Pond and lake

There’s a certain thrill painting outdoors when you have the elements working against you, and I guess that’s what makes it such an adventure. It’s really still too cold to paint outside because of this freezing spring we are experiencing, but I’m trying to get out there anyway and catch some quick impressions despite the frigid winds near the lake. I set up my easel by the pond in Baie d’Urfé, and tried to capture the layers of blue: sky, lake, far pond, near pond. I think my lake section could probably have been a bit darker but I was painting in full sun and that makes it hard to see. Now that I’ve scanned the sketch and see it on screen I may go back in with a light wash to separate the lake from the bit of sky. Or not.


Three circles and two diagonals

After six months of impossibly cold weather I am so thrilled to be outdoors again. Especially if there is a bit of sun. That means that I’m also happy to draw just about anything, including garbage cans and brooms. And since circles and ovals are always so difficult for me these seemed like good drawing practice today.


Fruit break

There was a blob of leftover paint (Cobalt Violet) on my palette from yesterday’s crocuses which got mixed into today’s wash for cast shadows and again to darken the sides of the tangerine that were facing away from the light. I can see why artists  might like this pigment. The properties that I find so odd (pale, pasty, gummy), if used at the right time, can work to your advantage. For example, when painting yellow in shadow I always darken the paint with its complement, which is purple. Usually I use the tiniest dot of Thalo Purple, but since that’s such a strong colour you have to be very careful not to add too much. Instead it might be worth it to experiment with this Cobalt Violet which I am fairly certain would not overpower the yellow. I think it will take a few more trials though, before I decide if this will be a permanent addition to my palette.


Signs of life

Cobalt Violet is a new addition to my palette but one that I am not quite used to. It has a very strange consistency. More like a paste than a paint. I mixed it with Cobalt Blue to get the crocus colour, and that worked out well but I can’t think of another pigment that has the same properties as this. It’s a beautiful colour and one that I could quickly get accustomed to for shadow mixes. If you use it, I’d like to hear if you have had the same experience as me. The brand is Winsor & Newton.



When I’m sketching in an industrial area I’m a bit reluctant to get out of my car, especially on a quiet Sunday when no one is around, so today I painted in my car. I don’t remember exactly how this happened but at one point my car started to roll forward into a ditch. With paintbrush in hand and watercolour block on my lap, I had a moment of panic. But reflexes kicked in and I dropped the brush, grabbed the hand brake and stopped the roll before the point of no return.


Closing time

A few days ago someone sent me a link to a really informative comparison of drawing pens by illustrator H Locke on the Jackson’s art supply site in the UK. If you love trying out different types of pens you might find this interesting too. It also reminded me that I haven’t used my Pentel Brush pen in some time (that’s one of the pens that was tested) so I used it today (along with a Pitt Artist Pen) when I had a bit of spare time at the museum just before they politely asked me to leave at closing time. There’s a great view and a comfortable bench facing the backs of the buildings on Sherbrooke Street.



People always ask me how I find the time to do a sketch every day. Sometimes I take a lot of time to complete a painting (or ruin several before I post anything!) and other days I just spend a few minutes doing something quick, like a pencil sketch of my dog. There are also days when I stop what I am doing for a time (like garden cleanup today) and draw my activity. What’s important for me is that I draw everyday. In a great online interview with my friend Marc Holmes he says basically the same thing. He keeps a sketchbook in his bag and draws wherever he is. I guess for both of us the advice is the same. Just get out there and draw!


Lake meets land

This was a weird experiment to see if I could make a painting from two types of solid forms whose natures are so inherently different — hunks of crystal ice blocks and massive rocks. Transparent versus opaque. Dark versus light. Cool versus warm. I painted this on location, in full sun, which is not ideal but since this phenomena may not occur again any time soon I had to get out there and attack it. Painted on Arches Rough 140 lb paper, 11″ x 15″.

Crystal shore

Two days ago I was looking for a good location to sketch the cracking ice on Lac St. Louis but when I got down to the shore, to my great disappointment, it was all gone. Today a friend emailed me a few photos of where the ice had ended up, so I made my way there this afternoon. I don’t know if this happens every year or if this was a freak occurrence, but for a good distance the ice was piled up along the waterfront in Dorval and people were gathering to take photos or just to gawk. With some of the chunks at least a foot thick and four feet across, I can only imagine what the sound must have been when this happened. I found a bench to set up on because there was no place close by to park and sketch from the shelter of my car, but with the wind blowing icy gusts on my palette (and my face) I had to pack up after about 30 minutes and finish the last details in the warmth of my house. I have never sketched outdoors in a colder situation than this, but I have also never sketched a scene as brilliantly gorgeous as this either.


Alice on corduroy

Alice is the perfect model. She holds her pose for a long time, her hourly rate is quite reasonable and she needs no breaks for food or a smoke.



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