  Eeeeeekkkk!  I wet the entire bear.  I can’t say whether I wet it too much or too little as I had a hard time seeing just how much water was on the paper in the subdued lighting.  What I do know is that when I started dropping in browns, I created something more akin to the big bang than a painting.  There was brown exploding everywhere and in an instant I had a bear-shaped outline that looked like something that came from the south end of a cow.  I quickly started dabbing at it.  I’m sure the other patrons thought I was under attack by some invisible creature as I flailed around.  As I said, it was/is a disaster.

With that mess behind me I decided it was snack time so I could regroup.  Then I returned to the mammal exhibit, determined to redeem myself.  I targeted the head of a thinned-horn sheep and, leaving wet-in-wet techniques for another day, achieved what I felt was reasonable redemption.

Stillman & BIrn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Across the corridor was an antelope scene and since I only had a short time remaining, I decided to give it a try rather than doing my typical walkabout to find a subject.  I worked fairly quickly and, I suppose, there are some errors but nevertheless, it was a fitting end to a great day.  When I was finished I realized that I was about 10 minutes late for my rendevous with my daughter.   Sketching and time just don’t mix well.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

A Downtown Coffee Break

A few of us ended up at Paillard’s, a nice coffee shop in downtown Quebec.  I got a large café au lait in a bowl and settled into a seat with everyone.  Of course we all had sketchbooks and everyone started quick sketching everything and anything.

These sessions don’t yield great art.  That’s not the goal.  But it’s great practice for capturing things on paper, getting the old visual cortex thinking the way we need it to think.

I was working in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (8×5 landscape) and I started drawing the counter and the machines who live there.  No goal in mind other than to draw those machines.  When I finished with that I drank some coffee, talked too much, and started randomly drawing stuff, just filling a page.  I ended up with a chef’s head floating in my in my coffee.  It was fun.  Sometimes I want to do more careful drawing, sometimes not.  This was a not day.

Can’t Get Enough Of Sketching Animals

Three of us headed back to the Federation of Hunters and Fishermen museum on Thursday.  We really love this place because the people are really nice, the facilities are great and because there’s soooooooo much to draw.  Once the snow melts it’s going to be a great outdoor site as well as they have hiking trails through a nature preserve that’s maintained by the organization.

I decided to draw a Merganser sitting on a post and, I’m afraid, I got more excited about the post than the duck.  Here’s the result in any case.  Hope you like it.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

We took a break, ate lunch, and then decided to do another, quicker sketch and my target was an otter.  I was trying to do more saturated watercolors this day and I’m not sure I succeeded but I did learn some things.  Practice, practice, practice.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Sometimes Sketching Doesn’t Take Time

My daughter came home for Easter and she wanted to go to our downtown area and wander around, so that’s what we did.  We’d been walking for a while and decided to sit down and take a short break.  As we sat, taking in spring sunshine and watching tiny icebergs floating down the St. Lawrence River, I asked if it would be ok for me to do a quick sketch, no more than 10 minutes.

The only sketchbook I had with me was a 3×5 Stillman & Birn Epsilon book (love these).  My pointy device was a Platinum Plaisir.  I chose a scene and started quickly sketching a piece of the Chateau Frontenac.  It took me less than 10 minutes and I added some color when I got home.  No plans were interrupted and no need for “I’m too busy to sketch.”  If you carry a pen and a small notebook, you always have time to sketch.  Besides, now I get to say that I’ve gotten to do TWO outdoor sketches this spring (grin).

Sketching Group Heads To Louise’s House

Louise is one of my favorite sketching buddies.  I call her mom, though I think she’s younger than I am.  This is mostly because I want her to adopt me so I can live in her incredible house.

That house was where all of us went last Tuesday.  She invited us out to sketch, chat and eat soup, the later being the best part.  On this day, however, it was raining so we were trapped inside one of the most beautiful houses I’ve ever gotten to sketch within.  Her husband is a master craftsman and his work exists everywhere in this house.  Louise is an artist and so her ‘eye’ is reflected everywhere, with great stuff to sketch everywhere you look.

