It’s an abrupt start to winter, isn’t it? It feels like I was painting boat scenes only a few weeks ago. But the snow arrived suddenly and seems to be sticking around in Montreal, much to my delight. Usually I can only paint scenes like this on my winter school holiday in January.
At -10C, it’s was too cold this morning to be outside with an easel, so this one was painted in my warm studio, after a walk with Alice. These days, Arches rough paper is working well for me, and I am in the process of working with some different brushes which I will write about soon, probably when my school semester is over. I’m long overdue to update my materials page too, but again, it will be in a few weeks when I have more time. In the meantime, I’m just happy to sneak in a few hours to paint every few days.
Ah, we had the first snowfall in Montreal last night, and it was a good one. Not a mere sprinkling of flakes, but a thick covering that hopefully will stay on the ground for a few days. I’ve really been looking forward to winter painting season, but as always, the oak tree in the backyard is still holding on to its leaves, messing up all that perfect whiteness. Last year, oddly, the leaves stayed on the tree until February, which left a big mess on the ground in the spring. We’ll see what happens this year. In the meantime, I’ll be getting my snow colours ready — lots of blues and browns to make all those winter neutrals.
Today I came across a few sketches that I hadn’t scanned from my summer travels, including this one that brought back some memories of a very special place. During my workshop in Provence, we spent a day at Saint Paul de Mausole Monastery, where Van Gogh spent over a year at the asylum and painted some of his most iconic paintings including The Starry Night and Irises. He also painted at least 15 paintings of the olive trees just outside the walls of the asylum.
When I first caught of a glimpse of these ancient, gnarled trees, their shapes were so familiar — from reproductions and originals I’ve seen over the years in books and at various museums — but I didn’t get to paint them that first day. It wasn’t until a week later that I got my wish to sketch them, in between a quick lunch and a car ride to another outing. In the interim, they haunted me. There was something so powerful about their shapes — massive knotted trunks, branches like embracing arms, clouds of silvery leaves — that I couldn’t get the image of them out of my head. The sketch was done quickly, perhaps in thirty minutes or so, but the memory of being on that hallowed ground will stay with me forever.
The wind rattled my windows and kept me up for half the night, but this morning the sky was wonderful. After my morning class I raced up to the top floor of my building at school to paint a view of the city that I can now only see in late fall or winter when the trees lose their leaves. As the sun broke through the clouds, the shapes of the buildings sharpened, and I captured my Montreal mountain panorama with a flat brush and dabs of mostly Quinacridone Gold, Burnt Sienna, Cobalt Blue and Alizarin Crimson.
It’s been frustratingly difficult to sketch outdoors these days. We’ve had a lot of rain over the past few weeks, and the rainiest days seem to coincide with my free time before or after class. Last week I had a long break but it was pouring outside and I just wasn’t in the mood to sketch in a café. And then there was the day when the weather was good and I had a short break, but I forgot my palette of paints. Ugh. I ended up drawing in ink but it just wasn’t the same because the trees were bright yellow and I painted them grey. Today I had about thirty minutes on my way to school. I sketched directly in pen, and I don’t think the perspective is quite right because I was rushing so much, but I was happy to sketch that bright yellow tree before all the leaves fall.
Next Saturday November 10, 11-4 pm, I’ll be participating in a fundraiser for a great cause. “White Gerbera” will be one of the painting I’ll have on display at the Square Foot Exhibit. All square foot art is priced at $160 and 10% of all sales will be donated to the Old Brewery Mission. In all, we’ll be 25 Montreal artists with about 100 works of art for sale. Location: 232 Senneville Road, Senneville. Drop by to say hi, have a bowl of soup, buy some art!!
I’m also very excited to be part of this: this week is the launch of Studio 56 Boutique, a new online store with merchandise featuring the sketches of lots of my sketching friends: Stephanie Bower, Brenda L. Murray, Paul Heaston, Matthew Brehm, James Richards, Víctor Swasky, Maru Godas, Ian Fennelly, Lapin, Inma Serrano, Oliver Hoeller, Kiah Kiean Chng and me! Check it out. You’ll find our artwork (mine is the poppies) on pouches, mugs, t-shirts, phone cases, pillows etc.