The ladies at the hair salon don’t look very happy, no doubt because one has a plastic bag on her head and the other has slimy goop covering her scalp. Sometimes when I am drawing people I show them the final sketch, but I did this one as surreptitiously as possible, for obvious reasons. Sketched in a Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook, using a water-soluble brush pen.
I didn’t put much thought into what to sketch today. The cherry tomatoes on my counter are so ripe they may burst. By tomorrow they will be eaten.
I am still experimenting with QoR watercolours. Last week I read lots of useful comments from other watercolorists who have been trying them out. I am reserving judgement until I use them many times on different types of paper. My sketchbook today was a Handbook Watercolour Journal — the book I use most often for daily sketches. I know this paper really well — how it reacts with very wet washes, how long it takes to dry, how much pigment should be on my brush — so it was the perfect place give it another try. I always think of testing paints as a scientific experiment, and this one had one less variable (the paper) to worry about.
I always have trouble painting with reds and spend lots of time trying to find the right ones. But I have to admit I like the reds from QoR. They’re bright without being opaque, and they remain vibrant as they dry. The three reds I used in the tomatoes are Quinacridone Magenta, Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Pyrrole Red Light, along with a bit of Hansa Yellow Light. I am still not convinced that I would use QoR for a large watercolour, but for small sketches like this one with no large dark areas, I am satisfied with the results.
Yesterday I came to the sad realization that my students are sketching more than I am (and turning out some very fine drawings too!) With my many hours of teaching and grading projects, I’m not finding as much time to draw as I would like, though. So I’ve made a little promise to myself, just like I did almost six years ago when I started this blog: to draw for at least 15 minutes every day.
After over 1,500 posts, the well of ideas for subjects to sketch can run dry. But the same old subject in a new place can give you inspiration. While reading Martin Gayford’s Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud I came upon a reproduction of Freud’s painting of a man asleep on a bed with a dog. My dog Alice often sneaks up to my son’s room to have a nap on his bed, yet I always paint her on a cushion in my studio or on her bed in the kitchen. She seemed a bit curious when I pulled up a chair to draw her but quickly resumed her nap while I put in my drawing time.
And as an aside, if you are at all interested in the creative process, the Gayford book is a fascinating read, as is his A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney.
To capture the haze of this oddly warm and steamy September morning, I wanted to use a limited range of colours. After all, with conditions like this, most everything is muted and colourless. The Ultramarine Blue well on my palette was empty so instead I substituted Cobalt Blue. Mixed with Raw Sienna and Permanent Alizarin Crimson, it added an opaqueness to the darks that seemed ideal for the atmospheric scene. Sketched in a Handbook Watercolour Journal, 8″ x 8″.
As autumn approaches (actually I think it may be starting today) the colour of trees starts to soften. In the city this approach of the change of seasons is subtle. Instead of uniform greens, we see foliage turning yellow and over a period of many weeks, finally becoming red. In the Adirondacks, where I painted last week, that change seems to have occurred almost overnight and with much more intensity. The dark walls of evergreens are pierced by fiery reds and yellows.
When I painted this early morning lakeside scene, it was a challenge to incorporate some of that intensity without being too literal. I started by painting the mass of trees in one wash, incorporating a large area of red into the variety of greens (more yellow moving to more blue.) Drying time is slow on a misty morning, but when the tree shape was less damp I went in with thicker and darker paint to define some of the individual trees within that mass. Painted on Fabriano 140 lb rough paper, 15″ x 11″.
It seems that a recent cold spell has triggered fall foliage colours in the northern Adirondacks. I spent the weekend visiting friends and painting the multitude of views from their dock, which is situated on a narrow channel between two lakes. It couldn’t have been a better weekend for painting — sunny with no wind and a soundtrack provided by loons and ducks — so I took full advantage of the setting. Painted on Fabriano 140 lb. rough paper, 15″ x 11″.
What would I do without Echinacea and Black-eyed Susans in my garden? They start blooming in July and keep going until September with no signs of fading. They posed for me while I experimented with some new QoR watercolours that I received in Chicago. I will write more about the paint after a bit more experimentation, but the first impression is this: the colours are bright when used full strength but I had lots of trouble getting good darks. When I write about them next I’ll show my colour chart and some painted mixes too. And if you’ve tried them, I’d love to hear your impressions. For now, off to school…
There’s a long list of things I want (and need) to do this afternoon — sketch, walk the dog, get to the gym, do some grading, buy a few things for dinner — all this before heading off to a meeting tonight. Needless to say, the procrastinator in me is putting off grading for later. Plus, it’s a perfect September day, so why not take advantage of this and sketch while the weather is good.
Alice, on the other hand, thinks that going to the park should take precedence. She sits nearby while I start my sketch. Then plants herself in front of the wheelbarrow. Then drops a ball at my feet. And finally digs up an old bone out of the dirt so she can annoy me with the sound of the gnawing. I sketch her too.
It’s been such a busy start to the school year that it’s hard to find time to sketch. One extra course has been added to my workload this term, and that means not only more teaching time but more preparation and extra grading time too. It leaves me frustrated because of course I like to do a daily sketch, but sometimes there are no more hours left in the day.
On Fridays I start a little later and this morning I was determined to find a bit of time to return to a house I spotted a few weeks ago on my way to school. It’s on a side street just a few blocks from the building where I work, and it looks nothing like the surrounding houses in the neighbourhood, which are mostly low-rise brick apartments buildings or two-storey duplexes. It’s situated next to a automobile repair shop, which is also a bit of an oddity in a residential area. Needless to say, I was pretty happy to spend an hour or so sketching this house before I went to class. Sketched in a Handbook Watercolor Journal, 8″ x 8″.
Next weekend I’ll be participating in Art by the Lake — the annual outdoor group show of the Lakeshore Association of Artists — which takes place on September 9 & 10 from 10 am to 5 pm. As always, all the artists (about 40 of us in all) are hoping for good weather so we can put up our tents and exhibit our work outdoors on the scenic grounds of Stewart Hall in Pointe Claire. If the weather is rainy, we’ll be exhibiting inside instead (which is beautiful too but not half as much fun as being outside!).
I’ll have a booth there with lots of new paintings and I hope you’ll drop by to say hi. I’ll even be doing a short demo on Saturday afternoon at 2 pm. This show is for a great cause — a percentage of the proceeds from sales will go to On Rock Community Services — a food bank that helps out many West Island families. Keep your fingers crossed for good weather and come out to see us next weekend! I’ll be there both days.