My First “Painting”

If you follow my posts you know that I’m a pen driver.  I draw a bunch of lines, hope they look like something and then, if I want to add color, I generally just ‘fill in’ the various pieces, using watercolors like crayons.

But I thought it was time to do a “painting.”  I’m not really sure when a sketch becomes a painting or whether you have to approach things very differently to create a painting.  Seems to me like it’s more the later than former so that’s what I did….that different thing.

We’d just gotten some snow and I was out walking, saw a “winter scene” to my liking and took a quick snapshot of it.  When I got home I took a 5×7 sheet of Fabriano Artistico “Extra White” cold press paper, and I made a few marks to indicate a horizon and the verticals for my fire hydrant.  Ya gotta have fire hydrants in paintings don’t you?  I do.

2013-11-27Hydrant_72Then, with considerable intrepidation, I started applying paint roughing out the tree and hydrant in light color.  Once I knew their ultimate shape I increased the color until it was mostly as you see it here.  Then I added a bit of ink just to emphasize things a bit.  I don’t know if this is an example of my demonstrating a willingness to learn new tricks or that I have no shame in posting my first painting.  Either way, here it is.

 

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.

Taking A Coffee Break, Sketcher Style

It was sort of cold when I headed out to sketch a couple days ago.  I’d nearly froze to death the day before while sketching a small restaurant.  So, I decided that I should find some place indoors to sketch and I headed downtown.  When I got there I wandered around a bit and then went into the Second Cup, a chain of Starbucks look-alikes.

It was not very busy so I decided this was the place for me.  I got a cup of coffee and sat at a high table near the periphery of the shop.  I got out my pad of Patrick-paper (a sketchbook sent to me by Patrick, hence the name) and started sketching.  I started with the one person in the scene, drew a few lines to identify some major horizontals and then just started adding stuff.  And then I added more stuff.

2013-10-23SecondCup_72When I finished the ink work I paused to drink some of my coffee.  It was still warm.  I added the color, took a breath, and drank some more coffee.  It wasn’t very warm.  I guess I’m going to have to acquire a taste for cold coffee as I’ve certainly acquired a taste for sketching in coffee shops.

Pre-hibernation Behavior Of A Quebec Sketcher

I think this may be my last outdoor sketch of the year.  I was out this morning.  The temperature was 3-4 C and it was windy.  I did the basics of this sketch as quickly as my slow hand allowed.  It’s a tiny, old ‘casse-croute’ (typically this means they sell fries and poutine) on Dorchester street.

By the time I had the structure drawn, I was frozen so I headed to the library, which was nearby.  I’d snapped a photo of the building and used it to add details and color.  I think this marks the beginning of indoor season for me.

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

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

41st Worldwide Sketchcrawl – Quebec City

This is the second year that we’ve done the October worldwide sketchcrawl.  It’s a challenge for us because, by this time of year, it’s generally pretty darn cold.  Last year I learned a new French word – frissoner – which means to shiver.  So, only the intrepid among us are up for outdoor sketching in October.

This year was a bit different and our weather on Saturday was really pretty nice… for us.  You can see that we’re not wearing shorts and t-shirts,

Coatsbut Robert and Celine are merrily sketching a large building that sits high on a cliff above the Farmer’s Market, the site of our sketchcrawl.  Celine even manages to sketch while wearing these,

Gloveswhich is something I’ve never managed to do.  We made up for a lack of temperature with an abundance of laughter, talking, and sketching.  It was a great day and by my count, we had 14-15 people in attendance.  I remember, during the planning of our first sketchcrawl (June 2012), we wondered whether anyone would show up at all.  We’ve come a long way.

I did get to do some sketching and had great fun doing it but the most fun was talking with several of the newcomers to our ranks who were interested in my use of watercolor pencils (Faber-Castell Albrecht-Durer) and wondered what sketchbooks I used (Stillman & Birn).  We chatted about sketching in general, about having sketchcrawls more regularly, where to sketch during the Quebec winter, and a lot of other things.  This was a sharp contrast to my more typical loner stalking of sketching subjects in Quebec City.

Gilles Charron was one of the guys at his first sketchcrawl.  He’s been a watercolorist for a while and lamented that he should have been drawing more.  He made up for lost time, though, doing these two sketches during the event.  Aren’t they great?

