My palette

As an adjunct to my post yesterday, I did a sketch of my palette, and below that a diagram of the colours. It was a pretty useful exercise because I realize there are some colours that I’ve never used until I did this sketch today. My palette is an old one from Daniel Smith but I love it and have added some extra pans that are held in with popsicle sticks and a bit of wooden dowel. Do I need those extra colours? Probably not. I do most of my sketches with six or seven basic colours unless I’m painting something really colourful like beach umbrellas or flowers. Will I remove the extra colours? Probably not. The only change I will make is to add Indanthrene Blue which is now living in a temporary home on a mixing tray. You may notice that there are two yellows in the top row that are unidentified. That’s because I forget what they are and never use them, so rather than cause confusion I left them blank. I think the one on the left is cadmium yellow.




Art tools and a little demo

If you haven’t heard of Parka Blogs, check it out. Parka reviews art books, posts his own great sketches (including his most recent trip to Cambodia) and writes about artist’s tools. For me, the most fascinating section is “Art tools and gears” because he interviews different artists about the supplies they use. Don’t you find it fascinating to read about what other artists carry in their sketch kits? I could spend hours examining photos to see the make of a special brush, or the colour of a tube of paint, as if finding out that information would hold the secret to being a better painter. This week Parka posted an interview with me which you can check out here. Thanks Parka! And as an addition to this I’ll do a post tomorrow about my palette of colours.


A couple of nights ago I was an invited guest at the Dollard Artists Association. I love doing these talks because it’s always a great opportunity to talk about Urban Sketchers and hopefully get a few new people to join our USk Montreal Sunday sketching group. It was a good turnout of artists for a cold January night and the giant bouquet of flowers they had for my demo was exactly as I had requested — COLOURFUL! It’s always a bit nerve-wracking to do a demo… So many people watching and so many chances to mess it up but you cross your fingers and hope for the best. Thanks to everyone in the group for a great welcome and for sending me photos of the event.




Hospital to hospital

Some of the best views I’ve found in Montreal are from hospitals, hotels or high rises. Especially if they face the mountain and St. Joseph’s Oratory. In my daily travels through outer suburbia I never see these great vistas. It’s pretty much flat wherever I go to sketch. Today, while we waited together for my father at a short hospital visit, my sister remembered a great panoramic window in a waiting room a few floors up. It had everything she promised. A great view of the shrine, a bit of snow-dusted mountain, another old hospital across the way, and best of all, a free spot at the window ledge.



Breaking the ice

I know that my travel palette is well used (translation: a bit of a mess) but today I couldn’t figure out why it was so dirty until I realized that what I had mistaken for dirt was actually ice crystals forming on the enamel mixing surface. This has happened once before on a really cold day, and as I did last time, I had to take my half-finished sketch home to the warmth of my indoor studio and complete it there. My car studio was well heated but on some really cold days there is just no amount of preheating that will allow me to sketch outdoors.


The corner in winter

This is a larger version of the sketch I did a few days ago of a corner in Lachine. I painted this last year as well but this time I had to add in a figure. Someone is always turning around that corner and that is part of what makes it such an interesting place to sketch.


Sunday at the Redpath

It was surprising and exciting that so many people came out for USk Montreal’s Sunday sketching on the one of the most frigid days of the year.  In fact, I think it was our biggest turnout ever — over 20 people for sure. We’ve had so many of these “polar vortex” days that maybe people are just fed up of staying at home. Whatever the reason, our meeting place at the Redpath museum — Montreal’s version of the Museum of Natural History — is always the perfect sketching spot for the group in winter. The museum seems to encourage sketching. There are even little pieces of carpet that you can sit on if you want to study the shells or the taxidermy animals or the shrunken heads in the glass cabinets. It was also kind of fun that we were interviewed and filmed for Montreal’s La Presse. What a great opportunity to spread the word about Urban Sketchers and hopefully when the video comes out we’ll be able to post the link.



Saturday morning on the counter

Some days I struggle to find something to sketch but today this combo was right in front of me as I finished my morning coffee — all I had to do was grab my brushes and paints.

Tomorrow is Sunday sketching with Urban Sketchers Montreal at the Redpath Museum starting around 11 am.  Everyone is welcome — no membership required — so please come out to join us!



There are so many reasons why I am intrigued by this corner and keep returning to sketch there. The buildings are set at all angles, the road veers to the left and then the right, and on a sunny day there’s a glowing light on the corner house. There’s also something mysterious about this corner, and possibly what gives it that mystery is also what makes it slightly dangerous. Interesting characters are always coming around the corner. My intention was to do a car sketch for a bigger painting but I had to complete it at home. One of “interesting” characters in the neighbourhood turned out to be slightly menacing, standing in front of my car, waving his hands to block my view and possibly trying to intimidate me. Maybe he didn’t appreciate me hanging around in my car, watching the action at the corner. Good thing my camera was not visible. Anyway, I got the message and completed my sketch at home from a photo reference that I quickly snapped when he ducked into the shelter of a building to light a cigarette.


They always come back

It’s relatively easy to complete a drawing of a posed model. You keep on working while the model holds the gesture and at some point you are done. But if you are drawing people who aren’t posing, they can get up and leave at any moment, or at the very least, change their pose. My sketchbooks are filled with half-finished drawings. One valuable secret I learned at the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Santo Domingo a few years ago is that most people who are hanging around one place for a long time, seated or standing, will eventually come back to their original pose. Take the student I was drawing today. He was sitting at one table for a long time, then got up to chat with another group of friends at another table, and then eventually come back. The pose was never exactly the same but I was able to get enough information each time to complete the sketch. You’ll notice that the back of his shirt has lines going in all directions. That’s because he never put his arm over the bench again quite like that again but never mind. I got my drawing in.


Clear and bright

In celebration of the great sawing off of the cast on my painting hand I went out to do some car sketching today. It’s super cold out there but I preheated the car well and was able to do a quick capture of the light on the statue near the convent in Pointe Claire.

It’s not often that I add new colours to my palette but I’ve been trying out Indanthrone Blue (sometimes called Indanthrene Blue) and I like it enough to make it a permanent addition. It’s darker than the other blues I have and mixes beautifully with Alizarin Crimson for shadows. A warning if you decide to buy it: I can’t confirm this but apparently Daniel Smith has a redder tint than Winsor Newton (according to