My woods

This little patch of trees — surrounded by a park on the south, a schoolyard on the north and suburban houses on the east and west — is where I take my dog to run most every day. She’s probably not supposed to be off leash there because I guess this is technically part of the park, but there’s usually no one around. And despite being only a small patch of woods in the middle of the suburbs, the landscapes there can be surprisingly beautiful in winter, especially after a snowfall. Painted on TwoRivers 200 lb paper, 16″ x 20″.


A corner of the garden

So much snow has fallen in Montreal that I can’t get out of my driveway. Actually I did get out but since the streets haven’t been plowed yet, the car got stuck several times and I turned around and came home. I’d rather paint than wait for a tow truck on a day like today. Good day to sketch views from my window.

There’s lots going on in a corner of the garden. A smokebush — damaged in a thunderstorm some years back — is held up by a bamboo ladder. The yew in the corner is half its regular height, weighted down under all the snow. And the oak tree in the opposite corner of the yard is still dropping leaves even in the dead of winter, much to the annoyance of my neighbours. The snow is piled up quite thickly on all of this, so I painted the bits of things that were visible, and tried to contrast the texture of these with the whiteness of the untouched snow. Sketched on a pad of Saunders Waterford Rough paper.


The Methow Valley

I’m still working through some West Coast scenes that I’ve been wanting to paint, and taking advantage of days in my studio before the next school semester starts.

Last July, on a full-day drive between Anacortes, WA, and Kelowna, BC, we descended into the Methow Valley from a road that snakes through Washington State’s North Cascades Mountain Range. There was snow on the peaks as we drove through a series of spectacular mountain passes. I sketched Diablo Lake and the Washington Pass Overlook along the way. But as the road dropped down into the valley the temperature on the car thermometer went up, and up and up. By the time we reached the town of Twisp the temperature peaked at 107°F. I wanted to sketch the ochre shades of the rolling hills but it was just too hot. So today, on a rainy and grey January day in Montreal, when it’s far too drippy to paint in my car, that scene came back to me.

On that scorching July day, the arid landscape of rolling hills continued as we drove north and crossed the border into the Okanagan Valley. After that drive, it came as no surprise that the next day forest fires began in the Okanagan. I hope to get back to the Methow Valley someday to paint, when the temperature is lower and the weather a bit more amenable to plein air painting.MethowValley

Blue and rust

Today I thought I’d post both sketch and final painting for a scene that I painted in studio today. Actually the sketch was done last night but I wanted to wait until the morning to start the larger painting. The only problem with having an idea for a painting at night is that I dream about painting it all night!

The scene was one I saw at Lovric’s Shipyard in Anacortes, Washington, this past summer. As my friends who live there know, I could paint in that places for weeks. It’s an endlessly fascinating hive of old boats, piles of rusty stuff, big skies, distant mountains and reflections. All the stuff I love to paint.

On my studio table I had a dirty palette with some Indanthrene Blue leftover in the wells so I dashed off a quick sketch on a block of Winsor & Newton paper. It seemed from the sketch that the painting could work, and painting it smaller helped me establish a value pattern.


Since this is a scene where texture is important, I selected a sheet of 16″ x 20″ Two Rivers cold press paper. The drawing took some time but getting everything in the right place is important in a scene like this. When it was time to paint, I knew I wanted to keep a dominantly blue colour scheme, but I also wanted to contrast all that blue with some warmer tones, especially in the centre of the painting where all the detail is. I used lots of Burnt Sienna mixed with Transparent Pyrol Orange for those rusty bits. And as you can imagine, I had a great time painting all the details.


The frozen hand

I did a little sketching from my car this morning, hoping to capture the piles of fresh snow after yesterday’s storm. When I got home and looked at my sketch, I thought “What a mess!” And then I realized that my warm weather drawing is so much more careful than my cold weather drawing. Duh. My drawing hand is frozen, my feet are cold, and there’s blowing snow obscuring the car window. I just want to get it over with quickly so I can go home and warm up. In Florida, with warm hands, I was able to slow down and take the time to really look at things before drawing them. But now that I’ve returned to winter, I’m back to frozen extremities and messy speed sketching.


The last few from Sanibel Island

Now that I’m back in Montreal with my trusty scanner at my side, I’m posting my last few Sanibel sketches. If you missed any from the trip, the full gallery of Sanibel Island images is now on my website.



The really hot beach days were during the first week of the trip. I did a few people sketches while visiting my family in Siesta Key.


There were also a few days that I didn’t post during the first week because I had a flu and spent a few days in bed. When I felt well enough to get up I sat on the deck and sketched the green chair and the coconut, as well as the two palms and the causeway across San Carlos Bay.


That’s about it for the warm weather sketching. I’ll be back to painting snow this week!


A bit of Sanibel Island history

This morning my bike took me to the Sanibel Island Museum & Village. Composed of eight authentic restored buildings, the village is well worth a visit if you are interested in the history of the island between 1880 and the 1940s. I opted out the guided tour, choosing instead to sketch Bailey’s General Store (mostly because of the gas pumps out front) but I did overhear tidbits from many docents leading tours past my sketching bench. The building I sketched was the “new” store, constructed in 1927 after the old store was destroyed in a hurricane. In 1966 a bigger store was opened in a new location, and you can still shop there today.