If I had $1000

For those of you who have been following this blog for some time, you might have come to realize how important Urban Sketchers is to me. When I discovered urbansketchers.org just over four years ago, it changed my life. Since then I’ve both attended and taught at the international symposia and met people from around the world who share the same love of drawing on location as I do. Sooooo…. if I won $1000 and could donate it to the art charity of my choice, it would naturally be Urban Sketchers. 

Who would you donate your $1000 to?

Here’s the thing. Craftsy.com is having a promotion in the next few weeks in honour of National Craft Month. If you register for any class during the two weeks between February 29 – March 13using the links below, you will be entered into a draw and one student will win the opportunity to donate $1000 to the craft charity of their choice (UrbanSketchers.org perhaps?).

In honour of National Craft Month, we Urban Sketchers/Craftsy.com instructors are banding together to share this opportunity…

…AND when you use the links below, not only does this benefit the instructors, but you will also receive a huge course discount reducing the costs to only $15-$20 per class!  This promotion is only being offered through Craftsy instructors.
So, what is a Craftsy class?  Craftsy offers high quality, online courses that you can watch 
whenever you want — as many times as you want — from any device.  You can ask questions and get responses from the instructors, post comments and sketches, and see the work posted by other participants in the class from around the world!!  Each class consists of 6-7 short lessons and runs about 1.5 – 2.0 hours.
This is a great way to discover a new instructor, and between us, we offer 13 sketching classes!!



 Sketching landscapes
Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink & Watercolor
with Shari Blaukopf
Sketch breathtaking landscapes with confidence using fundamental pen, ink & watercolor techniques.
Click here for a 50% discount and more information about this class.
 Sketching the City
Sketching the City in Pen, Ink & Watercolor with Shari Blaukopf
Simplify any cityscape to capture the character of your favrite urban scenes. Learn how to sketch building facades, textures, windows, and much more.
Click here for a 50% discount and more information about this class.
 Travel sketching
Travel Sketching in Mixed Media with Marc Taro Holmes
Capture the energy and excitement of travel in spontaneous sketches. Learn fast, fun and flexible techniques for sketching on location in mixed media.
Click here for a 50% discount and more information about this class.
 People in motion
Sketching People in Motion with Marc Taro Holmes
Learn fun, simple techniques for sketching people in motion. Capture the action and magic of the moment.
Click here for a 50% discount and more information about this class.
 figure sketching
Figure Sketching Made Simple with Suhita Shirodkar
Make figure sketching fun and fulfilling   Use loose, gestural techniques to quickly draw figures that are brimming with life.
Click here for a 50% discount and more information about this class.
Perspective for Sketchers with Stephanie Bower
Learn three simple steps to quickly sketch architectural scenes with accurate perspective,
lifelike proportions, and beautiful watercolor.
Click here for a 50% discount and more information about this class.
 dynamic detail
Dynamic Detail in Pen, Ink & Watercolor with Steven Reddy
Draw any scene that catches your eye in ink and watercolor! Depict the world around you in fascinating detail using a relaxed, methodical approach.
Click here for a 50% discount and more information about this class.
 energy of places
Essential Techniques for Sketching the Energy of Places with James Richards
Sketch lively urban spaces pulsing with movement.  Get step-by-step guidance for drawing bustling streets, impressive buildings and more.
Click here for a 50% discount and more information about this class.
picture book
Expressive Picture Book Characters with Lynne Chapman 
Use easy, effective techniques to draw believable human and animal characters
with page-turning personality.
Click here for a 50% discount and more information about this class.
 Pen and ink
Pen & Ink Essentials with Paul Heaston (Denver, CO)
Become a better pen and ink artist!  Learn techniques for capturing values, textures and contours you see in the world around you.
Click here for a 50% discount and more information about this class.
 drawing everyday
Sketchbooks: Drawing the Everyday with Paul Heaston
Develop your drawing skills as you learn to capture the world around you in expressive compositions!
Click here for a 50% discount and more information about this class.
Sketching Essentials in Graphite with Matt Brehm
Whether you’re walking through a neighborhood or wandering in nature, build foundational skills for sketching what you see more quickly and easily.
Click here for a 50% discount and more information about this class.
 point of view
Sketching Your Point of View—NEW— with Paul Heaston
Capture ordinary scenes in extraordinary sketches. Learn how to simplify busy spaces, sketch perspective intuitively, depict wide-angle views and more.
Click here for a 50% discount and more information about this class.

Ashes and smoke

La Grande Bibliotheque. Definitely the best place to draw from in Montreal.
Does this sound good?
• A great long corridor with floor to ceiling windows and a view of the backs of the buildings on St. Denis
• Comfortable arm chairs facing the view
• Low tables for sketching gear
• Silence
• Permission to draw
• A sandwich shop on site
• No admission charge
• Metro access
We will certainly be going back there.

I wasn’t happy with the first drawing I did this morning so with under 30 minutes left before lunch, I started this one. Since the view was largely monochrome I used markers to get the tones down quickly because they cover lots of surface area in a short amount of time and dry instantly.


Friday bouquet

The florist in my neighbourhood knows me by now. She recognizes the look I have in my eyes on these bleak and icy February days, when I come into the store looking for signs of spring. A few flowers, nothing fancy, just a bit of colour to get me through the next few months. I cut the stems too short on this bouquet and half the flowers ended up inside the vase, but no matter, I painted them anyway.

