It’s been over six months that it’s been warm enough to sit outside to sketch comfortably. That’s a long time to wait for a little warmth. Needless to say, it was a joyous feeling this morning as I walked my dog through a wooded area near my house to realize that I could sketch outdoors today. I returned to the woods with my sketch bag and sat on the first sun-baked rock I could find. It didn’t matter that there wasn’t much to sketch there. A few more rocks, some bare trees, nothing grand or remarkable. Just a perfect hour spent outside sketching, with the sun on my back, a woodpecker pecking a tree stump nearby, and the occasional fly on my palette. Bliss.
On the weekend my sister handed me a bouquet and said something like “I expect to see these painted”. I stared at the flowers for a few days, appreciating their beauty and also wondering how I would render, in watercolour, the deep red roses and contrasting green chrysanthemums. As I often do, especially after a break from painting for a few days, I painted the flowers twice. The first try just didn’t have the intensity of colour I hoped for (detail below) so I started again.
Starting with the roses, I approached the bouquet differently the second time round. This time, instead of starting with a light pink wash on the roses, I painted them deep red to begin with, hoping to capture some of their velvety texture. (I regret not taking a process photo of that first wash!). While that was still wet, I went into the flowers with even darker tones to show the shadow areas on the blooms. The second big shape was the pale green flowers which I kept separate in colour from the foliage. From there I painted the gerbera and then the rest of the leaves.
I’m glad I attempted this a second time because it was a great learning experience, but I have to end this with a note to my sister: Don’t stop bringing me flowers but next time, can you pick something easier to paint?
I hope you’ll be able to join me this coming weekend for the annual spring show of the Lakeshore Association of Artists at Fritz Farm in Baie d’Urfé. It is always an honour to exhibit with this talented group of artists — there will be more than 40 exhibitors — and a portion of the proceeds from the art sales go to Nova West Island. I’ll be exhibiting lots of recent watercolours and oils at the show which opens on Friday, April 21 (7-9:30 p.m.) and continues all day Saturday and Sunday (April 23 & 23) from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Fritz Farm is located at 20477 Lakeshore Road. I’d love to see you there, so drop by to say hello if you live in the area.
Last fall I decided to add some spring bulbs to my garden. Faced with a dizzying choice of spring bulbs (early-blooming, late-blooming, tall, short, etc.) in an online catalogue, I did what any sensible person would do, I settled for several collections of flowers chosen by someone much wiser and more knowledgeable than myself in these matters. I planted them carefully according to spacing and depth suggested, and then crossed my fingers that squirrels wouldn’t dig them up before the snow fell. Of course I also threw out the labels from the packages so now, as snow melts and each little shoot emerges, miraculously, through a thick carpet of autumn’s oak leaves, I am surprised and thrilled which each new blossom. I will try to sketch them all as they open, and we will find out together if the wise and knowledgeable expert chose well for me.
Do you always clean your palette at the end of a sketching day? I’d like to say I do, but that wouldn’t be honest. I clean my brushes but I don’t always get around to scrubbing out the wells of the palette, so sometimes I start the next day with some interesting mud that I can use. Those dried leftovers on the palette can sometimes lead to new mixes that are a little more subtle or muted than what you might mix on a clean palette. This doesn’t work for every subject, of course. For example, if you need a specific colour — like some bright pink or a fresh yellow — you wouldn’t want that dirty palette. But if you are sketching a spring day in Montreal when everything looks quite soft, a little leftover colour is just what you might need to get started. Sketched in a Handbook Watercolour Journal, 8″ x 8″.
To pass the time on long car rides (when I am not the driver) I love to sketch panoramas. On the way down to New York City on Friday it was definitely the end of winter — lots of rain and even some sleet in the upper Adirondacks — but on the way home today it was clearly spring. The colours at this time of year are so subtle that you need to look hard to find them. But they’re there. Ochres and siennas in the dried grasses, deep purples in the mountains and the slightest touches of green as the trees start to feel the warmth of the sun. I usually sketch these in a book I keep mostly for this. Here are a few more I sketched on the drive from Nevada to Utah as we crossed a little corner of Arizona.
It’s probably the warmest spring day so far in New York City which means it’s warm enough to draw outside! I’ve never sketched in Central Park before but I didn’t have to go far to find a bench with a view. The trees aren’t budding yet but the daffodils are blooming and tulips aren’t far behind. If you can imagine a soundtrack for this it would a Russian man in a Red Army cap playing an accordion. Facing him is a man painted silver with a live dove, motionless, on his head and a cat wrapped in foil sitting at his feet while he blows up balloon animals. New York!