I found myself standing in front of well-stocked bookshelves, looking at the dozens of artbooks and sketchbooks from others that she has accumulated.  I could have spent the entire day there but eventually I decided I should draw something.  I made a mistake, choosing this small cabinet as my subject.  I didn’t really have time to do it justice as lunch was scheduled and I had to finish by then.  Shouldn’t have spent so much time with the art books I guess.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

I’m not really pleased with the result but I’m sharing it anyway.  You win some and lose some.  We broke for lunch and spent the next hour or so eating the best mushroom soup I’ve ever had, cheeses, fruits and veggies.  I was so stuffed I wasn’t sure I’d ever move again.. and then she brought a wonderful apple cobbler smothered with pecans.  It’s been said that there’s always room for Jello but I learned that one can even make room for apple cobbler.

I waddled around the house the rest of the day, making lots of small sketches of smaller items on various shelves.  I have to confess that I’m too lazy to scan all those so you’re stuck looking at one ugly sketch.  Sorry.

First Outdoor Sketch Of The Year

We’re starting to get a few days that are warm enough to get out and some of them are coming without rain.  I finally got to sit on my tripod stool, in the corner of a parking lot, and draw this house.  I was working more quickly than normal but thoroughly enjoying the process. A couple people came by and we talked about spring finally arriving and I felt that finally, really, really, it had.  Hope you like this sketch.  I hope to be presenting a lot more of them in the coming months.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Stopping By The Local Plant Nursery

Gosh, it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately, maybe because winter just won’t leave us (it’s snowing right now) and I haven’t been sketching as much as I normally do.  A group of us did go out to one of the plant nurseries for a day of sketching, though, and I was attracted to a collection of plant boxes.  It’s not a fancy scene as the boxes were sitting on simple boards supported by concrete blocks, but I found the shapes interesting.  Here’s that sketch.  Hope you like it.  Hope we get some decent weather soon, too.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

#OneWeek100People2017: Day 4: More Mall Sketching

So far I’ve been quick-sketching whole people, mostly those buying coffee at the mall.  Marc Taro Holmes chided me a bit for drawing those people with their backs to me.  This was sort of true.  Because of the place I was sketching, everyone had their backs to me as they paid for, and received, their coffee.  I did look back, however, and noticed that 14 of those 50 people (28%) did have their face visible.  Marc’s a tough critic (grin).

So, when I went to the mall today I decided that I’d draw floating heads/faces.  I sat in the food court, moving once in a while, and most of my targets were looking in my direction.  Marc will undoubtedly tell me that I’ve left the bodies off and, again, he’d be correct.  And yes, I’m kidding, Marc.

I quickly slapped some color on these before I scanned them and, I think, this flattening the sketches considerably.  I guess I should have taken the time to try to get some shading into the color.  It’s said you can get two of three attributes from any endeavour.  These are cheap, quality, and quantity.  I always get cheap so I choose between the other two and this “challenge” is about quantity.  These 20 were done during a 30-35 minute session.  It shows.  Sigh…

 

 

#OneWeek100People2017: Day 1: Sketching At The Mall

I’m not a fan of sketching “challenges” because, to me, this turns my hobby into a job and I’ve had enough of those in my life.  But when Liz Steel and Marc Taro Holmes proposed that people draw 100 people in 5 days, I just couldn’t refuse.  If you want to see the people sketches  from other people, just give the hashtag in the title to Mr Google.

I knew that to draw 100 people in a week I’d have to concentrate on quick-sketching them.  I also knew that I had a problem because I’d already committed to a sketching session on Tuesday that would have me spend the day away from people so I had to accomplish this task in four days rather than five.

