American Watercolor Society online show

What an honour to have my painting “The Wash at Dusk” selected for the American Watercolour Society Associate Members Online Exhibition. Many thanks to juror Tim Gaydos. The show is on until August 20th. I guess this is a week for sending you to YouTube because that’s where you can see the exhibition. Have a look at all the wonderful paintings here.

Plein Air Sketchbook Flip Through

There was such a great response to yesterday’s sketchbook flip through (thanks so everyone who commented!) that I just posted another one on YouTube. This is the companion book that I take with me on my travels, so it has journeyed from Montreal to Spain to Greece and back again, and in the cold of winter it was completed in Tucson, Arizona. Same size book at yesterday but this one is landscape format so I can do panoramas like the one of the Acropolis in Athens (below). You’ll see the full sketch in the video.

Sketchbook flip through

After yesterday’s post, I received lots of comments from people who are not on Instagram but wanted to see the video of my completed sketchbook. I just uploaded it to YouTube. Nothing fancy there (no music or narration) but accessible to all. I hope you enjoy it.

Another purple bouquet

I picked some purple flowers from my garden yesterday and sketched them in the last page of my sketchbook. Later on, when I looked back at the first page of the book, I realized that it was another purple bouquet. And when I checked the date of that drawing, I discovered that I started this book exactly a year ago today.

It was the first time I had tried a Hahnemuhle 100% cotton book, and I’ve been working in it ever since. I have both portrait and landscape versions in A4 format. I use the landscape one for urban/travel sketching and the portrait one for experimentation and drawing things around the house, like Alice, my wheelbarrow and lots of bouquets.

It’s really interesting to look back and see a compressed version of the year through the pages of the book. For example, I remember how crappy I felt on the day I sketched the windmill. I was recovering from COVID, and I think that’s reflected in the drab colours I used. Or how chilly it was in the house when I did the ice storm drawings. I was too cold to take out my watercolours so I drew in Micron pen.

I did a little video flip through of the book and posted it on Instagram, in case you’re curious to see what’s in between the two purple bouquets.

Wind chimes

The boats are finally in the water in Pointe Claire, and today I rode my bike down there to sketch them. I have a favourite vantage point in the park, set up especially for me, with a picnic table in the sun and a view of the bay where the boats are docked. On windy days I love the sound from that spot. It’s the music made by clanging masts which sound like chimes as they bang together in the breeze, a bit like this.

Sketched in my Hahnemuhle sketchbook, 8″ x 11.5″.

Red tulips

This combo in my garden is so striking I had to capture it in my sketchbook: giant blood red tulips set against yellow euphorbia polychroma. It’s an electric juxtaposition. It took me a while to figure out what reds to use so I painted swatches for all the roses, reds and magentas in my paint drawer before selecting the two or three I would use, and then I documented the painting process in a series of step-by-step photos. It’s all going to be in the next issue my newsletter The Wheelbarrow. If you’re not on my mailing list and wish to receive it, sign up here.

Announcing a new online course: Sketching Desert Scenes

I’m so happy to launch my newest online course, Sketching Desert Scenes: Capturing the Near and the Far. The idea for this course came to me during my recent trip to the Sonoran Desert, with my first glimpse of the famous saguaro cactus. I was instantly hooked. This iconic giant of a cactus, which lives nowhere else but in the Sonoran Desert, is endlessly fascinating.

I painted quite a few scenes of the desert once I returned home in February, and soon after began creating this new course, based on my sketches from Tucson. The course addresses the Sonoran Desert from up close (“the near”), as we paint different types of plants, and then takes a wider view of hills, sky and the beautiful tangled desert vegetation (“the far”).

I’ll show you how I break up this larger composition into simple shapes and distinct values. How I choose the best tools and materials to convey its textures. And how I simplify the process by starting with the larger shapes and working my way to smaller details.

This is a course you can follow at your own pace, and watch as often as you wish. 

And as always, Sketching Desert Scenes is on sale this first week. You can register for $30 US or $42 CAD until Sunday, May 28th at midnight Eastern Time. Here’s the link to learn more about the course. I hope you enjoy it!

Upcoming in-person workshops

It feels good to be planning in-person workshops again. Here are a few of the upcoming ones, some with only a few spots remaining, and some that were just added to my schedule.

