Three cedars, in ink

The falling snow is magical today. Big fat snowflakes that weigh down the branches of my cedars. I considered doing this sketch just in fountain pen, but a brush pen is so useful for the large dark areas. If you’re interested in seeing some of the other ways I play with ink (and wash), I just released a new free course on my teaching site called “Ink and Wash Ideas for Sketchers“. You’ll find a dozen ways to get your hands dirty, and maybe something will inspire you to get out your dip pen and draw.

The common thistle, and other wildflowers

The snow continues to fall in Montreal, but today I took a little trip back to summer in Charlevoix. I sketched this page of wildflowers, on location in the garden of our hosts, surrounded by bees and the calls of chickadees. Back on that day in July we recorded a little video while I sketched the thistles. Have a look if you are in need of a few minutes of summer too.

Canada Malting Silos sketch

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, here is the final sketch from my Instagram live session with @artofalvin. It was so much fun to sketch and chat with him this morning, even though I was hardly awake and hadn’t had nearly enough coffee. If you’re interested in seeing the process, go to Alvin’s IGTV to watch. I sketched this one in my Etchr Perfect Sketchbook.

Canada Malting Silos

Canada Malting Silos were built in 1905 to store barley. The St. Henri complex has been abandoned since 1989, but it’s a popular destination for graffiti artists, photographers who take shots of the cavernous interior spaces, and of course sketchers. Tomorrow (Wednesday, Feb. 24) I’ll be drawing the building, and its famous pink house, live on Instagram with @artofalvin at 8am EST. If you want to draw along with us, follow Alvin on Instagram and tune in when he goes live. I’ll be there, and we’ll both be drawing the south side of the complex, from the same image, which you can find here. I also did a watercolour of the east facade last week. It’s a building that can be painted from many viewpoints, but it’s a little hard to access from across the Lachine Canal in the winter because of the deep snow. I’ll be going there to paint in on location as soon as the snow melts.

Later in the week, I’ll also be spending a few minutes discussing Ackerman pens with Charles Ackerman and Rob Sketcherman on USkTalks live on Youtube. If that’s of interest, you can tune in on the Urban Sketchers YouTube channel. That starts at 10am EST on Sunday, February 28th. We’ll be followed by a Elisa Monti, a sketcher from Genoa who will be talking about her reportage of giant cruise ships. I caught a quick glimpse of her amazing sketches during our sound check this morning, and I can’t wait to see more!!

Log cabin

This seems to be the winter for painting scenes again and again. The scenes that are close to home that I spot while skiing or walking the dog, like the stream in Angell Woods, or this log cabin at the Morgan Arboretum. You might never look twice at it during the summer because it would be shaded and half hidden under the trees. But in the winter, on a sunny day, after an overnight snowfall, it’s a beacon in the woods. Painted wet-in-wet on Arches rough bright white paper, 140 lb bright.

Red velvet pillow

My bag was packed to go out and do some winter sketching from my car, but the snow started to fall quite heavily. Instead I stayed home and painted the snow from indoors, using Artgraf water-soluble graphite. It took me some time to locate the block, but once I started painting with it I remembered how much I like the stuff. The chunk I have is in the shape of dressmaker’s chalk, but instead of drawing with it, I wet my brush and paint with it. It takes some getting used to because it seems really black when you put it on paper, but it dries much lighter. It’s wonderful for layering and building up darks like I did on my red velvet pillow.

Five minute drawing on the iPad, video version

If you’re already someone who uses Procreate on an iPad, you can stop reading now. This info is too basic for you. But if you have never used Procreate and are a bit curious about how to draw with an Apple pencil on an iPad, this might satisfy your curiosity.

I illustrated using digital tools like Adobe Illustrator for years, and I taught Illustrator to college kids too, but creating highly polished digital drawings is not something I want to focus on anymore. I realized after drawing with Procreate for several months that I kept trying to make the digital tools act like analog ones. The first tools I used were the 6B pencil, the ink pen, the gouache brush, etc. The tools that were most like the ones in my sketch bag. And those are the ones I still use.

I’ve been asked often by blog readers to do a little demo on my iPad of how I use the Procreate tools, so this week I recorded a 5-minute video of a quick drawing I did of some paint tubes. It’s up on YouTube and there’s is a link to it below. I plan on creating more videos illustrating the basic Procreate tools and how I use them in my everyday sketching. Nothing fancy, because I am certainly not a Procreate teacher. Just simple stuff for people who want to use Procreate like I do, for everyday observational sketching, indoors or out.

Alice in the sun

I knew I had to draw this one quickly. The afternoon sun would soon disappear and it was time for Alice to have a walk. I grabbed my iPad, created a new canvas, chose a 6B pencil and drew in black. Then I created a new layer under the first one, and added the greys. Working on one layer for the line and a separate one for the shading is really useful if you need to make corrections — Alice’s paws that twitch in anticipation of a walk, the changing angles of the shadows — but you just have to remember which layer you are working on. The other wonderful thing about the iPad: no scanning or photographing of the image. Alice appreciates that too at walk time.

Back to the woods

Yesterday was the first day Alice the dog was able to run off leash after her recent minor surgery. We celebrated the discarding of the cone of shame by taking a walk in Angell Woods where she could finally run free after 10 days of leash walking. We also found a path that followed the Rivière à l’Orme a ways, and I found some places where the water was still moving despite the -20°C temperatures. When we got home Alice took a nap, and I painted. Wet-in-wet watercolour on Arches Rough 140lb, 15″ x 11″.


The grocery delivery arrived with a special surprise last week. The clementines have leaves and stems on them. This may not see like much to someone who purchases them solely for the purpose of consumption. But if the alternate use for them (and almost everything else in the house) is to use as a sketching subject, then this is a bonus. How often do you get to find orange and green and purple all in a tiny wooden crate? Sketched in an A4 Etchr Perfect Sketchbook.