It’s the start of car painting season, and I don’t mean painting my car, I mean painting from my car. Today I spent a little time looking at the shapes of foliage. The first big wash (which I have varied from yellow to red to green in this case) covers the tree and grass shape, and that’s the main shape in the sketch. I am sometimes guilty of not making that wash puddle big enough on my palette, so I’ve been trying to remember to mix up about double the amount of what I think I need. It’s never fun to run out of paint. By the time you mix another puddle the wet paper has dried, especially sketchbook paper, so it’s important to make lots of it. Once that big shape has dried you can go back into the washes and define the smaller shapes such as the undersides of trees, the trunks (some are positive, some are negative shapes) and the shadows. The last step is the really tiny bits of calligraphic lines, splashes and dots.
When I draw students in my school I usually sit in the cafeteria or student lounge. It is inevitable that they are sitting in groups (they rarely study alone) and almost always inevitable that one of them notices that I am drawing someone from amongst the group. Much whispering and pointing follows, usually with the “model” — now self-conscious — turning around to see what I am doing, and if bold enough, coming over to see the drawing. On occasion I can get through a whole drawing without being noticed, like today, and then I feel that I have been given a gift — a few moments where I can draw undisturbed. It makes my day.
This must be the best week to paint the changing colours of the trees in Montreal. All the trees still have their leaves, everything from sharp yellow to deep red to dark green. On a sunny day it’s a bit like trying to paint flames — a bit too glowing and bright. My method is to take everything down a notch. Soften it and let the colours flow one into another and hope that you capture the feeling of the season without going garish.
It was a perfect fall day in every way — warm and sunny, no wind, and a great turnout (lots of new faces too) to the Urban Sketchers Sunday outing at the Atwater Market. Lots of us sketched the pumpkins — it was hard not too since they screamed to be painted. I chose this competing display, the Rouge Vif d’Étampes on one side and the big old jack o’ lanterns on the other.
I was going outside to sketch something completely different — perhaps some yellowing bits of plants in the garden — when the shirts caught my eye. The play of shadows on white are always such a challenge. Treated with a brush that’s too dry, they end up looking wooden, so I tried to keep the shadows and folds loose and wet.
It’s no wonder this man sat in Kent Park in the midday sun. With near record warm temperatures for the end of September, it feels like midsummer. The heat should continue for at least two more days and that means we’ll have a great day for Sunday sketching with USk Montreal. We’ll be sketching around the Lachine Canal and the Atwater Market. Hope to see you there!
I have spent a lot of time looking at water and trying to figure out how to paint it, and its mysteries have still not been fully revealed to me. But I have sketched the pond in Baie d’Urfé often enough to at least have a plan of attack for how I lay down the washes. I start with the blue (leaving the lily pads white) that is a reflection of the sky and gets deeper and cooler as it comes towards me. There’s lots of cerulean blue up near the rocks and some cobalt added in as it gets darker. When that’s really dry, I add the tree reflections in different layers of dark green. The light colours in the lily pads are next, and then there’s a final layer of really deep and dark greens under the lilies. This usually has some darker blues like Phthalo or Ultramarine and even some Alizarin in it. The rocks, foliage across the pond and foliage closest to me are next. The final step is the calligraphy — the little grasses and brush strokes that are mostly done with a rigger.