A Couple Hours On Ile d’Orleans

Ile d’Orléans is a large island just east of Quebec City.  It’s farm country and we locals go there to pick strawberries, apples, raspberries, and to buy corn and other vegetable crops when in season.  It’s also a place where sketchers, at least one, spend time enjoying the fresh St. Lawrence River air.

The family piled into the car for a trip there last weekend.  In hindsight we were overly optimistic as it was far too windy and cold to be on the island.  Of course, we went for the ice cream.  There’s a place that dips ice cream cones in very thick, milk chocolate so you end up eating a very cold chocolate bar with a soft center.  What’s not to like.

After consuming enough calories to keep me going for about a week, we headed down the road looking for something to draw.  While it’s not officially open for tourists yet, we ended up at the maritime museum.  There were choices to be made.  Wander around in the cold or sit in the car and draw.  My family chose the former; I chose the later.


The result of my isolation was 1) my family got very cold and 2) I drew this building which is a wood shop in which many chaloupes (large row boats) were built.  I’ve included a sketch I did in 2013 of one of those boats as well as the building sketch I did this time.


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

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