It was warm enough to sketch outside for the first time today. This is a section of a bigger sketch that I did and a reminder to myself about the importance of planning. The full sketch has a big dead area in the middle which I would have seen had I done a value sketch before rushing into the painting. But the light on this upper balcony was so perfect, the shadows from the power lines were great, the bench on the street was free and I wanted to paint!

I will be taking a short break from posting during this Easter weekend so I can focus on my illustrations for the children’s book I am working on. I hope you have a nice Easter, Passover, equinox, or whatever it is you celebrate. See you in April!


Here and gone

It was a cloudy sky today but at just the right moment the sun came out and contributed some shadows to my sketch. I was only partway through my drawing but I dropped the pencil and took out my paints. It will only be a matter of weeks, or maybe days, before the whites in my sketches are replaced with yellowish-green.


Waiting for the bus

How amazing is this? While I was sketching in my car today I was listening to a radio interview with a sketcher. On CBC’s The Current, Anna Maria Tremonti was interviewing Janet Hamlin, an artist who has been sketching the U.S. Military Commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba since 2006. It’s a fascinating interview and if you like her sketches, there’s a book of her work coming out in October called Sketching Guantanamo: Court Sketches of the Military Tribunals that promises to be a compelling read.


Daffodils open

Wow, painting yellows is so difficult.The changes of colour are so subtle and there are really no dark areas in the flowers. Just yellow or lighter yellow. I used a limited palette of three very transparent hues for this: aureolin yellow, cobalt blue and rose madder.


I don’t know how she does it

I am in awe of my Australian friend and fellow Urban Sketcher Liz Steel. She can sketch and eat at the same time. I’ve seen her do it and more importantly she did it outside, at night, with not much light to paint by, while having a conversation.

This month’s sketch outing for Urban Sketchers Montreal was in Chinatown where we met for some dim sum and drawing. This “drawing while attempting to eat” is pretty new for me. Yes, I do paint food but usually before I cook it.  On her recent trip to Singapore, Liz Steel  recorded almost every meal she ate — and there were many — with her Singapore sketching hosts. I know from meeting her that she’s a fast sketcher but it’s still a mystery to me how she gets any eating done or at least any eating while the food is still hot.

To add to the discomfort of having my palette on my lap (didn’t want to get paint on the white tablecloth!) I also tried to eat someone else’s food thinking it was from one of the communal plates and shortly after I dropped egg tart all over my palette.

Hats off to you Liz. You are the queen.




Someone told me recently that we’ve had 30 fewer days of sun this winter than we usually have in Montreal. I tried to confirm that but couldn’t find any reliable news articles about it. In any case, that could explain why I needed to paint some sunshine today.



Red chard

At this time of year I start longing for something from the garden. Something that isn’t wrapped in plastic and that still has a little bit of dirt on it or perhaps a bug hidden in the leaves. Growing season in Montreal is still a long way off but the chard in the grocery store was close enough for me.


The colour of snow

Of all the snowfalls that we have had this winter — and we have had quite a few — this latest one was the most beautiful. It was heavy but not wet and it didn’t melt right away like some spring snow does. And for some reason the colour of the snow is different. I know it’s not really different — it’s just the same white stuff that fell last week or last month — but I think the light is changing and making the colours softer. On really cold mid-winter days the snow shadows are sharp and cold but this week they are softer and grayer.


The first day of spring

Yesterday I had so much fun doing a negative painting with no pencil lines that I repeated the exercise today. Just turned the branches upside down. Painting the spaces between things requires patient observation and a good amount of wash on the brush. I started in the middle of the sheet and did a light wash of the parts of the fence that I could see between the branches. Then I added the dark bits of evergreen under the snow. By that time the fence was dry so I added the darker parts of the fence. The last step was the lacework of branches that tied it all together.


The last day of winter

I don’t often go back to old blog posts but it occurred to me tonight that sometime last March we were having a heat wave in Montreal. I wasn’t quite sure when it was so I went back in my posts to last year at this time. I was hanging laundry outside on the clothesline on March 20, 2012, but I guess I’ll be using the clothes dryer tomorrow.