Croquis 1_Gilles Charron Croquis 2_Gilles Charron

 

 

 

 

Yvan Breton and Celine Poulin organized the event and a big thank you is launched in their direction.  I don’t have a photo of Yvan at this event but his art speaks volumes about his talent.  I do have a photo of both Celine and her artistic talent.

2013-10-19-FarmersMarket-YvanSketchCeline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think I’ll skip posting my own sketches from the day as this post is filling up fast.  Maybe I’ll post them tomorrow.  For now, I leave you with a look at the art and faces of some of my friends

2013-10-19-FarmersMarket-41stSketchcrawland some of the sketches they did during our sketchcrawl.  Thanks to all the participants; you made the day very special.

2013-10-19-FarmersMarket-LucienSketch Bethann Claudette Legumes poirief Robert_piments Robert_Seminaire

Quebec City Street Scenes

Quebec City, particularly the older parts of the city, has many street scenes that are worthy of a sketcher’s time.  Often the streets are narrow and the buildings are connected to one another.

These form great urban scenes and the only thing that limits a sketcher is time and the place to sit while doing the sketch.  Time, scene and place to sit came together and I sketched this autumn scene.

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6x9); Pilot Prera w/Platinum Carbon Black ink

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9); Pilot Prera w/Platinum Carbon Black ink

A Simple Act Of Kindness

Here in North America our society is becoming more and more coarse.  The rhetoric of our politicians has become downright rude, we all walk around with headphones one, barely acknowledging one and other and, frankly, too many of us are too afraid of too many things.  So it’s hard to continue to believe an axiom that makes life bearable – that people are good.

2013-09-30PatEnvelopeBut then something happens and things snap back into perspective.  That happened to me when I went to my mailbox and pulled this from the box.

It was addressed to me with a flair that one rarely sees.  It came from Singapore.  Singapore???  Who did I know in Singapore?  I immediately thought of the Urban Sketchers of Singapore but I’ve never met any of them.  Who could be sending me something?

And so I opened it in the hopes of gaining some insights.  Indeed, the contents were sketcher-oriented.  There was a nice toned-paper sketchbook, a leatherette cover for that sketchbook, two Uniball Signo UM-120 pens, and a couple refills for those pens.  WOW!  The motherlode.  Being old I don’t think as quickly as I once did and I was still baffled about who might have sent these items.  And then I found the little card, from Patrick Ng.

Patrick is a great guy, who went out of his way to obtain a couple Hero pens for me that I couldn’t have purchased without his help.  And we ‘chat’ on Facebook, where we are ‘friends.’  He had been shopping for materials and remembered me, remembered discussions we’d had about the toned-paper sketchbooks made by a friend of his, and he bought me one, and a cover for it so I could fill the sketchbook, get another one and replace it, reusing the cover.  He’d sent a couple of the pens he uses regularly because he knew that Uniball don’t import them to the US.  People are still good, and Patrick is one of the best.
2013-10-03AndrewBook (1)The first thing I did was to test  bunch of pens on the paper, which must be 200lb tan-color paper.  It’s not heavily sized but it does take watercolors quick nicely.  You notice the lack of sizing when you try to do larger washes.  But being able to use the paper as a mid-tone and working on both sides towards dark (pen) and lights (colored pencil) is lots of fun.

2013-10-04LamppostBirdThe first full sketch I did was this one, done in Parc Brebeuf, a park not far from my house.  The ring-billed gulls like to sit on lamp posts and this one sat around while I drew him…or her.

I decided that since Patrick had been so nice to send me a sketchbook, the least I could do was walk a mile in his shoes, in a sketching sense.  He does a lot of sketches inside restaurants and coffee shops.  Sometimes he does them on toned-brown paper, sometimes not.  They are always wonderful sketches.

So, I took one of my Hero 578 ‘asian calligraphy’ pens (tip is bent upward), my new sketchbook, and headed to a mall.  It was morning and not very busy, which suited me fine.

I actually sketched this while standing up, just outside the restaurant, resting the sketchbook on the wall in the foreground of the sketch.   Me, standing, looking in at the restraurant was likely to be disconcerting so after I’d done a bit of the sketch I walked to the three women featured in it and showed them what I was doing.