I headed to the mall this morning with the idea that maybe I could get more than the daily requirement of 20 people done.  I found a seat in front of a stand-alone coffee vendor.  Because they have no seats, their customers ask for coffee, it’s handed to them, and they leave.  Occasionally a line will develop but I was there between coffee break and lunch, I guess, because it was mostly one person at a time and they were there less than a minute.  It was like being in a shooting gallery but with a pen in my hand.

One thing surprised me.  I got an audience, which was a bit disconcerting because they wanted to talk to me and I was trying to keep up with the people showing up for coffee.  It was a unique challenge but they were easy to please as audiences always are.

One thing was clear.  The intimidating number of 100 was not as formidable as I’d thought before I started.  I was producing one of these people every couple minutes in spite of conversations with my audience and the occasional lull in coffee traffic.

When I got to 37 it was time for a break so I bought a coffee and spent some time showing people what I was doing and answering the typical questions.  I was happy with the head start I’d gotten on the week, but if I wasn’t going to be able to sketch tomorrow, I was already behind (grin).  Heck, let’s face it.  This is kinda nuts.

As I was leaving I walked by the food court and I couldn’t pass it up.  Just 3 more so I could have enough for today and tomorrow.  I sat down and started drawing people who were ordering poutine, a disgusting concoction of fries with salty gravy and cheese curds.  I filled the page before I finally packed up and went home.

This evening I was watching TV news and started drawing the talking heads.  This added another 6 to the head count (pun intended) so I’ve drawn 50 people so far.  More to come.  How are you doing with your 100 people challenge?

Road Trip To The RedPath Museum In Montreal

I’m a really lucky guy.  Why?  Because I’ve got a daughter who’s been accepted to the McGill Law program in Montreal.  Who cares, you might ask.  Well I ask you, what better excuse could there be for a certain sketcher to go to Montreal and sketch in the many great sketching locations that exist there.

My first trip took place last week, when my daughter went to an orientation at the law school.  It was a great day.  I emailed (is that a verb yet?) Marc Taro Holmes and asked if he was available.  Good timing and a bit luck found him having the day free for sketching.

We met at the RedPath Museum on the McGill campus and I spent the day attention torn between concentrating on my drawing and talking to Marc and watching him do some amazing watercolors.  For this post I’ll stick with showing you what I drew that day.

This heron and I spent some time together.  He (she?) was beautiful.  I was doing this standing up and when it came to the paint I ran out of hands, which led to things being out of control, and that’s putting it mildly.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

When we finished up in this part of the museum we decided to go upstairs to draw.   The stairwell is filled with a bunch of stuffed animals.  It was a very overcast/rainy day and this part of the museum was pretty dark but I decided to draw the head of a hippopotamus.  As I sat on the steps, I could see the outline well enough but there was considerable guesswork regarding the various undulations on the body of the animal.   It was both frustrating and fun to try to think about how the muscles would run around the head/neck of the animal.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

We’d had a long discussion about whether one should use pencil or not.  This internet meme is very popular and I don’t ascribe to it, though I’m very much in favor of leaving the eraser at home.  I’ll probably talk about it at some later date but here I’m only going to say that I decided to do some pen-only drawings.

I was fascinated by this very primitive stringed instrument, formed by a drum-like body with sticks strung through it to raise up the “drum” cover so that a bridge could rest on it to hold the strings.  The neck of the instrument was a long, somewhat rough stick with frets formed by ropes wrapped around it along its length.  I hope I’ve captured it well enough to show these features.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), PIlot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

I was getting sort of tired at this point but just to the right of where I was sitting was this clay statue that had a grass skirt and a bunch of feathers on its head.  I quickly sketched it but didn’t completely finish it as time ran out.  I played with some color when I got home but I don’t think it improved it much, if at all.

This day was a great day.  Heck, I think any day at the RedPath would be, but it was particularly great because the discussions that Marc and I had were fun and watching him work magic with watercolors was very insightful and inspiring.  Ain’t sketching and the sketching community great?