Pointe Claire Yacht Club

I am still experimenting with the block of Saunders Waterford HP surface paper that I purchased last week. In today’s painting I did 90% of the work with a 1″ flat brush. That keeps me from getting caught up in the details too early on in the process. Then I used a #12 Escoda Perla synthetic for all the details. That brush has a great point on it. Following my workshops this summer, so many people have purchased them that I should probably request a commission from the manufacturer.

I’m still really liking this paper. Even on a very hot day the washes stay wet for a long time so I can go back and drop in colour like I did in the sky and the water. Size: 12″ x 9″.



I tried to sketch my favorite crisscross of power lines in Pointe Claire Village today but never finished it.  A passerby stopped to have a chat and never really left.  I guess that’s what happens when you are sitting in the middle of the sidewalk!


From church to gallery

On the second day of the workshop in Saint-André-d’Argenteuil we sketched around the beautifully restored Christ Church, which now houses a gallery with works by local artists. When I started my demo, the gentleman who runs the gallery opened the doors for the day and noticed us all grouped together, sketching in his direction.  Eventually he wandered over to see what we were all doing. Not long after that he pulled a chair out onto the steps. Taking advantage of the summer day or hoping to get drawn into the sketch? I’m not sure which it was but I obliged by adding him in.



There was some tricky perspective in the drawing of the bell tower but everyone produced great work! Thanks again for inviting me out, Dunany ladies!


The aha moment

It’s always a pleasure to see a student in one of my workshops have an “aha” moment when something really clicks. It happened today at a two-day workshop (the last one of the summer) that I am giving to a group of artists from around the Lachute area.

In classes I always try to get students to create a value plan — basically a schematic drawing of where the lights, mid-tones and darks go. I do this by getting them to do a small pencil drawing  in three tones. But one student was having a difficult time with this. She couldn’t get away from doing a line drawing. Her aha moment was when I handed her big fat grayscale markers. With these it is impossible to work in line — you must work only in large tonal shapes. As soon as I showed her what I wanted in markers I could see something click. And  I had my aha moment when I realized I had been teaching this wrong! Of course it’s much easier to visualize flat masses when you are working in tone rather than line.  And the fact that I am constantly learning from students is the best part about teaching.



We painted in the beautiful village of St. André d’Argenteuil, surrounded by historical houses, on the bank of a river. What a great way to end this summer’s round of workshops.


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On the stairs

I always consider myself fortunate when something calls out to be the main area of focus for a sketch.  In this case, the blue pots and orange begonias were clearly arranged with a  complementary colour scheme in mind. All I had to do was paint them.


Wet-in-wet watercolor demo

It’s not often that one of my blog posts gets written by someone else. In fact, today is the first time this has happened in the close to two years since I have been posting my sketches. If you are interested in how this demo was done, I will point you in the direction of Citizen Sketcher, the always amazing, well-written and informative blog by my friend and fellow painter Marc Taro Holmes.



“There was a time, usually late in August, when summer struck the trees with dazzling power and they were rich with leaves but then became, suddenly one day, strangely still, as if in expectation and at that moment aware.”

That beautiful sentence is from a James Salter novel I’m reading and it made me want to paint trees. I also tried out some new paper  — well, new for me — but hardly new at all because it comes from St Cuthberts Mill which has been making paper since the 1700s. I bought a block of Saunders Waterford HP, a paper I’ve been wanting to try for some time. It’s a little rougher than the Fabriano hot pressed block that I’ve been using lately, which means that my Micron pen doesn’t glide as easily over the surface. But what is lost in smoothness is gained in the way it takes the paint. This is gorgeous, creamy paper with a soft texture that seems to love layer upon layer of pigment. Glad I bought a block of it.



Despite all the neglect my garden has suffered because of my travels this summer, I still managed to cobble together a bouquet that looked good enough to sketch. I used all the rarely touched colours in the center of my travel palette: permanent magenta, mauve, and cobalt violet.



There is still a little pile of unused art supplies on my desk from the sponsors at the USk Symposium — among them a silver box of assorted Cretacolor pencils. I was particularly interested in one called Nero extrasoft, because it’s an oil-based charcoal that is water-resistant. It doesn’t have that scratchy feeling that charcoal does when you draw with it. In fact it’s very creamy and extra black, and it really only smudges when you push it around with your finger on the paper. From the bit of research that I did the pencils come in different hardnesses which would probably give you a sharper line than I achieved here, but I really like the inky blacks that you can get. I may have to try it using a simple contour line and a light wash to see what that gives me.


Trottoir barré

I went down to Ste. Anne de Bellevue to paint another view of the rusty railway bridge. There’s a great big shady area under the new bicycle ramp so that kept me protected for most of the morning.



Someone  asked recently on the blog if I could show my plein air setup. When I don’t have to travel by plane I use my French easel, a folding plastic palette and, as you can see, big flat brushes, mostly 1″ and 2″ Langnickels that I purchased years ago. I can get through a lot of the painting with these and only use smaller brushes for the details.


The benefit of these brushes is that I can really load them up with my big first washes, as you can see below. And they really force you to work from big to small instead of getting caught up in the details too early.