Shape shifters

I missed launch day at the Pointe Claire Yacht Club by one day. It was actually yesterday but that’s ok — there’s still a reason to celebrate today because the boats are in the water for the summer. As I was sketching today I thought a bit about why I love painting boats. Yes, the shapes are complex and a challenge to draw so that is one of the reasons. But the other thing I love is that it’s a scene that’s in constant flux. The boats are always moving slightly in the water, bobbing and turning with the waves. And as the wind shifts, the reflections change too. It’s a scene that is never the same when you pick up your head. The way I paint boats is to work from big to small. First all the larger shapes — hulls, sky, water, sail covers. Then lots of smaller shapes like windows, masts and reflections. And the final step is the complex network of tiny dark shapes that give the complexity to the scene — ropes, flags, lines, dots and tiny spots.



House of worship or simply house?

I finally had a chance today to sketch this church on Blvd. St. Laurent at the entrance to Little Italy. As I often do when I arrive home, I went straight to Google to find out the name of it because it didn’t seem to be posted out front. It took a little digging   until I realized it’s a church no more. In fact Église St-Jean-de-la-Croix was converted to condos sometime in the 2000s. If I had been sitting right across from it I probably would have seen the telltale signs — lots of windows, balconies, maybe even lawn chairs and planters — but I was parked a little ways down the street and didn’t see the lower part of the building at all.


Spring in the hood

Yikes, there’s a heat wave in Montreal and everything is opening and blooming all on the same day, including the ferns in front of my house that are growing about an inch every hour. Last week there seemed to be no buds on the trees and this week some of them are almost fully leafed out. I stoppped to sketch on my way to school today, on a street not too far away from my house, to record some of the action as it unfolds and unfurls. There’s only a short window of opportunity when the trees are this pale green — when they darken I find that they are far less interesting. Today I used a limited palette of Azo Yellow, Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine Blue, with a little Manganese Blue in the sky added in at the end.


Hilary’s garden

It’s a near perfect day for sketching outside and the light in my neighbour’s yard was just right for painting some spring greens. I sketched on Canson Moulin du Roy today. It’s quite an absorbent paper  — not my favourite to be honest — but I have lots of little sheets leftover from a recent project so I’m trying to use them up. It seems that no matter how much water I have on the brush it dries more quickly than I expect. I bought it originally for ink and wash sketches because it’s smooth enough for the pen line, but every time I use it with pencil and watercolour I’m left a little bit frustrated with the way it performs.


Canada Malting Silos

There are some great places to paint along the Lachine Canal — especially the industrial buildings like the abandoned Canada Malting Silos. Today was the first day out with my easel and since I’m often asked what my outdoor setup is I took a quick phone photo to post. I use the Eric Michael’s En Plein Air Pro which is basically a flat panel attached to a standard tripod, along with a shelf that holds my palette. It has a hole for a water cup and also some holes for brushes. It’s a great kit, it’s light, it fits into a knapsack and I carry it for most of the summer. For the purposes of the photo, I moved the easel out into the sun but I painted under the shade of a pine tree. I can never see anything on my paper unless I’m in the shade!

This was a very complex structure to paint. As you can see from the photo the silos go on and on… Next time I may try getting more of the building in there. The silos I left out were the newer concrete ones, but the ones in my painting are covered in clay tiles. I suspect the whole thing will be torn down one of these days — you can see the building is covered in graffiti — so it’s important to paint it before it goes.




Last week in life drawing I used conté to draw Christian, but this week that was too rough for Marie’s features so (after a few failed attempts) I switched to pencil and that worked much better. These sessions are ending in a few weeks and I’ll be sorry to stop for the summer. There’s no doubt that the time spent in life drawing is the most relaxing three hours of the week. Everything outside the room melts away and the only focus is trying to get the lines and shapes of the model’s face and body right.



It’s not often that you get to see a nest like this at eye level so I took advantage and sketched it before it gets taken down. Of course the first thing I thought of when I saw it in my garden was Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” It just needs a pair of hands on either side, doesn’t it?

If you really want to see some beautiful sketches of nests, eggs, birds and other nature drawings, have a look at Jean Mackay’s blog. Not only are the drawings incredible, but I love how she incorporates calligraphy onto the pages of her sketchbooks.

Sketched in a Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook. Size: 9″ x 12″