Birdcage lady

A few weeks ago while having dinner with friends on Bernard St. in the Mile End district I saw this shop in the distance and made a mental note to come back someday. I was in the area again today and to my great surprise there was a parking spot across the street. I am never lucky with parking spots so I had to take advantage of the opportunity. You can probably tell by the way the shopkeeper is huddled in the doorway that it wasn’t really a day for sketching outdoors but it certainly was a day for buying flowers, judging by the number of customers who pulled up in front of the shop to buy some. But it wasn’t the flowers that caught my eye. It was the layers of hanging cages that went up even further than I could draw on my sheet.


Sketch swap Montreal – Girona (and then some)

I’m a little late in posting the details of our Montreal-Girona Sketch Swap, but better late than never! The germ of the idea comes from Mark Liebowitz, New York City urban sketcher and organizer extraordinaire. Here’s how sketch swap works: on a mutually agreed upon date, sketchers from the two cities go out and sketch something that is iconic from their surroundings. They are paired with a buddy from the other city and when the sketches are done, each one sends out their sketch, hopefully around the same time. In Montreal, our sketches were done in February (see what I mean about late in posting this?) so we sketched lots of snow. Dogs in snow, wheelbarrows in snow, cemeteries in snow, snow-covered farm houses and trees. And in return we received beautiful scenes of Girona, Spain. Blue skies, palm trees, colourful houses on the Onyur River. It’s a bit like getting a letter from a pen pal but even better because there’s a sketch inside the envelope! Here’s a sampling of the sketches. The ones on the left side are sketched in Montreal. Can you tell?


Chi Mai Vo sent her bagel factory sketch to David Pradas in Girona.

Ferrel_RomeroMinerva Ferrel sent her sketch to Gemma Romero.


Marc Taro Holmes exchanged sketches with Tony Xifre.

Uma Viswanathan and Beto Candia from Sao Paolo were sketch swap partners. Not sure how the cities got mixed up on this one!

Blaukopf_CasasShari Blaukopf sketched the wheelbarrow and Antoni Casas painted Cala S’Alguer.


Marc Taro Holmes sent his snow angels to Murilo Romeiro in Sao Paolo.


Jane Hannah and Gail Ishmael also sent out their beautiful snow scenes to sketchers in Girona (above) as did Danielle Desnoyers (below).



The thrill is gone

At our USk Montreal outing yesterday I started my day with this sketch of the Korean church, but I never had time to complete it for two good reasons: the group was moving on and it was REALLY cold so the washes weren’t drying. I was thinking of working on it some more at home but then I thought about that a bit and decided to post it this way. Part of the experience of sketching outdoors, in all weather, is that sometimes you just don’t get to finish stuff. I did snap a quick photo but some how the thrill of painting all that beautiful stonework and the tarnished copper dome was gone. And the parts that I did manage to complete were the most interesting parts anyway.


Little Burgundy

We had single digit temperatures, a dirty sky, and on and off rain but Urban Sketchers Montreal was undeterred. I think that after the interminable winter that seems to be lingering into spring, we were happy to be outdoors. The sketching route involved a trek through Little Burgundy, with stops to sketch the Korean Catholic Mission, some historic sandstone buildings, antique shops along the way and several warm coffee houses. The neighbourhood is like much of the areas south of downtown — cranes and condos developments are the backdrop to the old industrial buildings. There’s much to sketch for the hardy.


Join us in Griffintown

Almost exactly two years ago I sketched the roof of a little house in Griffintown that was sandwiched between two bigger buildings. I didn’t realize it until I read an article in the Montreal Gazette, but this is the oldest house in Griffintown and it was just saved from demolition this week. Coincidentally our Urban Sketchers Montreal Sunday outing is in Griffintown tomorrow, so I thought I’d repost this today (no time to sketch!!). If  you want more details about the sketch outing, find it here. If you want to more about the house, you can read about it here.


Alberg 37

There’s a happy buzz of spring in Pointe Claire Village. The ice cream parlour was open, people were riding bikes and of course the sailors at the yacht club were getting their boats ready for launch day on May 10th. Last year I sketched the boats from the outside of the club, but this year I’ve been welcomed to come in and draw anytime, which suits me fine. Today the Capricorn caught my eye. I know nothing about boats but I am told it’s an Alberg 37 fibreglass boat from the 1960s. A real elegant beauty and the first one in line to get into the water this year.


Pond and lake

There’s a certain thrill painting outdoors when you have the elements working against you, and I guess that’s what makes it such an adventure. It’s really still too cold to paint outside because of this freezing spring we are experiencing, but I’m trying to get out there anyway and catch some quick impressions despite the frigid winds near the lake. I set up my easel by the pond in Baie d’Urfé, and tried to capture the layers of blue: sky, lake, far pond, near pond. I think my lake section could probably have been a bit darker but I was painting in full sun and that makes it hard to see. Now that I’ve scanned the sketch and see it on screen I may go back in with a light wash to separate the lake from the bit of sky. Or not.


Three circles and two diagonals

After six months of impossibly cold weather I am so thrilled to be outdoors again. Especially if there is a bit of sun. That means that I’m also happy to draw just about anything, including garbage cans and brooms. And since circles and ovals are always so difficult for me these seemed like good drawing practice today.


Fruit break

There was a blob of leftover paint (Cobalt Violet) on my palette from yesterday’s crocuses which got mixed into today’s wash for cast shadows and again to darken the sides of the tangerine that were facing away from the light. I can see why artists  might like this pigment. The properties that I find so odd (pale, pasty, gummy), if used at the right time, can work to your advantage. For example, when painting yellow in shadow I always darken the paint with its complement, which is purple. Usually I use the tiniest dot of Thalo Purple, but since that’s such a strong colour you have to be very careful not to add too much. Instead it might be worth it to experiment with this Cobalt Violet which I am fairly certain would not overpower the yellow. I think it will take a few more trials though, before I decide if this will be a permanent addition to my palette.


Signs of life

Cobalt Violet is a new addition to my palette but one that I am not quite used to. It has a very strange consistency. More like a paste than a paint. I mixed it with Cobalt Blue to get the crocus colour, and that worked out well but I can’t think of another pigment that has the same properties as this. It’s a beautiful colour and one that I could quickly get accustomed to for shadow mixes. If you use it, I’d like to hear if you have had the same experience as me. The brand is Winsor & Newton.