I haven’t gone to a life drawing sessions in eons, but there is no more relaxing way to spend a few hours. When you are drawing the model, all extraneous thoughts disappear from your head and you are totally in the moment. At least for me. Sarah was a great model, holding this pose for four hours (with breaks). In that time I painted her twice, but this one turned out better because of the lighting. Painted on a quarter sheet of BFK Rives, which I think is a printmaking paper. It’s very soft but quite wonderful to work on.
We’ve been waiting a long time to be able to buy Stillman & Birn sketchbooks in Montreal. I was happy to see that my favourite art supply store — Avenue des Arts in Westmount — is finally stocking them. There’s a great supply of books just to the left of the door, including this one I am trying out. It’s from the Alpha Series and it’s a new horizontal format, about 8″ x 5″. I am used to painting on the Beta series which has much thicker paper so this warps a bit more than I am used to, but that’s because I use so much water. If you tend to paint a bit drier than I do or if you work in pen or pencil with a light wash, this would be perfect for you.
Lachine is always one of my favourite places to paint, especially in winter. The older part of town has a particularly bleak look that I love on a snowy day. Unfortunately I got so caught in painting that I left my wipers on too long. My car was dead by the time I was done. I’m still thawing out…
I frequently change the colours around in my palette because I love trying different pigments. I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for new paints and I often have to hold myself back from buying too much at the art supply store, but in Costa Rica the one colour that I’m glad I had in my bag was Cobalt Teal. I used lots of it when painting waves, and when I came upon this house hidden in the trees, I used it for that as well. I suppose I could have mixed something similar from colours I already had, but there is a certain beauty in being able to dip the tip of your brush into just the right shade.
I’m taking a break from posting my turquoise Costa Rica sketches today. Instead it was a day of Cerulean and Cobalt Blue and some car sketching in Westmount with my friend Marc Holmes. It was a comic situation really. It’s hard enough for one person to paint in the car in winter, but with both of us balancing our equipment, it was quite funny. We had 1/4 sheets of watercolour paper on boards on our laps, water bottles in the cup holders, palettes balanced precariously, the car heater going periodically and magically we both managed to get things done. That’s urban sketching in Montreal in the winter.
The beach: the best life drawing class in the world. I drew a couple of pages of little figures, with the idea that maybe one day I would use one or two of them in a painting. The watersoluble blue pencil was perfect for these. To begin, I always go back to what I learned from Melanie Reim at the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Santo Domingo. “Start with the line of the spine.” If you get that right everything else has a good chance of falling into place.
When you paint or sketch for some time in a place, it’s often what’s going on around you at the moment — rather than what you are looking at — that creates the strongest impression of the day. The sounds and smells, the conversations you overhear, the people who stop to talk and have a look at what you are doing. This painting will always make me think of the packs of racoons that scavenge the beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park, looking for lunches or anything else they can grab from tourists. Bold little guys they are, much bolder (and skinnier) than their Canadian cousins. They sneak up on you, oh so quietly, whole families of them, and it takes much yelling and stick waving to discourage them. There was one who ate a full bag of Doritos while a crowd watched nearby and another one who dragged a plastic bag into the bushes while the unsuspecting owners were taking a dip in the water.