Art And Life’s Little Cycles

The last big sketching adventure I took was back in 2017.  It was when Liz Steel came to Monatreal and I got lucky and spent an entire day trying to keep up with her and Marc Taro Holmes, a couple of the fastest sketchers on the planet.  I failed miserably but had the time of my life.

The next day Liz met with everyone to sketch in downtown Montreal, and we did.  But in the afternoon I had to leave early because my leg started hurting badly.  I wasn’t sure why.

And that was the beginning of a slide downward, to the point that I had a hard time walking around my house, let alone around the city.  The pandemic resulted in difficulty seeing doctors as the hospitals became overwhelmed with COVID patients.  My knee replacement surgery got cancelled twice but finally happened last year.

I’m older, not much wiser, but when Marc called me and said that she an Laurel Holmes would be driving back from Baie St. Paul and wondered if they could visit I was thrilled.  We all went sketching, though Laurel did it with a camera.  Her results were better too (grin).

Truth is, we spent far more time over coffee, talking about writing, doing art, and the world in general than we did sketching.  It was so cold that being outside for long wasn’t appealing.   The tale that follows was the most sketcher-battery charging event that I’ve had in several years.

Montreal meets Quebec City

I was to meet Marc and Laurel at the Marriot hotel Saturday morning.  I was there, where were they?  I texted Marc, he said they’d be right down, so I sat down and quickly sketched this large vase in the Marriot lobby.

Then Marc phoned with “Where are you?” and it turns out, there are TWO Marriots in Quebec City.  I was at the wrong one.  A bit of a windy walk/jog solved that problem and soon enough we were sitting in a cafe talking a mile a minute in an attempt to “catch up.”

Eventually, though we decided to go to the Plains of Abraham museum which celebrates a famous battle between the British and French, much of which took place on what is now a huge park outside the walled city that is Old Quebec.

Did I mention that Marc sketches fast?  I try to keep up but I’m just not worthy.  Nevertheless, it’s fun to try.  While I did this sketch, he did three of them (grin).  We worked mostly in pencil all day.

We continued sketching and, it seemed, my sketches got smaller and smaller.  Here’s one I did of a hand-carved head that was only two inches tall.

It became lunch time and we went to a restaurant and continued gabbing but ultimately decided we should go sketch.  It was bitter cold and windy so we walked across the street and quickly sketched a statue of Confucius.  I started it too small and ended the same way but my hands were frozen so I didn’t care.  Eventually we decided to regroup in the morning, hoping for better weather.

I met them at their hotel and we headed directly for the McDonalds for breakfast.  Again we couldn’t seem to get enough of art talk, but we decided to go to the Hotel Frontenac to sketch.  I was determined to do a larger (we were both working on 5×7 sheets of paper) sketch but I gave up on it because I’d gotten the organization of the building all wrong.  By then we were both very cold so I did this small sketch of a statue of Cartier that stands next to the hotel.

After lunch I suggested we go to a small park that overlooks the St. Lawrence and that has classic buildings around it.  I thought it might be out of the wind.

Marc has his annual 30×30 event coming up where you create one painting/sketch direct-to-watercolor every day for 30 days.  Thus, we talked a lot about that.  I tried it and learned a few things.  First, is that you’ve got to keep your work relatively dry or you’ll lose all your edges.  Second, never get impatient and try to add darks on top before the sketch is dry.  I did neither of these things, of course.  That’s how I learned them.  Oh, a third thing I learned is that I can’t talk while doing it like I can when I draw.  Better luck next time, Larry.

It’s funny how such a motley pile of sketches can bring so much joy.  I had a great time and I’m grateful that Marc and Laurel thought of me and stopped by.

Oh…before I go.  As if I haven’t embarrassed myself enough with these sketches, here’s an example of where artistic accidents aren’t so happy.  I decided to add some color to my uniformed manikin and while doing so dropped a brush full of pyrrol red onto the left side of the uniform.  I scrambled to fix/fake it but gave up after a while.

 

Online Victoria And Albert Museum – Great For Artists

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“Canada spends all spring waiting for spring to arrive.”

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I don’t know who wrote this. It was a blurb associated with a Weather Channel video.  It may be the best descriptor of how a sketcher feels in Canada when he/she looks outside.  I was supposed to go to a coffee shop to sketch this morning because it was supposed to rain.  Well, it did rain, kinda sorta.  It is currently raining ice pellets and accompanied by high winds.  As crazy as I am, I’m not crazy enough to go out in that mess.  And so I’ll write about art instead [sigh].

Indoor art it is.  I’m probably the only guy on Earth to discover the Victoria and Albert Museum’s online resource, but I got excited when I found it.  I haven’t seen an online resource that provides such high-resolution graphics of museum holdings, allowing the user to zoom and scroll over the work.

Here’s an example and one I’ve started to work from, a sculpture by Aime-Jules Dalou of a woman nursing her child.  If you click on the website image you’ll find several images of the statue and the ability to scroll around them, zoom into them.  I decided not to do the entire statue but rather to zoom in, rotate a bit and capture a more typical portrait graphic.  This was the result.

