If you live in Montreal, you’ll probably agree that the light outside is pretty spectacular today. Clear and bright on the fresh snow (unless you are downtown where it’s probably all slush by now) and some great wispy clouds in the sky. When I parked at the golf course my first thought was that wanted to capture the contrast between the warm blue of the sky and the cool blue of the snow shadows. I regret not taking some step-by-step photos of this sketch but I was on my way to school and didn’t have much time. The order of the steps went something like this:
1. Wet the sky with clear water and gently brush in some blue (mostly Cerulean) to create those soft clouds, being careful not to muck around in the sky too much.
2. Mix up a big puddle of the cooler blue (Ultramarine, a bit of Cerulean, and the tiniest dab of Alizarin) and paint in the big snow shapes
3. Wait for the snow to dry and add in the dark rocks
4. Create the row of trees along the rock edge, varying the colour of the wash as you go and thinking about the edges of that shape (hard where trees meet snow and softer and more varied in the sky.)
5. Final steps: a second wash of sharper darks in the (now dry) trees and rocks, and a dab of yellow and red on the little buildings.
There she was, silhouetted against the winter sky in all her tarnished bronze and granite glory. Queen Victoria, high atop her pedestal, reigning over her square in Old Montreal. I was so excited to be out of hibernation — to be sketching in downtown Montreal, to be out of the February rut of going from house to work to house again in the hopes of staying warm — that I fear I made the sovereign a little too big in proportion to the rest of the memorial. But from my view in the doorway of a building she seemed so stately and so grand, and I guess I used a bit of artistic license in my drawing. Sketched with a ballpoint pen in a Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook.
I’m of two minds about the thirty minute poses that we do in life drawing class. Every time the buzzer goes off, I seem to be not quite finished. On the other hand, if we went on for another thirty, then maybe I would start to paint finicky and unnecessary details. If you have only half an hour, you really have to paint fast and try to get colour and value right on the first pass. I suppose I could work smaller (I’m working on quarter sheets of watercolour paper) but that just seems like it would be too tight. Do you go to life drawing class? I’d love to hear what you think the ideal time for a pose is.
The temperature outside is moving up towards zero. A definite improvement over the last few months, and a reason to get out into the car to paint. At Macdonald Farm in Ste. Anne de Bellevue, the farm buildings made a nice backdrop to the trees. I wasn’t really sure how I would deal with the very solid vertical shapes of the silos — almost the same value as the sky, yet slightly warmer in tone. After some thought, I decided to keep them light and let the trees do their dance in the foreground.
I was again experimenting with Canson Moulin du Roy cold pressed paper. For all the reasons I loved it for painting the figure earlier this week (softness and absorbency), it was so wrong (for me) out in the field. I couldn’t get texture where I wanted it (trees, branches, silos) and the big washes (sky, buildings) dried way to quickly for me to go back into them with more colour. It’s almost like working on hot press paper. It’s still beautiful stock, just not quite right for landscape where you want the paper to help you build up some of the texture that’s found in nature.