Save the date for Stewart Hall

It’s going to be a busy spring/summer for Urban Sketchers Montreal (I admit I am happily looking forward to anything with the word summer in it). In May we have Draw me a Mountain, a sketch day and exhibition on Mount Royal and now I’m happy to announce a similar event for early summer. On July 5, Urban Sketchers Montreal has been invited to a sketch day and exhibition at Stewart Hall — Pointe-Claire’s Cultural Centre situated in a gorgeous historic mansion on the shore of Lake St-Louis. It is an absolutely stunning spot to sketch, in all seasons! Together with Marc Taro Holmes, Jane Hannah and Raynald Murphy, I will be exhibiting sketchbooks and framed works from July 5 to August 30 in the Project Room of the Stewart Hall Gallery. Everyone is invited to sketch with us on that day and display sketches in a group vernissage at the end of the day. Hopefully the weather will be great, and all the snow that I sketched on the grounds this morning will be gone. More details to follow soon.


Farm melt

There isn’t much colour in the landscape today, but if you look carefully there’s a lot of beauty in the subtle hues of late winter. This was painted mostly with Raw Sienna and Indigo, with a bit of Alizarin Crimson and Burnt Sienna added in to warm things up. Size: 8″ x 12″.



“Finally!” seems to be the word of the day from the people I pass on the street. And because we’re not hidden inside hats and parkas, we can nod, smile and acknowledge the fact that spring might just be on its way. And there’s a joyous sound outdoors too. It’s the happy drip of snow melting — from trees, off roofs, under cars. It’s definitely a day to paint puddles.

Painted on Canson Moulin du Roy, from my car studio, WITH THE WINDOWS OPEN!



I really enjoyed reading the responses to my question from last week about the ideal time for a pose in figure drawing. Some people felt that twenty minutes was good because any longer than that and they would add in too many details. Others thought the half-hour pose was perfect, and a few wrote that at least an hour was necessary to have time to really study the figure and experiment a bit more. I also liked the point that Dominique Gaillard made (she runs the figure drawing sessions at both Centre Georges Vanier and UQAM) which was that the more practice you’ve had, the less time you need. Makes perfect sense. I briefly considered working on a smaller size sheet today but it just didn’t seem right to try to cram all of Johane onto a postcard-size piece of paper. Canson Moulin du Roi, size: 12″ x 16″.


Half road

What is it about this street in Lachine that attracts me to sketch here? It’s probably a combination of things. First of all, there’s the mysterious perspective that pulls you in and makes you wonder what’s lurking on the other side of that hill. Secondly, it’s the shape of the sky formed by the buildings — a shape that’s broken up in an interesting way by the utility poles. Thirdly — and this is something I only realized after I scanned the sketch — is the pattern of wires that knit both sides of the street together. And the last reason is one I’ve talked about before, when I painted in this spot for the first time in 2012. If you are curious, you can read about it here.


Warm blue cool blue

If you live in Montreal, you’ll probably agree that the light outside is pretty spectacular today. Clear and bright on the fresh snow (unless you are downtown where it’s probably all slush by now) and some great wispy clouds in the sky. When I parked at the golf course my first thought was that wanted to capture the contrast between the warm blue of the sky and the cool blue of the snow shadows. I regret not taking some step-by-step photos of this sketch but I was on my way to school and didn’t have much time. The order of the steps went something like this:
1. Wet the sky with clear water and gently brush in some blue (mostly Cerulean) to create those soft clouds, being careful not to muck around in the sky too much.
2. Mix up a big puddle of the cooler blue (Ultramarine, a bit of Cerulean, and the tiniest dab of Alizarin) and paint in the big snow shapes
3. Wait for the snow to dry and add in the dark rocks
4. Create the row of trees along the rock edge, varying the colour of the wash as you go and thinking about the edges of that shape (hard where trees meet snow and softer and more varied in the sky.)
5. Final steps: a second wash of sharper darks in the (now dry) trees and rocks, and a dab of yellow and red on the little buildings.


The Queen of the square

There she was, silhouetted against the winter sky in all her tarnished bronze and granite glory. Queen Victoria, high atop her pedestal, reigning over her square in Old Montreal. I was so excited to be out of hibernation — to be sketching in downtown Montreal, to be out of the February rut of going from house to work to house again in the hopes of staying warm — that I fear I made the sovereign a little too big in proportion to the rest of the memorial. But from my view in the doorway of a building she seemed so stately and so grand, and I guess I used a bit of artistic license in my drawing. Sketched with a ballpoint pen in a Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook.




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