The city reveals itself

This year I haven’t been able to paint a lunchtime panorama (from the 5th floor of my school) like I’ve done in previous years. The trees, when fully leafed out, have just grown too high. Fortunately we’ve had some wind this past week, some trees are bare and now I see the city again. I tried to paint a big dramatic sky but a double-paged spread of the sketchbook (16″ across), even if I prewet it, dries before I can get the brush across it. Guess I need a bigger brush for this!


Where cloud meets canyon

Edges soft and hard. Land near and far. Colours cool and warm. These are some of the issues I am tackling in watercolour while working on the paintings of Canyonlands National Park in Utah. This section of the park is called “Island in the Sky” and even from my monochromatic sketch, you might be able to tell why. The mesa you stand on at the Green River overlook is 1,000 feet above the canyon floor and in the morning the clouds are touching land with barely any horizon visible, but the mesas you can see in the distance may be a hundred miles away. Of all the Utah parks that I have painted, this one may be the most challenging. I am almost finished the whole series and hope to post them soon.


Union Coffee

This wind was great today. Not so much if you were a pedestrian trying to cross the street but superb for churning up great piles of yellow leaves and sending them swirling up into the air. I was parked on rue Jean Talon, and at times the wind tunnel that formed was so strong that it rattled my car. There was a steady stream of customers going into Union Coffee, usually moving too quickly to be drawn (probably all those espressos), but these two ladies had a chat on the corner, and despite the gusty conditions they stayed there long enough for me to draw them. When I put people into the sketch the first thing I focus on is not the details of hair or clothing, but rather their height in comparison to doorways, cars, etc. If I get that right then the rest (colour of the coat or the shape of the bag) can be added in later from memory.


Here is the steeple

The very best days for sketching in the fall are the ones where the bright foliage is set against a deep blue overcast sky. This morning there was a downpour just as I was leaving to sketch but it didn’t last long and what remained were some big dark clouds looming behind the steeple of St. Joachim in Pointe Claire. My time was limited so I decided on a view of the school with the church in the background and the tops of some trees. In hindsight, I think I should have used a rectangular book instead of square. The vertical format would have allowed me to put in some foreground and the base of the trees which would have grounded the composition.


Above average

My break between classes today was the ideal time to take advantage of the above average temperatures outside. From my bench on the campus I had a good view into the churchyard next door and the diffused autumn light on the foliage, both distant and near. My aim was to capture, in paint, the glowing foliage and the branches of the trees which always look darker in contrast with the yellow leaves. I started my sketch by putting in lots of loosely defined areas of yellow, dropping colour into areas wet with clear water. As I built up the layers of foliage I also added in trunks and branches, darkening them in places where they wove in and out of leaves. I know these Indian Summer days are numbered, so best to get out there while I can.


A reminder from Marc

Ok, I guess I couldn’t let the brushes rest for the weekend, but I have a good excuse. Yesterday I received my signed copy of “The Urban Sketcher: Techniques for seeing and drawing on location” written by my friend Marc Taro Holmes. I haven’t had time, yet, to go through the book in detail but I will do that soon enough. I can tell you quickly that it is packed with great info, step-by-step exercises and tons of images to go along with them. On one of the first pages I was reminded about how important it is to have my tiny sketchbook with me at all times, so while I was waiting for a cake to come out of the oven, I grabbed my little Moleskine and a water-soluble Pilot Fineliner pen and drew some walnuts.

I also want to thank everyone who sent me such generous wishes for my blog birthday post, both through email and through the comments section. I haven’t had time to respond to each one yet but in the meantime I send out a huge group thank you!


A birthday, a milestone, a draw and a book

It seems like just yesterday that I cracked open my first tiny Moleskine sketchbook, and yet today marks the third birthday of this blog. More remarkably, Wordpress tells me this is my 1,000th post! I always tell people I started this blog to get back to drawing and painting, but I never dreamed that I would fill this many sketchbooks, meet so many people with the same passion for sketching, and travel to some pretty amazing places to learn and teach.

I’m so appreciative of all the people who have followed my progress over the last three years, who have sent me comments and provided encouragement, feedback and suggestions. I have learned so much from all of you. In appreciation, I’d love to offer you something in return. If you send me your name in an email at sblaukopf (at) gmail (dot) com, I’ll enter you in a draw for this original sketch (done today at Jean Talon Market) and announce the winner on October 22!


Knowing this milestone was close got me thinking about the direction my work will be taking. After 1,000 sketches (more actually, if you count all the bad ones I didn’t post!), I think it’s time to migrate the format from a daily sketch blog to a most of the time blog. With that in mind, I’ve changed the blog subtitle from “A different drawing every day” to “Mostly Montreal, most of the time”. This reflects the direction I am hoping to take my work. Over the last three years I’ve drawn and painted flowers, gardens, markets, fruit, objects and portraits, but my favourites are the street scenes of Montreal. Although this won’t be my exclusive focus, I do hope to sketch and paint more of Montreal’s great neighbourhoods, in all seasons. I recently put together some of my favourite watercolours in book format (and there are more to come), so if you are interested, have a look here.

Mostly Montreal Book

I also think it’s time to separate the sketches from the paintings, so in the near future I will be launching another website that will feature my larger format watercolours as well as smaller sketches for sale. After three years, it’s time to make the leap to be a slightly more professional format without, I hope, losing any of the fun of doing this. I’ll announce the website as soon as it’s live, but the blog and the (almost) daily sketches will still live here.

As for the content of the blog, I am hoping to add more instructional tidbits when I can. That’s the idea of posting less frequently, but adding more value to the posts (when time permits). After 1,000 sketches I think my brushes deserve a short break for this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. I’ll be back soon but for now I’m off to enjoy a piece of birthday cake.


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