East and west sides of Bishop

If you live in Montreal and haven’t visited the new wing of the Museum of Fine Arts, get yourself down there. No only will you see lots of new galleries including some of contemporary art, but there’s also a multi-level open space with views along Bishop St. and plenty of places to sit and draw. We had our monthly Urban Sketchers Montreal outing there today, and probably our biggest turnout ever. Besides the sketchers, it seemed like half of Montreal was visiting the museum and the blockbuster Chagall show that is on as well. Walking through the new wing I noticed crowds of young people looking at the art —which might be in part because there was free admission today — but nevertheless it made me really happy to see what a vibrant place our museum has become.


I sketched two views looking down Bishop St., one detailed pen and wash view and one looser one with no preliminary drawing where I just had fun drawing shapes with the brush.


Studio circles

It’s a grey day in Montreal, and that means it’s a perfect time to draw ellipses, which for some reason require frequent practice. I know all the rules but it takes several tries with the pencil before they start to look something close to correct. Luckily there are plenty of circles in my studio to use as models. This sketch is mostly done with three colours: Cerulean Blue, Winsor Red and Yellow Ochre, but it’s hard to mix a real dark with these so near the end I mixed up some Alizarin and Phthalo Green for the darkest bits.


Tarps ‘n hulls

At this point in the winter I am itching to find outdoor subjects of interest but most of what I find is grey. The lake is still frozen but in the distance the shrouded boats provide some notes of colour and the complex shapes, both large and small, and light and dark, create an appealing pattern. In amongst the tarps and hulls I see movement. No doubt some eager sailors working on their boats and looking forward to spring as much as I am.



The most challenging subject to paint in my neighbourhood today is the road. The thermometer is up in the positives, and after all the snow we had earlier in the week, there are some good reflections to be found. Besides the puddles, I spotted some other early signs of spring: lots of birds, people without hats on, and a father and son on their bikes. Winter is not over yet but as a dog walker, it makes me happier to navigate a wet road than an icy one.



If I can learn something new every time I paint, I’m happy. Today I discovered the perfect colour for painting trash bags. But let’s back up the story a little first. Why did I choose to paint the trash? The answer is simple. Until the snow from this week’s storm in Montreal gets plowed, it’s hard to find a cleared parking spot with a good view of anything. I didn’t want to pick a scene that was too complex because when those plows do come along, they honk and honk to get you out of their way and good luck finishing the sketch. So I picked a simple scene to paint, and in the process discovered that the leftover Indigo paint I had on my palette was perfect for painting the trash bags.



This time it will fall as snow

The weatherman said “This time it will fall as snow” in reference to the fact that most of this winter every snowstorm headed towards Montreal has turned to freezing rain or rain when it hit the city. But this time the weatherman got it right and fall as snow it did, 30 centimetres of it in all. I spent some of my Monday morning sketching time shovelling out my car, as most of the city did, so only had a bit of time to sketch before my classes started. Most of the streets weren’t plowed either, so I couldn’t park anywhere except in a mall parking lot. I found a gorgeous big truck to draw but no sooner had I started pencilling in my shapes than the driver showed up with his mall-purchased lunch in a takeout bag. I had a minute or two to scribble in a few more lines before he drove off. The last minutes I had were spent drawing a few more snowy cars in the parking lot. More snow coming later this week!


USk Symposium in Chicago: almost time to register!

Tomorrow, February 11, is early bird registration for the 8th Annual Urban Sketchers Symposium which is taking place in Chicago from July 26-29, 2017. If you haven’t attended one of these events, I encourage you to consider it. It’s the biggest group of sketchers you will ever see in one place and although it’s stimulating, exhausting and completely overwhelming, it is always the highlight of my year. I have a feeling this year’s event will sell out quickly, so if you are contemplating going , make sure you are prepared before registration opens. There are 36 workshops, 30 demos and 5 lectures to choose from when you register, which can get really confusing.  To help you navigate the process, my friend Suhita has written a great post about how to make your choices. Have a look at the full list of workshops here, and take a look at the schedule too.

I’m thrilled to be teaching at an Urban Sketchers annual symposium for the fourth time. My workshop is called “Trees in the City” and I’ll also be doing a short demo on using a limited palettes in watercolour. In celebration of (or to practice for) this I went out today to sketch some trees. That was clearly not a good idea on this really cold day, because even in my car, my paint turned to slush. I had to resort to turning on the seat heater on the passenger side for a few minutes to keep the palette warm so I could finish the sketch. Clearly not an eco-friendly way to paint. I have a feeling it will be warmer in Chicago this summer and I hope to see you there.