Happy new year!

A few things I’m happy to have found in 2015:

Fluid watercolour blocks
New triads like this one (Cerulean Blue, Quin Gold, Pyrrol Orange)
A platinum carbon pen
Pentallic sketchbooks
Da Vinci Casaneo brushes
And lastly — the time to sketch

I hope you have the best possible start to the new year, and a productive 2016 with lots of learning and discovery!


New view

During my absence over Christmas there was apparently a huge wind storm. I know this because the neighbour’s fence fell down, and in the process it offered me a new view for my wheelbarrow sketches. The neighbour didn’t have time to fix the fence before the snow storm hit us today, so those sections may very well remain under the snow for months. The white stuff is still falling and we may end up with 35 cm. before it’s all over tonight, so I sketched from my kitchen window today. With cars sliding all over the roads and ending up in ditches, it was no day to be out sketching in my car studio.

Sketched in a Handbook Journal Watercolour book, 9″ x 12″. Falling snow added by flicking white acrylic paint from a dry toothbrush.


Driving south

I love painting the changing panorama on a long highway drive, which in today’s sketch is the road through central Vermont. The cloud cover was low when I started and by the time I was done, we were in complete fog. The view is different with every bend in the road, so I begin by drawing a few lines with a pencil. As I start to paint the shapes of the mountains shift, but the colours and the clouds are basically the same. A green patch here, some rusty pines over there. A basic structure and then a little bit of improv. The only constant: the road in front and the heavy clouds overhead. 



Receiving a book in the mail is always a thrill, but today it was even more so because the book was Miguel Herranz’s “here and there (again)”, drawings from 2012-2015. I met Miguel a few years ago at the Urban Sketchers symposium in Santo Domingo and had a chance to leaf through his sketchbook during a lecture we both attended. If you were sitting next to me you might have seen my jaw hit the floor. His sketchbook is like an illustrated manuscript, each page more astonishing than the one before. I’ve probably talked about his work in previous posts, but if you haven’t seen it, here is his Flickr stream. You’ll see what I mean. I bought the book through his crowd funding project so I don’t know if it’s readily available, but it’s a treat to have the book in hand so I can really study the detail in the sketches.

I guess I had his pen drawings in mind when I was sketching in Pointe Claire Village today. There’s still no snow in Montreal, but the winter colours are quite beautiful on an overcast day. And with all this rain we’ve been having, it seems to me that the grass is getting greener every day. Sketched in a Handbook Watercolour Journal, 8″ x 8.


Sugar shack blues

My intention this week was to paint a snow scene for my holiday blog post, but alas, the ground is bare, the sky is grey and heavy rain is falling. It’s not even a day for painting from my car. The sugar shack, painted from my studio, will have to suffice.

Despite the weather, my message is the same. I wish you a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year. Thanks to everyone who brought me so much joy this year — by emailing and commenting on the blog, by sending me suggestions and links to look at, and by coming out to sketch at workshops and with our Sunday group in Montreal. I hope that 2016 is filled with many sketching hours for everyone.


A winter palette

I’ve been experimenting with different colour palettes for this snowless winter we’ve been experiencing. Today I went out with three tubes of paint: Burnt Sienna, Indanthrene Blue and Raw Sienna. I love the combo of the first two and they make a luscious grey, but tomorrow I’ll swap out the Raw Sienna and replace it with Quinacridone Gold, in the hopes of achieving richer and deeper yellows in my washes.


Lemon lime

The day started out full of promise. No classes, no grading, no meetings. A day at home that could begin with a sketch. Nothing too ambitious, just something to get me back into painting again. But it didn’t go as well as anticipated. I started and restarted and then started again. Changing subjects, changing tools, changing palettes. It just wasn’t working out for me, and I couldn’t figure out why. And then it came to me. It was all about pace. Working life has one pace for me — fast. But the pace for painting and drawing and looking is different. It’s much slower. And it’s sometimes hard to transition between the two. To slow down enough to draw carefully, to think about what you are doing, and to really look at things. But I was persistent. I slogged through the duds, and in the end it was my lemon lime still life that saved my day.



Isn’t the weather strange in Montreal? Around this date last year, I was painting the snowy view from my window.  But this week it has been eerily balmy (global warming?  El Niño??) and there were some December temperature records broken (warm ones of course). The driver/dog walker in me likes the dry roads, but the painter part of me is longing for the snow to fall. With this muted landscape, I find myself drawn to the complexities of an individual object like a tree, this one painted on a quarter sheet of beautiful Two Rivers paper  — a gift from a sketcher visiting from Yorkshire who painted with our Urban Sketchers Montreal group in September. Thanks again Terry.


Wind down

My teaching semester is winding down. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. Some free time in sight. Two more classes to teach, a few meetings, a pile of projects to grade and then…hopefully some days to paint and draw in the next few weeks before classes start up again in January. Alice, on the other hand, has a much lighter workload, and she agreed to pose for me today.


“Sketching the City” is live!

I’m really thrilled to announce that my second online class “Sketching the City” went live today on Craftsy.com. I had a lot of input for the content of this one and I tried to include a lessons about each of the things I love to work on when I sketch in urban settings — drawing facades, adding details to windows and doors, sketching poles and wires, and painting shadows. Like my first class “Sketching Landscapes”, there are seven lessons in the 2.5 hour class and you’ll see me draw in pen and ink, and then add watercolour to my drawings.


If you’ve never taken a Craftsy class before, you should check them out.  As an instructor, I have to admit that I enjoy the interactive process of seeing people’s sketches and getting to answer questions. As a student, you have lifetime access to the classes you buy, and you can watch the courses on your computer, iPad or phone, at your own pace. You can also ask questions to the instructors and post your projects.


As I did with my first video, I’m offering a 50% off link to readers of this blog. I hope you enjoy the class!