A Quick Trip To Ottawa

My daughter was coming home from Ottawa during her Easter break from school.  In a brilliant bit of planning we decided to go get her rather than have her take the train to get home.  In this way we could spend a day and a half in Ottawa, visit museums, and I could sketch.

The plan was perfect.  We got up early Thursday morning and drove to Ottawa.  Skipping the details of the day, our plan was to visit the Natural History museum starting at 5PM because on Thursday nights the Ottawa museums are free.  And so, with sketching gear on my hip, we headed inside.

To be honest, I was overwhelmed, both by the five floors of great stuff to sketch and by the fact that I was with wife and daughter and we wanted to see as much of the museum as possible.  I managed one tiny quick-sketch of a sandhill crane while we were resting our feet.  But we had lots of fun and besides, I’d be at the art museum all day tomorrow.  Plenty of time for sketching.

And so it was that the next morning we headed to the art museum, arriving at opening time.  This is where the flaw in my plan became evident.  It was Good Friday.  All the museums were closed.  In fact, most of Ottawa was closed.

But it was a nice day.  It was sunny, 8C and no wind.  Given Quebec City’s winter, this was nothing short of a miracle so we sat down in front of the art museum.  My family said, “Why don’t you sketch?”  I felt guilty about leaving them doing nothing while I sketched but they talked me into it.

Sketching quicker than I normally draw, I drew the top of the Parliament library that was peaking up above the trees.  When I finished I realized that I HAD SKETCHED OUTDOORS.  Finally!!!  It was April 3rd…a day to remember.

It only took 20 minutes or so but did I mention that I got to SKETCH OUTDOORS?  Does this mean spring has finally come to my world?  Well, not really.  We drove back to Quebec City yesterday and woke this morning to look outside at the snow that was falling.  Instead of sketching, I wandered aimlessly behind a snowblower.  Will it ever end?

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

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

Accordion Museum Sketching

museum logoWhen winter won’t stop, sketchers innovate.  There’s a small accordion museum, the Musee de l’accordéon, about half an hour east of Quebec City and I was there, along with my buddies Claudette and Louise.  It was a very blustery February day – at the end of March.

I know nothing of accordions but their definition revolves around a series of reeds, some way to pump air over them, and a set of keys to control which ones vibrate.  But growing up in the US, “accordion” meant polka music and Myron Floren on the Lawrence Welk show.  I didn’t like it much.  But when I came to Quebec, my eyes were opened by the smaller squeeze box accordions used by traditional Eastern Canadian musicians.  It’s probably not the official vocabulary for such music but it’s a hoot!

Our day was a typical urban sketching session, consisting of a lot of laughter and comaraderie, punctuated by silent periods while we ignored each other and drew the objects that surrounded us.  We drew in the morning but had to relocate to a local food dispensary because the museum closes from 12 to 1.  It was a welcome break and we returned somewhat refreshed and drew for a while longer before heading back to Quebec.  It was a great day.


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


The Best Way To Fish


Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after. – Henry David Thoreau

There was a time in my life when I was an avid fly fisherman.  I have to disagree with Thoreau.  Most of us fished knew exactly why we were doing it and that catching fish was way down the list of reasons we did it.  I certainly knew why I’d gone “fishing” today and without catching a single one, I got exactly what I was after.

I woke to falling snow.  Yep…the end of March and it was snowing. So I whined a bit into my morning coffee and made a decision.  I would go sketching at Quebec City’s aquarium.  As it turned out, it snowed all day but I didn’t care.  I spent the entire morning at the aquarium and it was wonderful because aside from the people who worked there, the place was nearly empty and I wandered around watching the fish and doing some sketching of them.

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

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

Still Looking At Snow…Lots Of Snow

There are hints that we may be starting to slide towards warmer temperatures but unless 34F is warm to you, they’re not here yet.  And I’m getting desperate.  I sit at home, trying to get a mental picture of what I might see if I were looking out windows from various places I can access around town.

And so it was as I hopped a bus and headed to rue Cartier, a classic shopping/restaurant street.   At the end of a small indoor shopping complex is one of the best burger restaurants in town.  They make real burgers with lots of imaginative toppings.  And they have tables, next to windows, that look out on what is a large garden area associated with a historic house.  I knew I could see something to draw from one of those windows, though the garden itself would be completely covered in snow.

Here’s what I came up with.  Lots of snow, which is the common state of all scenes in Quebec City right now, but I was in a warm building, sitting in the sun, and I was sketching.  What more could a guy want.

2015-03-27houseThis was done in a Stillman & Birn Beta (6×9) sketchbook using a Namiki Falcon (alias Pilot Falcon, which some are now calling a Pilot Elabo), and De Atramentis Document Black ink.   With any luck at all, spring may arrive before the summer solstice.

Sketching A Hansom Cab


A minute later we were both in a hansom, driving furiously for the Brixton Road. – A Study in Scarlet 

I’m a big fan of Sherlock Holmes.  Not the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock.  Not the TV show Sherlocks.  I’m a fan of the original, as written by Arthur Conan-Doyle.  In those stories, Holmes and Watson were often travelling in hansom cabs.

Sherlock’s carriage equivalent of the taxi was, more precisely, the Hansom safety cab, designed by architect Joseph Hansom in 1834.  It’s interesting to note that “cab” is short for cabriolet, a French word for a 2-wheel, horse-drawn carriage.  It’s also where taxi cab comes from.

I’d never actually seen one until Quebec City’s Musée de la civilisation opened an exhibit of 13 representatives from a large collection of carriages.  I had to draw it.

I did this one in a Stillman & Birn Gamma (10×7) sketchbook.  It was the first sketch in my new, “Spring” sketchbook.  I hope you like it.

Stillman & Birn Gamma (10x7), Namiki Falcon w/De Atramentis Document Black

Stillman & Birn Gamma (10×7), Namiki Falcon w/De Atramentis Document Black