Capturing The Motion Of A City

I’m primarily a building sketcher.  I don’t have to worry much about my subject walking or driving away.  But I’m also an urban sketcher and things do move in cities.  Trains, planes, and automobiles are constantly on the move, as are buses, construction equipment, and parade floats.

How do you capture complex objects that won’t sit still?  You can use photos but I’m not that fond of sitting in my office drawing pictures.  To be honest, I have difficulty drawing from photos.  I’ve spent enough time field-sketching that I just ‘see’ so much more in real life than I can see in a photo.

I did a spur of the moment experiment and I thought I’d share it with you.  I was walking along ‘my’ river and at one point there’s a train bridge that crosses the river and heads into the downtown train station.

As luck would have it the train from Montreal pulled across the bridge and stopped.  It does this because it has to wait while they throw a bunch of switches so it can back through a wye (trackage to turn a train) so that, ultimately, it can back into the station.  In less than a minute the train backs out of the scene.

I decided to sketch it so I got out my Stillman and Birn Zeta (5×8) and a pencil.  That’s right, a pencil.  I quickly drew a long box to represent the train, the slope of the nose of the train, and several lines indicating where the major parts of the bridge intersected with the train.  Then, the train was gone.

I got out my pen and started drawing the bridge.  I thought my brain was going to melt at times while trying to figure out all the angles of the steel-truss bridge but it was also fun.  I left the site with a bridge with a big, long empty box inside it.

VIA2When I got home I sifted through my photos, surfed the internet, and ultimately found a picture of the ViaRail train engine, taken from its left side.  This gave me all the detail information I needed to complete my sketch.  I did have a bit of difficulty envisioning the proper perspective but most of what I needed to add were squarish panels, so it wasn’t too bad.  I liked the result.  I have captured a train.

2013-08-21Train

 I suppose an urban sketcher purist would take issue with my use of a photo this way but, to me, the hard part of this sketch was done on site and I am now looking for other ways to capture moving objects.  Next stop…to sit across from a metrobus stop, drawing a bus; the buses arrive/depart every 10 minutes.  Only a few seconds per bus but there are lots of buses.  Wish me luck (grin).

Taxi Guys Need A Place Too!

Firemen have their firehouse.  Policemen have donut shops. Sketchers have libraries, coffee shops, and street corners.  And taxi cab drivers need a place too.  In Quebec it looks like this:

2013-08-15TaxiStandCAt least the one not far from my house looks like this.  I’m not exactly sure what they do in there but they have a washing machine outside.  I suspect it’s something of an oasis that lets the drivers get out of the car once in a while.  The bright yellow building and the orange background wall conspired to insist that I draw them, and so I did.  Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8) using a Uniball Signo UM151 pen.  It’s hard for a fountain pen guy to admit it, but I love these pens and their waterproof ink.

 

Sketching In A Target-Rich Environment

Every year Quebec City holds the Festivale de Nouvelle France.  It is a celebration of the French landing here and setting up shop.  It’s a celebration of French culture.  It’s a celebration of traditional foods.  And it’s a heck of a good excuse for adults to dress up in costumes and roam the streets of old Quebec.

It’s also a great opportunity for sketchers who want to sketch people dressed as peasants, royalty, pirates, military, indians, and vendors.  I was a peasant myself – a peasant with a pen and a sketchbook.

I’m not very good at this kind of sketching.  Generally your subject is in a crowd of people and you have only a very short time to capture their geometry.  Once done, you’ve got a variable, though always short period of time, to fill in the details from a subject that’s moving constantly, often away from, blending back into the crowd.  Here are a few of my attempts; it sure was fun.

2013-08-10QS2 2013-08-10QS3 2013-08-11QS1 2013-08-11QS3 2013-08-11QS4 2013-08-11QS6 2013-08-11QS7

This Is The Back Of The Building?

I was downtown Sunday, waiting for the Festivale de Nouvelle France events to spool up.  I was sitting in the courtyard in front of the Trinity Anglican Church and from there I could see this view of the back of large government building.  I think it’s the finance building.  I decided to sketch it.

