The other half of the sheet

One of my favorite groups on Flickr is called “Sketches in a vertical format”. I often spend a few minutes looking through the sketches because each one is like a little slice. We don’t see in this format and I think that’s what makes the way these are composed so interesting. Have a look here.


90 lb mystery

I often cut up (actually I tear them to maintain the deckle edge) large sheets of watercolour paper into quarter-size or smaller pieces so that when I run out the door on my way to paint I can grab a small sheet. At the same time I make a small notation in pencil on the corner of the sheet so I know what paper I am painting on. Unfortunately I also have some paper that is unidentified, left over from a previous painting life many years ago. Today I used this strip of something that I really like, but I have no idea what it is. It’s thin, therefore it must be 90 lb weight. It’s not textured but neither is it smooth, it has no watermark and it looks like nothing else in my inventory. I think the only way to solve the mystery is to take the remaining strip to the art supply store and hope that they can match it.


On the same page

I’m trying out a bigger Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook, and with it a new way of working. This 9″ x 12″ paper is larger than I usually work so instead of filling the page (which I didn’t have time to do today) I thought I’d try a series of vignettes, all on the same page. These can be used as little compositional studies for something that might be worked up into a bigger sketch or painting later on (like the green snow fence near the church) or simply be observations about the day (like the fire hydrant in the snow).


Full price

You might think that after Valentine’s Day the bouquets would be marked down, a bit like the cards and wrapping paper on December 26th. That’s what I was hoping, anyway, when I went in to the store to buy some flowers to sketch. I was sorry to see that the prices were the same even though they still had little tacky red ornaments and hearts stuck in them. I found this sad, neglected bouquet apart from the rest, and it was clearly not for Valentine’s day. Bingo!


Broom and shovel

With the snow falling heavily outside the best spot is looking out my front window, with some phthalo blue and burnt umber by my side. The scene on a day like today is relatively monochromatic, but with a warm and a cool shade I can vary the tones of monochrome more than with a single hue like Payne’s grey.


Nine metres

From a fifth floor window at school I look out at a panoramic view of Montreal, which was pretty grey today. Instead I chose to look down. On the frozen ground, the trees and near the end, the students on a smoke break.  I’m always happy to be able to add a figure to the drawing. It gives scale, interest and sometimes a focus.



I don’t want to be presumptuous and speak for all Montrealers, but I can safely speak for most of us when I say we are fed up of winter. Even the people who ski have had enough of the snow and endlessly cold days with no break in sight. My colour choice for today seems appropriate for the collective mood.