The Future Of Sketching Is Good In Quebec City

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Every year, Le Soleil, the premier newspaper in Quebec, conducts a writing and drawing contest for young, creative citizens.  The Musee de la Civilisation just set up a display of the art entries and it is truly inspiring.  As I looked at all the great drawings I couldn’t help but think of a quote from Danny Gregory’s The Creative License:

When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked one day what I did at work.  I told her that I worked at the college – that my job was to teach people how to draw.  She stared at me, incredulous, and said, “You mean they forget?” – Howard Ikewoko

1Kids do know how to draw.  And we adults do seem to forget, both how to do it and how much fun it can be.  We in Quebec City are lucky that Le Soleil puts so much effort and resources behind fostering creative activity from our youth.  Thanks, Le Soleil.

Here’s a few photos to give you some idea of the variety and quality of these drawings.  These kids are good.0.75

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Have You Ever Gone Sketch Floating?

Saturday was 39th Worldwide Sketchcrawl day and we held ours here in Quebec City.  Unlike most parts of the world we’re still cold this time of year.  In fact, we just got six inches of snow.  But we were fortunate to have anticipated an unfriendly weather and scheduled our sketchcrawl so that we could be inside or out and still have fun.

This is a model of the ferry boat we were on all day.

This is a model of the ferry boat we were on all day.

We all met at the ferry boat dock and then spent the day going back and forth across the St. Lawrence River (takes about 10 minutes) between Quebec City and Levis, the town on the other side.  There are actually two ferries and they change places from their respective sides of the St. Lawrence every 30 minutes.

Claudette, talking with one of the passengers

Claudette, talking with one of the passengers

And the situation couldn’t have been better for sketching.  It was too cold to go out onto the decks, at least for me, but inside the first-class passenger area it was warm and accommodating.  The area is complete with toilette facilities, drink and snack vending machines, and comfy chairs.  We were surrounded by large windows, complete with slightly sloped ‘shelves’ for us to rest our sketchbooks as we sketched outdoor scenes.  Both sides of the St. Lawrence present great views of interesting architecture and there were things nautical all around us.

Susanne, showing proper use of the window "studios" we were provided.

Susanne, showing proper use of the window “studios” we were provided.

The line up: Pierre, Celine, and Katherine

The line up: Pierre, Celine, and Catherine

Yvan, taking a break while talking with Peter.

Yvan, taking a break while talking with Jean-Marc.

We had ten people show up for the sketchcrawl and a lot of sketching got done.  The one sad thing, for me, is that some didn’t seem to ‘get’ the notion that group sketching is a social event that should include a sharing of sketches as well as conversations about them. Some left without even saying goodbye.  So, unfortunately, I don’t have the typical group-sketch photos and I don’t have sketches from other people to share.

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Here’s a photo I took over Claudette’s shoulder.  The quality of her sketches is surpassed only by her bubbly personality.

2013-04-13TugBoatOf course, I do have my own sketches.  This first one is a small sketch I did as an experiment, which demonstrated that I didn’t know what I was doing (grin).  I tried to ‘draw’ the sketch using watercolors, adding some ink lines afterwards.  It was done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6) sketchbook.  I have much to learn about using watercolors.

2013-04-13FromFerryI did two other sketches, one from the front and the other from the back of the boat.  Both were done with my new TWSBI Mini and Noodler’s Lexington Gray ink.  I really enjoyed working in my new Stillman & Birn Zeta (5.5×8.5) sketchbook.  I hope these sketches reflect the cold, dreary day you see in the accompanying photo.DrearyDay2013-04-13FromFerry2

 

Sketching Other People’s Art

Last Sunday Yvan, Pierre, Celine and I headed to the Musee de L’Amerique Francais because they were launching a new display of art done in Quebec long ago and donated to the Catholic church who kept the collection in their museum.  We didn’t know what to expect but since it’s still too cold for outdoor sketching, what the heck, we were going sketch art.

Much of the art in this collection is religious art, not my favorite way to use display space.  I find most of it too gawdy and repetitious.  But one room was filled with some amazing Quebecois pieces, many that would be considered ‘urban’ art today.  I was looking for a new challenge, something different… at least for me.

2013-03-10BronzeStatueAfter looking around, I settled down to sketch a bronze statue of a woman carrying a heavy bucket.  I was struck by how well the sculpture captured the physical effort and body/arm positioning to maintain balance with a heavy bucket in one hand.

This was a considerable leap for me as I’m not good at drawing human forms and I had no idea how to make one look like a bronze statue.  Still, it was fun.  I drew it in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon (5.5×8.5) with a Pilot Prera and Lexington Gray.  I used watercolor pencils to fake the bronze look.

There were many paintings that seemed worthy of turning them into a Larry sketch but one in particular caught my eye.  It was a painting of a 19th Century seminary courtyard, a courtyard that was actually just next door to the museum.  I went outside to look at the real thing and found what a hundred years can do.  The basic building layout remained.  In fact, on one edge of the courtyard, the end where the artist stood, there exists the remains of an old wall, clearly a very old wall.

Aside from that, everything had been remodeled and updated.  The two main buildings had an extra story added to them and all the windows had been modernized.  The stairway was gone adn the entries had modern doors.  It definitely looked cooler in the 19th Century so I went back indoors where it was warm.

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I’d never sketched an oil painting before and converting it to my cartoon sketching style did present some challenges, but it was fun, too.  Done in the same S&B sketchbook but with a Lamy Safari as my Prera ran out of ink .   I’m not sure I’ll add color to it as I like it au natural.

