Water line

How much can you achieve with one wash of colour? In this ink and wash sketch, I wanted to convey the image of the pole, ladder and granite blocks that are pale at the top but dark and moss-covered at the bottom where the tide waters go up and down each day. I started with an ink drawing and then painted with a wash that was quite light at the top. As I painted downward I kept adding paint into the lower wet area— blue, green and rust all combined to give that mossy effect. When that initial wash dried, I painted the cast shadows and a bit more texture on the upper rocks. The little darks between the rocks were the final step. I suppose I could have painted it rock by rock but I wanted it to look like my sheet had been dipped in dark water — more like the pole and the ladder had been— and this seemed like more of an effective way to do it. Sketched in a Travelogue Watercolor Journal, 5″ x 8″.


Sirop d’érable

On this really cold and rainy day at the end of June it warmed my heart to see how many people came out to Urban Sketchers Montreal Sunday sketching. Truthfully, I wondered if anyone would show up in such miserable weather but there were at least a dozen of us diehards (parkas and scarves and rubber boots on) and even some new faces. Even though we were sheltered from the rain at the Jean Talon Market, it was still mighty blustery. This coming September will be the third anniversary for our Montreal group and it’s great to see that it’s still growing.



There’s nothing more vibrant than a field of canola in bloom. I was visiting a friend who moved to a house in an agricultural area and this is what I could see from her back deck. If I lived there, I’d paint that view and the vast sky just about every day. This was sketched on some Canson paper left over from my Craftsy course preparation — long strips of paper that are perfect for little landscapes.


Martin 16

I had a little time today to take some shots of work in progress that I will be using for my workshop at the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Singapore. The workshop is called “Big Brush Colour: capturing that first impression” and this was a perfect example of what we will be working on in the class.

When I arrived at the Pointe Claire Yacht Club this morning, the instructors were setting up the Martin 16 sailboats. These boats are built to allow children and adults with disabilities to sail (and leave their wheelchairs behind). I did a quick pencil drawing because I knew the boats might sail away at any moment. The first wash that I put on surrounded all the white sails, and as you can see, it’s pretty loose at this stage.

Martin16_Step1 In the second step, I started to add the shapes of the darks (the row of trees behind the boats, the darks under the docks and some of the reflections.Martin16_Step2 I was pretty fortunate that the boats stayed there for a long time so I was able to put in some detail. The colour may be slightly different since the final painting is scanned — not photographed in the field like the earlier phases. And how did I know when it was time to stop? When I glanced up and the boats had sailed away.Martin16_Step3

Gloucester Harbour

Can you understand why I love the harbour scenes in Gloucester? It’s this contrast of big shapes and small ones, lights and darks, straight lines and curves that make it so fascinating and so much fun to paint. I worked on this by starting with the big shapes of the sky, the buildings, the boats and the water. Then I added the details like the reflections, the dark shapes between the pilings, the windows and the shadows. Good thing I started with those big shapes because when I was about halfway through a huge fishing boat pulled in to unload and blocked about 3/4 of my view. I was able to complete the details mostly from memory and partially from the bit of the scene that I could still see. Painted on Arches 140 lb CP paper, 15″ x 11″.


Winslow Homer lived here

Eastern Point Lighthouse is at the eastern entrance to Gloucester Harbour in Cape Ann, and it’s true — Winslow Homer did live here in 1880. I painted this from the Dog Bar Breakwater that extends 1/2 km into the harbour. At first I was tempted to set up my easel but ended up painting from a seated spot on the granite blocks with my board leaning against my knapsack. Not the most comfortable position for painting but certainly a safer one in the event of wind. One good gust would have sent the easel and painting flying into the water below, and my brushes into the cracks between the granite. Size: 15″ x 11″. Painted on Arches 140 lb CP.


My uncle is not the president

My uncle is not the president but by some combination of mix- up and luck, he ended up sleeping in the presidential suite at this hotel where we are all staying for a family event. From his giant terrace, there’s an incredible panorama of Manhattan but what I sketched was more towards the New Jersey side — Ellis Island (where my grandparents landed when they first came to America) and the Statue of Liberty behind that. I’ve always wanted to have a tour of the island but in the meantime I have my sentimental sketch to tide me over. 



There’s no other skyline like it. Sketched early in the morning using cerulean blue and Winsor red.   

Pole to pole

From my deck there’s a great view of the back of the shops along Bearskin Neck in Rockport, and I think I enjoy sketching this more than I do the facades. There’s not a straight building in the bunch and they seem to be held together by a jumble of wires and electric poles. What a great study in repeating patterns of triangular roofs and rectangular shingles.   

The mystery of memory

Somewhere in a file drawer of my memory there was a pirate ship on the water, a house next to it and a jetty that faded into a thick blanket of fog. I was pretty sure it was a scene from a childhood trip to the Massachusetts coast. When I was in Salem today on a museum visit I had to make my way down to the waterfront to see if Salem was indeed the place, and sure enough it was exactly the picture I have had in my mind all these years, minus the fog. It’s funny how strong those visual memories can be. And in case you are wondering what those bits and pieces from my file drawer are — the jetty is Derby Wharf with the Derby Wharf Light down at the end, the house is the Pedrick Store House and the ship is the Friendship of Salem, a replica of a 1797 East Indiaman. 

Now here’s the funny thing. The house was transplanted from Marblehead in 2007, the ship was built in 2000, and my childhood trip to the Massachusetts coast was long before that. So where was that memory from?