Giverny, France
September 1-8, 2023

From the moment I first saw Claude Monet’s magnificent water lily paintings at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, I’ve dreamed of visiting Giverny to view the garden that inspired them.

Join me for this week-long sketching workshop, where I’ll finally fulfill my dream — and, perhaps, yours. Join me as we visit Monet’s house, studio, gardens and ponds. Join me for a wonderful week entirely devoted to filling our sketchbooks with the very scenes that inspired the greatest Impressionists: not just Monet, but also Renoir, Pissarro and Cezanne. And, finally, join me as we crown this glorious week with a day at Auvers-sur-Oise, where Van Gogh spent his final days. One spot left. Contact French Escapade to get more info.

Bar Harbor, Maine
October 16-20, 2023

If you love plein air sketching, if you’re comfortable in the majesty of nature and feel awed by lighthouses, rocks, waves and maritime subjects, this workshop is for you. Join me as we explore the ever-changing vistas of the town of Bar Harbor and the scenic surroundings of Acadia National Park during autumn colour season. Only a few spots left. Contact Madeline Island School of the Arts to register.

Tanque Verde Ranch, Tucson, Arizona
January 22-26, 2024 or January 29-February 2, 2024

This year when I was at Tanque Verde, I filled an entire book with sketches! I covered pages with giant Saguaro cactus and its many spiky cousins. Horses in their corrals, wranglers in their iconic gear, plus sketches of boots, spurs and a great big anvil. I sketched the ol’ homestead on the hill, the lineup at the pancake breakfast, and much, much more.

Once home, I found myself painting even more watercolours from my still-fresh memories and sensations. For without expecting it, I had fallen in love with the subtle colours and strong light of the Sonoran Desert. Which means I can’t wait to get back to Tanque Verde Ranch. Join me next January!! Contact Madeline Island School of the Arts to find out more.

Carmel and Monterey, California
April 7-12, 2024

Just announced! Join me in Carmel and Pacific Grove, where we’ll sketch the wild beauty of rugged Pacific shores, the enchanting fairy-tale cottages, and historic Mission architecture that make this place so unique. Get in touch with French Escapade to find out the details.

A week in Provence
June 15-22 or June 22-29, 2024

There’s a bookshelf in my studio that holds more than 30 travel sketchbooks. Every time I browse through them, memories of a specific place come flooding back — and not just the sights. Sounds, scents and flavours, snippets of conversations with a farmer, the taste of my morning coffee and brioche — it’s all still there, fresh in my mind, the moment I crack open a sketchbook. 

That’s what I love best about travel sketching. How the act of putting pencil and paint to paper enriches the total experience, and preserves it forever. In this workshop, I’ll share my techniques for painting the red houses of Roussillon, the warm stones of a Medieval village, the monastery and olive trees made famous by Van Gogh, and the narrow streets of a charming market town. Contact French Escapade to learn more.

Mac’s Barn

It was a good start to the week. A friend called to ask if I was interested in purchasing some secondhand flat files — those big steel drawers that architects, engineers and artists use to store large format plans and artwork. My answer was an emphatic “yes!”. If you purchase these new they are quite costly, and I have been on the lookout for a used set of these for many, many years.

The files were in an old farmhouse in Ontario, and required two trips in our SUV to transport home but it was worth it. On one of the trips to get them, we also had a tour of Mac’s barn. Part of the barn was recently used to store Mac’s vast collection of found objects, and the other part was where the original owners kept livestock. I think this is where the donkey was kept, back in the day.

I am so grateful to have these new storage drawers for large paintings. The storage unit needs a good cleaning and a coat of rust paint on some edges, but as soon as I do that it will be as good as new, and it will be a welcome addition to my studio.

Mac’s Barn was painted wet-in-wet on a sheet of 140 lb Arches CP paper, 16 in. x 20 in.

Pots on my stairs

I bought a four-pack of herbs at Costco this morning — basil, thyme and two types of oregano. And because I’ve been filming a new online course indoors all week and haven’t been able to enjoy the spring weather, I rushed to put away the groceries so I could get out and sketch these. I guess my arrangement wasn’t very creative but the shadows on the ground were great and it felt so good to be outdoors. These herbs will go into the ground eventually but before that I may just have to rearrange them and paint them again.

Painted on Arches 140 lb cold press paper using lots of my special shadow recipe: cerulean blue, violet and a bit of yellow.