Continuing with what seems to be my theme of the week — boats — I took a drive out to Hudson Yacht Club this morning. Capturing these boat shapes is a new challenge I have given myself. Drawing them is so difficult. They curve and dip and there’s all that rigging. First I started with a pen but quickly realized some correction might be needed so I took out my pencil instead to do the drawing. I will most certainly go back there to sketch soon because I think I’ve painted all there is to paint in my neighbourhood and there are lots of great spots around Hudson — Oka in the distance, the yacht club, beautiful old houses and farms and even Finnegan’s market before it gets too busy on a Saturday.
These days there’s lots of manganese blue in my paintings because, as I found out the other day, this colour does not dry quickly in the palette. I filled the reservoir with some fresh tube colour before leaving home and it leaked all over. I didn’t realize that it was much more runny than my other pigments. Now I add it to everything in the hopes of using it up and happily I quite like the greens and blues it makes.
I am often asked what makes me choose one site over another and how I choose what I will paint each day. The answer is simple. When I go out to sketch I am looking for a centre of interest for my painting—something that will anchor the composition. Today it was easy to find. Enough said.
It’s hard enough drawing the hull of a boat but drawing it while dealing with shad flies is even harder. They flew into my palette, landed on my sheet, stuck to my clothing and tried their best to get into my mouth. It’s like this every year if you live near the lake but thankfully the season is short, as is the lifespan of the fly itself. Sometimes they are so abundant near outdoor lights that city crews need to sweep them up in the morning.
Weather conditions in Montreal are about as close to tropical as you can get today. With the mercury hitting 32 ° and full humidity, I thought it might be approximating conditions in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where I will be attending the Urban Sketchers Symposium in July. Following a near-decapitation from a red-winged blackbird whose nest I approached, I chose a bright spot on the grounds of the Baie d’Urfé Town Hall to test whether I could paint in direct sun. It was a pure disaster. I couldn’t see my colours and the smallest wash evaporated instantly, leaving dry edges everywhere. This is my second sketch, done much more calmly, from a bench in the shade.
The storks of Alsace used to return every spring from their annual migration to Africa and nest in the trees and chimney stacks of the region. But when it was discovered in the 1980’s that many of them were dying on the journey back (droughts and power lines were the biggest problems), the Alsatians found a way to keep them there permanently. Now many of them nest year-round in the clipped plane trees surrounding L’Orangerie. Apparently in the winter you can really get a good view of the huge nests at the tops of the trees but in the summer they are surrounded by foliage and all you can see are the birds and their babies poking their heads out at the top.
Walking along the Canal St. Martin made me think more of Amsterdam than of Paris. I think the cold, grey weather had something to do with that, but it was also the little cafés and restaurants on either side of it that gave it that Dutch feeling. I painted this spread right at the spot where barges go through the final series of locks that take them down into the covered part of the canal that leads out to the Seine.
The Mouzaïa district in Paris is a little bit hard to get to but once you make it up the steep hills past the Butte de Chaumont you realize that what you find there is well worth the hike. The former working class neighbourhood was built on what used to be a gypsum quarry so none of the buildings are more than a few stories high. Each little street has small alleys leading off of it and each colourfully painted house in the alley is hidden behind climbing roses, wisteria and ornate iron gates.