The Lonely Sentry And Cheating On An Old Friend

I was wandering around a place called Domain Maizeret, a large park not far from my house.  There is a huge building in the middle of the park where most of the activity is centered and around it is forested land with walk paths so we can go in and feed the mosquitoes.

When I saw this scene I didn’t see a garbage can.  I saw a sentry, bravely holding up its “no bicycles” sign as it protected the forest entry from marauding bicyclists.  I decided to do another paint first experiment.  Some day I’ll do one that doesn’t fail, or that fails to a lesser degree.  I don’t expect progress overnight (grin).

I had fun with this one, mostly because I just couldn’t get the sentry idea out of my head.  While I was sketching, not a single bicyclist got past the sentry.  I do hope walkers appreciate its effort.

Moleskine watercolor portrait format (5×8), DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, Wing Sung 8009

A confession and apology to Stillman & Birn

I’ve been using Stillman & Birn sketchbooks almost exclusively for about eight years.  When I started with them they didn’t have all the products they have today, but I bought a pile of Alpha-series 10×7 spiral-bound landscape books and I filled them.  As they came out with other options I tried those too, though Alpha and Beta series are my favorites.  I’ve filled a bunch of their newer softcover books as well.  When they released their 3×5 books I started using those, replacing the cheap small books I’d used for quick-sketching people.

But there was a time that I used the small Moleskine (landscape) watercolor books.  I loved their covers but always felt that the larger landscape books became unwieldy when balanced on my knee.  So I joined the throngs of people asking begging Moleskine to produce portrait versions of these sketchbooks.  In spite of repeated letter-writing campaigns, they never did and since S&B was serving my needs I didn’t much care.

But Moleskine finally answered the call, with both A5 and A4 versions in portrait format.  I didn’t buy one… at first, but eventually I started feeling guilty that I’d whined so loudly ‘back then’ and yet hadn’t bought one now that they were producing them.  And so I did buy one.

The sketch above was the first sketch in my new A5 Moleskine book.  I feel like I’m cheating on S&B by using the darn thing (grin).  S&B have been there, thick and thin, relieving me of the burden of finding the right sketchbook.

I tell myself that I haven’t stopped using S&B sketchbooks and its true.  Right now I carry two of them next to this new Moleskine.  Still I feel guilty.  I also feel bad that now I have a sketchbook to fill that has paper that’s not as good as my other sketchbooks.  Serves me right for being a cheater (grin).

Sketching With Roger Van den Hende

You probably don’t know who Roger Van den Hende was but that’s ok, neither do I.  What I know is that he was rich and left a lot of money for the purposes of establishing a botanical garden in Quebec City.  It’s one of my favorite places to sketch, particularly since my bad knee has limited my ability to wander the city.

So, when Denise scheduled an event there for the Artistes dans les parcs I headed there to sketch.  This was actually a couple weeks ago and I forgot to write about it.  We had a good day but it wasn’t without some challenges.

The day started great.  Predictions were for hot and sunny so shade was at a premium.  Finding the combination of shady spot and something to sketch was challenging.  I had fun trying to follow the  growth pattern of this vine.

The ‘hot’ that was predicted came to pass and so water and rest was in order so I took a break, drank a lot of water, and then started wandering around looking for more shade to sit in.  Finding shade with something in my view became particularly hard as we were nearing mid-day but eventually I found a lily I could draw while sitting in the cast shadow from a small building.

I decided to try to sketch it “paint first”, always a mistake for me but I’m determined to learn this approach regardless of the frustration level (grin).  I began with a light wash in a lily shape and then I started adding some shadow tone… just as the clouds rolled in, killing all shadows on my flower.  If only I had better visual memory.  I persevered, sort of, doing my best to make up a shadow pattern.

At that point I had to wait for the paper to dry so I decided that I would take a break and make a trip to the restroom, which was a short hike through the garden.  I left all my stuff laying on the ground in front of my lily and headed off.  When I came out of the bathroom it was raining… on my sketchbook… only a one minute run from where I was, only I couldn’t run.  So I hobbled with a pained look on my face.

