In the distance

Last time I went to the farm at Macdonald College I noticed the silhouette of John Abbott College in the distance across the frozen cornfield. So I went back there today but I had the sun in my eyes. And it was really hard to keep my feet warm. The cold wind blows right across those fields and right through my car.

In the distance, Ste. Anne de Bellevue

Back to school boots

This was back-to-school week for me. That means I sometimes can’t get outside during daylight hours to do my daily sketch : (

I have to admit that I’m a little bit addicted to painting outdoors now, even though the cold sometimes defeats me. But I love the changing light and shadow. And listening to music on my car radio. So I was a little bit depressed today at being stuck indoors but I did manage to find a bit of time on a break between classes. These beautiful red boots belong to Jocelyne, my office partner. I hope she doesn’t mind that I painted them.

Red boots

Some people

Some people are so neat. And prompt. And organized.

We had a big wind storm on Tuesday in Montreal. It blew down a lot of branches and the howling kept me up half the night. Now my backyard is a mess. And it probably will be until spring. But I noticed last night while walking my dog that this fastidious neighbour had picked up all his branches and bundled them soooooo neatly for the garbage collection. A by-the-rules kinda guy.

On another note, I want to mention that the cold won today. It forced me indoors to finish my sketch. I guess my car didn’t have enough time to warm up since I was sitting around the corner from my house. At one point I noticed that my paint was acting kind of weird and then I realized why. There were ice crystals on my brush. And the wash puddles on my palette were frozen. Time to pack up and move inside.

Branches from the storm

The old cattle barn

This is the century-old cattle barn at Macdonald College and this venue is definitely my new favourite place to paint. Facing this building is the new cattle barn and outside of that there are cows! So as soon as it warms up a bit and I can emerge from my car, I will be sketching those cows. There’s also a swine barn and a poultry complex (which I painted a few days ago) and even a farm equipment museum. So maybe I’ll even get to draw some pigs and chickens.

Old Barn, Macdonald College, McGill University


There’s lots of snow falling today and everything is so quiet. I wanted to paint this scene with a limited palette of greys. I always rely on the same combo to mix a good neutral grey: ultramarine and burnt sienna. But today I wanted to try something different so I used cobalt, alizarin crimson and a bit of cadmium yellow (although a more transparent yellow would have been better). It still has too much colour for my liking so I think I will have to work on that some more.

On a side note, I had to stand on my toes in the upstairs bathroom to get this view into the neighbouring backyards but the light was good and there was abundant water nearby.



I’m not much of a farm girl so I’m not really sure what this is. But it was so beautiful and rusty, half-buried in snow, that I couldn’t resist doing a sketch of it. It doesn’t look that big from the front where I drew it but if you go around to the side it goes on and on in the back.

Tractor, Macdonald Farm

Poultry Complex

It’s a bit of a milestone today. This is my 100th post!

I started this project in October as a little experiment to see if I could actually accomplish one sketch a day. And I can really say now that this has changed my life. It’s brought painting and drawing into my every day in a way that I only thought would be possible in my retirement years (what a depressing thought!). And through this I discovered Urban Sketchers, met fellow artists on the Flickr site where I also post and started conversations with people who follow this blog. Quite amazing.

And that leads me to the heading of this post. No, I don’t have any repressed fears about chicken. These yellow buildings are the poultry complex of McGill University’s Faculty of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences in Ste. Anne de Bellevue.

Poultry complex

My Norway Maple

There’s a story that goes with this purple-leaf Norway Maple that shades our house all summer. A few years ago we noticed that the leaves were developing whitish spots — possibly a fungus — and then falling off the tree. In the middle of summer!  It made us pretty sad because this is a spectacular specimen. In the spring the fat buds are bright lime green and when the dark purple leaves pop out it makes the most startling of contrasts. So we consulted Omar, the tree specialist, and found out that the reason for the whitish spots (probably) is that water is seeping into the trunk at a spot where two branches meet (and not enough nutrients are getting to the foliage). We followed Omar’s instructions for how to cure the tree but we’ll have to wait until next summer to see if the fix worked.

Norway maple

Under snow

I stayed inside on this really snowy day. There’s an evergreen in front of my house, its boughs weighted down with snow. The greens are deep and dark but behind it the tones of the street are muted.

Evergreen under snow

Blue spruce

Lots of snow falling today in Montreal but there’s a little patch of green under this blue spruce. I don’t think it will be there by tonight…

Blue spruce