Sketchy Reflections Of 2017

When I thought about writing about my 2017 as a sketcher, all I could think of was how bad the last four months have been as health problems have kept me from doing much sketching at all.  This resulted in me filling only a paltry seven sketchbooks this year, though I did do more sketching on single sheets than every before.

But then I thought about the rest of the year and not only was it eventful, it was pretty darn special.  I got to meet a LOT of people and this is something I don’t normally have in my sketching world.

I have my ‘best buddy’ and mentor, Yvan Breton, who keeps me on track and patiently tries to teach me how to draw, and I am fortunate enough to have a small group of people that I get to sketch with regularly, but I’m not a traveler, so I don’t attend the growing number of sketcher events around the world.

But this year some of that world came to me and serendipity allowed me to become more involved with the Montreal sketchers.  In February I spent the day at the Red Path Museum in Montreal with Marc Taro Holmes.  I love sketching with Marc because not only is he one of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet, you always learn stuff when you hang out with Marc.  I got to spend the day with him later in the year where he talked me into trying to paint statues directly rather than drawing them first.  If I can get my failing hands to cooperate, this is going to open a lot of possibilities for me.

Koosje Koene, of Sketchbook Skool fame, came to Montreal for a visit and couldn’t miss the opportunity to meet her as I love her “Draw Tip Tuesday” series.  I confess that I rarely do the things she shows but she has a way of making me smile with her imagination and presentation of these short videos.  Sadly the day she was in Montreal, it was raining so sketching was limited.  Instead, we went to a restaurant and spent the time talking about art, sketching, and I got to know her a bit better as well as some of the Montreal sketchers.  It was a good day in spite of the rain, maybe because of it.

It’s been hard for me to participate in Montreal urban sketchers events because it’s a long five hour round trip between Quebec City and there.  It’s possible to get up really early, drive to Montreal, sketch for a few hours, and then drive back but it doesn’t make for a comfortable day.  So, I was thrilled when my daughter finished up her degree at the University of Ottawa and decided that she was going to go to law school at McGill University, in Montreal.  I would have a floor to sleep on when I decided to attend Montreal sketching events.  She moved there in August, the same weekend that Liz Steel and Anne-Laure Jacquart came to visit so I got to spend several days sketching in Montreal that weekend.

I spent the first day with Marc, the highlight being the statue drawing I mentioned above.  The next day I spent the day with Marc, Liz, and Anne-Laure in a whirlwind sketchcrawl through the city.  It was the best sketching day of my life in spite of the fact that I was always woefully out-classed, frantic to keep up, and my results less than stellar.  What an experience.  I’m a slow sketcher by nature so juxtaposed next to these three, I was really slow.  Their ability to sketch complex street scenes in almost no time has to be seen to be believed.  I was in awe.  Lucky for me, they are also very nice people, who didn’t laugh at me.

The next day a bunch of the urban sketchers came out to sketch with Liz and Anne-Laure.  The day started with rain but eventually we got some sketching time.  To be honest, I was pretty worn out by then as the moving of my daughter and previous day’s sketching had taken a lot out of me.  It was also the first day that my leg started limiting my movements.  Definitely a day to remember.  2017 was a good year for me because of the people.

I also got to attend a couple USK Montreal events in 2017.  I was hoping for more but by September I was having a hard enough time getting around my house so going out sketching was out of the question.  I’m hopeful that too many doctors and I are getting some of this under control, at least enough that I’ll be able to hobble my way to a sketching location and, on good days, my hand will cooperate enough to let me draw.  Getting old is awful, but it still beats the alternative.  Onward to 2018.

 

 

A Sad Tale Of A Great Success

I got up yesterday morning full of enthusiasm.  I was going to drive to Montreal and sketch with some Montreal urban sketchers and I was going to get to meet Koosje Koene of Sketchbook Skool fame.  My trusty weather app reassured me that I would be greeted in Montreal with 15-17C and sunny skies.  So off I went, listening to CBC radio and doing my normal “Oh, that would be great to sketch” dialog with myself as I sped through the countryside.

I was going to arrive a couple hours before everyone else but Jane Hannah said she’d meet me, but a bit later.  I parked in a very convenient parking dungeon (seven stories below ground) that Jane gave me coordinates to and walked out into the beautiful sunshine ugly rain.  Hmm…not so good.  But I was confident the rain would stop and I’d never been to old Montreal before so I just started walking around, taking photos of the amazing architecture and statues. Tourist am me.

Eventually I wandered back to the meeting place and there was Jane.  And the rain had stopped.  We talked for a bit but eventually sat down to draw.   Not being versed in the rules of Montreal, I didn’t realize that this was the cue for the rain to begin.  It did.

This was the extent of my sketching. I increased the contrast so you could see my mental discussion with shapes and proportions in anticipation of actually drawing this structure.

Jane suggested we walk to a restaurant she wanted to show me.  We did but it was closed so we walked a bit more.

The rain stopped.  Of course it had; we weren’t sketching.  We decided to draw part of an amazing building so we set up, sat down and I started block in the basic shapes I wanted to capture and, you guessed it – it started to rain again.

