It was fitting that Alice was having a sunbath, on the last day of summer. As always, she was a great model, until a squirrel appeared on the other side of the patio door and our drawing session was over.
She will have to be my life drawing model for this semester. I teach all day Monday which means I can’t attend life drawing sessions. That makes me sad because it’s such valuable drawing practice, but I’m hoping that if my schedule frees up on Mondays in the winter semester I’ll be able to go back.
Let’s start with the good news. My painting “Breakwater” was selected for 90th Annual Open Juried Exhibition of the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour at the Halifax Public Archives Exhibition Room, Halifax, Nova Scotia. (Exhibition date: Nov 4, – Nov. 28, 2015). This was painted on location in Gloucester in June and if you want to read a little bit about the process you can here.
And now for the bad painting. Yesterday I received this comment on my blog from Francisco about my post from Saturday, “would love to see a batch of the “disasters”, might qualm the feelings of inadequacy that arise when viewing your work.” He was responding to a comment that I had made about painting without pencil lines,”When I paint this kind of sketch with no pencil lines, it always starts out easy. You make one nice brush stroke (in this case, the geranium bud at the top) and then you move downward. At a certain point you realize that it is getting more complex and there is no plan for where to go next. It is a bit like a flow chart. One arrow points to success and one leads to disaster. More often than not the outcome is the latter, but occasionally it turns out ok.”
I’m up to Francisco’s challenge. I can’t seem to find any disasters (in the disaster pile) that occurred because of lack of pencil lines but I do have this little dud that I painted on the same trip to Rockport as my lighthouse above. I would probably qualify this one under the heading “lack of planning”. I can’t blame this on bad paper because this is done on Arches, nor on the weather, because it was a perfectly beautiful day. It was painted while on an outing with family (can’t blame them either) but in my haste to get this done and not keep them waiting, I didn’t take the few minutes necessary at the beginning to sketch out a value plan. The result is a weird optical illusion — the rear wall of rock seems to float above the foreground rocks. Probably a little work in Photoshop would help me figure this out, but I think what I did wrong was to bring the dark reflections of the rocks on the left too far down. And because I knew something was wrong, instead of leaving it alone and analysing it later, I did what I often do, which is to keep on adding paint. There are other design errors too. The shapes at the top seem to echo those at the bottom, almost like two paintings. And the foliage in the shadow of the rock wall is too light. Could this dud have been avoided with good planning? Probably. Will I make the same mistake again? Sadly, yes. But it’s a good exercise to spend time analysing what went wrong and trying to avoid it next time. Thanks Francisco.
I remember some years ago that when I tried using Strathmore Aquarius paper, the experience was unpleasant. The paper had fiberglass in it, and if you made the mistake of rubbing your hand on the surface, you ended up with small, irritating fibres in your skin. How could I forget that? But the paper has changed, and when someone suggested recently that I should give it another try, I bought a sheet at the art supply store. Strathmore Aquarius II is quite a thin sheet and seems be manufactured only in this 80 lb weight, but because of the synthetic and cotton composition, it doesn’t buckle when you paint on it.
I took it out to sketch a few pots in the garden, with the dual purpose of trying the paper and using up a blob of Vermilion paint that had leaked in my palette. I really don’t know how this paper would be if I used it for a more complex (and layered) painting but for simple brush shapes like this, it worked pretty well. And I think this would be a great paper for taking out in the field. It’s smooth enough for a pen line and the colours remain pretty bright. And as advertised, the paper doesn’t buckle at all so no taping required. Would it replace Arches or Fabriano for larger paintings? No way. There’s no tooth to the paper, so forget granulation. But I have been writing for weeks about trying to find a paper that is both smooth enough for a fine pen line and textured enough for a wash. This is definitely a contender (along with Fluid 100 CP) for that.
There are three much-photographed Victorian houses on Carré St. Louis. You’ll even see them in the Wikipedia entry for the square. One has red trim (here is the door I sketched a few years ago), one has teal blue trim and then there’s my favourite —the purple house. Since we’re having some kind of September heat wave in Montreal, I took a little time to sketch that house today. It’s especially nice in the morning when the sun travels across the door.
Me and my Sharpie went out today to draw some people. It’s been a long time since we’ve done this, and the exercise was painful. We haven’t been keeping in shape and it shows. We parked ourselves across from the weekly market where people come to collect their vegetables, hoping that the slowly moving line of figures would help to work out the kinks between us. After about thirty minutes things started getting better. The hand loosened up, the lines were more fluid, and the ink started flowing. We agreed that this would be a daily encounter for the next little while.
Argh. It started off as a perfect view of a yellow building in sun and the rest of the street in shadow, and I had one hour of sketching time before heading off to school. I finished my drawing just as an SUV pulled up and blocked my view. Yikes, I should have known that would happen. I spent a moment debating the situation. Draw the car or ignore it? I looked for the driver to see where he was going and spotted him ducking into a barbershop. That meant at least 20 minutes of painting time for the car. Fortunately for me my estimate of the barber was quite accurate and I had plenty of time to paint the car before the newly-shorn man drove off.
There was a storm warning of epic proportions today. Here it is, word for word, from the Environment Canada site: “Very strong wind gusts can damage buildings, down trees and blow large vehicles off the road. Be prepared for severe weather. Take cover immediately, if threatening weather approaches” What should a sketcher do with a warning like this? I sketched in my car, just in case. Turned out to be nothing, but who would want to get hit by a large vehicle being blown off the road?