Odd Little Guy From Greek Theatre

When I think of “Greek theatre” what comes to mind are large, outdoor stages with row after row of seats carved from rock, creating an amphitheatre of sorts.  I don’t know if this is because of something I was told in high school or something I’ve seen at some point in my life.  Truth is, I know nothing of Greek theatre.

Votive, head about 6" tall

Votive, head about 6″ tall

The big exhibit at our civilisation museum is all about Greek gods and statues, but there’s one section dedicated to Greek theatre.  What I find odd about it is that most of the “masks” are referred to as ‘votives’ and they’re all far too small for anyone to wear.  They have eye holes and the mouths are a gaping hole in the face, just as a mask might be.  I assume they may have actually held a candle and that’s why they’re labelled as votives.

Interspersed amount the theatre objects are a bunch of small statues that I can’t even imagine a use for in live theatre and no explanation is provided.  They’re all just a few inches tall and their mouths are, like the votives, hollowed out.  Maybe they were popcorn butter dispensers.

Each is mounted on a brass rod for display, but whether this is the way they were originally displayed is unclear.

In any case, I drew this one.  I used Strathmore “toned gray” paper and drew it with a Pilot Falcon filled with De Atramentis Document Black ink.  As the statue was made from a tan clay, I used watercolor pencil to generate some brown tones.  That was probably a mistake as this paper didn’t take kindly to my use of a waterbrush to spread the watercolor.

Little theatre guy (Strathmore toned gray paper, De Atramentis Document Black ink)

Little theatre guy (Strathmore toned gray paper, De Atramentis Document Black ink)

Polar Bear Sketching As Winter Approaches

It’s becoming difficult to sketch outdoors in Quebec City.  It’s comfortable to walk as long as one wears proper attire but to sit and sketch for any period of time is beyond my capacity to endure.

So now the scramble to find indoor subject matter begins.  Claudette and I met at the Université Laval library and their small natural history exhibit.  It’s a small display and we’re running out of sketching possibilities but I decided to draw the head of a polar bear who, I suspect, had ducked into the library just to get out of the cold.  Sketchers aren’t the only ones that find Quebec winters harsh.

I had fun doing this in my Stillman & Birn Delta sketchbook, though it’s only a 6×8 and I would have like a larger format for this sketch.  Have I mentioned how much I like Faber-Castell Albrecht-Durer watercolor pencils?  They’re the only ones I’ve found where a waterbrush can completely eliminate the pencil lines.  Anyways, I hope you like Mr Polar Bear, though he might be a she.

polar bear

Stillman & Birn Delta sketchbook, Pilot Falcon w/Platinum Carbon Black ink

Sketching Mobile Homes

2014-10-20shell1In the display at our local library is a cabinet full of mobile homes.  As I like drawing architecture it seemed fitting that I draw some houses used by animals that aren’t human so I chose these two.

I drew them in a Stillman & Birn Delta sketchbook using my Pilot/Namiki Falcon and Platinum Carbon Black ink.  Color comes from Faber-Castell Albrecht-Durer watercolor pencils.


Sketching The Past

This is the time of year that a street sketcher, living in a part of the world that turns dark and cold for five months, starts thinking about what he’s going to draw for the next few months.  One thing that’s occurred to me is that there are many things I simply can’t draw ‘on location’ because they simply don’t exist any longer.  Why not draw those things, from photos or museum examples?

So, when I was sketching at a small display in the Laval University library, I decided to draw the passenger pigeon that was on display.  It’s 100 years ago, this year, that we finally ‘got the last one’ of some five BILLION of these birds that once inhabited North America.  Enterprising European immigrants, showing their mettle, blew every last one of them from the sky.  What a proud accomplishment.  It might be ok if we would have said “oops…we shouldn’t do that again” but we continue to do it, over and over and over.  I heard on the news the other day that there are currently 50% fewer animals on our planet than there were just 30 years ago.  How much longer can we continue to be so stupid?  Not much longer unless we wake up and stop our denial about what’s going on.

