An event to look forward to


If you are a professional or an amateur artist and wish to take part in a collective exhibition to be presented on Mount Royal, Les amis de la montagne, in association with Urban Sketchers Montréal, invite you to submit your works to Draw-me a Mountain, an exhibition of drawings and watercolour works highlighting the beauty of Mount Royal and the talents of Montréal artists.

The exhibition Draw-me a Mountain will be on view as part of Mai 2015 – Mois du mont Royal, on Saturdays and Sundays throughout May, at Les amis de la montagne, in Smith House, in Mount Royal Parc. Public admission is free.

Art Day: Sunday, May 24, 2015   You are also invited to join Urban Sketchers Montréal for a day of drawing and painting on the Mountain on Sunday, May 24, anniversary of the creation of Mount Royal Park.

Find out more about how to submit your work as well as our respective missions and activities: Les amis de la montagne | Urban Sketchers Montréal

affichette-dessine-moi-angWith spring flowers in mind, and knowing that I couldn’t get to the mountain to sketch today, I drew some orchids instead.


Colour fix

This winter has been so long and so cold and so grey. With the snow piled up in small mountains everywhere, there aren’t even any good places to sketch from the car. There are days when I drive around looking for something to draw, and return home empty-handed. That’s when I realize I need a jolt of colour from the forgotten colours on my palette — the reds and greens and yellows that have sat unused while I mix up countless washes of greys. A few weeks ago for my colour fix I bought some flowers at the grocery store, and today I pulled some apples out of the fridge. Although the days are longer and brighter, we still have a long way to go before we see any green.



The second pose

You can probably imagine what the most difficult part of this pose was for me. I was looking at Nancy’s face from below and on the side, and it was so hard to draw. As I mentioned in my post from Monday, Nancy has a tiny face with delicate features. They are even harder to draw when she’s in a prone position, so for this I tried to focus on two things: 1. that beautiful line of her hip against the background and 2. grouping the shadows on her body into big shapes. I’ve been reading Don Andrews book Interpreting the Figure in Watercolor. He uses a technique that he calls linkage, where he unites all the shadow shapes into one. It seems easy in theory but in practice it’s not, because the transitions from light to dark are very subtle on the curves of the body, unless there’s a cast shadow. I imagine the light he uses on his figures is much sharper than what we are dealing with in our life drawing room.



Nancy is a hard model to draw. Her face is tiny and her features are delicate — like a pixie — so when I draw her sitting up, her head always looks too small. I was kind of happy to look at her from this angle, despite the foreshortening. The pose was 30 minutes and the paper is Canson Moulin du Roy, which has a beautiful, soft surface that I find ideal for life drawing. It’s much more responsive to light touches of the brush than Arches (which I’ve been struggling with for weeks) and those lost edges (where her hair goes into the shadow) are easier to achieve. I just read a bit about the paper and this is the quote I find on most websites: special mass and surface sizing allows even and easy pigment spreading and wet strength. I definitely will be using this paper again.


White house in snow on a cloudy day

Painting a white house in snow is a bit like that exercise they make you do in art class 101 where you put some eggs in a white bowl. It’s all about the subtleties of the whites and what surrounds the bowl. Since I couldn’t rely on shadows to provide any contrast, I tried to put lots of detail and texture in the white house and leave the snow fairly untouched. I find that even though I see lots of texture in the snow, if I try to paint it, it just looks odd. Better to make a few simple brush strokes and let it be.
Sketched in Ste. Anne de Bellevue, in a Travelogue Watercolour Journal, 8′ x 8″.


Hills and valleys

I rarely use rough paper but thought I’d give it a try today. I usually find it too bumpy, but the trick, as I found out, is to use really wet washes. I generally don’t seem to mix up enough paint on the palette and end up having a brush that goes dry before it should. With this little experiment, I made sure I had big puddles of wash on the palette for the first wash of orange sky and then later for the large blue areas. And the advantage of this is that when you do want some texture, you can let that big brush go dry and run it over the hills and valleys in the paper.


Yellow dog

As practice for sketching animals with USk Montreal at the Biodome this coming Sunday, I sketched my dog today. I know the animals at the Naturalia room are preserved, but after a long walk the dog didn’t move much either. We usually start Sunday sketching at 10 am but since the room only opens at 10:30, we’ll be beginning a bit later. There’s a café on site so there will be no venturing out into the cold to find a place to eat this time. Hope to see you there!

Sketched in a Stillman & Birn Beta Sketchbook.


The coldest day

When I was drawing in the car today the noon phone-in show was playing on the radio. The subject: What are Montrealers doing differently this winter because of the cold? I listened for long enough to find out that we are eating more take-out food (instead of going to restaurants), walking the dog less (I can attest to that one)… just basically hibernating most of the time. This long spell of extreme cold has also taken a toll on my car sketching. A few years ago when I started drawing from my car there were only a few sub-zero days when I had to paint indoors, but this year we’ve had weeks on end when it’s impossible to stay in the car for more than a few minutes without repeatedly turning on the engine. I spent some time in Ville St. Pierre this morning, watching the bundled pedestrians and hoping to turn out a painting, but left with only one small sketch and ten frozen toes.


Pencil drawing

My Californian sketcher friend Suhita draws people in motion really well. I watched her draw in Barcelona and can attest to the fact that she creates magic with her trusty Sharpie pens. I can’t believe how fast she sketches, and how well she captures gestures of people in crowds. She has recently gone back to figure drawing with a model, and she commented on this blog after I posted something from a studio session. Here’s a snippet of what she said: “…it’s just that when I am drawing the figure fluidly, I am much more confident in all that I draw.” I think about that often, and now carry around a sketch kit in my bag, so that if I have a few minutes and there’s a willing model, I can do a quick drawing. Today I took it out when I was visiting my mother, and I thought that even though I try not to link my drawings with holidays, it might be fitting to post on Valentine’s Day.


Friday wheelbarrow

Are you able to take colour out of the picture (no pun intended) and just think about tone? It’s an interesting exercise. I do this most often in the planning stages of a painting, by drawing a value sketch in pencil, but don’t do it often enough in paint. It’s fine to use a single pigment, Payne’s Grey or Indanthrene Blue, although I used several colours in this one. What’s the value of this exercise (there’s that pun again) and how will it help your sketching? Well, it really forces you to look at the relationships between shapes. Notice, I didn’t say between objects. That’s because the tree and the fence may form one shape (and you’ll see that more clearly if you squint your eyes when looking at a scene.) So, if you look at the relationship between shapes, you may see that the white house in the background is darker than the dark wood shed in sunlight. It takes a little time to adjust to looking at things this way, but makes it a little bit easier to see value relationships when you put colour back in the picture.