By the time I got back, my paper was now VERY wet and there was little I could do besides pack everything up, take a photo of the flower, and head for home.  I tried to salvage the sketch at home and this was the best I could manage.   DeAtramentis Document ink and Stillman &Birn Alpha paper hold up pretty well to a rain storm.

DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6)

 

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

The Used To Be Zoo Part Two

I almost titled this blog post “Oops… I forgot.”  When I wrote my last post I got pulled away from the writing for a while.  When I returned I read the last paragraph and it seemed like an ending so I did a quick copy edit and posted it.

Later I realized that the ending was really just a stopping point and that I’d forgotten to add a second sketch I’d done at the old zoo park that day.

So, as I was saying in my last post, we were having fun at the park and I decided to do a sketch of the bridge that carries foot traffic over the small river running through the park.

This required that I get down to the river level which put me in shade, among a bunch of foliage and near water.  What could go wrong?  Mosquitoes, mosquitoes, and more mosquitoes.  What made them worse was that I was drawing.  I’m oblivious to my surroundings when I’m sketching, even the swarm of mosquitoes that were biting me.

I didn’t notice until the next day when my arms and legs started itching like crazy (shorts and t-shirt day).  I’m sure the sketch suffers from blood loss effects but here it is.  I didn’t really finish the paint stage but I hope you like it anyway; the mosquitos sure liked me.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document brn/blk

Going To The Used To Be Zoo

At one time, Quebec City had a marvelous zoo.  I got to see it when I did my post-doc here.  By the time I returned to live here, however, politics had caused its demise.  These days a portion of the zoo grounds is now a park called Parc des Moulins because there is a windmill on the grounds, but I miss the animals.

Anyways, the Artistes dans les Parcs went there and had a lovely day.  The weather couldn’t have been better and so hanging out with a bunch of artists, in a heavily forested area, with a creek running by was really relaxing.

For a while I was off by myself because I’d decided to draw the rear of one of the old buildings and the garden area behind (in front of the behind?) of it.  This too is a relaxing place as there is a small pond and creek as part of the garden.  Here’s the drawing I did in the morning.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Deatramentis Document brn/blk, Daniel Smith watercolors

Then it was time for lunch and we sat around enjoying each other’s company.  Wish I’d think about taking photos of these gatherings.  I never think about it until I write the blog posts (grin).

The Grande Marche Opens In Quebec City

An exciting event occurred just down the street from my house; exciting mostly because it’s “just down the street from my house.”  The Grande Marché just opened in Quebec City.

This is a huge farmer’s market that also includes cheese, pasta, sausage, etc., etc. shops.  We’ve always had such a place but it was smaller, not nearly as fancy, and it was a significant drive from our house.  This one is a two-minute walk.  I go there nearly every day, if only to get my walking exercise started for the day.

What does this have to do with sketching?  Well, it’s also a great place to sit and quick-draw people.  I’m still experimenting with places to sit within the complex but there are several that are great.

Our growing season started really late this year but we’re starting to get farmers showing up with more and more produce so drawing their kiosks will be on the agenda soon.

Just so I don’t leave you empty-handed, here’s a drawing/painting I did of the exterior of the building.  While the interior has changed completely, the basic structure is mostly as it was when this was the building that housed the horses and cows when we had a state fair.  Only the entrances have been upgraded.  It smells better too (grin)

Fabriano Artistico, Daniel Smith watercolors, some pen work at the end.

Location Sketching (Finally) In Beauport

To say that spring/summer has been slow in arriving would be a big understatement but we’re finally starting to get some warm, sunny days.  We took advantage of one of them last week and found ourselves in Beauport, along Avenue Royale, a street that runs along a hillside, a part of the city where the architecture is spectacular but quite different from the really early architecture of our “old city.”

