An unlikely sight

I can’t believe school has started already. It doesn’t seem fair to be back when summer is still casting a warm glow over Montreal. My only consolation is that I can sneak away on breaks and sketch on campus. I haven’t held a paintbrush in my hand for weeks so the complex architecture on campus was a little too much for me. When I spotted this girl sitting quietly on a bench, the simplicity of the scene seemed just right. Unlike most of her schoolmates checking out their phones around her, she was reading. That is so unusual that I watched her for a while to make sure. And sure enough she seemed to be enjoying a book, oblivious to the lunchtime commotion around her. It was a treat to watch and to sketch.


The town

Just getting round to scanning some of my summer paintings as I prepare for “Art by the Lake”, the outdoor show of the Lakeshore Association of Artists that will take place on September 10 & 11. I painted this in June in Rockport, MA, but with travelling, workshops and family stuff, I haven’t had much time to sit at my scanner.

I love this view of Rockport from Old Harbor Road. You can sit out on a pier and look back at the town that, from that angle, almost seems to be stacked on top of rocks and ladders. Painted on Saunders Waterford CP paper, 15″ x 11″.


Waiting areas

There’s been a LOT of waiting around these past few weeks  — trains, planes and hospitals mostly — but I’ve kept a Leuchtturm sketchbook in my bag with me. It’s one of the many sponsor items that we received in our goodie bag from the USk symposium in Manchester, and I love to try this stuff out when I get home. The paper in this book is thick, bright white and smooth, so perfect for water-soluble brush pen and light washes.


Alice watches the 100m

Alice gets really excited watching the Olympics. She’s rooting for Andre De Grasse. Water-soluble brush pen in a Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook.


Francis Bacon’s studio

I am thankful that my friend Rich steered me to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, not only for the excellent collection of contemporary art but also for a wonderfully voyeuristic view into Francis Bacon’s studio. Some years ago the whole studio (including walls, floor and ceiling) was dismantled and moved from London to Dublin where it has been catalogued and reassembled in all its chaotic disorder, including the steep staircase and rope railing that Bacon climbed every day to reach it. To capture it fully I would have had to draw in a much wider sketchbook, but I did manage to sketch a small pile of objects in a corner of the dimly-lit space. You can’t enter the room but you can walk around it and peer in through several plexiglass windows. My sketch in no way describes the amount of art materials, books, magazines, canvases, easels, boxes, furniture and dust in the room. It must be seen to experience it fully. If you are in Dublin, don’t miss this treasure.

To note: I haven’t been posting as frequently as usual due to health issues with a close family member. When all of that gets resolved I will resume at my regular and more frequent rate.


A workshop with LK Bing

At the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Manchester I had the chance to be a student for a few hours with the very talented Indonesian artist LK Bing. The rainy day was ideal for his workshop “Capturing Atmosphere Using Dramatic Lighting and Fast Spontaneity” and we watched him demonstrate his work as we huddled under a colonnade, trying to stay dry.

The workshop began with a demo of value sketches. Bing spread out all his materials (opaque and transparent watercolours, water-soluble markers, pastels and gouache) on the ground around him, and on small pieces of mat board the size of coasters he quickly sketched a few views of the street in front of him.



Using a toned board, either grey or tan, he often draws in water-soluble marker and then adds both darks and lights in watercolour and pastel or gouache.


We had a chance to try this out as well so I did three quick ones. By this time the rain was falling pretty heavily and we kept moving deeper into the colonnade. The small cards are a perfect size for the exercise because you really can’t get too much detail onto a surface that’s this small.


Our final sketch was a bigger one which I decided to do in my sketchbook. As you can see, the wind added a little extra atmosphere to my page by blowing a fine spray over everything, but this was about atmosphere, right? For some reason the black pen turned pinkish when I went over it with water but I don’t mind the result. Unfortunately I had to rush off before the three hours were over because I had my own workshop to prepare for, but I will be definitely be trying some of LK Bing’s techniques again. He’s such a generous teacher and a really superb painter.


The best gift

There can be no better gift for me (other than chocolates, of course) than when someone places something in my hands and says, “For sketching…”. These tomatoes are from my sister’s garden — the very first fruits of the vine, no less — lovingly picked, carefully transported and generously gifted. Sketched in a Handbook Travelogue Watercolour Journal, 8″ x 5″, painted mostly with Mineral Violet, Quinacridone Gold and Sap Green. A little blue in the shadows.