The right place at the wrong time

My sketch story today has a moral to it: don’t paint on beer delivery day in Pointe Claire.

I chose this parking lot scene because there was some great light on the snow-covered cars in a lot facing the back entrance of a popular bar in Pointe Claire Village. A spotlight, really, on the cars, in front of a jumble of nondescript buildings. Just the kind of thing I love to paint.

img_2443About ten minutes into my drawing, a giant beer delivery truck pulled up and blocked the scene. It blocked it so perfectly it was comical. I thought I could wait it out, so I started drawing the car on the right (at the wrong size, I think, because the beer truck blocked the other cars that I was measuring against). And then I waited some more while the guys opened the truck, took out the lift to carry the kegs, loaded up the lift, went inside the bar, came out of the bar, had a smoke, and chatted.


When I thought they might be leaving, they further blocked by view by placing palettes of kegs in front of the only thing I could see, which was the car that I had already drawn (at the wrong size). And when I thought they couldn’t delay any longer because they had already brought in the full kegs and bottles, they started the process of removing the empties. I guess I had no idea how long this whole thing would take.


Here’s the sketch that I finished up quickly when the truck finally left. By the time I got around to painting it, the sharp light had changed completely and I was pretty frozen.


That’s the bad news about my sketching adventure today.

But the good news for today is that my painting “The Town” has been accepted in the American Watercolour Society’s 150th International Exhibition at the Salmagundi Club in New York City. Even if I have to cancel classes, I hope to be able to make it to New York to see the show, which is on from April 3-22, 2017.



What’s on the menu?

These days in Montreal you don’t know what you’ll wake up to. Rain, ice, snow? Could be any one of these or all three in the same day. Last night I turned out the lights to the sound of rain but woke up to a perfectly white, spray-painted snow city. The beauty of it made me gasp.

I haven’t painted the Chocolatier Marlain building yet this year, so I headed out to see how it looked this morning. As I took out my pad of paper, a big snow plow parked right in front of the shop. I think the driver lives upstairs because he left the engine running for a good long time while he went in for coffee refill. I started the painting from the left side because that was all I could see, and then completed the door and the stairs later when he returned to his cab and drove off.

Lettering on buildings or signage is always an interesting challenge when I’m out sketching. Marlain has a signboard with a menu of frozen dishes that I wanted to put in, but if you paint the words perfectly they become a distraction. They way I treat them is to paint them partially so they look like letters, but not so perfectly that you can read every word. Occasionally I go back to darken bits of the letters, but not all of them.  And if you are interested in lettering and signs, have a look at Suhita Shirodkar’s wonderful sketches of vintage signs in and around San José where she lives.




24th and St. Joseph

With a little time on my hands before my new semester starts, I am painting in a larger format and trying out some new (for me) paper stock. A few months ago I bought a sheet of Schut-Noblesse watercolour paper from Holland and thought I’d give it a try today. This  scene in Lachine is one I sketched quickly in pencil on site this morning, took some reference shots and then painted a larger format (half sheet 15″ x 22″) in my studio in the afternoon. What a luxury it is to have a full day to paint!

I’d love to hear from anyone who has tried this paper. The 140lb cold-pressed surface is quite nice to the touch, but is different than what I’m used to when you paint on it —it reacts almost like a hot-press paper. Even with a fully loaded brush, the washes get absorbed and dry quite quickly, so it’s almost impossible to go back into the puddle with more pigment, or even extend a wash into a new area because there’s almost always a dry edge somewhere. Technical but important details! I probably should have tried out a small sample of the paper before launching into a large painting, right? But once I realized what the paper was like I decided to stick with it and see what happened. I’m not unhappy with the result but I probably won’t buy another sheet, just because I know and love how my usual papers (Arches or Fabriano) react. But if you’ve tried this paper, send me a note and let me know what you think.