If you are looking for a drawing event this weekend, join Urban Sketchers Montreal for Sunday sketching. We are trying out a new venue this month: La Grande Bibliotheque. Meeting time is at 10 am and everyone is welcome. If you arrive late, just wander around and grab a seat near the closest person with a sketchbook.


Bare bones in Manchester

It’s no day for car painting. Once again we have a three phase weather event in Montreal — snow, followed by freezing rain, followed by rain. It’s becoming a pattern this winter. I sketched from my window and painted with Burnt Sienna and Phthalo Blue (except for a bit of red in the car) on some 300 lb rough paper. This limited colour combo makes beautiful warm greys and browns, but it’s not one I use often because Phthalo Blue scares me. It’s very staining and can sometimes overwhelm other colours, but it works really well with Burnt Sienna.

Limited palettes are something I’ll be exploring this summer at the 7th Annual Urban Sketchers Symposium in Manchester from July 27-30. My workshop is called Bare Bones: Exploring Limited Palettes in Watercolour. I’m really thrilled to be an instructor again at the international symposium (this will be my third time teaching) because it’s always the highlight of my year. The programming was announced today and it’s so impressive. There are 26 workshops to choose from, as well as demos, lectures and activities.  If you’ve never attended one of these events, I can’t emphasize enough how stimulating an event it is for urban sketchers. The details of my workshop haven’t been posted yet but I can tell you that it will be about exploring different and unusual colour combinations in your sketches.



Between 6th and 12th

Sunday morning is always a favourite time to paint street scenes — before the stores open and the bustle of the day starts. I love to have the street to myself, and that section of Notre Dame in Lachine, between about 6th and 12th, is ideal because of that small town feel and the old warehouse at the end of the street that closes off the view. I don’t often use pure red in my paintings but that section of the street is lined with red lampposts, so I used a limited palette of organic vermillion, cobalt blue, burnt sienna, cerulean blue and indanthrane blue. Not so limited really, but mostly reds and blues. Painted on Arches 140 lb, cold press, 15″ x 11″. About 2 hours.


Bird island

Photographing my paintings from my West Coast trip the other day reminded me that I had also travelled to the very easternmost point in Canada that same summer. There are still some scenes from Newfoundland that haven’t been painted, so I thought I would work on one of those today. Elliston (previously known as Bird Island because of the puffin colonies) is on the Bonavista Peninsula. I walked out to that far rock to see the puffins (on another rock hidden from view) but at the top of the rock I was on, there was the most unusual sight — dozens of single black bird wings (not puffins), separated from heads and torsos, scattered on the top of the hill. It was strangely horrifying and not something I’m likely to forget any time soon. In this scene, I painted the sky first starting with a  diluted wash of Raw Sienna. I find that if I don’t add that touch of yellow, a sky composed of only greys or blues is a little bit flat. Once that warm wash is on, I used a mix of Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna for the clouds. Painted on 1/8 sheet of Arches cold press paper, 11″ x 7.5″.


Mackaye Harbor

Two summers ago I had the chance to travel to the West Coast of both Canada and the USA.  One of the places that I will never forget from that trip was Lopez Island, where I took a watercolour workshop with Tom Hoffmann. The skies on Lopez are amazing. The clouds must swirl around the San Juan Islands constantly because they often look like smudges in the sky. When I returned home that summer I painted a full sheet watercolour of the view of Mackaye Harbour, but I never got around to photographing it until today when I was shooting some other large format watercolours.


A question about paper

Can watercolour paper deteriorate over time? I’m asking because I don’t know the answer to this question. I received some old Arches paper, stacks of it really, both 140 and 300 lb, cold press and rough finishes. I’ve been using it occasionally, but have never really been satisfied with the results. In fact, it made me think I didn’t like Arches paper at all, which is in fact not true. I’m not sure  where the paper was stored, but I am pretty certain it was kept dry. When I take a brush to it, the texture is just not right, and the paper seems flat and seems to have lost its sharp edge, if that makes any sense.

This first sketch is one I painted on new Arches paper. When I run a dryish brush along the paper I get what I am looking for, which is a textured line. I am also happy with the way the paint granulates in the hills and valleys of the paper.


The second sketch is a detail of the same setup, painted on the old stock of Arches paper. The granulation is much less apparent and I can’t get those nice edge effects. I am curious to hear if you have had a similar experience with old paper. If this paper is no good, I am wondering why I’m letting it take up shelf space in my studio.


Cold, cold

My neighbour’s yard, sketched on a very cold day, through the fog of a terrible cold. I haven’t taken a sick day in years but I stayed home today to get over this, and since I don’t really know how to do nothing, I sketched. The view through the fallen fence to the next yard is best at the end of the afternoon when the shadows are long. When I look at this now, it seems a bit fuzzy, which perfectly matches how I feel today.


Awful beautiful

Awfully cold but very beautiful in Montreal today. Too cold to even sit in a pre-heated car to paint, so this was done from my window, on Arches 140 lb cold press paper (because when the snow is this blinding you need really white paper!) The weatherman says that this is the coldest day since last winter, and tomorrow will be much the same.