Backyard cycle

If you stand outside today, you can almost see — in a time-lapse kind of way — the buds bursting on the trees. I spent some time this morning raking up the last of the fallen oak and maple leaves from last autumn, but the reward at the end was to take out my sketchbook and sketch the new canopy of green that appeared. A bit of fall and a bit of spring at the same time. If I wait too long that tender green will be gone, so this is the week to capture it.



It’s National Poetry Month (at least for a few more days) so though this poem by William Wordsworth might be appropriate.

I wandered lonely as a cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth (1815)



Give me a sign

I had a bit of time to kill between two meetings today but I was on a commercial street with strip malls and nothing to sketch for miles, unless, of course, you are tempted to draw facades of nail salons and pet groomers, which I wasn’t. On a warm spring day like today I was on the lookout for a sign of the season — pale green buds on a tree, a bunch of daffodils or, at the very least, a grassy patch with a bench in the sun —  but alas, nothing. In frustration I pulled into a McDonald’s, resigned to go inside to do some people sketching. And there it was, facing me as I parked my car. My sign of spring, leaning up against the fence and waiting to be drawn.


Black boots

Sketching my boots is a symbolic gesture — a farewell to cold days, hats and gloves, fat parkas and icy wind. As you can see, the boots are tired of winter too. Sketched in a Handbook Journal using lots of Payne’s Grey and Lunar Black.


Blue carpet

If you visited the LAA Spring Show at Fritz Farm on Saturday or Sunday, you may have noticed this blue carpet of scilla near the parking lot. Most everyone stopped to have a look and snap photos. I didn’t  have time to sketch on the weekend but went back this morning to do a quick painting. It was quite cold (2°C) but I sketched standing up, and used a mixture of Cobalt Violet and Cobalt Blue for the flowers. These little blossoms don’t last long so if you want to see this show, get there soon.


Sat on a rock, sketched a rock

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.


Red Velvet

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?




An invitation: LAA Spring Show

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.


Through the oak leaves

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.


The leftovers

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″.