I guess that in the winter, under a bit of fresh snow and on a bright day, even the most mundane of structures can be seen in a different way. I walk past our neighbourhood pool almost every day. In summer these little buildings — one of which houses the pool pumps — are obscured by foliage, bikes, kids and lifeguards. In the winter, with a bit of snow and the right light, they had me imagining that I had driven out of town to an rural area and that the pump-room was suddenly a picturesque barn.
The winter storm howling outside my window got me thinking about all the things I am tired of looking at: the ice scraper in my car, my black winter parka, my mittens and hat, and especially my salt-stained, winter-weary boots. I keep hoping it will be shoe season again, but each time I think it may be time to clean off these old guys and put them away until next year we get slammed with more snow. Don’t get me wrong — I love painting in winter — but we’ve had just a little bit too much of it this year…
Spring is definitely in the air when the snow starts to melt and all sorts of lost items (as well as plenty of trash) are revealed. The most mysterious objects to me are the bikes that have been tethered to parking meters and other posts for seemingly the whole winter. With chains covered in plastic bags, handlebars rusting, and tires deflated, this is a ubiquitous sight in Montreal. Don’t you wonder why they’ve been left there and if their owners will ever come to claim them?
I tried painting from my car today (two failed attempts) but the rain was coming down too hard and I was surrounded by grey. Hard to find any beauty at all in that. I still had an itch to draw so I came home and instead of cleaning the mess on the countertop I drew it. Last year I discovered the pleasure of drawing with a soft pencil on the paper in the hand•book journal sketchbook. The pencil glides so softly on that paper that there is a certain enjoyment in the act of drawing itself even if you are drawing a mess like this.
It’s always so much fun to observe students on break. As I was drawing this guy I noticed that he alternated between studying and playing a game on his phone. I was focused more on my drawing than on really watching him, but when I did stop and look at him for a while I began to count the time spent on each. It went something like this: play the game for two or three minutes, study for 17 seconds, play the game for two more minutes, pick up his book for 12 seconds, play the game for five minutes… then stretch, put on jacket… and probably go for lunch.
This year I am planning on sketching outside as soon as the temperature permits. In fact, even though it is -4°C today, I decided to leave the warm bubble of my car to draw this outside, with gloves on. It was too cold to set up my easel so I added colour from inside the car. Because there’s no parking facing the church, I was obliged to park in the opposite direction and use the rear view mirror to see the values while painting, which may not be a bad thing. If you can’t really see what you are painting it forces you to simplify and to think about big shapes as well as composition. The result is a bit messier than I am used to, and the steeple is drawn wider than it should be but I think it still has the feeling of a cold day by the lake. Sketched in a Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook, 9″ x 12″. Time: about an hour.
One of my very favourite places to sketch in the summer is the Pointe Claire yacht club, but even in the
winter spring there is beauty in the forms of the boats. And I think the sailors are just as anxious to get working on their boats as I am to paint them. When I drove by the entrance to the boat club this morning the gate was open and there seemed to be movement inside. A promising sign of things to come. Sketched in a Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook, 9″ x 12″.
Under the snow, in a deep pool of murky water, warmed by a ray of sun, I saw a little shoot of new growth emerging from the still frozen ground. But it’s wasn’t this hyacinth. We are still weeks away from flowers this spring. In fact yesterday we set a record for the coldest March 23rd in recorded weather history. And the origin of the hyacinth? Potted in a nursery and purchased in the grocery store.
I’ve been saving this panoramic sketchbook that I received in Barcelona for something special but I wasn’t sure what. Turns out it was perfect to represent the organized chaos of dim sum. Carts going by piled with bamboo steamer baskets, waitresses yelling out the names of the dishes, and plates of dumplings coming and going on the table. I think the restaurant was more than patient with our group of over 20 sketchers —we definitely sketched more than we ate, and we monopolized three big tables — and it was only when the room was jam-packed and the lineup at the door got ridiculously long that they asked us to move on. If they’ll have us back I think this will be an annual event for the group!
It hasn’t been a great winter for car sketching (too cold, too snowy) but today seemed promising. Fed up of drawing objects plunked on my kitchen counter, I was hoping to get some sort of urban sketching done before the snow fell but it came down so fast and was so heavy that I had to take shelter in a Starbucks. Apparently this type of snow event is called an Alberta Clipper. Isn’t that a great name for a snow storm?
Dim sum is on the menu for tomorrow’s Urban Sketchers Montreal monthly meeting. Last year we had a great time although I had some difficulties balancing chopsticks and paintbrush. I have some strategies for surviving tomorrow’s event. Everyone is welcome. No skill level required for eating or drawing. Details here.