Sketching With The Jesuits

Last Sunday we met at the Maison des Jésuites de Sillery as our monthly Croquistes de Québec sketchcrawl.  Our time window was short because these small museums that are scattered around Quebec don’t open until 1PM during the winter but they are warm and they do have stuff to draw.   This particular place is a large two-story house, associated chapel, and the foundations of the original church that was across the street.  Contained within it are a bunch of artifacts that tell the story of this 18th Century missionary settlement.

While most were drawn to displays on the second floor, I couldn’t resist the golden eagle that was on display.  Halfway through the drawing I was wishing I’d chosen something else.  Did you realize that eagles have a lot of feathers?   I did like this view, however, as it’s a little different than the typical sideways, head up of most eagle photos/drawings.  Anyways, here’s what resulted from my interaction with this beautiful bird.

Stillman & Birn Beta softcover (8×10), Pilot Falcon, Diluted DeAtramentis Document Black

Xmas Card Sketching Is Fun

Every year I see a bunch of Christmas cards, drawn, scanned and posted by talented sketchers everywhere.  I’ve never been so inclined, possibly because I’m not a fan of typical Christmas iconology.  This year, however, people in our group wanted to do a card-making session so I made my first Christmas cards.  The most common method was to look at pictures in books and reflect those ideas on the card.  Because I’m trying to exercise my very, very limited imagination these days, I decided to just “make stuff up.”  I can’t say the results were stellar but I sure had fun doing them.  These were done on inexpensive watecolor paper cut and folded in half to the size of a typical card.

Lisette hosted the session which provided special treats.  She does really nice watercolors and each room held at least one gem and her studio held a bunch of wonderful watercolors.  And she made soup and homemade bread for lunch.  Both were fantastic  I admit that I stuffed myself.  Then she brought out homemade carmel corn, muffins and Guylaine brought gingerbread cookies.  Before lunch was over I was double-stuffed and I was only able to draw one more card during the afternoon session.  Here’s a photo of most of the cards made that day, by the seven people in attendance.

Old-Time Kitchen Sketching

In recent weeks I’ve had to forsake urban sketching because it’s just too darn cold outside and so I’ve started doing domestic sketching (my name for studio sketching as the opposite of urban sketching) and historic sketching (drawing from old photos).  Seems there is jargon-ese convergence in what I present today – historic, domestic, urban sketching.

Yvan and I braved the cold and took the ferry to Levis, where we climbed the hill and made our way to Maison Alphonse-Dejardins.  Dejardins is the guy who started the Quebec banking system and his home is now a museum in his honor.  I was on location and sketching and thus, I was an urban sketcher again.  But this time my target was the sink and counter in the smallish kitchen in this home.  Next time I’ll do the coal-fired stove cuz it’s a dandy.  And in one swoop, this sketch is both historic and domestic.  Voila, I did historic, domestic, urban sketching (grin).

I know, I’m being silly, but then the labels we put on everything, and worse, the debates over what qualifies as fitting a label are pretty silly too.  Anyways, here’s the sketch I did in a Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10) softcover sketchbook.  I kinda let the perspective get away from me but what the heck, if they were all perfect there’d be no reason to continue trying.

Maison Alphonse-Dejardins

Urban Sketching In 2029???

There I was, with John Connor, fighting against the machines.  Somehow my fountain pen didn’t seem quite up to the task.  Truthfully, neither was I.  The machines had taken over the Earth and they were in the process of exterminating the human race.  They were everywhere, as was evidence of the carnage.  What’s an urban sketcher to do?  Draw, of course.  A little thing like the annihilation of the human race can’t slow down an urban sketcher.

Ok…so I lied.  Actually, I was at our Museum of Civilisation, in the nanotechnology exhibit.  In that exhibit is a full-size model of the Terminator of movie fame in all its shiny metal glory and, of course, it’s posed over several broken skulls.  In honor of John Connor I did my best to capture the remains of the 2029 urban landscape.  I drew the skulls.

Stillman & Birn Beta softcover (8x10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black (diluted)

Stillman & Birn Beta softcover (8×10), Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black (diluted)

The Social Side Of Sketching

Many artists toil away in studios and much has been written about the solitary life of an artist.  Some of this seems to spill over into the sketching world too, mostly because people are unsure of themselves and reluctant to sketch outdoors or with others.  I suppose that’s understandable.  And as unfounded as those fears are, they are a barrier to the real fun of being a sketcher.

When a sketcher takes the plunge, hits the streets, sketches in public and then with a group, they find not only acceptance but great benefits to sketching in the midst of other sets of eyes.  It’s not about being told how great you are, though.  What quickly becomes important are the small, friendly conversations that you have with passers-by on the streets or with your sketching buddies.  With the world and Facebook (are these different) seemingly going mad all around us, those conversations bring hope and a feeling that humanity isn’t lost.

And so it was when Yvan invited our Thursday group to his place for a sketching session.  Yvan has a studio that’s jam-packed with eye candy because he collects everything from plaster heads and bones/skulls to vases and animal figures as potential drawing subjects.  Everywhere you look is inspiration and if you are overwhelmed by the potential, he’s got a library of art books that exceeds that of the Quebec public library system.  Oh, and he had homemade soup and bread for lunch.

Six of us arrived at 10AM but we probably didn’t start sketching until 11AM because of all the stuff to see and talk about.  But ultimately we grabbed something to draw and the room went quiet.  We were in sketchers-ignore-everyone mode buried deep in the neural connections between eye and hand.  I started by drawing the backside of a dog statue that Louise had decided to draw from the front.

2016-11-28dogBy the time I finished some conversation had re-emerged but I started doing a quick sketch of some of the things on a shelf in the window.  I include it only to keep the story complete as it is unfinished, not good, and I smeared the ink as I worked.  Besides, by then I was engrossed in a conversation about Craftsy courses and how face shape, more than eyes or nose, identify a particular person.

2016-11-28bottleThen it was time for lunch and what a lunch it was.  When we schedule our Thursday events, we’re all on our own about lunch so everyone brings sandwiches and such.  But on this day, Yvan had made a wonderful lentil/veggie soup that was spectacular and he’d baked fresh bread.  The sandwiches stayed in our bags.  Louise brought a bar of gourmet chocolate for dessert.  Conversations ensued and another hour or so passed.  I spent some of the time looking at Yvan’s two-volume set of Van Dyck’s Antwerp sketchbooks.  Amazing and certainly worth further study.

Eventually, though, we got back to drawing.  I was in the mood to be challenged by an odd shape and I saw several sketches of a deer vertebra in one of Yvan’s sketchbooks.  I asked him about it, he presented it, and I tried to draw it.  Yep.. I was challenged.  There’s at least one major error and, I’m sure, a bunch of minor ones.  But such things sharpen the eye and if you take time to compare the end result to the original, you can teach the brain a lot about how to see.

2016-11-28vertebraThings were starting to wrap up and a couple of our group started packing to leave.  I thought I had a few more minutes, though, so I started sketching my tea cup.  Very quickly I drew the basic shape and then started slathering it with oranges and leaves.  It was lots of fun and a perfect end to the day.  Sketching in a group is special.  I hope you get a chance to do it, and do it often.