A Great Day At Trait Carre

Quebec City is a mosaic of small enclaves, one of which is Trait Carre, an area filled with big, beautiful elms and maples that surround beautiful old homes, some of which have become art galleries.  There’s a library with grass on its roof, a large dual-steeple cathedral and an ambiance of a very rural community, though it sits in the middle of the hustle and bustle of our city.

The sketchcrawl was coordinated by Daniel Chagnon and was part of the schedule of activities organized by Le Collectif (http://calvaq.com).  We weren’t a large group this day but, in a way, that’s what made it fun.  I got a chance to chat a bit with Lucien and Diane, who do most of the organizing for the group.  My French is very poor and I get lost when there are a lot of people speaking French simultaneously so the low turnout this day was a bonus for me.

Daniel knows the area well and we got a tour of the area before we each headed off in our own directions to sketch.  I decided to sketch this house and did it in a small format (3×5).


Moleskine watercolor notebook (3×5), Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon ink, Daniel Smith watercolors

We met for lunch, chatted about upcoming events, fountain pens and ink and we shared the sketches we’d done thus far.  We decided to get back to sketching and I headed to a scene I wanted to sketch.  It called for a larger format and the largest book I had with me was a Stillman & Birn Beta (6×8) so I decided to do a two-page spread.  I spent nearly two hours on this one and thoroughly enjoyed the time spent and the conversation I had with a young guy who was interested in my work.  Hope you like it too.

Stillman & Birn Beta (6x8), Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon ink, Daniel Smith watercolors

Stillman & Birn Beta (6×8), Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon ink, Daniel Smith watercolors

Spur Of The Moment Road Trip To Ottawa

One of the fundamental skills learned while pursuing a university education is how to dodge and weave through the ever-changing bureaucracy of university administration.  My daughter found herself trying to straighten out a registration problem via email. We decided that a trip to Ottawa would go a long way to cutting through the red tape so we piled into the car and headed west.

Cheap notebook, Platinum Carbon Pen, Platinum Carbon Black ink

Cheap notebook, Platinum Carbon Pen, Platinum Carbon Black ink

First stop was administration, where we were handed a number and told to wait.  Better organized than when I spent many an hour standing in lines waiting for similar things but still, we got to sit around for an hour waiting for our number to be called.  I exercised my mustache notebook and the paper in this $2 sketchbook continues to amaze.  I even got brave and put a bit of color on this quick sketch of a couple people, equally bored, who were watching something on their cell phone.  No show through, not buckling, no nothing.


Surprisingly, once our number came up, everything was resolved in a matter of minutes and we were off to have fun in Ottawa.  We ended up at the natural history museum where this guy posed for me.  He seemed as curious about me as I was about him.

Moleskine watercolor notebook (3x5), Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Moleskine watercolor notebook (3×5), Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

I couldn’t pass up the chance to draw some bones and so I chose the head of this monster.  As I was drawing I had a nice conversation with a young girl who had more questions than I had answers.  She was an absolute delight, though, and interactions like this is one of the reasons I love location sketching.

We were sitting in a park just west of the US Embassy, enjoying manga bubble tea.  I decided to quickly capture this view through the trees and I spent a leisurely 15-20 minutes or so doing that.  I generally use these small notebooks for really quick sketches but I really found it fun to do a few more precise sketches in them.  I think I’ll do more of it.

Moleskine watercolor notebook, Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black ink

Moleskine watercolor notebook, Namiki Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black ink


Opportunistic Sketching In Ottawa

I was in Ottawa to pick up my daughter, who was coming home for the summer.  My wife and I decided it would be a good idea to spend a few days there and, I decided it would be a good idea to also drive to Toronto to see a Blue Jays game, though in my defense, it was my daughter’s idea.

And so it was that I found myself as a tourist, with my family, as we wandered the city, mostly just eating, drinking and relaxing.  Many have discussed the difficulties of sketching while on excursions with non-believers, err… non-sketchers and I’m no exception to this struggle.  Still, if one takes advantage of opportunities and is happy with quick-sketching, sketching can become part of the experience.  Here are a few of the small sketches I did while in Ottawa.

2015-05-01Ottawa1We were walking along the Rideau Canal, enjoying the sunshinek and using phrases like “it’s hot today” for the first time in months. We were thoroughly enjoying ourselves.  My wife and I decided to give our daughter a rest (that’s our story and we’re sticking to it) so we sat down on a bench.  I got out my sketchbook (3×5) and did this quick sketch of a couple girls talking on the other side of the canal.

