I often think of my teacher Ed Whitney, who I have mentioned many times before in these posts. His words came to mind today when I was painting the red door. He always taught us to put a little bit of a strong colour somewhere else in the painting, for balance. Luckily there was some red foliage at the front of the house and a bit behind the chimney.
I am thrilled to announce that Marc Taro Holmes and I will be teaching a watercolour workshop in Portland, Oregon in August. The workshop will focus on capturing the environment around you in watercolor sketches. We’ll emphasize working quickly and making well designed compositions that tell a story and we’ll be doing lots of demonstrations in different locations. I’ve never been to Portland so I’m really looking forward to it — and to meeting all the west coast sketchers. Here’s the link with more details on the Urban Sketchers site.
On my way downtown to sketch I noticed no fewer than five cranes hovering above Griffintown. This little house was sandwiched between two bigger buildings but I bet it won’t be long before this whole residential row will be gone and condos built in their place.
When I don’t have a lot of time to sketch I end up going to the same place in Pointe Claire — down by the lake near the church. I think I have circled the same block a hundred times looking for things to paint. I haven’t counted how many posts were done on that block but there are most certainly a few dozen. On the weekend when I have a bit more time (and there’s no traffic!) I can head downtown for some new sketch material. This was painted in the south part of Griffintown, looking up towards downtown.
There are so many little historical houses in Pointe Claire Village but you need to be travelling slowly to see them. The Maison Gédéon-Legault, built around 1911, has a plaque on the side wall that you might only notice if you were walking by. It was fitting that the house next to it still had their Christmas lights up, considering that it snowed on and off today.
This was painted with a limited palette of cerulean blue, a bit of cadmium red, and lots of raw sienna and new gamboge for the yellow stucco.
This may possibly be the most beautiful week of the year — as far as trees go. The buds are really just starting to open, bursting with colours that range from pale greenish-yellow to dark red. In a fortnight the trees will leaf out to an even dark green but for this short period there is a citrine canopy in every direction.
I went to Lachine to sketch again and as I was driving along Lakeshore Road I spotted another great uphill view. It was only after I had been drawing for several minutes that I realized that some of the landmarks looked quite familiar. I was on the same street as my sketch of a few days ago but on the opposite side of the hill!
I tried to sit outside to sketch today but it didn’t work out. I was pretty optimistic as I left my house because the storm system that has been hovering over Montreal for the past few days seemed to be moving out. The sun came out and blue sky appeared in places so I packed my travel stool with the hopes of sitting outside. The sky was very dramatic by the lake — and very turbulent —but I forged ahead, setting up my chair, taking out my paints and sketching this little panorama. But by the time I started adding colour massive black clouds moved in, big drops of rain started hitting my sheet and I had to scurry back to the car, defeated.
Yes, I know I painted a very similar bunch of tulips not long ago and I do hate to repeat myself. But on a day in late April when there is snow on the windshield of the car, I have to at least pretend there is spring out there.
It is unseasonably cold for this time of year. It’s almost May and I see snowflakes on the weather map for tonight. That didn’t stop this determined fisherman in Lachine this morning. He was going to catch some fish even if he had to be out there in his parka!
I hit another milestone today. 200 posts! Over half a year of sketches! It must be time for a little reflection, so here are five thoughts, in no particular order:
1. There’s a stack of Moleskines sitting on my desk, and they are full. Each page covered. When I looked back at them to refresh my memory for this post, I realized that they are more than a random pile of sketches. There is a chronology to them — a chronicle of the seasons, mostly — and more importantly, they exist on paper (of course in pixels too, for the purpose of this blog!). They can be touched and handled. In this digital age, when most mementos of our lives are housed on hard drives, I am pretty happy that I have these to put on a shelf.
2. I used to think of a sketch as the means to an end — that end being a full-size painting. And who has time to do a painting, with work and life getting in the way? Until I stumbled on Danny Gregory’s book, “An Illustrated Life,” and the light bulb went on! This book was filled with descriptions and illustrations of people’s sketchbooks. So the sketch can be the end? I love it! I can at least manage that…
3. The writing is almost as much fun as the sketch and I have Marc Taro Holmes to thank for that. He encouraged me to write a little something to go along with every sketch, and in the spirit of Urban Sketchers, I think this helps to complete the story of each post.
4. Drawing gets easier with practice. It’s about taking the time to really see things, and if you slow down enough to notice the details, it is inevitable that your drawing skills will improve.
5. There are lots of sketchers out there! Over the past 6 months, through comments on the blog, through the Urban Sketchers Flickr group and through the USK site, I have met people from all over the world, commented on their work and read their thoughts about mine. With this common passion we all share for drawing and painting, we are able to cross oceans, language barriers and cyberspace. Quite remarkable!
Someone asked me recently where I intend to go with this blog. I have no idea. I’ll just keep doing a different drawing every day.
It is all about the rain today. Heavy, heavy low clouds moving slowly across the sky. And everyone I talked to had a comment about the weather. “When is it going to warm up?” “We need to feel some warmth.” “I just want a day where I can sit outside and look at my garden.” We are all waiting for those May flowers…