Flower share

I’ve been a subscriber to the CSA program of La Ferme Tournesol for over a decade, and have happily been enjoying plentiful baskets of vegetables every summer. This summer I also decided to take part in the flower share since I am home to enjoy the bouquets. This week’s was full of amazing blooms, most of which I can’t even name.

Before I painted this today, I rewatched a Charles Reid video on painting flowers. I do this periodically when I feel that my flower painting looks too dry and stiff. He reminds me of several useful skills that I always seem to forget:

  • Start with a contour drawing first, and really observe changes in direction of the contour
  • Clean the palette often
  • Use a REALLY wet brush
  • Paint vertically
  • Take your time

After I watch the video my work ends up looking like his. Lots of little drips and splatters, which happens when you paint vertically with a very wet brush. But overall it helps me paint a fresher looking bouquet, which is always what I aim for.

The past few days

The weather has been so beautiful these past few days and I’d rather be painting than sitting at the scanner in my basement office. But now it’s piling up, so time to get to it.

At the start of gardening season, on one of my first outings after the lockdown, I bought this plant at a garden centre. I had no idea what it was but its shiny green leaves and the promise of lots of flowers attracted me. It has not disappointed. When I finally read the tag I discovered that it’s a Dipladenia. It’s constantly putting out new buds that open into flowers that remind me of propellers.

Yesterday morning I painted on a street corner in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. At the corner of rue Saint-Jean-Baptiste and rue Saint Thomas. I wasn’t happy with what I did on location because the colours were a little flat. I came home and redid it in studio, this time a little brighter.

This morning I took a drive to see what was happening on Lac St. Louis. Summer camps have started up again and the kids were having a sailing lesson.

There was also a couple deep in conversation on a bench in back of me. I just had time to draw them before they got up and walked away. They probably saw me drawing them. I painted them from memory. Then a guy sat on a rock in front of me. Before I had time to paint him he walked away too. But by then I was hungry and went home for lunch.

Here today gone tomorrow

The daylilies that opened in the garden this week are so vibrant, so shockingly ORANGE, that I had to paint them with pure orange paint. There’s nothing I can mix from red and yellow that could come close to the pure fiery saturation of Schmincke Transparent Orange. And for today’s sketch I decided not to draw with pen or pencil first. I wanted the brush to lead me as I made the flower shapes, and then have the pigment and water combine within those shapes. Sketched on Fabriano CP paper.


Stella doesn’t sit still for long. She’s a little Yorkie who is visiting for the afternoon. When I started drawing her, I quickly realized that the sketches of her would have to be quick. As soon as she hears a sound, those giant ears go up and out, like the wings of a bird in flight.

When she finally did settle down (in Alice’s bed!) the body was still but the ears still had a life of their own.

The lily and the frog

This summer I’m exploring lots of spots in Montreal that I haven’t painted at in several years. And loving it. Like the pond next to Baie d’Urfé City Hall. It’s a multi-level pond with an upper area that seems to be under construction, but thankfully the lower level still has water in it. And one lily. And a frog that kept me company while I painted.

When I paint water and reflections, I try to do most of the work with only two washes. In this case, the first layer is the light colours of the water (and sky reflections) and the light greens of the lily pads. The second layer, which is worked wet-in-wet, is the darks of the reflections. If you’re interested in seeing how I do this in more detail, have a look at my newest online class “Still, Rushing, Falling Water.” You can watch three full-length demos and see lots of closeups on the palette and the paper. Feedback for the course has been really positive, which makes me very happy.

Canada Day

Happy Canada Day! I’m not much for themed posts but for some reason I love painting something red on Canada Day. My potted geraniums were the reddest flowers I could find, and for a change, I took out my tubes of gouache to sketch them. I don’t have a great range of gouache colours but luckily what I have includes Cadmium Red and Alizarin Crimson, and they work pretty well for the lights and darks of the flowers.


I’ve been waiting for these big daisies to open so I could paint them. I picked a few yesterday and put them in a vase with some other blooms, but after repeated tries I couldn’t make an interesting painting from them. I struggled with them as much as I struggle with painting sunflowers. Just big circles that I can never make into a decent composition. In the end I went out to the garden, where I should have sketched them to begin with.

North and East

My friend Lee was pretty sure I would find a new vantage point from which to sketch the REM light rail construction, and he was right. I just couldn’t resist the giant segments hanging in the sky. I drove under them yesterday, and was sure this section would get finished overnight, but I guess there’s no work happening on a Sunday. To draw this, I parked facing north at a Walmart lot and set up on a little piece of grass between an exit ramp and on-ramp to the highway. You do what you gotta do to get the sketch, I guess. It started to rain just as I was about to add colour, so that part was done from the car.

When I was done the REM sketch, I turned the car around and couldn’t resist sketching the view facing east. Dramatic sky, orange cones, power lines and an industrial lot, all in one place. I’ve driven by this entrance to a construction company hundreds of times over the years, but had never seen it from this angle. The light sky between the buildings made for a dramatic sight.

Up and over

I think that after this weekend it’ll be difficult for me to find a place to sketch the REM construction as it moves west. I’ve been lucky these past few months because all of the activity is centred around an area where there are big box stores and plenty of parking. For the next little while the line travels west along Highway 40, but parking is prohibited on the service road and at most office buildings. So as the line goes up and over St. Charles Blvd, I say goodbye until we meet again at the Kirkland Coliseum where I’ll find the next big box stores, ample parking, and even a Tim Horton’s with takeout coffee to have while sketching. Doesn’t that sound inviting?

Far and near

Two days of sketching combined into one post:

First, the far view. I’ve been waiting to document the REM light rail line as it crosses over St. Charles Blvd. in Kirkland. For this to happen, the elevated line had to be elevated even more, so I’ve been watching the supports go up for months. But it’s quite dramatic to see the whole gantry on top of a major thoroughfare. I have to say that this was not easy to draw, but I’m committed to documenting this process from beginning to end, and this was a major step in the construction of the line. I sat in a deserted Walmart parking lot (it was a holiday here yesterday) so I could see the whole thing instead of placing myself directly below it, like I often do. And of course, because of the holiday, there was no actual movement on the line, no workers, and no lifting of the massive concrete sections, so that helped a bit.

Next, the closeup view. This year I planted some yellow Coreopsis in front of a purple smokebush. The juxtaposition of the bright yellow-orange flowers and the dark reddish-purple leaves is almost as dramatic as the movement of the rail line. I discovered a new combination for the reddish darks: Alizarin Crimson combined with Hooker’s Green. And where I needed brighter vegetation, I just added some pale yellow to the same green.