I sketch in my own suburban surroundings so often that a journey into downtown Montreal seems like an exotic vacation to another city. There’s no doubt that the current traffic issues are a deterrent. It seems like a colossal waste of time to spend over two hours in traffic for a one hour sketching break. And yet, when I must go into town for another reason, I will find every excuse to get there early and fit a sketch in.
I never know what sights will attract me when I arrive in town but yesterday a free parking spot on the perimeter of Parc Lafontaine determined my location and an empty park bench with a view of the greystones had my name on it. I’d forgotten how beautiful this park is, and for a moment or two I felt like I was in New York City. All the signs of spring surrounded me — trees leafing out, two lovers embracing on the next bench, tulips in full bloom, a gaggle of teens shrieking atop the Dollard statue — and it was a reminder to find a reason to get into town more often.
In celebration of the last day of classes, I went out to sketch on the way to school. As I approached the lake, I could see the masts of the boats swaying in the wind, which could only mean one thing: the boats are in the water! So the last day of school happily coincided with the first day of boat sketching season. I painted in my car because I forgot my chair, facing the red sailboat that’s in that same spot from year to year. And as I painted I remembered all the reasons why boats are both a satisfying and challenging subject to paint: the difficult shapes of the hulls; the messy tangle of masts, ropes, lines and buoys; the full range of values from light to dark, all closely jumbled together; and finally, the movement in the water that causes everything to be slightly different each time you look up. What more could you want in a subject?
The boats at Pointe Claire Yacht Club will soon be in the water, judging from the amount of activity in the boatyard. Since I am not a sailor, nor a member of the club, I contemplated looking at the club’s website to see when launch day will be. But I stopped myself. I prefer to show up one day and be surprised to find them moored to the docks, all gleaming and polished and waiting to be painted (or sailed).
After a long winter, any opportunity to observe a bit of light and shadow outdoors, even on laundry day, is welcome. The two blue shirts were great fun to sketch, because of the movement, the stripes and the shadow shapes. It almost made me want to do more laundry, just so I could hang it up and watch it dry. Sketched in a Handbook Travelogue Watercolour Journal.
I love working with triads of primary colour because of the harmonious mixes you can get. Here’s a new triad of colours I’ve been testing out for painting brick — something we have a lot of in Montreal. Start with Quinacridone Rose and Azo Yellow for the reddish colour of the brick. The yellow adds a nice glow to the areas in sun. If the mix is too rosy looking, add a spot of Cobalt Blue. As you move into the shadow areas you want that warm reddish colour to move towards a cool colour, so add some more Cobalt Blue into the mix. It worked really well for my favourite row of buildings along Boulevard St. Joseph in Lachine.
All week I’ve been looking forward to painting a spectacular bouquet of flowers that’s on my counter — tiny yellow roses, a few long-stemmed red tulips, a fragrant hyacinth, and a giant, bursting pink peony. With a bit of free time on this rainy Friday afternoon I set myself up with a full palette of fresh colour and the best of intentions. But no matter what the angle was, no matter how I turned the vase, or stood or sat, nothing worked out for me. Bad planning, maybe? End of semester fatigue perhaps? Too ambitious a project after a long week? I don’t really know the answer. But what I do know is that the bouquet killed me and all I could muster up after many hours of frustration was a monochromatic still life. I guess some things are just too beautiful to paint.
Lucky me. On two occasions during the day, friends walked through the door with flowers. And it’s not even my birthday. Since I only got around to sketching this evening, I started with the daffodils which are more open and may not last as long.