Morrice Hall

This is the result of drawing in really cold temperatures for 52 minutes during last Sunday’s outing to the Redpath Museum. I can’t draw with gloves on so after about half an hour my fingers went numb and even the pen didn’t really want to work any more. I think that was probably the last outdoor drawing until spring of 2013.

Morrice Hall

By chance

By chance I found a new place to draw today. I was trying to drive south on a main thoroughfare in Montreal but the road signs were ambiguous and I ended up going east instead. That lead me through a part of town where I had never been and I discovered a great café.

By chance they had a free seat at the counter by the window. I love those spots because you have an unobstructed view of the neighbourhood.

By chance it snowed last night and there was still a sprinkling on the ground. Everything looks better with a sprinkling of snow.

Waiting for the snow

We are having our first little sprinkling of snow in Montreal today and you can see it coming in the distance as the sky darkens. When I started to sketch this the ground was dry and the tree-seller was sweeping up sawdust from yesterday’s sales. When he saw me drawing he gave me a big smile and I think it was because he saw the snow coming too and that meant that he was going to sell lots more trees today.

Wrapped Evergreens

The starling and the crow

This is the last of my bird posts from the Redpath Museum. The final installment is the city birds — the ones that I see in my backyard and that wake me up in the morning with their sounds.

TheStarling TheSparrow TheCrow

The Common Loon and the Snowy Owl

It goes without saying that drawing stuffed animals allows you to get closer to them than you would in nature. And now that I have had a closer look, I don’t think there is anything common about the Common Loon. I have often watched these birds on our Quebec lakes in the summer and I have written about their haunting calls in a previous post but I have never been close enough to one to study the details of its uncommon beauty. With its black head, white striping, black collar and spotted back, it is most definitely the Audrey Hepburn of the bird world. Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s to be more precise.

As for the loon’s neighbour at the Redpath Museum, there wasn’t a child who didn’t exclaim “Harry Potter!” as they walked past the snowy owl.

The Loon and The Owl

The goose and the osprey

It was bird day at the Redpath Museum, at least for me. I started with the big old Canada Goose because I am beginning a project soon that involves drawing lots of geese so I thought I’d get in some practice.  The wonderful thing about this museum is that there’s something for everyone to draw. Some people in our Urban Sketchers Montreal group drew the dinosaurs and others did musical instruments. I saw sketches of leopards and monkeys and weasels and one man sketched only the eyes of all the creatures. A few of us did a bit of drawing outside in the morning but after 52 minutes (yes, we timed it!) in the frigid temperatures we congratulated ourselves on our hardiness and headed for coffee before the doors of the museum opened.

The Goose and The Osprey

Finding time to sketch

As my autumn teaching semester nears the end I find it harder and harder to make the time to sketch. And the painter in me gets more and more frustrated. All teachers can attest to the fact that preparation and grading can eat up huge chunks of time, especially near the end of term. Today all I had time to do was a little value sketch for a painting I hope to do soon. What I found interesting in this little scene was the chair half in the sun and half in the shade.

For Montreal Urban Sketchers, tomorrow will be our third group outing. We have an interesting day planned — morning sketching outdoors on the McGill Campus (dress for the cold!!) and afternoon drawing in the company of dinosaurs, taxidermy and assorted objects at the Redpath Museum. For more info have a look at the USK Montreal site. We love having new people join us and sketchers of all levels are welcome.

Wicker in Shade Value Sketch



I have taken on some new teaching responsibilities at school that require me to teach all day Friday so I only had time to do a quick sketch in the faculty lunchroom. But after yesterday’s disturbing experience on the street I thought it would be kind of nice to sit in a quiet room and draw this guy eating his sandwich.

I haven’t had time to respond to all the comments from yesterday but I wanted to thank everyone who sent advice and wrote about similar experiences. It was much appreciated!



When I first started urban sketching it took me some time to feel comfortable (as in not self-conscious) sketching in public. Attending the Urban Sketchers workshop in Santo Domingo pretty much cured me of any residual reticence about standing and drawing in the middle of a crowd. I am always careful of my belongings as I sketch because sometimes I get really absorbed in what I am doing and am not too aware of what people are up to around me. It struck a chord when I read about how USK blog correspondent René Fitjen had all his beloved sketch gear stolen at the Brussels train station. And then while I was sketching today I had a bit of unpleasant incident of my own. I was in the middle of a fairly busy street, sitting on a bench, when a man appeared suddenly and stood in front of me, blocking my view and acting a bit confrontational. I think anyone who sketches outside ends up talking to people who come to peek over your shoulder and have a look at what you are doing. But this man was clearly aggressive and although he asked me a lot of questions about what I was doing, he stood too close and at one point he even tried to grab my sketchbook. In the end nothing came of the incident. I kept on sketching, trying to ignore him and eventually he moved on but it did leave me with a bit of a chill and it wasn’t only because I was sitting outside in 5° weather.

Winter Tree

Walkways, finished

There was a great debate in the comments section of yesterday’s sketch about the educational value of posting an unfinished or unsuccessful work. I was very torn about what to do, but in the end the teacher in me won out.

A few days ago I started this street scene but never completed it. My first wash was wet-on-dry and I wasn’t very satisfied so I tried to wash it out and paint wet-in-wet. This turned out to be a disaster because the pigment I had used in the sky stained the paper. My intention was to have a gray mix in the upper right corner but when I attempted to rinse it, the blue washed away and I was left with a horrible brown stain in the sky. No matter. I persisted to add colour but the underpainting gave a dirty glow to everything. I abandoned mid-way through.


 A few days later I made a colour sketch to clarify the direction I was going to take and posted that yesterday. Below is the finished painting. This time I chose a 300lb Winsor Newton paper and proceeded with caution. It is easy to get overly excited when you are starting a painting and jump right into adding colour to the paper. But in this case, planning the values first and the colours second helped me to know where I was going.