On days in February and March when grey skies and dirty snow surround us, I go off in a desperate search for something colourful to sketch. The colour can be on anything — store signage, a yellow house exterior, or even farm equipment. It’s been some time since I’ve sketched at The Old Barn, at Macdonald Farm, but I know I can always count on finding interesting tidbits to sketch there. Painted on two pages of a Handbook Journal, 8″ x 8″.
I spent a bit of time at the Montreal Botanical Gardens yesterday. The humid air and the plethora of vegetation was a welcome change from the grey weather we’ve been having in Montreal. It would have been nice to sketch in the butterfly exhibit but it was too crowded. Fortunately there are plenty of benches in the other greenhouses, as long as you don’t mind a constant drip on the back of your neck from the overhead sprinklers.
I sketched in both the cactus display and the orchid room. These sketches are in no way botanical illustrations — simply a bit of paint thrown on paper to reflect my joy at being surrounded by all of this exotic beauty.
Lisa left her Valentine’s bouquet at my house on her way to a ski trip. She didn’t want the flowers to die, and she probably knew I would get around to sketching them, eventually. But the week was busy and I didn’t even pick up a pencil or paintbrush. The only writing implement I held in my hand was a red pen, as I graded a pile of student projects. The grading is done, for now, and in celebration of that, as well as the end of the week, I finally painted the (now) faded bouquet.
Last night in life-drawing studio, our model was Jean-Pierre. I’ve drawn him before. He is undoubtably one of the best models in Montreal but I’ve never been able to capture his face. If you read my post from 2012, you’ll see why.
This is my fourth week of Thursday evening long pose life drawing. Each week I’ve tried to capture the model with watercolour, but haven’t posted anything I’ve done. I think it’s because over the three hours, my watercolours have lost their freshness. Each one is overworked. Maybe three hours is too long for the way I paint.
This week I changed my working method. I did several quicker drawings over the same time period, using different media (pencil, conte, pastel). Jean-Pierre’s face is very long and angular so when you are drawing it, it almost feels like you are sculpting it with your drawing tools. This is the one that I think captures his likeness the best.
I’m thrilled and honoured once again to be teaching this summer at the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Porto, Portugal from July 18-21, 2018. The lineup of instructors and workshops is really spectacular! Registration starts on Saturday, February 17th at 15:00hrs GMT, and as always, tickets are likely to sell out quickly. Have a look at the full lineup of instructors and workshops: http://www.urbansketchers.org/p/usk-porto-2018.html
My workshop is called “Right up your alley: light, colour and shadow in Porto’s narrow spaces”. Looking at the possible workshop locations when I was writing my symposium proposal, I was intrigued by the patchwork of colour in the city’s narrow and hilly streets. This is something I often seek out when looking for places to sketch in Montreal, so I’m excited by the possibility of sketching these spaces in Porto. Have a look at a detailed document with all the workshop descriptions here. Hope to see you in Portugal!
In my bag there are always two small sketchbooks. There used to be just one but I like the Stillman & Birn Nova series so much (especially the tan paper) that I have added that as well. Makes for a heavy bag, but I never know what will catch my eye when I have a few minutes to draw. Of course that means I also have to carry more drawing supplies. I bought a cheap set of fat coloured pencils that are double-sided (six pencils/twelve colours) and quite like layering them on the toned paper. And the best thing about the toned paper is that you get to add white!
There’s so much traffic in Montreal these days, and it won’t get much better for years as work crews tear down and rebuild a major thoroughfare into downtown. There are plenty of detours, all of them congested, and they change weekly so you never know where you will end up. Ok, that’s the end of my complaining about traffic.
This was a scene I saw while stuck in one of those lineups a few days ago. I snapped a quick photo and painted it today because freezing rain is falling and I can’t paint outside. Now that I think about it, if the resident of this house steps out today, there is a good chance they will hit a patch of ice and slide right down those stairs.
Here’s one I had to do twice to get a decent result. For my first attempt the orchids came out well, but I messed up the background by adding a shadow that was too dark. And then tried to hide it by adding more dark. And then completely darkened the background, which did not make a good foil for the already dark orchids. The whole thing ended up in the recycling bin. I tried it again today but this time kept a lighter background. A colour tip for Phalaenopsis like this: try Permanent Magenta as your main orchid colour. I just happened to have an old tube of this in my studio and it was just right.
It was really too cold to sit in the car to paint today, but the morning light was so good I did it anyway. I felt guilty for turning on the engine several times to warm up the inside of the car, but that was the only way I could paint.
So what is my technique for quick painting like this? (BTW, I wish I had taken process shots of this but it was just too cold to think about that.) The important thing I wanted to convey was the pattern of bright whites and shadows going across the houses and road. I started by painting the yellow building, then the sky, and then went directly into the shadow shapes (making sure the yellow was dry before adding the building shadow). Working with a big round brush, I painted quickly and directly. I didn’t want to use too much water because of the drying time involved, so my brush was wet enough but not drippy. When the big shadow shapes were done, I added the smaller darks and then the trees. The girl waiting for the bus was an afterthought, so I painted her shrouded figure in with no preliminary drawing. Last step (with a smaller brush) was the details on the road and buildings, and the electric wires. I was done in about an hour, but it took about two for my feet to thaw. Painted on Saunders Waterford Rough, 15″ x 11″.
On the left hand page of my sketchbook I occasionally test out pigments I am going to use in a sketch. Sometimes I also do warm up drawings or make notes. This spread is very much like the one with the Little Blue Heron. I intended to draw one thing but got sidetracked drawing another, so this left hand page is a combo of colour and creature.
On the right hand side of the spread is an old favourite. People have been asking where it’s been hiding. As you can see, it’s been quite hard to spot this winter but with the past few warm days the snow has melted, and, much like Wiarton Willie, the wheelbarrow saw its shadow in the snow today.