Five o’clock shadow

I love to draw Montreal’s alleys — especially when there’s good light and shadow at the end of the day — but I’ve never really thought much about them since I’ve grew up in this city and they’re so familiar to me. I started wondering about their history today while scanning my sketch. Are they a unique feature of the city, like our outdoor staircases? Probably not, but I haven’t travelled enough in neighbourhoods of other cities to know. Some of these lanes are actually really narrow streets and even have names, but I think the best ones are the nameless ones because they are almost too narrow for a car to go through and that makes them perfect for pedestrians. The best time to meander through is in the summer when you can catch glimpses of the backs of the houses and gardens in Mile End or the Plateau, and especially in late summer when the tomatoes are ripe and grape vines are spilling over the fences.


19 Comments on “Five o’clock shadow”

  1. christine says:

    Lovely post, Shari. And I want to say how fabulous your sketches look in Simone Ridyard’s new book! Bravo!


    • Hi Christine. I am waiting for my copy of the book. All I saw was a quick preview in Singapore when Simone showed it to me. It really did look great. Thanks for letting me know.
      Hope you are well.


  2. Suzy Frisbee says:

    You make me want to come to Montreal!


  3. Leigh Youdale says:

    Hi Shari, there may be a very utilitarian history to your narrow laneways. In the old parts of Sydney many houses back on to narrow laneways that run parallel to the streets out front. They are wide enough for a horse and cart but not a modern automobile. Their purpose was to give a discreet access to the “dunny man” who emptied the cans in the backyard toilets in the days before sewerage. Nobody wanted the sight or smell of the cans being carried past their side windows out to the Main Street.


  4. susancooke says:

    You have brought me down memory lane!


  5. Monique says:

    Exactly where my friend Nancy the artist now lives..
    I live in the country so it is almost exciting to me to person..but ..

    coming home is where I belong.


  6. I’m from Montreal originally but then moved to Memphis, Tennessee for about 25 years (now in Charleston, SC). Anyway, the alleys in the historic district in Memphis are for the garbage trucks. Some homes also have access from the alley into the back of their garage. Very narrow, very quaint but I often wished we had that extra space in our yard instead of having it fenced off and not really usable. Thx for the share!


    • Thanks for writing. You probably have a lot of beautiful houses to sketch in Charleston (a place I’ve always wanted to visit) and Memphis is a place that is on my list too. I understand what you mean about the extra space in the yards though, and I’m sure it’s the same in Montreal, but I love the narrow spaces and the light that travels through them which is why I find them intriguing to sketch.


  7. Carolyn says:

    Hidden treasures brought to life by your extraordinary talent!


  8. Shari, I too love the alleys here in Naples, they afford you the best place to sketch and not run into a hundred people asking if you do this for fun. Your colors are changing a bit since your trip, or is it just my critical eye? Bravo in either case! Jacques


    • Hi Giovanni. Welcome back. I followed your journey from afar but I only saw photos. Where are the sketches?? Don’t tell me you only took your camera.
      Nothing new about my colours here except a little bit of Cobalt Teal in the road.


  9. Ross says:

    I love the intensity of colour in this one.

    I hope you don’t get into trouble lurking around in back alleys. Actually, I seem to recall that you have had some trouble in alleys… I guess you are getting brave again.


    • I never lurk Ross. I always stand at the place where the main street meets the alley, but sometimes trouble finds me.


      • Ross says:

        The title of the post refers to being in the “shadows” and you describe your behaviour as “…best time to meander through is in the summer when you can catch glimpses of the backs of the houses and gardens” …sounds a bit like you are “lurking” to me… try looking up “lurk” in the dictionary.


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