Above average

My break between classes today was the ideal time to take advantage of the above average temperatures outside. From my bench on the campus I had a good view into the churchyard next door and the diffused autumn light on the foliage, both distant and near. My aim was to capture, in paint, the glowing foliage and the branches of the trees which always look darker in contrast with the yellow leaves. I started my sketch by putting in lots of loosely defined areas of yellow, dropping colour into areas wet with clear water. As I built up the layers of foliage I also added in trunks and branches, darkening them in places where they wove in and out of leaves. I know these Indian Summer days are numbered, so best to get out there while I can.


A reminder from Marc

Ok, I guess I couldn’t let the brushes rest for the weekend, but I have a good excuse. Yesterday I received my signed copy of “The Urban Sketcher: Techniques for seeing and drawing on location” written by my friend Marc Taro Holmes. I haven’t had time, yet, to go through the book in detail but I will do that soon enough. I can tell you quickly that it is packed with great info, step-by-step exercises and tons of images to go along with them. On one of the first pages I was reminded about how important it is to have my tiny sketchbook with me at all times, so while I was waiting for a cake to come out of the oven, I grabbed my little Moleskine and a water-soluble Pilot Fineliner pen and drew some walnuts.

I also want to thank everyone who sent me such generous wishes for my blog birthday post, both through email and through the comments section. I haven’t had time to respond to each one yet but in the meantime I send out a huge group thank you!


A birthday, a milestone, a draw and a book

It seems like just yesterday that I cracked open my first tiny Moleskine sketchbook, and yet today marks the third birthday of this blog. More remarkably, Wordpress tells me this is my 1,000th post! I always tell people I started this blog to get back to drawing and painting, but I never dreamed that I would fill this many sketchbooks, meet so many people with the same passion for sketching, and travel to some pretty amazing places to learn and teach.

I’m so appreciative of all the people who have followed my progress over the last three years, who have sent me comments and provided encouragement, feedback and suggestions. I have learned so much from all of you. In appreciation, I’d love to offer you something in return. If you send me your name in an email at sblaukopf (at) gmail (dot) com, I’ll enter you in a draw for this original sketch (done today at Jean Talon Market) and announce the winner on October 22!


Knowing this milestone was close got me thinking about the direction my work will be taking. After 1,000 sketches (more actually, if you count all the bad ones I didn’t post!), I think it’s time to migrate the format from a daily sketch blog to a most of the time blog. With that in mind, I’ve changed the blog subtitle from “A different drawing every day” to “Mostly Montreal, most of the time”. This reflects the direction I am hoping to take my work. Over the last three years I’ve drawn and painted flowers, gardens, markets, fruit, objects and portraits, but my favourites are the street scenes of Montreal. Although this won’t be my exclusive focus, I do hope to sketch and paint more of Montreal’s great neighbourhoods, in all seasons. I recently put together some of my favourite watercolours in book format (and there are more to come), so if you are interested, have a look here.

Mostly Montreal Book

I also think it’s time to separate the sketches from the paintings, so in the near future I will be launching another website that will feature my larger format watercolours as well as smaller sketches for sale. After three years, it’s time to make the leap to be a slightly more professional format without, I hope, losing any of the fun of doing this. I’ll announce the website as soon as it’s live, but the blog and the (almost) daily sketches will still live here.

As for the content of the blog, I am hoping to add more instructional tidbits when I can. That’s the idea of posting less frequently, but adding more value to the posts (when time permits). After 1,000 sketches I think my brushes deserve a short break for this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. I’ll be back soon but for now I’m off to enjoy a piece of birthday cake.

Saint Joseph in the rain

My summer was filled with travel to both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts but that meant that I really didn’t get my fill of sketching Montreal neighbourhoods like Lachine or Villeray or Pointe Claire. I’m playing catch-up now, finding an hour here or there after school to put down a few lines and some wash. Saint Joseph Blvd. in Lachine is one of my favourite places in the fall when the canopy of trees over the street starts to glow yellow. Sketched on Fabriano Hot Press paper, 9″ x 12″.


Sky blue

Antagonistic. That was what the weatherman called today’s weather. Sunny one minute and wild rain squalls the next. I would probably have described it as turbulent or unsettled, but I like the weatherman’s word better. In any case, it made for great skies and it reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to post.

I did a test some weeks back on Cerulean blues made by different manufacturers, in part because I wasn’t happy with the way some paint on my palette was performing. I have always thought I wasn’t brand loyal — any artist quality paint would be fine, especially if it was on sale — but I have lately come to realize that with some colours the brand can make a huge difference. Other painters have probably come to this conclusion already, but I think I’m only noticing it as I start to work on larger sheets of watercolour paper. The problem I was having was that Daniel Smith Cerulean was very weak and if I tried to get a more saturated mix, the colour would get no deeper. The test I did was to compare M. Graham and Holbein Cerulean with the Daniel Smith (unfortunately I had no Winsor Newton on hand to add to the test). The results are below. As you can see, no matter how little I diluted the paint, I could still not get an intense blue compared to the Graham and Holbein samples. I have since replaced that blue with the M. Graham pigment and I’m much happier. And the sky practice below is one I did on Lopez Island this summer in the Tom Hoffman workshop.




In my college classes this week we’re exploring the history of typography, the shapes of letters and the origins of present day fonts. That really has nothing to do with my sketch but it did get me thinking about how I deal with lettering in paint. I was once told that it’s better to suggest the letters rather than paint them in fully — in other words let the viewer fill in the blanks. I haven’t used much detail in this sketch but because of the colour and shape of the containers and the odd letter here and there, it’s pretty easy to tell what’s inside the packaging.


Take a step back

I’ve drawn this view many times but always sat a bit closer to the church. Today I was determined to get the yellow and orange trees in the picture so I took a few steps back to get the view I wanted, and that left me in the cold shade of another building. Mittens were on while I was sketching and the wind was too blustery to do any painting outside, so I drew from a spot on campus (not very accurately, I’ll admit, but the mittens are a hindrance) and painted this in my office on a break between classes.



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