2015-05-01Ottawa2Once my daughter was well-rested we moved on.  We walked and walked and walked.  If you lined up all of our steps in a straight line it would be a very long straight line.  But it was fun even for an old man like myself.

We sat on the grass in front of Parliament, along with a bunch of other like-minded (tired from walking no doubt) folks and, as a group, worked on our sunburns.  After that was accomplished we went across the street to the information center.  I’ve found I can get a lot of sketching done while women are in the bathroom and so I started quick-sketching people walking across the street.  Parliament should be in the background somewhere but there’s only so much bathroom time available and I was pushing it.  Color was added later that evening.


At one point we were in a park not far from the US embassy and the art museum.  I don’t know its name and you probably don’t care anyway.  We were drinking bubble tea.  Lots of other folks were enjoying the day and I decided to quickly sketch a few of them.  Here’s one of those sketches, again done in the 3×5 sketchbook.

We went walking again when we returned from Toronto.  There are numerous places where you can look over the Ottawa River and I decided that I needed to do a small cityscape.  I typically fail at this because I try to put too much detail in too small a space, so I was determined to keep this one spartan, quick, and clean.  I hope I succeeded.  I did this one in a Moleskine watercolor book; the brown came from a waterbrush filled with dilute Noodler’s #41 brown ink.


Last and probably least I’ll share with you a sketch I did of my new favorite hyper-sweet drink.  It’s called bubble tea and is composed of tea, a bit of milk and sugar, a choice of flavoring, and a bunch of huge tapioca balls, called “babba” that are soaked in something that makes them black.  They give you a big diameter straw so you can suck these things up along with the drink.  Great opportunity to play with your food.



Hibernation’s Hidden Costs

It’s currently -13F outside.  This, they say, is a ‘warming trend’ and in reality it is warmer than it was just a few days ago.  But from the perspective of a street sketcher, it matters little whether it’s -13 or -30 outside, I stay inside.

Mid-winter depression is a real phenomenon in places like Quebec, where I live, but for me, it’s more like cabin fever.  I spend too much time looking out the windows, wishing for a place to sketch.  In previous years our Museum of Civilisation has been that place and the displays there have kept me busy throughout our long winters.

But this year, half of the museum is closed due to a fire that occurred just as winter was starting and what’s left are displays of early animation where you can watch endless series of cartoons and the Olympus exhibit which is filled with lots and lots and lots of plaster statues of Zeus, Aphrodite and their kin.
Sketching them was fun at the outset but I truly am a street sketcher that likes drawing buildings.  Yet another plaster head is just not cutting it anymore and so my sketching is floundering somewhat these days.  I doodle a lot but it’s just not the same.  So, I decided to draw a window.  It was just one lowly window, drawn in a 3×5 sketchbook, but it sure felt good (grin).


Moleskine watercolor notebook, Namiki Falcon, De Atramentis Document Black ink


Writing At The Coffee Shop

It’s been so cold here lately that I’ve been reluctant to go walking.  The other problem, of course, is that ‘walking’ is more like slipping and sliding here right now.  So I’ve been doing some writing, trying to make some progress on that front.

2015-01-21brulerieBut I can only stay at home so long before I start going nuts so I went to a nearby coffee shop to work.  I grabbed a table in the back corner of the place and a café allongé and went to work.  After a couple hours I took a break from editing and decided to give my new Sailor calligraphy pen a test run.  I quickly sketched (3×5) the view I had, which wasn’t great because I purposefully had hid myself from most of the clientele.  This pen is quite different from my Hero calligraphy pens and Tina Royama claims it’s easier to control.  I think she’s right but it will take a bit of getting used to, as this sketch illustrates.


I got another coffee and moved to a place by the window and worked for another hour. I saw this woman working as a crossing guard in the bitter cold.  The sad look on her face got my attention and I devoted a bit of ink to capturing her plight.  I shared those feelings as I’m an Arizona boy and Quebec winters are not something I take to with great fondness.

I looked around and there was a guy sitting with his back to me.  He was wearing a backwards baseball cap.  He’d taken his coat off and was wearing a t-shirt.  For some crazy reason this stuck me as odd, given that everyone else was wearing long sleeves, sweaters or coats.  Internally I chuckled and I drew him as though it weren’t -30 outside.  I drew him in his t-shirt, backwards baseball cap and shorts.  I guess I was hoping it would make me feel warmer.


This sketching adventure involved about three hours of writing/editing and less than ten minutes sketching but it was better than nothing (grin).