We’ve vowed to return to sketch some other pieces, particularly some of the sculptures.   A great day was had by all, but every sketching day is a great day, isn’t it?

The Hidden Fun Of Urban Sketching

2013-02-23Hockey1We’re lucky in Quebec City.  Every year we host the International PeeWee Hockey Tournament.  Kids come from around the world to spend 10 days playing hockey and walking around saying “Bonjour” to everyone because it’s the only French word they know.  I know the feeling.

2013-02-23Hockey2We live down the street from one of the two venues where the tournament takes place and I was shoveling snow when one such group walked by my house.  Several of them used their one French word but one kid said, “We really like your snow.”  They were from Maryland.  When I said, in English, “You can have all and I’ll help you load it,” I swear a couple of them jumped off the ground.    2013-02-23Hockey3

2013-02-23Hockey6But this post isn’t about hockey, Pee Wee or otherwise.  It’s about sketching.  But it’s not about the sketches I’m presenting either.  Rather, it’s a post about the evening I spent with my family and thousands of hockey fans.

My habit of sketching every time I stop moving found me sitting among cheering fans, watching hockey and sketching, trying to create quick hockey player sketches by jumping from one player to another to grab a complete outline.  I’d never done that before and the results show my lack of experience with the technique.  But it was a LOT of fun and when the dust settled, I’d done eleven pages (5.5×8.5) of the darn things.2013-02-23Hockey7

Ok…so if the post isn’t about hockey, and it isn’t about sketches, why are you reading this, you ask.  I want to tell you a couple short stories about my interactions with some of the spectators.  Too often I hear people say they are too shy or not good enough to sketch in public.  These two stories, I hope, will convince you that none of that matters and that people LOVE sketchers.

2013-02-23Hockey8The first story begins between periods during the second game.  The players has just returned to the ice and I was sketching, as I had been for the past couple hours.  There was a very gentle tap on my left shoulder.  I turned to find it had come from the finger of a young girl, probably no more than 12-13 years old.  She very shyly said, “Do you speak French?”  I guess she’d heard me speaking English.  I told her yes and she immediately looked up a couple rows and waved. Another young girl jumped up and ran down to us.  “Hic c’est beau!  J’aime beaucoup vos esquisses,” (I think) immediately came from her and she asked if she could see all of my sketches.  Of course I complied, sheepishly showing her these crude sketches as she went on and on about how great they were.  I showed her my pens, my waterbrush, and how I used the waterbrush to shade the sketches.  They were thrilled; I was chuffed.  Nothing like an appreciative audience (grin).

At the end of the second game I got a cup of tea.  The food vendor lady ‘made’ me a tea, stuffing a tea bag in a styrofoam cup full of hot water.  I guess she was more used to people ordering coffee as she said, “I don’t know how to make tea.  If it’s no good I’ll give you your money back.”  I just smiled.  Quebecers are so nice.

2013-02-23Hockey9As there were no skaters on the ice I did a quick sketch of the Zamboni (ice cleaning machine) and then decided to sketch a guy who was sitting a couple rows below me.  Again, it was just a quick sketch, but at least he wasn’t in constant motion.  I was nearly finished when I got a tap on my shoulder.  This time it was a great big guy who was sitting behind me.  He asked “Are you drawing that guy down there?” and he pointed at the guy I was sketching.  My immediate thought was “Oh crap, I’m in trouble now”, but I admitted that I was.   I didn’t dare let on that I didn’t think it was even close to a likeness as he obviously saw something I didn’t.  He said, “That’s what I thought.  He’s my friend,” and he stood up and yelled, “Marcel, viens ici”  Marcel turned around, got up and came up to where we were sitting.  I showed him the sketch, he told me it was nice, the two friends kibbitzed a bit and he returned to his seat, and I did a quick shading of the sketch.

Sketching on location is special, even if nobody talks to you.  But when they do, it’s really special.  I’m convinced that there are people in the world who think my sketches are horrible and a waste of time…but they never talk to me.

 

Sketching At The Library

One of my many struggles as a sketcher is that I am slow, very slow.  I love to get into a subject and spent an hour or two sketching something.  But many times, I just don’t have that much time, or the scene I want to sketch is just too transient, or I’m with other people who don’t want to wait around for me to spend an hour sketching.

So, one of the things I vowed to do this winter was to work on my quick sketching abilities.  Quick sketching people is a good way to improve (develop?) those skills, of course, and it fits well with our harsh winters because I can be do it inside.  I went with Yvan, an amazing quick-sketcher, to our main library and we sat for a couple hours doing quick sketches, or in my case attempting to quick sketch people who were sitting/standing in the library.

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Here is one of two spreads of these sketches that I did.  You can see some abject failures.  You can see evidence of where I started to sketch someone just as they got up and walked away.  You may also see a sketch or two that actually looks, kinda-sorta like a person.  At least I hope you do (grin).

Of course, being the building guy that I am, I couldn’t resist doing a quick sketch of a piece of the building across the street too.  Very quick and about as loose as I’ve ever tried to sketch a building.

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All of the sketches were done in a Strathmore Series 400 ‘gray’ sketchbook using a Pilot Metropolitan (M) with Waterman Absolute Brown or a Lamy Safari (XF) with Private Reserve Velvet Black.  Both of these are washable inks and I used a waterbrush to create a bit of shading here and there.

It’s interesting to compare the Pilot Metropolitan, with its “medium” nib to my Lamy Safari “extra fine” nib.  The Metropolitan is finer, illustrating clearly the differences between Asian and European sizing nomenclature.  Between the museums and the library I continue to be a busy location sketcher in spite of the wind and cold outside.