I took a somewhat different approach, experimenting a bit.  I spent more time with a pencil, adding more than just layout lines.  I used my typical 3H pencil, but from these light lines, I laid in light color washes before I added any ink to the sketch.  This allowed me, or so I think, to use a lighter hand with the ink lines, which I followed up with more watercolor.  I think, if I knew anything about watercolors, this would be a good approach.  I know it works well for many other sketchers and I’ll continue to pursue it.

I did it in my Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8) sketchbook, with a Pilot Prera and Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.

2013-08-11Finance

New Restaurant In Quebec

I don’t have an official count but I think Quebec City has more restaurants per capita than most cities on the planet.   I pass no less than 9 of them on my way to a new one that has just opened and I don’t live in what one might call a dining hotspot.

But open it has, a new Vietnamese restaurant named Ubong.  If the outside is any reflection of the inside, though, I’m sure it will be successful as they’ve completely remodeled the building and painted it with this stunning yellow and green paint and trim.

It’s on a well-traveled street and every once in a while I’d have to stop as a truck or bus blocked my view and there was a steady stream of pedestrians, some of whom stopped to say hello.  I really enjoy this part of street sketching.  It was sketched in my Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8) and I used a Uniball Signo UM-151 (.38) in black, followed by drawing the window and door frames using a brown-black version of the same pen.  W&N artist watercolors added a bit of shadow and color.

2013-08-06UBONGC

The Thrill Of The Chase

I’m a sketcher… a street sketcher.  What excites me about sketching is the process, not the results.  I love the feeling I have as I sit, studying a subject, drawing lines – oblivious to everything around me.  I love people who stop and ask questions.  Often they’re the same questions (eg – Do you sell these?  Did you go to art school?  How long have you been doing this?) but there’s always a smile attached and some simple chit-chat that connects me to my fellow humans.

And part of the process, for me, is finding something to sketch… the thrill of the hunt.  It’s pretty rare that I plan to go some particular place to sketch some particular thing.  That takes half the fun out of it for me.  I like to just strike out, in any direction, looking for something that catches my attention.

The other day I did just that.  I walked to a main intersection near my house.  There were metro buses that head east/west/north/south and I decided to hop the first one that came along.  I found myself heading east and, once I had passed areas I knew well, I got off the bus.  I continued, walking east until I came across a small park.

I walked into it and sat on a bench.  I looked around.  There were ravens in one end of the park and I thought about sketching them.  There were swings, slides, and what looked like a hamburger that kids could ride.  It sat on a large spring.  These would make a nice sketch, too.

Then I noticed a small mechanics shop stuffed between two larger buildings.  I walked to that corner of the park, picked out a shady area, plunked myself down on my tripod stool, and started this sketch.

My hunt was a success.  I spent a blissful hour while my pen entertained me as no television ever could.  Life is good.

2013-08-02MechaniqueC

Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8) sketchbook; Pilot Prera pen; Platinum Carbon Black ink; W&N artist watercolors

Big Building In A Little Town

Quebec City is not an industrial town.  We have no massive factories except for our paper mill.  Rather, we have government…lots of government as we’re the capital of the province of Quebec.  And we have the oldest walled city in North America and cruise ships visit us regularly.  We do tourism.  And so we have lots of politicians and tourists.  We also have UbiSoft, the video game manufacturer so we have animators…story-tellers.  In short, no big factories to sketch.

But we are also a port and the largest building around that port is a huge grain elevator and ship loading facility along the northern side of our marina.  Lots of train cars and boats visit the place as grain is moved onto awaiting ships.  In short, it’s a big, intimidating building to sketch 🙂

I took it as something of a challenge and so became my sketch of the Bunge grain elevators. Done in a Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8 x 2) sketchbook with a Pilot Prera and Platinum Carbon Black ink.  W&N watercolors give it a bit of color.  Click for a larger image.

