I guess you can’t really call it a seawall if it’s on the edge of a lake but for lack of a better term that’s what I call it. I sketched this with my upcoming workshop in Kamouraska in mind. I think we will probably have lots of little views like this along the St. Laurent and I wanted to get in a bit of practice with water, rocks and shoreline.


Three houses on Lakeshore

I pass these houses all the time but when you are driving by you never see the details. Fortunately it’s warm enough to be outside now and there is a small green space on the waterfront with lots of shade to set up my easel. Just as I was finishing my painting the woman who lives in the house came ambling up the walk and spent a bit of time examining something on the porch but by then my darks were painted and it was too late to add her in.  Painted on Arches 300 lb cold-pressed paper, 15″ x 11″.


Four boats

The greyness this morning seemed to suit a limited palette so today I painted with cobalt blue, raw sienna and permanent alizarin crimson.


In the damp clearing

If you have a bit of free time today I encourage you to have a look at Ian Brown’s article in The Globe and Mail. It’s a beautifully written piece about Banff artist Alex Emond and his love of plein air painting. And it describes perfectly so many of the sentiments that go through my head when I am painting outdoors. It made me wish I had been a fly on the wall during their conversation, except that there were no walls surrounding them out there in a damp clearing in the woods near Banff.


The bend in the road

I can’t stress enough the importance of good value planning before you start a painting. If you know where you are headed as you start to paint you have a much better chance of keeping your colours fresh and avoiding problem areas. Below is what I did today in Pointe Claire Village. I don’t  know what I was thinking when I added the big dark shadows in the foreground. I already have a big dark area behind the house.



Here is what a little light Photoshop work can do. I took out all the dark stuff in the foreground. I’m left with a bit of an uninteresting area (that I can improve with texture in the final painting) but at least it’s not a shapeless dark. And now the focus of my sketch is where it should be — at the bend in the road where all the action is. And at least I didn’t waste many hours and some good paper figuring this out.


From the round window

I love drawing at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts because of the great views from the windows. With four pavilions situated on the north and south sides of Sherbrooke Street, you are pretty much guaranteed a good view from wherever you are. Today was the monthly meeting day for Urban Sketchers Montreal which happened to coincide with Museums Day in Montreal. We were a small group of diehards (six of us in all) braving the cold and the rain but we were lucky to see a dance performance by Marie Chouinard (hard to draw that one!) and then we spent some time sketching from a giant round window with a view onto the street. There’s an interesting Dale Chihuly sculpture on display in advance of the upcoming exhibit — a crazy yellow swirly mass called “The Sun” — but since I couldn’t use paint I drew the Romanesque Revival facade of the Bourgie Pavilion  (formerly the Erskine and American Church).


Afraid of the dark

Painting large dark areas in watercolour is difficult. If you go too dark there’s no turning back and if  the paint goes on too dry those areas can often look lifeless. I think knowing this holds me back from painting as dark as I should sometimes. But seeing the John Singer Sargent exhibition made me realize that you can go really dark. You should see how much paint is on his paintings. It’s almost impasto in places.

The other night on my way to downtown Montreal I drove along an industrial street that I had never seen before and made a mental note to come back one day to sketch. Despite the pouring rain and unseasonably cold temperatures I went back today and found a place to park facing these two big industrial sheds, one with a gaping hole of darkness — perfect subject to help me overcome my fear of the dark. I painted the first image, on my lap, in the car, which is no easy feat since this is on a quarter sheet of paper (15″ x 11″) so there’s no chance to step back and check how things are going.


It’s always good to let the work sit awhile and then go back and have another look. When I scanned the painting I realized that the foliage at the left was too light so I wet the area and added some more darks. Re-wetting with clear water and dropping pigment into the wet areas prevents the darks from going dead.


I took a picture of my car studio today because people are always asking me what the setup is. I know it’s a bit hard to see the inside of the car but my water is in a Nalgene bottle in the cup holder between the seats, my palette is on the passenger seat propped up on my brush holder, and my value sketch is next to me for easy reference.





Working on the boat

It’s always so exciting when the boats go into the water at the Pointe Claire Yacht Club. It’s the only club around the West Island where you can get a really good view of the sailboats and even park in a place with a decent angle to draw from the car. And on a rainy day sailors are always out there puttering with stuff. As I’ve said many times before, I don’t know boat terminology but I find sailboats really beautiful. And if it’s true that you should paint what you love, then I will keep on painting boats.


Big boat, little boat

Still testing out the hand•book journal today by throwing on lots more wash. No delicate ink lines with light dabs of paint. This is a heavy-duty loaded brush, many layers of paint type sketch. Still holding up and keeping the sharp lines where you want them.


Trying a new book

Last week when I was at Pearl Paint in New York I picked up a new sketchbook. I’ve seen people using the hand•book journals but have never tried them. The paper is slightly yellower than Moleskine and not quite as heavy. It takes pen lines really well because it is not as textured as my usual books. The wrapper says it takes light washes and as you can see, it does that too. I threw quite a lot of water at it and it really doesn’t warp. Plus it’s got a beautiful cloth cover and an elastic to hold it closed. For me, it’s a two thumbs up.