I haven’t had time to do much “urban” sketching lately. It’s been more “suburban” and that gets old fast. This week is my spring break at school and I just had to find some excuse to get into town (I needed some paintings framed for an upcoming show) and park somewhere with a view of an interesting back alley. Most of the snow is melted in town (although there’s another monster system on its way tomorrow) but there’s still some vestiges of the last storm in the lanes.
Watercolor sketching in Historic Montreal: an Urban Sketchers Workshop with Marc Taro Holmes and Shari BlaukopfPosted: March 16, 2013
Marc Taro Holmes and I have often sketched in Montreal’s most historic neighbourhoods. We are thrilled to be able to offer a summer workshop through the Urban Sketchers Workshop program from August 2-4, 2013.
We’ll begin in the Old Port of Montreal — a historic district of cobbled streets and 400-year old buildings that’s unique in North America for its vibrant French flavor and colorful history. Spend a few minutes in Jacques Cartier Square, the area’s historic and cultural heart, and you’ll understand why. The square teems with cafés and restaurants, with strolling Montréalais and visitors from every corner of the globe.
Venture a few streets over, and you’ll find a quiet, intimate ruelle seemingly untouched by time. Or walk a few blocks south to the quays on the St. Lawrence River, which was the city’s economic and cultural artery connecting Montreal to the Old World. Tall ships are often in port, while the north side of rue de la Commune is lined with Sixteenth and Seventeenth century warehouses that once stored the valuable furs that built the city’s economy.
The workshop will be an introduction to capturing this extraordinary environment by drawing and painting in watercolor en plein air.
As urban sketchers we are used to people looking over our shoulders as we draw on street corners or in cafés. But drawing on a wall in front of a crowd — that’s a new experience, at least for me. Marc Taro Holmes and I were invited to be part of the Nuit Blanche party at the Canadian Centre for Architecture last night. We thought we’d be drawing on giant sheets of paper but as it turns out we were given a box of sharpies and a bare wall in a gallery space as part of the exhibition ABC : Montréal. We didn’t have a master plan but both of us had some laser copies of our recent Montreal sketches so we improvised. Before the crowds arrived, we figured out what the design of the mural would be: Marc’s sketch of Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral would be the largest vertical element with my panorama of Montreal as the horizontal baseline. In between we would weave in other elements from our sketches: a bit of Old Montreal, the Plateau Mont Royal, Carré St. Louis Victorian houses, Griffintown construction and some of Marc’s beautiful statues for the detailing.
Here’s the start of the Sharpie drawing with some of our sketches taped to the wall.
A few hours into the drawing, and tired of repeating the name of our group, I integrated the Urban Sketchers website into the mural (in my best imitation of the font Gill Sans Bold).
As the night wore own crowds gathered, took photos and tried to figure out the locations of various parts of the mural.
We’re almost finished (6 or 7 hours later!!) — just unifying the design with a center mass of distant buildings and trees.
And here is the final mural. A true Urban Sketchers collaborative experience!
I sketched today with my friend Marc Taro Holmes at an excellent exhibition of Samurai armour and objects at the Musée Pointe-à-Callière in Old Montreal. It’s the private collection of Richard Béliveau and among the objects are 19 complete samurai suits. I confess that I don’t know much about the history of the Samurai (although Marc has done some amazing Samurai drawings) so it was fascinating to see these suits up close and be able to examine the detailing in the helmets, the masks, the metalwork in the armour, the fabrics and the laces that hold them all together. The helmets were the most fun to draw because of their unusual shapes and the decorations that adorn them, like this dragon. The room is quite crowded so we only drew with pencil but I would have loved to add a vibrant red to the flames around the brass ornament.
This just in: Urban Sketchers now has a print shop on Society6 where you can buy fine art prints of many of your favorite correspondents and contributors (me included). The proceeds go to supporting Urban Sketchers and the annual symposium, so all for a good cause. All artwork is printed on 100% cotton rag, archival quality paper, available in different sizes, and you can even order them framed. There are some amazing sketches in the collection and it will be updated often, so please have a look.
I haven’t been sketching in the city much this winter because I have been working on some other projects but I miss that urban observation. I was in NDG today and I stopped to sketch the Monkland Taverne. It is a restaurant now but it has one of the best examples of old signage that I can think of in the city. I have been wanting to sketch this for so long. Lucky for me across the way there is a café with a counter and stools in front of the window.
The meeting place for the Montreal Sketchcrawl was an indoor skating rink in a downtown office building but mostly everyone ended up at some point being drawn (no pun intended!) to the heavy snow falling outside and covering the dome and the back part of Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral. I followed my friend Marc, who remembered having seen a great view of the building from the lobby of the Hilton Hotel and we sketched there most of the day. From that vantage point the city seemed silent under the snow but I bet if you listened carefully you could probably hear the cheering of die-hard Montreal Canadiens fans gearing up for the first hockey game of the season at the Bell Centre only a block away.
It is now becoming embarrassing because I keep sketching these pots and one would think I would tire of them but no, they are endlessly interesting for me to paint in the changing light of any season. I could say that this will be the last time I paint them this winter but I know that with more snow covering them I will probably paint them again.
It was bird day at the Redpath Museum, at least for me. I started with the big old Canada Goose because I am beginning a project soon that involves drawing lots of geese so I thought I’d get in some practice. The wonderful thing about this museum is that there’s something for everyone to draw. Some people in our Urban Sketchers Montreal group drew the dinosaurs and others did musical instruments. I saw sketches of leopards and monkeys and weasels and one man sketched only the eyes of all the creatures. A few of us did a bit of drawing outside in the morning but after 52 minutes (yes, we timed it!) in the frigid temperatures we congratulated ourselves on our hardiness and headed for coffee before the doors of the museum opened.
Mont Royal is a hill in the middle of the island of Montreal, but Montrealers call it “the mountain”. We go for picnics on the mountain, we have scenic lookouts on the mountain and we have a big greenspace on the mountain designed by Frederic Law Olmstead. And we love our “mountain” because when we have been away, we always know we are close to home when we see its distinctive shape as we approach the city.
We also have a street called Mont-Royal that faces the “mountain” and that was the destination for the second outing of Urban Sketchers Montreal. Marc Holmes and I were pretty happy to have 15 people turn out on this cold morning — a few who even came from Ontario for the event! Some of the people knew each other from a Sketchcrawl group so it was great that we found each other. We sketched the Victorian houses and the back alleys up and down the avenue, stopping to warm up in cafés at lunch and at the end of the day. Seems to me that USK Montreal is going to keep on growing.
The Judith-Jasmin pavilion of Université de Québec à Montréal is built around the Église St. Jacques. Marc Holmes and I had originally planned to sketch inside the building today because there’s an interesting view of rue Ste. Catherine from the 7th floor windows, but of course the university was closed because of the Thanksgiving holiday so we ended up drawing from across the street.
Marc did some beautiful ink drawings and this is another try for me with my new Moleskine sketchbook which, although I have not yet and may never master watercolour in this book, is wonderful for pen drawing. I love the smoothness of the paper, the creamy colour, and most of all the fact that because of the stitched binding, it lays flat in the scanner. I will just have to leave my experiments with watercolour for another day.