Again and again

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.


March 2016 workshop: Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina

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.

Dem bones

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.



A bouquet for the winner

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.


Strike day

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…


Corn birds

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.



Summer workshop in Galway, Ireland

I’ve always wanted to sketch in Ireland, so I’m thrilled to announce a new workshop from July 14-16, 2016. I’ll be joining my Montreal sketching partner Marc Taro Holmes and Irish correspondent Roísín Curé for three days of sketching in Roísín’s hometown of Galway, Ireland.

You’ll enjoy two demos per day – seeing firsthand how we plan and execute a sketch on location. We’ll demonstrate classic urban sketching skills such as: how to see compositions in the field, sketching with pen and ink, tinting your sketches with watercolor, and even painting directly with color.

You’ll spend one full day with each of the three instructors. We’ll visit a different drawing location for each morning and afternoon. Every demo will be followed by a chance to apply what you’ve seen on your own sketches — with plenty of feedback from the instructors.

Join us and your fellow students for a meet-and-greet Wednesday evening before classes begin, then again each evening for a sketchbook show-and-tell, sharing everyone’s work from the day.

If you’re interested, all the registration info is on Marc’s workshop page. Hope to see you in Ireland!

Galway Galwaypanorama

Dark and stormy

At 2 pm today it was as dark as night. The last of the leaves blew off the oak tree (which is a good thing since I can rake them all up on the weekend) and my neglected wheelbarrow begged to be painted. I’m still experimenting with a triad of Quin Gold, Alizarin Crimson and Cobalt Teal (with a few dabs of Naples Yellow) on a block of Fluid watercolour paper. I guess because of the darkness of the day, instead of playing with wetness and transparency, I pushed the paint towards dryness and opacity. It performed almost like gouache. This isn’t my preferred way of working but I was glad to try something different, to learn from experimentation about the properties of these pigments, and to go overboard with the thickness of the paint. Working with opaque paint also made me want to give oils a try someday. It felt good to add light on top of dark — something we don’t get to do very often in watercolour.


Sketching the City: Win a free 7-part video course!

I am so thrilled to announce my second online course on It’s called “Sketching the City in Pen, Ink and Watercolor” and it’s a follow-up to my first course “Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink and Watercolor“. It will go live in a few weeks but between now and November 18th I’m giving away the new class for FREE to one lucky winner. Click here to enter:


I’m especially thrilled to launch this class because it covers so many topics that I use in my daily sketching: composition; drawing and painting textures on different building surfaces like brick and stone; techniques for painting windows and doors; adding life to your cityscape with people, signage, poles, wires and trees as well as light & shadow. The class ends with me sketching a city panorama on location in Denver.

I`ve really been enjoying interacting with students in my first online class — answering questions, looking at projects and hearing about what people would like to learn. That`s how this class came about — because so many people asked for another class in sketching cityscapes. It was really fun to design it with that in mind. My scenes are the places I love to sketch: Montreal, Brooklyn, Rockport and even Denver, and they reflect the types of scenes you can find where you live too.


When the class goes live in a few weeks I’ll post it here but in the meantime watch to see if you are the lucky winner of the draw. I will post it here in a little over a week’s time.