Normally I would not do such a thing as typically this causes people to start posing.  But in this case, it was necessary.  The sketch was lots of fun and very much in honor of Patrick Ng.  Thanks, Patrick.  You really made my day, week, month.

2013-10-10Gallerie_color

Fall Is Here; Just Say No To Snow!

Fall officially came to Quebec a couple weeks ago.  Many of the trees, and certainly Mr Weathermaker, didn’t get the memo.  We’ve had very warm temperatures for a last couple weeks and the trees are very confused as daylength tells them to drop their leaves but the temps are saying “not yet.”

But, slowly and as surely as politicians will screw things up, winter is approaching.  For me, a street sketcher, it’s a time of transition.  It’s a time when I start figuring out what/where I’m going to sketch once it gets too cold outside to do what I love – sketch on the streets.

To that end I’m thinking about museums, have convinced myself that I should try, again, to sketch from photos, and that I should use Google Maps “pegman” to sketch in exotic places while snow blankets my world.  We’ll see.

toned paper; Pilot Prera and Prismacolor white pencil

toned paper; Pilot Prera and Prismacolor white pencil

In the meantime I’ve been doing some sketching.  I received a handmade tan-paper sketchbook from my buddy Pat Ng in Singapore and did this sketch to sort of break it in.  The gulls love to sit on the lamp posts around here so I had plenty of source material for this sketch.

This sketch was done in celebration of the show the trees put on for us every year.  Fairly simple, I combined a Uniball UM-120 black pen (.5) with a Uniball UM-151 brown-black (.38) pen and did it in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6) sketchbook.  The fence lets me call it an ‘urban sketch’ 🙂

2013-10-07Fall2013-10-07QuickHouseI spent Monday night looking at a bunch of sketches done by Liz Steel, a very talented architect/sketcher.  She talks about how she works very quickly and why.  The next day I was walking down a street and saw this little house.  I decided to try out Liz’s philosophy/approach and while I didn’t produce anything near the quality of her sketches, once I buried the ‘ooooo…that’s not right’ and ‘oops…left that out’ I found the results interesting and I’ll probably do some more like this.  Took less than 10 minutes, including the time to get out my watercolor kit and waterbrush.  It was done in my ‘el cheapo’ 3×5 notebook and my Uniball UM-120 (.5) pen.

Sketching, no matter how it’s done, is fun and after two years of doing it, I can’t imagine a day without it in my life.

 

Another Trip To Ile D’Orleans – Pt 1

I finally got out sketching and it was a fantastic day. Unseasonably warm and not much wind so I headed back to Ile d’Orleans where I sketched and froze the last time I was on the island. This steeple is attached to a church that’s on the eastern end of the island, in the town of St. Jean.  Its bright orange roof must serve as a visible beacon for the cargo ships that come from the Atlantic and are making their way towards Quebec City.

The church is across the street from a place that sells great brioche and coffee.  Last time I was there they’d lost electricity because of high winds so there was no coffee but it’s a regular stop for me when I get out to the island.

Moleskine watercolor (3x5), Pilot G-TEC-C3 pen

Moleskine watercolor (3×5), Pilot G-TEC-C3 pen

Once I sketched the steeple, I walked across the street to get my coffee and danish and this time it was closed because, it seems, it is closed on Mondays. Disappointment didn’t last too long, though.  They have a lot of chairs in a very pleasant garden area so I took one and set it up so that I could sketch one of the unique lamp posts in St. Jean.

2013-09-30IleD'OrleansLamppost

Moleskine watercolor (3×5), Pilot G-TEC-C3 pen

Have you noticed that some sketches are more ‘relaxed’ than others as you do them? That’s certainly the case for me. In this case, I’d just finished staring hard at all the detail in the steeple and mostly just wanted to sit.  Because of the situation, I was sitting on a gorgeous ‘throne’ in the form of a sculpted, cast-iron chair, with grass beneath my feet. The temperature was perfect, the sun was shining, and I was sitting in the shade.  If I’d gotten any more relaxed I would have fallen asleep.  The worst day sketching is a good day but some are better than others.