Sitting In The Morning Sun… I’ll Be Cooked Before The Sketch Is Done

Apologies to Otis Redding for the title of this post.  But it describes pretty well a morning I had at the latest Artistes dans les parcs event.  It was all my fault.  Sometimes I forsake rational thinking while choosing a sketching subject.

This event took place at a spiritual retreat site that looks like it has its roots as a home for the upper crust.  The grounds are huge and high on a hill that overlooks the St. Lawrence River.  Almost all of the participants set up easels in a shady area so they could paint the coastline.  Those were the smart ones because we were in the middle of a heat wave with pressing heat and humidity.

Me, I took a different approach.  I decided to sketch a bunch of stairs.  My thinking was simply that I needed practice sketching stairs.  I didn’t think about the fact that to do so required that I sit out in the open, in bright sun, and that I would sweat myself to become ill from the process.  I cooked, and cooked, and cooked, more concerned about lilies and concrete than how I was feeling.

When I came out of my sketching fog I realized I wasn’t feeling that great.  Only then did I realize that I was light-headed and dripping with sweat.  I headed for some shade.  Then I realized that I had forgotten to bring a waterbottle.  All I had to drink was my back up water for painting, all 30ml of the stuff.  I drank that and then waited for the little bit of breeze to cool me down.  In the end I was fine, with only a hint of stupid to chew on.  I did go home early, however.  It was just too hot to be out without water.

Squash On The Run

We’ve been having a lot of heat lately.  I guess it’s mother nature’s way of telling me that I complained too much when spring didn’t come soon enough.  Anyway, the result has been a lot of growth in our new vegetable gardens.

One result is that our butternut squash is attempting to escape.  It jumped the wall of the garden and is now running along its edge, using the garden wall to hide its actions.  I had to sketch quickly because it is growing fast, but here’s my capture of the action.

The River Runs Through It

It’s said that you can’t step in the same river twice, alluding to its transient nature.  I wonder though.  Can you see the same river twice?  You can if you sketch it first.

I’ve always chosen my sketching locations first by the prime directive, can I sit in the shade, and only secondarily make decisions about the subject.  These days, the “COVID days”, a third criterion has injected itself between these two parameters.  Can I be isolated from anyone walking nearby.  Normally I like people talking to me but not right now.  I want to be alone when I sketch so I can drop my mask and draw.

And so it was on this day.  If I exited the path through Parc Cartier-Brebeuf I could hide myself behind a tree and draw this little scene, with the Riviere St. Charles meandering slowly by.  I made the mistake of trying to draw the end of the big rock to depict the fact that it had been slabbed off at some point, making it look weird.  Guess what?  It looks weird in the sketch too 🙂

Clairefontane watercolor book, DeAtramentis Document Black, Wing Sung 3008

It Was A Perfect Day

Weather for many of us is weird this year, but I suspect we need to get used to weird.  We’re in the middle of another heat wave, with records set in Montreal and everyone crying that their beaches are not open due to COVID.

Have you ever thought of how different a plein air artist views weather from the rest of the world?  I have a love/hate relationship with sun.  Love it for shadows.  Hate it for how it blinds me when it reflects off my sketchbook.  Gardeners, on the other hand, want every photon our stingy sun will give us.

Generally rain limits my sketching opportunities and right now we aren’t getting any (should be thunderstorm time), but farmers are in dire straits for the same reason that I’m happy.

Wind…yuck from my point of view, though a slight breeze on a hot day is welcome.  I doubt the the windsurfers being dragged across the Ste Lawrence River by brightly colored kites see it that way.

We’ve been a couple degrees luckier than Montreal and while it’s blistering hot today, we had an absolutely perfect day a couple days ago.  Jodie and I headed to the small park that’s just south of our house, her with a book and me with sketching gear.  It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve sat on my stool and let the world drift away for an hour or so.  From a nice, shady spot, I sketched this old brick residence.  I think the building complex may be part of the church that is behind it but I’m not sure.  What I do know is that I had a perfect day.  We even made milk shakes in the afternoon.

Fabriano Artistico (7×8), DeAtramentis Document Black, Platinum Plaisir

My Creativity Doldrums

I watched the old Moby Dick movie, starring Gregory Peck the other night.  There’s a part of the movie where the Pequod (his ship) can’t move because of a loss of wind… the doldrums as they are called by sailors.  I feel similarly stuck as I’m struggling to “find time” (code for being too lazy) to draw.

It’s easy to blame COVID isolation, the daily doses of bad news, and even (especially?) the feckless leadership from the White House on so many fronts.  The news is definitely overwhelms the senses.

But then I think of my own situation and, well, I can’t complain.  I live in a country that takes COVID seriously and our governments at all levels have treated it without politics.  The results have been very positive.  And the other day I watched as our Prime Minister stood, amidst throngs of Black Lives Matter protesters as a full participant, no walls built around him, no guns or amoured police – just the Prime Minister, knowing that he was safe.  I’m sure there were a couple secret service people nearby but…  So this is my world.  Why am I in the doldrums?

A bit more reflection, however, provided clues.  I just finished a list of stuff we have to buy at the garden center and renovation store today, though it’s supposed to rain a lot today so that might be put off until tomorrow.  That may be a good thing as my knees and wrist hurt quit a bit from a long day of building the first of two raised-bed gardens we’re building.  The wheelbarrow I restored a week ago got its first workout yesterday.  I thought about the front door lighting fixtures I’ve got to install, the set of stairs I’ve got to replace and the painting that needs to be done.  As George Takei is fond of saying, “Oh my.”  I think I’ve found the reason I’m not sketching more (grin).

Left: Bic pen; Right: DeAtramentis Document Black. The book is a FIeld Notes “Dime Novel” notebook.

Not wanting to post without pictures, here’s the last two “scribbles” I’ve done while out walking my arthritic leg back into shape.  Hopefully those creativity winds will start blowing real soon.