But enough of an old biologist grousing about what unbridled disregard for everything but money is doing to our world.  Back to sketching.  I had never seen a passenger pigeon before.  It looks very much like a very large, somewhat elongated mourning dove and certainly more lean than it’s domestic pigeon cousin.  I drew this one in a Stillman & Birn Delta sketchbook with a Pilot/Namiki Falcon pen.  The color comes from Faber-Castell Albrecht-Durer watercolor pencils.  I love these pencils and every time I get them out I wonder why I don’t use them more.  The wing primaries should be darker.

passenger pigeon

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 With The Three Musketeers

2014-04-06Celine's House Snow has started to melt but it’s still piled high, so Athos, Porthos, and Aramis (the Three Musketeers) decided to meet and draw indoors at Celine’s house.  She has a studio full of plaster casts that provide fodder for sketching fanatics.  They invited me, d’Artagnan, along as the token anglophone of the group.

We had a great time sketching, looking at art books and talking about our upcoming road trip to Ottawa’s National Gallery.  More on that later.

2014-04-07HeadI sketched a couple smaller, painted plaster figurines in a Stillman & Birn sketchbook using a Pilot Prera and Lexington Gray ink.  Faber-Castell Albrecht-Durer watercolor pencils were used to add a hint of color.  I love these pencils more everytime I use them as you can completely eliminate the lines made by the pencil.

It’s not location sketching but it’s sure good practice and goodness knows I need that.


Sketching An Inuit Art Piece

Quebec has a rich Native American community, from the Shawnee who helped Pre-Canadians fight Americans during the war of 1812 to the Inuit (Americans might still call them Eskimos) who manage to live in the very cold northern parts of Quebec.

2014-01-10InuitTree_72Our Musée de la Civilisation has a large permanent exhibit dedicated to Native American history and art.  This is a beautiful piece of wood and soapstone carving.  It’s about two feet tall and the soapstone face has a long tail on it that allows it to sit in the hollow of the tree trunk.  It’s quite stunning and I didn’t do it justice.

Done in a Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9) with a Pilot 78G, followed with Albrecht-Durer watercolor pencils and a waterbrush.


Sketching Haiti Skull Art

There is an exhibit at our Musée de la Civilisation right now called Haiti In Extremis, at least that’s what it says on the wall as you enter.  I think it may be Latin for “weird stuff from Haiti” but I’m not very good with Latin.  Anyways, this is an exhibit of art that has a heavy emphasis on scaring bad spirits away from the places that display it, so much of it is designed to be scary.  Another component of the art is that the sculptures are composed of old car parts and other assorted junk.  I’ll be honest.  It doesn’t appeal to me.

But I was sketching at the Musée last Sunday with Yvan, Claudette, Pierre and Celine.  We had a ball and several of us sketched what amounted to a human skull, perched on the base from some sort of rack.  The skull was draped with a shawl and fake hair added to one side.  This ‘unit’ was stuck on top of a television set.  Don’t ask me why or what as I might not say the right thing.

But as with all sketching, it was an interesting challenge and lots of fun.  Here’s my depiction of the piece, though I omitted the television set.  Done in a Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook (6×9) using an Wahl-Eversharp gold nib pen (love the flex in this pen) and Noodler’s Black, which smeared a bit when I added color (watercolor pencils/waterbrush).



Street Sketching in Paris – Sort Of

This is a hard time of year for me.  Not only do I not like winter, as a street sketcher my daily routine is snatched from my by the cold.  My Arizona fingers just won’t hold onto a pen when it’s cold.  I know, I’m a sissy, but I’ll point out that the birds leave because they can.

But all is not lost.  Last year I lived in the museums, sketching Samurai helmets, Nigerian masks, statues, and paintings.  This year I have decided that I will spend more time in coffee shops, drawing people, tables, and countertops AND heading to the museums.  One of the big exhibits at our Musee de la Civilisation, this year, is Paris on Stage, that reflects Paris as it was at the beginning of the 19th Century, with emphasis on the world expositions that took place there in 1889 and 1900.

And this is where I was, with a couple of friends, for a pleasant Saturday morning of sketching.  We’ve done it for two weeks, now and I think it will become a regular thing for us as we’re having lots of fun, sketching, followed up by a pleasant cup of tea and the ever-present discussions of art materials.

Three women from LHermitte painting

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9), Pilot Prera, watercolor pencils

There’s a huge mural called Les Halles by Léon Lhermitte.  It hangs at the entrance of the multi-room exhibit.  It’s an amazing work that captures the outdoor marketplace in Paris at that time.  One could sketch portions of it forever and not become bored.

My skills, thought, are too limited to do it justice but here is my attempt at three of the women in the painting.  Lots of fun to do and, for me, very difficult.  I’ll be sketching more of this mural as I hibernate in the museum this winter as it was lots of fun.

