Although most everything in my garden is finished by now, the black-eyed Susans near my front door cling to summer. I pass them on my way in and out, and today I took a few minutes to capture their fading beauty.


Yellow sky

In yesterday’s sketch I neglected to mention what time of day I had been out and that had some people wondering if I had sketched at dusk when in fact it was early morning. Today I was hoping for the same spectacular early light but instead the sky was grey with just a sliver of yellow sky on the horizon.


Yellow light

When I get to a sketching spot I am now in the habit of taking a quick reference shot with my phone. This because I have so often had a truck pull up and block my view. Today I was parked in the wrong direction in the Gigi’s pizzeria lot which forced me to draw and paint faster than usual, all the while expecting the cheese truck to pull up and give me the signal to move on.  There’s nothing worse that being jolted out of your happy sketching moment by an irate truck driver with a heavy hand on the horn. But as your brushes and paints fly all over the seat of the car, at least you can rest easy knowing that when you clean up the mess you can always refer to your phone photo to complete the details of the sketch.



The size of the paper I use to sketch on any given day usually corresponds to how much time I have to cover it. So you may conclude by seeing this, the tiniest of my sketchbooks, that today, between giving my students a quiz and going to assorted meetings, I only had a  bit of time. But I found a few minutes and a crabapple tree with some shade below and spent a few minutes looking up.


End of day

I am not going to complain about this run of perfect fall weather, but it’s just a little too pretty out there during the day to sketch. Today I waited until the light was more dramatic to catch the after-work crowd walking their dogs, taking their kids to the park for a bit of pre-dinner exercise or just having a long look at the boats on the lake.


Ten-minute tree

How do you render the colours and shapes of a late September maple? I thought the answer was to draw it finely in pen and then add some wash, but that didn’t work out. The paper in my sketchbook is too thin to take the loaded washes of colour — the garish reds and oranges that make it autumn — and the pen line did nothing to improve the sketch. So with only ten minutes left before I headed off to school, I threw the sketchbook aside and grabbed some good Arches 140 lb paper that I had in another book. This time I used no pen or pencil, just big washes of colour with a few branches added in at the end and I think it says “autumn tree” much better than my first try.


Oratoire St. Joseph

There are so many drawing options at the Oratoire St. Joseph, or The Shrine as we used to call it as I was growing up. It’s the big green dome that you can see from almost everywhere in Montreal and when you climb the stairs the panoramic views over the northern part of the city are quite fantastic. But this morning when Urban Sketchers Montreal met for our monthly drawing event, the leftover dampness from last night’s rainfall combined with a chilly breeze had most of us choosing shelter from the wind in the park next to the dome. It’s always fascinating to see how people sketching in the same spot choose to frame their drawings. I drew just one turret and about a square inch of the green dome in the upper right corner, Marc drew the whole building and Jennifer drew mostly just the dome. Hopefully they will post their sketches on the Urban Sketchers Montreal website so you can see what I mean. And if you are free next month, please join us. No membership required, all drawing levels welcome and we post the date and our meeting spots on the site.


Two braids

The colours in garlic are so subtle. I imagine they would be very easy to paint in oil just by adding different tints to white but in watercolour the challenge is to obtain those very pale warm and cool neutral colours. I used just three pigments for this: raw sienna, cobalt violet and cobalt blue, all very diluted.


Twelve plus tax

I went to the market looking for the first signs of pumpkins to sketch. Even filled up a well in my palette with cadmium orange. But when I pulled in to my parking spot the rows of mums shining in the sun were too much to pass up. Especially since I got to wet the colours in my palette that don’t get used much, like permanent magenta and rose madder.



When I am pressed for time I always seem to end up at this spot in Pointe Claire where the curve in the road gives me an interesting angle on the storefronts and utility poles. This is the first time I have treated it in pencil.