My first sketch was an example of me biting off more than I could chew.  It didn’t start out that way.  I intended to draw just the end of a long set of Quebec equivalents of New York brownstones.  These are covered with gables, towers, etc. and are quite stunning.  They’re also quite complicated.  Very quickly, though I let my eyes grow big while my time stayed the same and the result was that very soon I was scribbling my way to depicting half of the entire complex, something that should have taken twice the time and been done in a much larger format.  My little 4×6 book just wouldn’t hold it all.  Here it is, serving as a lesson – when you decide the scope of a drawing, stick to it.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, Daniel Smith watercolors

As it turned out, I had more time than I thought.  It has been forever since I’ve sketched outdoors with our little group and getting back into the swing of things is harder than it should be and my timing is off.  Anyways, I started drawing a small subject, figuring I could get it done before everyone wanted to head off for lunch.  In spite of its simplicity, I really like this one.  Hope you do too.  In any case, summer is here and I hope it will be a good one.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, Daniel Smith watercolors

Drawing A Giraffe In Quebec City

We’re finally experiencing outdoor temperatures.  Normally this would mean that I’d be wandering the streets every day, drawing my old-man heart out.  That behavior has been derailed by my bad knee.  Just this morning I started out with the idea of taking the bus downtown to sketch, but I quickly realized that, today, my knee wasn’t going to allow that to happen.  So, instead, I’m writing this blog post and thinking that maybe I’ll sketch a pepper plant we bought last weekend.

Last week I got to go to our Musee de la civilisation to see the new Curiosities du monde naturelle.  This exhibit is reminiscent of the old natural history museums, before all the fancy displays and such intruded on a simpler time when museum managers thought people were more interested in seeing actual items than they were pictures and videos of them.

Our museum seems to have a new to this.  They put everything in the dark.  I’m not sure what that’s about but we have to draw with a light on our paper and half the items are too hard to see to draw at all.  This is supposed to be good?  We have two exhibits that are like that currently and it seems to be a trend.  Anyone else seeing this in their museums?

Part of this exhibit is the head of a young giraffe and I decided to draw it.  Where I had to sit was too close and I was looking upward at the head such that I couldn’t see things like its left ear so the sketch is a bit odd.  Still, I had fun finally being out sketching and I enjoyed drawing this guy, or girl.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, Platinum 3776

Confused Weather Makes For Confused Sketchers

“April showers bring May flowers.” – Thomas Tusser (1557)

I have a question.  If you get showers in April, and they continue through May, will there be LOTS of flowers in June?  I sure hope so because Quebecers’ moods, will need a boost.

By date and temperature, we have finally gotten to spring and we sketchers are chomping at the bit to get out sketching.  In fact I witnessed a bunch of them, including myself, wandering around in the rain, looking for stuff to draw.  It was quite a sight.

We were attending the first of a series of plein air painting gatherings organized by the great Denise Bujold – great because she’s done this and because she’s so darn good at it.  There are 16 events scheduled, one a week, throughout the summer and fall.  But for this first one, surprise, surprise, it rained.

It was held at an apple/vegetable farm on Ile d’Orleans, a large island near Quebec City.  When Yvan and I arrived we found a gaggle of sketchers huddled in a large space that houses an art gallery during summer tourist season.  Eventually this group spilled out into the garden adjacent to the building and we literally wandered in the rain, pointing at things we could sketch if the rain would stop.

Eventually we made our way to a place where there was an overhang and a few picnic benches and everyone set up shop to sketch.  Across a field there was this scene and I confess that I didn’t have my heart in it and it shows.  But I did get to sketch, outdoors, and with other people.  That has to count for something.  There was supposed to be another event today but it’s pouring rain so it was cancelled.  I’m in desperate need of some flowers.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document diluted black

 

Memories From Old Toys

We’re still waiting for spring to come to Quebec City.  It’s quite unbelievable that it’s mid-May and the best we can hope for is a rainy, dreary day.  But until things warm up a bit (we had a frost warning last week) we’re sort of stuck going to indoor venues to draw.

We were provided with a new one, though, as the Quebec Historial Society opened a small exhibit of old, mostly tin toys from the 40s to the 60s.  As a kid, I was playing with those produced in the 50s so some were quite familiar to me and brought back memories.  I love tin toys, mostly for this nostalgia I suppose, but they were always so brightly painted to mask their simplistic nature.

I spent much of our session viewing the exhibit and reading all the description cards.  It’s not every day that you get to see and Easy-Bake Oven after all.  But eventually I sat down to draw and I did a poor job of sketching an old wind-up race car from the 40s.  I really need to slow down as the quality of my sketches is directly correlated with the speed in which I do them.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10 softcover), DeAtramentis Document Brn/Blk ink, Daniel Smith watercolors