I find watercolor pencils and a waterbrush to be a great way of coloring sketches while in the museum.  I use Albrect-Durer pencils as I love the way the lines completely dissolve, unlike other pencils I’ve tried.  I do use watercolors in the museum sometimes, though.  This museum is very accommodating to sketcher-persons (grin).

Le Lapin Agile in Paris

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9), Platinum Carbon pen, watercolors

This week I had decided I would fill two pages with ‘cabaret’ sketches.  There is a significant portion of the exhibit devoted to the ‘hot’ cabaret scene in 19th Century Paris, with posters, paintings, signs and photographs of the places (eg – Moulin Rouge, Chat Noir) as well as early videos of dancers, patrons, and even the prostitutes who were part of that scene.  I began with this sketch of a painting featuring Le Lapin Agile, a cabaret owned by a prostitute who rose in the ranks of the community.  I  loved the winter scene particularly the many trees, devoid of leaves as they hunkered down, much like I’m doing right now, against the cold.  This sketch is about 6×6.

Cabaret page, sketched at Musee de la Civilisation

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9), TWSBI mini, watercolors

My eye caught a large brass sign hanging high above me.  It was the original sign that hung to announce Le Chat Noir, possibly second only to the Moulin Rouge for notoriety in Paris.  I quickly sketched it and then followed it up with a loose rendition of a portion of a Moulin Rouge poster that was, itself a pencil sketch of the place.   Then it was time for tea so we packed up and headed to Cafe 47, the museum coffee shop.  It was a great day.



First Museum Sketching Session Of 2013

Winter is descending upon us quickly.  It actually snowed yesterday, though it’s still not cold enough to stick around.  That will happen soon enough.  There’s still the occasional day when I can brave the temperatures and sketch outdoors, as long as I don’t do it for very long.

So I’m in the middle of summer-to-winter sketching transition.  I’m warming up my watercolor pencils for visits to museums but, for the moment, the watercolors are close at hand for when its possible to use them.  I’m getting out my heavy coats, hats and gloves, for the walks to those museums and I’ve buffed up my winter boots.

It’s all sort of depressing when I think about it.  I try hard not to but the short day lengths are a constant reminder of what the next five months will bring.  We’re down to ten-hours of daylight and by the time we get to mid-December, we’ll be in the dark for all but eight hours of every day.  I guess it could be worse; I could live in Finland.  Those guys have really short days.

And that reminds me, I had to get new batteries for my museum light.  A light is a requirement for sketching in our museums as while the subjects are lit, the rooms have subdued lighting.  I use a Mighty Bright book light that clips to my sketchbook and it works great.

2013-10-26GillesCharron_72The light and the rest of my materials showed up at the Musee de la Civilisation last Saturday.  I was with them.  I was there to meet three other sketchers and to sketch in the warmth and comfort of a great museum.

When I arrived they were checking in.  Gilles wasn’t yet a member of the museum (a real bargain for a sketcher in a cold place – I went there over 50 times last winter) and he was filling out the form to become one.  I sat down and quickly sketched him.  We all chuckled over the result and headed to the exhibits.

The new big exhibit is Paris, 1889-1914.  At that time, Paris was a hotbed of technical achievement in addition to its famous art and cabaret communities.  Paris hosted the worlds fair in 1889 and in 1900, a time when things like telegraph and electricity generation and uses were still novelties.  This exhibit reflects this, with a mixture of art (eg – Rodin sculptures and a lot of paintings of Paris), lots of material from stage, screen and cinema, early bicycles, steam-powered cars, and a lot of different electrical gizmos and gadgets.  In short, there’s lots of stuff to sketch.

I’d met two of the sketchers at our recent sketchcrawl and as this was the first time to be sketching in a smaller group with them, we (well, I mean I) spent a lot more time talking than I did sketching.  We had a lot of fun talking about materials, what winter sketching in Quebec is like, and just a bunch of general chit-chat.

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6x9), Pilot Prera F, Platinum Carbon Black ink

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9), Pilot Prera F, Platinum Carbon Black ink

My plan was to sketch three things on two pages and knit them together into a ‘journal’ page as this is an area I want to experiment with more.  Sadly, I only managed to get two sketches finished so the page isn’t quite what I had planned, but here it is in any case.  Hope you like it.  I hope the four of us can get back to the museum real soon.