Rue Villeray sous la pluie

It’s end of semester for me which means lots of grading, tests to prepare, etc., but when I have a free hour or two, I grab it. At lunchtime today, I drove to the Villeray neighbourhood, a favourite area of mine to sketch since the streets are full of life, there’s often parking, and I can find lots of great small buildings to sketch.

Today’s struggle was with the rain. It wasn’t coming down hard enough to be a deterrent, but the light drizzle eventually blocked my view and every few minutes I had to turn the wipers on to clear up the car window. An annoyance, no doubt, but worth it because I was able to finish a sketch during my short break. Sketched on a block of Arches CP, 10″ x 14″.

A sneak peek at my book

Last week I spent some time reviewing the final proofs for my upcoming book and just found out that I can share a bit of the content with you here. It’s so exciting to see it all come together and it will be even better when I can hold a printed copy in my hands in April 2019.

This spread is from the chapter on Pigments and Color Mixing. There’s all kinds of cool stuff in this section, like basic watercolour techniques and choosing your colours, but the parts I liked writing the most were the colour recipes for creating greens or darks or colour for shadows. 

It was really fun to go through my archive of sketches and look back at how some of these mixes were created. And if I didn’t remember the details, it helped to go back through old blog posts too, since I often write about what mixes I use. My main goal with the book is to encourage you to be more expressive with colour, and I can’t wait for you to see the work of all the contributors who generously sent me sketches and shared their colour secrets as well.

Painting palettes, before and after

I’ve been wanting to update my list of sketching and painting materials on my blog for a very long time so I started the process today by setting up my two palettes to clean them. I had to laugh because they were both so dirty, that I decided to take a photo first, just to show you what they look like after a bit of use and before a good cleaning.

I’m preparing a materials list for my upcoming 2019 workshops, and restocking my colours is the first step in the process. I often change the colours, so winter is a good time to check what I am using and update my lists. The small palette I use for sketching is an Italian one made by FOME, and I’ve filled it with 23 empty pans, and then added tube colours to that. 

After much cleaning, scraping, and finally refilling, my 23 pan metal palette looks something like this. A bit worse for wear (one hinge broke this summer and has been repaired) but not quite so goopy. I love the size of this palette for travel because when it’s closed it’s about the size of my phone and fits in the smallest of sketching bags.

The updated colours, from left to right, are:
Top row: Cobalt Teal, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Prussian Blue, Indanthrene Blue, Cobalt Violet and Permanent Alizarin Crimson.
Middle row: Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Quinacridone Gold, Transparent Orange, Cadmium Red Deep, Quinacridone Rose.
Bottom Row: Lunar Black, Indigo, Hansa Yellow Light, New Gamboge, Leaf Green, Sap Green, Phthalo Green, Forest Green.
If you are interested in knowing the brands, the tubes are below, photographed in the same order as the placement in the palette.

The next post will be the larger studio palette, cleaned and refilled, of course!

Sunday woods

 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.

Under the oak

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.


A summer memory

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.


Mountain panorama

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.


Thirty minute sketch

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.


White gerbera and poppies

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.