Wintercreeper. What a great name for a plant. I was doing some more catching up today — this time in my garden — and found these little orange and white berries hidden under the leaves of this groundcover. I’ve never seen them before so I cut a branch and brought it in to sketch. Good excuse to stop working in the garden…


Catching up with my favourite tree

It seems that I’ve missed all of the fall foliage. I’m just back from Denver (working on another online course for and while I was away most of the trees in Montreal lost their leaves. All except the big sugar maples, and included in that group is my favourite tree. It lives on a street not too far from my home and every year, because of its distance from power lines, it manages to stay out of the way of chain saws and retain its near-perfect dome shape.

Preparation for my new online class has taken up most of my spare time for the past few months but I’m happy to be back and hopefully will be posting more regularly now. Just in time for the last of the leaves and the start of snow painting season.


Larimer at dusk

I don’t paint night scenes too often but yesterday I arrived in Denver in the afternoon and by the time I got out to sketch it was dusk. On Larimer Street there’s a Dia de los Muertos festival happening so I sat outside to draw the strings of lights and I drew until all the colours faded to black.  I couldn’t post this until today because the internet has been down in my hotel for the past 24 hours.  Seems ridiculous that it hasn’t been fixed but here I sit, in a Starbucks, writing this and hoping it comes back soon.   

Sketching with my students

This year at the college where I teach we’re trying something for the first time. Pedagogical Activities for Student Success Day is all about doing things with students outside of a classroom setting. There are no classes for the day and each department gets to choose an activity for students. In our department students presented their video game designs in the morning and in the afternoon we visited the McCord Museum to see the exhibit of graphic designer Vittorio Fiorucci “Montreal Through the Eyes of Vittorio“. Following that we had a sketch outing. Since the museum is right across from the campus of McGill University, and since the day was nothing short of perfect for late October, we spent an hour or so sketching from the stairs of the Redpath Museum. Something to note is that these were all optional activities, so I’m impressed that we had such a great turnout. I think about 30% of our students participated, which is pretty miraculous considering that they could have stayed home, slept in or watched movies. I took a photo of some of them sketching from the Redpath and they kindly gave me permission to post it on my blog. And a big thanks to Hugo who lent me a yellow pencil so I could complete my sketch.

FromRedpath FromRedpathIMG_1340

Tangle of wires

In my sketchbook there are still a few drawings from the summer that haven’t been scanned. I’ve been saving them for a week when I can’t get out to draw. Well, this is it — I’m snowed in under a pile of midterm grading and it’s time to haul out the book.

This sketch was one I did in Siem Riep, Cambodia. I had never seen utility poles like this anywhere, although I’m sure they exist in many places. The moment I arrived in town, this was high on my list of things to draw. Also worth mentioning: this wasn’t the best of the bunch (bigger tangles exist on other streets) but this one was facing a cafe which is always my number one criterion for picking a drawing spot.


More like eight hours

My delay in Toronto (en route to Chicago) last Friday turned out to be longer than expected so I had lots of time to draw. I was travelling very light —carrying only a pencil, some pens, a water brush and some drawing books (it is Inktober, after all) so I made the most of my time by drawing both in Toronto and then at the airport. I finished the drawing of the Victorian house across from the museum using only a Sharpie pen and a Pentel brush pen.

SixHours1 I did a little thumbnail of the skyline from the island airport, using a Pilot fine liner (water-soluble) and my Koi water brush.SixHours2When the plane was further delayed, instead of eating the free Porter snacks, I expanded my thumbnail into a more complete drawing.SixHours3 And then did one final thumbnail of the CN tower from the plane just before takeoff. Glad I did all this drawing in Toronto because I didn’t have much time to draw in Chicago. I’ll have to go back there again when I have more time, but tomorrow I’ll post a few of the mini drawings.SixHours4

Six hours to kill

On my way to Chicago… My flight from Toronto to Chicago was cancelled. The next flight is in in six hours! Luckily I was at the Toronto Island airport so downtown is only a short hop away. My Chicago plan was to be at The Art Institute but since that didn’t work out I’m at the AGO, drawing the view from here. Hopefully tomorrow’s post will be from the Windy City.  


Roadwork ahead

There’s some roadwork going on in my neighbourhood, diverting lots of traffic onto my street. I took my sketchbook out this morning to see where the action was. It was a good opportunity to paint the gently changing colours in the trees.



I sketched this a few weeks back and just discovered that I hadn’t posted it. I guess it’s the last boat drawing of the year, sketched in a Pentalic sketchbook with no pen lines. The boat shapes from this viewpoint are so complex that I treated it very abstractly. If you try to figure out what mast goes with what boat, or even whether certain darks are part of the boats or the water, you get lost in the details. Instead, in my mind’s eye, I try to flatten the shapes into patterns of lights and darks, horizontals and verticals, and bright and muted colours. And then cross my fingers and hope the spots and dots look like boats.


Two Rivers triptych

Last week I received a special gift — a sample pack of cotton/linen Two Rivers watercolour paper (available at Jackson’s in the UK). Lovely gift it was. But what to paint on it? It took a bit of time but it finally came to me. The three panels of paper are just a little too small for painting on individually, so I taped them together and painted on them all at once. What a perfect way to compare surfaces. On the left is the thinnest (140 lb NOT), on the right is 200 lb NOT, and the middle piece is the thickest beauty — the 300 lb NOT. Gorgeous paper, wonderful for granulating colours and amazing for lifting because of the “hard sizing”. If you are interested in trying it out, have a look at the sample pack on the Jackson’s website.