2013-07-31BungeC

Portraits In The Park

Last weekend I attended an annual event that brings portrait artists together in a park area in front of the Gallerie d’Art Magella-Paradis.  This gallery, in association with the La Societé Artistique de Charlesbourg organized the event and Alain Fortier and Lucien Lanoie were the prime movers to make it happen.

René Chamberland doing his thing.

René Chamberland doing his thing.

And what a fun day it was.  By my count there were a dozen or so portrait artists who drew each other and anyone else they could get to sit for them.  René Chamberland even sketched me.  With great company, in a great place, and with a dose of great weather, the day was pretty special.

Richard is drawing a lovely lady who volunteered to pose for him.

Richard is drawing a lovely lady who volunteered to pose for him.

Luceien Lanoie ran the 20-minute sessions and helped portrait artists as he walked around the area.

Lucien Lanoie ran the 20-minute sessions and helped portrait artists as he walked around the area.

Some of the artists taking a break to get something to drink and chat a bit.

Some of the artists taking a break to get something to drink and chat a bit.

I’m an urban sketcher, not a portrait artist but that didn’t keep my pen in my pocket.  I did several sketches during the day, including these sketches of the artists doing what they do best.  These were done in a small 3×5 sketchbook using J.Herbin 1670 ink.  Is it urban sketching to sketch a portrait event?  I think it is (grin).

2013-07-28GillesSketching2013-07-28YvanSketching2013-07-29Rene

 

 

Do You Sketch The Boring Stuff?

I like to sketch boring stuff.  I guess I should be more precise and say that I like to sketch things that other people find boring, or worse, don’t even notice them at all.  Things like garbage cans, fire hydrants, telephone poles… and plain, ‘boring’ buildings.

2013-07-26

So when I saw this view of the end of a 3-store complex, it called to me.  I set up my stool, sat down, and got out my Stillman & Birn Zeta (5×8) sketchbook.  I used a Pilot Prera loaded with Platinum Carbon Ink to do the sketch.  I was happy with the results.2013-07-26Building_site

What do you think?  Do you sketch boring stuff?

2013-07-26Building

More Small Sketches… More Fun

I’m continuing to have fun with small 3×5 (or smaller) sketches.  Thought I’d share a few more with you.

2013-07-18MaryDooleyCThis is a small, adorable building that is the home to a dress designer.  It looks like something from a fairy tale and seemed like a great small sketch subject.  As with my previous small sketches, this one (and the others here) were done in a Moleskine watercolor sketchbook.  This particular one was done with a Pilot Prera and Platinum Carbon Black ink.

2013-07-21KamouraskaCWe took a day trip down (up?) the southern coast of the St. Lawrence River to Kamouraska.  I’d hoped to sketch some of the great buildings there but instead I did this sketch of my daughter looking out at the ocean (the Atlantic is out there somewhere if you look far enough).  I like this one a lot, probably because of the subject matter.

2013-07-23shipCI was walking across the bridges that crosses the St. Charles River just as it flows into the St. Lawrence and decided, without much thought, to sketch this scene.  I think the scene would have been better served by a larger format but the little sketchbook came out and the pen started jittering around the paper.  I’m not a fan of sketching while standing and this is further evidence that I’m not very good at it.  But they can’t all be great.  It was still fun, which is why I do this.

2013-07-23guyCLastly, and certainly least, I was taking a break on Terrace Dufferin, a large boardwalk associated with the Chateau Frontenac.  Across from me was this guy, looking out at the St. Lawrence.  I took out my cheap sketchbook thinking I’d just do a one-minute sketch of him and, big mistake, I started the sketch in portrait format, thinking I was only going to draw him and couple boards to represent the bench.  Then I sort of got carried away making squiggles to represent the railing and before I knew it I was having to draw him smaller than I planned, the bench became more integral to the sketch, and in the end I had a tiny, 2×2 vignette of a guy on a bench.  It’s sort of scratch and way too small but again, quite fun and I thought I would share it as an example of improper planning… or maybe just the right amount 🙂  This one was done with a Uniball Signo UM151 (brown-black) pen.  I really like these pens and I’m now armed with several of them.