I don’t mind returning to Avenue Ste. Anne in Pointe Claire again and again. In fact I’ve drawn so many buildings along that street and painted in my car so often that residents must think I live in the neighbourhood. Even though I only had an hour to sketch on my way to school today, I was happy to paint that narrow view down the street. It’s the poles that make it work for me — the rhythm and the movement that they create — as well as the old houses with their unusual shapes and colours. I haven’t drawn in a few days, and that is always problematic for me. Rust sets in quickly in my drawing hand and there are usually a couple of false starts before the pencil marks are loose enough to satisfy me. I used a limited palette for this one (Cobalt Teal, Alizarin Crimson, Quin Gold and a few strokes of Naples Yellow) which seemed to suit the muted colours of late November in Montreal.
Date: March 16-18, 2016
Location: Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina
Because of my college teaching schedule, my workshops usually take place during the summer. This year, I was invited to give a workshop in Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina, during my spring break, and I have to admit, the prospect of heading south during winter was too good to pass up. All the details are on my workshop page, including a very enticing description of the place. Have a look and if you are interested, contact me.
Our Urban Sketchers Montreal group usually meets once a year at McGill’s Redpath Museum to sketch the dinosaurs, taxidermy animals, shells and assorted samples in their natural history collections. I often think I’m going to draw something else, but when I get there I go no further than the dinosaurs and skeletons. Today I wasn’t in the mood to use a pen or pencil — I went directly to brush silhouettes. I was working in a Pentallic sketch book which has great watercolour paper and is perfect for this type of loaded brush work. I think the key to having this work successfully is to always have enough water on your brush, otherwise you end up with dry edges in the middle of an area (which I have sometimes). It’s a great exercise to try because you really have to look at the overall shape of things, as well as the negative spaces, and not worry too much about counting ribs and pointy teeth.
Last week I announced a draw to win my second Craftsy class “Sketching the City in pen, ink and watercolor”. The draw closed on Wednesday and I’m happy to report that someone who follows this blog is the lucky winner: congrats to Carolyn from Louisville, Kentucky! I know you’ve already heard from me by email but thought I’d post it here too. The class will be live in a couple of weeks, and I will send you your link as soon as it launches.
The picket line. Yet another place — like the beach or the market — where you can draw people in motion. But can you call it people in motion when they are mostly standing in one place, shifting from foot to foot and trying to stay warm? For me, that qualifies.
On my second day on the picket line I did a bit more drawing and it turned out to be a bit of an ice breaker too. The building I work in is somewhat removed from the rest of the college, so this allowed me the chance to get acquainted with other teachers. When word got around that there was someone sketching the crowd, I had quite a few people come over to have a look over my shoulder, including someone who mistook me for a reporter doing a story on the strike. I assured him that I am not a reporter, but I guess in an urban sketchers kind of way, I am.
The teachers in Quebec are on strike today — at least a lot of us are who work in public schools and colleges. I did the morning shift on the picket line and of course brought along my sketchbook. It was mighty cold out there at that hour but the sun was shining which made it a little more tolerable. Time does NOT pass quickly on a three-hour picketing shift (especially when the temperature is just above freezing). One of the other teachers said it must be how students feel in a three-hour class. I’ve never been on strike before. It’s a noisy affair. Strikers blowing noisemakers and sympathetic drivers honking their horns as they pass on the road. Another day of strikes tomorrow…
I am a firm believer in planning a painting. For me, if a painting doesn’t work out it’s more than likely the result of one of two things: I didn’t spend enough time planning or I didn’t spend enough time drawing. When I went out to Macdonald Farm this morning I spent a few minutes driving around, trying to decide what to paint. I love the view across the corn to John Abbott College, and I’ve sketched it before in winter, but they don’t always plant corn in this field so I was happy to see the remnants of it today. The first thing I did before I put pencil to paper (watercolour paper, that is) was to draw my thumbnail sketch. That helped me make one important decision. What is the division of space on the page? One third sky and two thirds foreground, or the opposite? You can see below what I chose. The thumbnail is a scribble, really, but it gives me a direction and allows me a few minutes to think about what I’m going to paint. And if I decide that the thumbnail isn’t really interesting, then I’ve only lost a few minutes and a tidbit of paper, and I can move on and try something else.