I’ve only started on the drawing and stopped with a very light massing in of tone.  I stopped because I’m not sure if I want to complete it with pencil, the original idea, or to do watercolor washes to capture the sepia look of the statue.   This is done on Stonhenge paper, though, so I’ll probably proceed with pencil, taking me down yet another road where I have little experience.  I did increase the contrast of this scan somewhat because many of the lines are very light.  Hopefully working on this will mitigate my frustration of those ice pellets hitting my window.

Some More Daily Doodles

I thought I’d post some more of my daily doodling, mostly because my doodles from the past couple days have been different than those I posted in my last blog.  Rather than scan these I just took photos of the pages.  Hope that’s ok.

Sometimes I just start doodling and this typically means a labyrinth of pipes and containers.  This little one, done in my scribble book is no exception.

There’s a white, porcelain cookie jar in our kitchen and I did a quick scribble of it in the same sketchbook.

I got to do a few people sketches yesterday.  These were done in a 5×8 sketchbook using a fine Micron pen.

I’m a big fan of France, aka “Wagonized” and I was watching one of her ballpoint pen videos.  While she did a very nice drawing I did this tiny prairie dog in my scribble book using a purple ballpoint pen.  I’ve got to pay more attention to ballpoints.  They sure are handy and CHEAP.

We’ve remained above freezing for the past 24 hours.  This may not seem like much but for us it’s significant.  Some finches showed up at my feeder today too.  Spring is definitely in the air.

Preparing For A Season Of Street Sketching

It’s -10C outside my window at the moment and the sidewalks here are full of ice, very lumpy ice.  But weather reports suggest that melting should commence in earnest starting tomorrow.  My daughter tells me that Montreal sidewalks are free of ice so that’s a hopeful sign.  Anyways, very soon I’ll be joining those of you who are currently scurrying about your cities drawing cherry blossoms and crocuses (grin).

I’ve been involved in learning to paint, or attempting to and because of that I haven’t been drawing much.  I decided that I should get some pointy sticks out and start pushing them about to see if I still can.  Also, in the recent past I made a comment about not posting my casual sketches and someone asked me why not and encouraged me to do so.

In answer to the first question I just don’t want my practice to feel like I’m “producing content.”  I confess that I sometimes think all the posting to the internet may be one of the worst things that has happened to artists though I confess to being addicted to look at sketches produced by others.  Those views cause me to keep a lot of what I do off the internet.  It’s also time consuming to scan/post every sketch I do.  In short, I’m lazy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alvin Mark posts a lot of great vlogs on his YouTube channel and he was doing a sketchbook tour.  I took that as an opportunity to quickly sketch some of the people he had sketched on the Singapore trains.

 

While sitting in my studio/office I just started drawing stuff, using ballpoint pens.  The red pen was giving me a lot of trouble and I made a mess of the scissors trying to chase the intermittent lines it was creating/

Here’s a page from the small scribble book I carry everywhere.

 

Last and probably least, I was enjoying a snack and quickly moved this stub of a pencil around until the page resembled something.

I’ve found that my time hiding from COVID and making messes with oil paints have left my pointy stick skills rusty.  I’m hoping to get lots of miles done this summer.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s better To Paint Trees

     

“Everytime I paint a portrait, I lose a friend.” — John Singer Sargent

If the guy who is considered one of the best portrait painters of all time said this, what chance do I have when painting a portrait.  I’ve never painted a portrait before.  I’m also not very good at painting anything (grin).

These days I always find myself doing something I’ve never done before so why should this be any different?  Some call it getting “out of your comfort zone.”   Have you noticed, though, people who say that are always talking about what someone ELSE should do (grin).  Anyway, I got it into my head that I wanted to paint a portrait of my daughter.  Initially I was going to do it in oils but at the last minute decided to do a watercolor portrait.

There’s another piece of advice people give to wanna-be portrait painters.  Get a good photo, with high contrast and with lighting that creates a distinct light and shade division of the face.  Called Rembrandt lighting (named after the paints no doubt) this is supposed to make it easier to define the face on a two-dimensional surface.

So, what do I do?  Well, when I was having a conversation with my daughter, using Google DUO, I did a bunch of screen grabs of her.  Most were fuzzy because she was moving or blah because she just staring at her own phone.  But one screenshot caught her with a smile.  Unfortunately, most of the hair on the right side of her face was out of frame and my face, appearing in a little window, covered up the top left of her hair/forehead.  The DUO symbol rested squarely on top of her right eye.  So….as I did the underdrawing I had to reconstruct a bunch of my rather poor photo reference.

Undaunted by these facts and lack of artistic skill, I went to work, quickly learning that I still have a lot of problems mixing watercolors when the desired result is subtle value changes when working with light tones.  I also learned that I have no idea how to paint hair that actually looks like hair.  Oh well, here is the result.  My daughter is so nice.  In spite of it all, she’s still talking to me.