Hilary’s garden

It’s a near perfect day for sketching outside and the light in my neighbour’s yard was just right for painting some spring greens. I sketched on Canson Moulin du Roy today. It’s quite an absorbent paper  — not my favourite to be honest — but I have lots of little sheets leftover from a recent project so I’m trying to use them up. It seems that no matter how much water I have on the brush it dries more quickly than I expect. I bought it originally for ink and wash sketches because it’s smooth enough for the pen line, but every time I use it with pencil and watercolour I’m left a little bit frustrated with the way it performs.


Canada Malting Silos

There are some great places to paint along the Lachine Canal — especially the industrial buildings like the abandoned Canada Malting Silos. Today was the first day out with my easel and since I’m often asked what my outdoor setup is I took a quick phone photo to post. I use the Eric Michael’s En Plein Air Pro which is basically a flat panel attached to a standard tripod, along with a shelf that holds my palette. It has a hole for a water cup and also some holes for brushes. It’s a great kit, it’s light, it fits into a knapsack and I carry it for most of the summer. For the purposes of the photo, I moved the easel out into the sun but I painted under the shade of a pine tree. I can never see anything on my paper unless I’m in the shade!

This was a very complex structure to paint. As you can see from the photo the silos go on and on… Next time I may try getting more of the building in there. The silos I left out were the newer concrete ones, but the ones in my painting are covered in clay tiles. I suspect the whole thing will be torn down one of these days — you can see the building is covered in graffiti — so it’s important to paint it before it goes.




Last week in life drawing I used conté to draw Christian, but this week that was too rough for Marie’s features so (after a few failed attempts) I switched to pencil and that worked much better. These sessions are ending in a few weeks and I’ll be sorry to stop for the summer. There’s no doubt that the time spent in life drawing is the most relaxing three hours of the week. Everything outside the room melts away and the only focus is trying to get the lines and shapes of the model’s face and body right.



It’s not often that you get to see a nest like this at eye level so I took advantage and sketched it before it gets taken down. Of course the first thing I thought of when I saw it in my garden was Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” It just needs a pair of hands on either side, doesn’t it?

If you really want to see some beautiful sketches of nests, eggs, birds and other nature drawings, have a look at Jean Mackay’s blog. Not only are the drawings incredible, but I love how she incorporates calligraphy onto the pages of her sketchbooks.

Sketched in a Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook. Size: 9″ x 12″


“Draw me a Mountain” opens today

Today is the opening day of “Draw me a Mountain“, an exhibition featuring drawings and paintings of Mount Royal. It’s a joint event between Urban Sketchers Montreal and Les amis de la Montagne and it’s been great fun to be part of the planning process for this. The exhibit features about fifty works and is on for the month of May (weekends only) at Maison Smith. Hope you get out there to see it!

I had a bit of time to kill the other day between appointments and was parked facing this tree. I had a small sketchbook with me and a Micron 05 pen. The trees are just starting to bud in Montreal so it’s a perfect time to draw them — just before they leaf out and all the branches disappear.


May Day on Clark and St. Viateur

Another dome — this time the Church of St. Michael and St. Anthony in the Mile End district. It felt like a bit of a celebration to be sketching today. I was sitting on a bench for the first outdoor sketch of the season and the streets were packed with pedestrians, out walking during lunchtime and enjoying the day on outdoor terraces. This combo of Byzantine style Polish church next to the blue and white service station are exactly what Mile End is all about —a mishmash of immigrant history since this is where every ethnic group used to settle first when they arrived in Montreal. Now that Ubisoft is located around the corner it’s more of a hipster hangout and the housing in untouchable, but it’s still one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Montreal.


Spire and dome

Although spring is definitely here, the early mornings are a little cool and I’m still sketching in my car. That means that the views I have when I go into Old Montreal are just the tops of buildings. But what buildings they are. Each one an important piece of Montreal history. The green spire is atop one of the oldest churches in the city — Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours. Every port city has a sailor’s church, and this one is ours. It’s not as grand as nearby Notre Dame Basilica with it’s soaring gothic interior. It’s more of a quiet beauty that merits some investigation to discover hidden treasures like the carved replicas of ships that hang from the vault of the chapel or the Marguerite Bourgeoys museum. Move a block away and you see the silver dome of Marché Bonsecours. Now the building is filled with small shops selling “Made in Quebec” fashions but at one time it was an actual public market, an exhibition hall and even our city hall. There are treasures to draw on every street in Old Montreal and I look forward to getting out there with my easel this summer.



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