Drawing Some Bones

My family is great.  While I was in Ottawa they understood that I was frustrated by not being able to sit down and sketch for an extended period.  I didn’t have to say it – they knew.  And so, the day before we left for Toronto, they sent me off to sketch by myself.  Hmm…or maybe they were just tired of my presence and wanted to get rid of me.  Either way, I got to go sketching.

I headed immediately for the Canadian Museum of Nature which is spectacular.  We’d spent an evening doing a quick tour of the place and I could spend a lifetime sketching there.  But I was after bones.  Dinosaur bones.

Ever since Tina Koyama started posting her sketches of bones contained in a Seattle museum, I’ve wanted to draw some myself, but bones are sorely lacking in Quebec City, except those holding up the bags of water that march along the streets.

Stillman & BIrn Gamma (10x7), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Stillman & BIrn Gamma (10×7), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Once I paid the entry fee, and became a member of the museum, I headed directly for the dinosaur portion of the museum.  It was a great morning as crowds were minimal, the security guard was really nice and we had a great conversation about sketching and photography, and I got to draw bones.  Here are a couple of my efforts.  What fun!  The shapes are interesting, complex and organic.

Stillman & BIrn Gamma (10x7), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Stillman & BIrn Gamma (10×7), Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Searching For A Quicker Sketching Style

I’ve only been learning to draw for three years.  I have a long way to go but my goal has always been to achieve the ability to sketch in styles similar to those of Pete Scully, Gerard Michel, and others who sketch buildings in a realistic fashion.  My own semi-cartoony attempts lack their skill with line and color but I’m happy with my results because I sketch more for the enjoyment I get from the process than the actual product.

The one downside of my sketching is that I’m slow…really slow, and that limits the situations where I can apply that meditative, let the brain head off into never-never-land approach.  I spend a lot of time quick-sketching (2-minutes or less) everything and anything to help me learn to see proportions and angles more quickly but the results are far too rushed to satisfy me.

I need an intermediate method – a method that allows me to capture a building or scene in less than 20 minutes, sometimes much less.  And so I’ve been playing around with a quicker, looser style.  I study how people like Marc Taro Holmes and Liz Steel create their magnificent sketches and while my skills are not solid enough to completely mimic their approaches, they are providing me both inspiration and some mental targets for achieving a more loose style.  I’m convinced that I’m only a few thousand sketches away from solving this problem.

Until then, here is a sketch I did while out walking.  It was too cold and windy to sit still for very long and so I quickly sketched this monument that sits in the park near my river.   I did it in a cheap, 5×7 sketchbook of unknown origin.  It’s one that normally sits on my desk and I use it to scribble ideas.  I used my Sailor Profit calligraphy pen and De Atramentis Document Black ink.


Making Room For Carriage Wheels

Our weather is marginal for sketching outdoors but the long winter has me pressing the limits of my cold tolerance.  I’m also motivated by the knowledge that at this time of year, there are areas in the old city that are more conducive to sketching (ie – you can see what you want to sketch) than they are later in the year when the tourists are here.

So, I put on a couple layers and headed downtown, to an area near the port area called Place Royale.  The most important feature there is a gorgeous church but I was after smaller game.

I was going to draw the corner of a wall – a special corner of a wall.  Streets in Quebec City during the 18th Century were narrow.  Carriage wheels, on the other hand, were very large and protruded out from the carriage, making it difficult to negotiate a carriage around the corners.

The solution was to inset the corners of the buildings for the first eight feet of so, creating an odd-shaped corner with no explanation if you wander the streets in the 21st Century.  But now, when you come to Quebec, you’ll know why some of the corners look like this:


Stillman & BIrn Beta (6×8), Sailor Profit calligraphy pen, DeAtramentis Document Black, Daniel Smith watercolors


Sketching The Musee De La Francophonie

I’m just giddy with excitement that I’m getting some days that are warm enough for me to get out sketching on the street.  It’s a good time too as tourists aren’t yet filling the old city streets so I’m able to sketch some things in that area that are normally difficult because of all the people.

One such place is the Musée de l’Amérique francophonie.  It’s part of a complex of structures that used to be a seminary and Université Laval.  The university moved, long ago,  from the downtown area but its Department of Architecture still resides in one of the buildings.  These buildings have a rich history and I’ve sketched several of them but never the Museum entrance because it faces the town square and is next to a huge cathedral that is a tourist attraction.

But tourists won’t show up until it’s a bit warmer so I sat and sketched this grand structure.  Nothing better than sitting in the sun, coat zipped up, and sketching.  Hmm…no, it’s better without needing the coat zipped up.

Stillman & Birn Gamma (10x7), Sailor Fude pen, De Atramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Gamma (10×7), Sailor Profit calligraphy  pen, De Atramentis Document Black


We’re Having A Heat Wave

They say it’s not going to last but right now it’s warm, or rather what those of us who have been freezing for the last five months call warm.  Heck, it was 14C (57F) when I went out sketching on Monday.  Most important, though, there was no wind, which makes all the difference in the world.

It seems I”m out of fighting form, however.  I walked a lot and ended up with blisters on both feet.  Too much couch potato time this winter, I guess.  Anyways, I found myself downtown and when I saw this little convenience market (we call them depanneurs here) I had to sit down and sketch it.  What a thrill.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder even if you’re talking about street sketching.

At one point the guy who owned the store came across the street to see what I was up to and I was somewhat embarrassed as I wasn’t far enough along to give him much indication of the final result.  He didn’t seem to mind though, and the encounter underscored that I was back – sketching on the street.  Yippee!!!!

Stillman & Birn Gamma (10x7), Pilot Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Gamma (10×7), Pilot Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black