When I set out to sketch I usually have some idea of what my subject will be so I don’t waste too much time looking. Today I thought I might draw some of the trees on campus that are just starting to leaf out but when I sat down at a picnic table this guy was having his lunch nearby, a ray of sun cutting across his back. Deep in conversation with a colleague who is hidden behind the tree, I was certain he might remain there for a time, at least long enough for me to get in a quick sketch. Size: 5″ x 7″, Fabriano hot pressed paper.
The first daffodils opened in my garden today and as with everything that blooms or buds this week, I had to get out there to capture it. For the first time I experimented with painting flowers on hot pressed paper. I’ve been using reams of the stuff for the children’s book I am illustrating but I’ve never tried it for flowers and I quite like the effects you can achieve. Although many painters consider the accidental backwashes and blooms you get on this paper an annoyance, I don’t mind them at all.
How fortunate that Urban Sketchers Montreal picked the nicest day of the year so far for our April outing. When we met around 10 a.m. it was looking like it might just be the perfect spring day and as we sketched more and more people arrived along the Lachine Canal. By bike, on foot, on roller blades, with dogs and babies and aunties and girlfriends. I think all of Montreal passed us by at some point. And we all breathed a common sigh of relief. We are done with winter.
I couldn’t stay all day but I did one sketch facing west and another view of the city from across the canal looking over the Atwater market towards downtown and Mount Royal.
Shadows in the late afternoon change so quickly and in my haste to sketch the beautiful light on the planter I didn’t really think the composition through. I should have placed the object higher on the page and given it some breathing room at the bottom.
Here is a quick and dirty Photoshop correction to illustrate what I mean.
If you go down to the pier in Lachine you’ll often see people fishing near the lighthouse and I’ve often wondered what they are catching. Turns out it’s catfish although nobody ever seems to be reeling anything in. Seems like more of a social club to me — lots of talkin’, smokin’, and hangin’ around.
I have a small block of Fabriano hot pressed paper, 5″ x 7″, sort of postcard size, that I thought I’d try out today. I figured the small format would help me keep things fast and fresh. And after I painted it, it did look a bit like a postcard from a tropical place. Except for the plastic palms.
Things just haven’t been going right in my sketchbook this week. I start and discard one sketch after another. I move my car from one spot to the next, hoping for inspiration. And then it strikes me. You need to get out of the car to paint!! Car sketching days are over for this year! Or at least until October. The joy I felt at sitting outside today was indescribable, but I will try anyway. Birds chirping, bugs landing in my palette, the sun drying my paint. Montrealers who just came out of our harsh winter will undoubtably share my joy. (And I left the deckle edge of my paper in my post today just because it was so thrilling to paint on real watercolour paper instead of my sketchbook.)
It’s a funny time of year to be out sketching. It’s warm enough to be outside but there’s still a general absence of colour. The best I could find were a few Scilla at the base of a tree and those deep shadows on the branches that only appear in spring before the trees leaf out.
When pressed for time (which seems to be most days!) I often start my daily sketch with an ink line and add colour to the drawing. This is much faster than building up areas with watercolour alone, and if need be, can be completed later in the day. I find that the Fabriano Artistico hot pressed block takes the ink line really well but you can end up with some unusual wash effects on this smooth paper. I’ve never had this happen before but today the French Ultramarine pigment that I used was super granulating, especially in the shadow area in the lower left of the sketch. I’m not sure if this is the brand of paint (Daniel Smith) or simply the paper. I don’t mind it because it adds a kind of weird texture to the asphalt but I might find it undesirable some other time.
I’m ready to paint some greens, really ready, but the weather isn’t cooperating. Last year at this time the buds on the trees were bursting open and I was painting bursts of yellow-green all over the place. This year the only yellow-green I can find is in the vegetable drawer in my fridge.