Tis The Season…To Be Cold

I’ve just finished my first summer as a “plein air” sketcher.  I so passionately wandered the streets of Quebec City with a sketchbook that I’ve not spent enough time reporting on those activities in this blog.  My productivity as a writer has been excruciatingly close to zero.  But I have had sooooooo much fun this summer.  Sketching has changed my views of everything.

But for five months of the year Quebec City becomes an icebox.  I don’t mean it gets a little bit cool.  That happened when I lived in Arizona.  I mean it gets the kind of cold that causes tires to go clunk, clunk, clunk as you roll down the street as the rubber  stiffens while the tires sit.  I mean the kind of cold where you have to plug your car in at night so it will start in the morning.  I mean the kind of cold that causes polar bears to hibernate.

Like squirrels gathering nuts, we run around this time of year, preparing for our own hibernation in warm, cozy huts and with the exception of a few crazy people who like to ski and skate, we see “outdoors” only when forced to shove a snowblower around the driveway.

But, with my new found hobby, this is unacceptable.  I want to sketch.  Yes, I can draw coffee cups and sofas but that’s not who I am.  I like sketching places.  So, how do I get past the reality that watercolors freeze when subjected to Quebec City winter temperatures?

Clearly the watercolors will have to be left behind,  but a pen and a small sketchbook can be crammed into a coat pocket.  I’ve got small versions of Stillman & Birn’s Alpha series sketchbooks on their way.  I may even move from my favorite fountain pens to a gel pen or…shudder…maybe even a pencil, to simplify the toolkit.

I’m excited.  As the leaves fell from the trees, my stomping grounds have revealed a whole new landscape, just waiting to be sketched, with or without color. 

But, can an Arizona-bred old guy sketch in the cold.  We’ll see, but I’m optimistic.  Is this how a well-dressed sketching fanatic faces temperatures that live around zero degrees Fahrenheit?  Hope so.

I think the sessions will be shorter, and they’ll probably followed by warming myself over a hot cup of tea, but I’m optimistic.  Then again, it’s still “warm” here.  The  following photo was taken last weekend as I sketched on the large island next to Quebec City.  It was 35F.  If nothing else, winter will help me sketch faster (grin).  What do you do to feed your sketching itch when winter rolls around?  Am I nuts?

Photo by Yvan Breton

4 Responses to “Tis The Season…To Be Cold”

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  1. Bethann says:

    NOT nuts, and hot tea before, during, and after, are critical. I haven’t done a whole lot of mid-winter outdoor sketching, but I have a feeling we’re about to find out how it works. Helps to have sketching buddies to motivate one to brave the cold, eh?

  2. Ahhh teeth chattering, frozen fingers, retreating to the car to warm up, all these things happen when I paint in the winter. You can still use watercolours in the winter. Just break out the vodka or gin. ;) http://www.artistsnetwork.com/medium/watercolor/plein-air-painting-using-alcohol-as-an-antifreeze-for-watercolor

  3. Good idea, Bethann. Maybe I need one of those beer caps with a thermos bottle on each side and a tube to stick in my mouth. Truth is, I think my optimism over this idea may live only until we have one of those -20 days :-)

    Cheers — Larry

  4. Elizabeth, I don’t think antifreeze in my paints is a solution for me. You suggest running back to a car to get warm. For me, typically, it’s a matter of walking an hour to a sketching location, so the walk home is equally long. The more I think about this the more I think it’s nuts. I’m nuts :-)

    Cheers — Larry