Calle El Conde, the main pedestrian shopping street in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo, is interesting not only for its colourful shops and its even more colourful street characters but for the row of ornate street lamps that run down the centre of it way into the distance. Today I also included a photo that my Australian friend and symposium instructor Liz Steel sent me. It’s a remarkable image that I wanted to include because it captures a rare event! That’s me cutting a sketch out of one of my books — a sacrilege in sketchbook circles. The setting was the final night of the symposium, a night where close to 100 sketchers from around the world exhibited their work on long tables, bid on works in a silent auction, and said their goodbyes. In back of me, smiling his sneaky smile, is Jim Richards — sketcher extraordinaire from Texas. The reason for that smile? He has just successfully dared me to cut a sketch out of my book and donate it to the auction (all proceeds going to fund scholarship students for next year’s event). The drawing is the banana seller and his buddies posted on July 13.
Yesterday Marc and I inducted yet another new Montreal urban sketcher into the fold. Simone arrived in Montreal from Italy just a month ago. A biologist by trade, he blogs in Italian about his Canadian experience, and includes sketches, food, photos and music info. Unfortunately for Simone, we plunked ourselves in front of a building on Sherbrooke Street with all this roof ornamentation. It was a very complex subject made more difficult by the wall of dark brick behind it. Here is the link to the beautiful sketches on Simone’s blog and if you understand Italian (or use Google Translate like I do), you can read what he said about us. You can also see a photo of this and then you’ll understand what I mean by the wall of brick.
There’s not too much green space on lower rue St. Denis. Lined on both sides by theatres, bars, cafés and restaurants, and running through the heart of the Quartier Latin, this wouldn’t be the first place I would think of to buy fruit or flowers. But in front of Place Pasteur (one of UQAM’s public spaces) this little green kiosk was pretty much bursting with greenery. Another find in my city.
Start with the spine. I learned that from Melanie Reim at a workshop in Santo Domingo. If you get the position of the spine right then it’s easy to position the rest of the body. And though it may look like this woman had some type of surgery all down her back, it was really just the starting line of my sketch. Who needs a life drawing class when you have the beach?
My city is full of surprises and I discover something almost every time I go out to sketch. Hidden behind the Chateau Ramezay Historic Site and Museum is the Governor’s Garden. Part kitchen garden, part orchard and part ornamental plants — this perfect little oasis next to Old Montreal’s most crowded square even has benches which I am fairly certain are there for sketchers. I was going to draw the garden itself but the shadows were so perfect on the gables of the houses on the perimeter that I started with those.
I still haven’t finished scanning my Dominican Republic sketches. Here’s another one done from my beach chair. The clouds were particularly beautiful after a rain and with my new small Raphael brush I was able to create the calligraphy of the palm fronds in front of them.
I had a great sketching day in Old Montreal with Marc Holmes and brand new Montreal Urban Sketcher Helmut Langeder. We painted amidst all the tourists on Place Jacques Cartier in Old Montreal, and even had our own celebrity spotting of Bob Saget being filmed for the Just for Laughs Festival. The Rue des Artistes is a narrow alley filled with people selling paintings and photos — and since it probably would have required some sort of municipal permit to paint inside there — we sat outside looking in.
One of the most amazing Santo Domingo workshops that I’m finally getting a chance to write about is “Architecture: Personal Viewpoints,” with Liz Steel and Frank Ching. Liz is one of the people I was most excited to meet because we’ve been corresponding and I’ve been admiring her Australian architecture sketches on her blog for months. Frank Ching is well known to architects around the world for his many books on architectural drawing — but instead of me going on and on about his many accomplishments you can read about him here. It goes without saying that I was in good hands for my baby steps in architectural training.
We sketched at the cathedral of Santa Maria La Menor, the oldest cathedral in the Americas. The building is a mix of Gothic and Baroque styles and our viewpoint was the back of the building (where we could find a bit of shade!). At the start of the three-hour session Frank told the group that he wouldn’t be telling us what to draw but he would be “tweaking our glasses” a little bit. This sketch started out as a pencil drawing on the left hand page of the sketchbook but when it was my turn for Frank to have a look, he told me that by choosing to draw only a section of the building, I hadn’t really expressed the horizontal nature of the low structure. So I added all of the rest on the right. More than a tweak, I would say. The little pencil drawing in the sky is one of his explanations, as he taught me about recording the big solid shapes first and then working towards the details. And the wonderful stamp in the corner was created by John Wright, based on the workshop logo.
I’m back from the Dominican Republic with lots of drawings and paintings that I will continue to post in the next few weeks. I think I have a little bit of post-symposium withdrawal. It was such an intense experience — being surrounded by all those talented people, some who I haven’t even mentioned yet — and I had time to draw and paint all day. What a luxury! Since I have just posted a few days of very colourful and chaotic paintings I thought it might be a good time to scan this drawing, as a little rest for the eyes after all the bright hues.
Let me describe this little moment. I was sitting on a beach chair, surrounded by all the noise of a crowded resort, and when I looked next to me I saw this sleeping baby — covered by her little blanket and hugging her bunny. It was a scene of perfect innocence in stark contrast to all the hedonism on the beach. Her parents must have just gotten up to take a walk down to the water. Having just learned from Veronica Lawlor and Jonathon Schmidt about seizing that decisive moment, I grabbed by pen and sketchbook and hoped the parents wouldn’t reappear too soon. I was lucky. I drew quickly, the baby slept and the parents took their time.
I have been told that when I am sketching I am oblivious to everything around me (including people taking photos and videos) and, in this case, an impending thunderstorm. I did the drawing for this sketch (and had a nice chat with a vendor trying to sell me some jewelry) and when I turned around to make the long trek back along the hot beach I noticed the blackening sky. In the islands the rain comes upon you very quickly so when I felt the first few drops I hid my precious moleskine (the one with all of my symposium work!) under my shirt and ran the rest of the way back.