It was getting near time to meet Koosje so we headed back to the meet location, stood with a few urban sketchers and along came Koosje.  It was not going to be much of a sketching day so we went to a restaurant and spent the next three hours talking, eating, and some sketched people.  I’m not much for sketching in restaurants so mostly I watched and kibbitzed.  There were a dozen of us so there was lots of potential for kibbitzing.

In the end, the day was a big success because of the people.  I’ll do sketching some other time.  It did seem that I needed a souvenir of the day, however, so this morning I did this quick drawing of part of city hall, depicting the dreary nature of the day, I hope.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Sketchcrawling With USK Montreal

I’m going to keep this short because we’re experiencing really low barometric pressure which is giving me a horrible arthritis attack in my knees and hands.  I’ll also apologize for the typos because my typing is being affected…bigly.

But last Sunday I was in heaven.  I met Marc Holmes for coffee before the event and when we arrived at the Pointe-à-Callière museum there were 30 or so sketchers waiting for the place to open.  The goal for the day was to sketch the Asian exhibition and it was a doozy.

The exhibit is on two floors and I probably should have made a quick run around to inventory things but I just started sketching these small clay figures.  They were simple, crude, and I managed to make them even more so when I went out in hall and tried to paint them while standing.  I was at least a couple of hands short for that exercise.

Stillman & Birn Beta, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon

I did those quickly, all the time thinking of heading upstairs in search of something better to draw.  The second floor had one display of larger statues, a bunch of pottery, kimonos, and a couple samurai suits.  I decided to draw a couple of the larger statue artifacts.  Those were fun but I really hope that some day I’ll get better at drawing while standing.

Stillman & Birn Beta, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon

The area around the samurai suits was pretty crowded so I decided to draw a piece of pottery.  Then I went outside and found Marc creating a masterpiece.  Watching work with watercolors is always a treat.  I never did add color to my pottery.

We only had 20 minutes left so we went back in and I decided to take that time to read about some of the smaller pieces which were at the other end of the first-floor room from where I had done my first page.  That’s when I saw it… a large door into yet another room.  Dare I say this was where thek really good stuff was?  Large buddah’s statues of all sorts, large busts of Asian characters.  Wow…and me with only a few minutes left before we were to rendevous for lunch and show-n-tell.  I quickly drew one of the heads, using pencil this time.  Yet another skill I need to work on.

We met for lunch and passed sketchbooks around.  USK Montreal has a lot of talented people among its ranks and it was fun seeing their results.  This day was pretty special to me and I hope to return for some of their future sketchcrawls.  Thanks, Marc, for organizing the event.

Sketching At The Stewart Gallery

What do you get when you combine a fantastic urban sketcher group with a great city cultural center, who happens to exist in a beautiful mansion and grounds along the shore of Lake Louise?  The stuff that dreams are made of, at least for this sketcher.

I was determined to get to Montreal for at least one of the USK-Montreal group’s sketchcrawls this year and it was only by “guess and by golly,” as my dad used to say, that I chose the one scheduled for July 5th.  It was to be held on the grounds of Stewart Gallery on the opening of a exhibition of art by Jane Hannah, Shari Blaukopf, and Marc Taro Holmes.

Sunday morning I headed off with my buddy Yvan.  There’s nothing better than traveling with another sketcher as time flies as art discussions, discussions of the cool house with the red roof that we just passed, how the distant barns and tree line would make a nice sketch, and all the rest of the stuff that sketchers talk about took place.  In no time we were there…and my jaw dropped.

The Stewart Galleries is an amazing place but what was more amazing were all the sketchers dotting the landscape.  There were dozens of them.  No, there were more.  One count suggested there were 80 of them…all in one place, all of them sketching, chatting and having a great time.

My eyes were in information overload.  This was a wonderful place to sketch but whose got time to sketch when there are so many sketchers to meet, so much art to see.  All I could do was walk around talking to people.  I finally got to meet Shari Blaukopf and Jane Hannah.  Both are as wonderful as I supposed them to be from internet interactions.  I found Jane by walking up to every red-headed woman, asking if they knew Jane Hannah.  It was the one time I wished there were fewer people there, but I finally found her and met all the red-heads.  That’s gotta be good, isn’t it?

The Stewart Gallery was amazing.  The event coordinator, Amanda Johnston did an incredible job, as did her staff.  I’ve never been treated so well as a sketcher.  They provided coffee, snacks and free ice cream.  If you wanted, they even had pencils, paper, and clip boards available for those who came without their sketchbooks.  What was particularly great was that these offerings were used quite a lot by those attracted to the event by the USK-Montreal group.

Finally, guilt got the better of me and I decided that I really needed to draw something so I sat down at the edge of the lake and drew this view, looking away from Stewart Gallery towards the Pointe Claire marina.  It’s not my best work as it was rushed and my head was spinning with excitement.  Nevertheless, it is evidence that I sketched at the event.  Then it was back to talking, viewing the new gallery exhibit and enjoying the day.  Thanks to all who made the day so fantastic.

Stillman & Birn Beta (9x12), Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Beta (9×12), Namiki Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black