Slush coloured

This yellow wall in Pointe Claire Village always looks great on a sunny winter morning. I’ve painted it many times before in watercolour, but never in gouache (or in a mix of gouache and watercolour like I did here). Working with gouache is a bit of a learning curve for me, but I am starting to figure out a method for this. Instead of working from light to dark, I have figured out that the best direction to take is to move from clean to dirty. I start with the light, bright colours like sky, yellow wall, snow (while the white paint is still white), and then I move to snow shadows and wall shadows. By the time I get to the colours on the road I have all kinds of gooey neutral colours on the palette which are perfect for the slush on the road.

Corner of Atwater and Ste. Catherine

I arrived downtown a little early today before my talk at the Atwater Library, and as luck would have it I found a window seat at the McDonalds with a view of the condo construction at the site of the former Montreal Children’s Hospital. The rapidly falling snow muted all the colours in this downtown scene, so I sketched in Payne’s Grey in my Etchr sketchbook. It was the perfect way to relax and collect my thoughts before the talk.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

In December we took a walk through the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary which is located in Southwest Florida. It’s not an easy place to find and the GPS took us on a few wrong turns including one that led straight up someone’s driveway, but we found it eventually. By the time we got there, it was near closing time so we had to walk rather quickly on the loops of boardwalk trail that lead you through several different habitats of trees and past many species of birds and varieties of wetland plants.

There was no time to sketch but in the fading December light I took some reference images. On a grey day in Montreal it was nice to look back at them and paint one of the scenes in gouache and watercolour. If ever you find yourself in that part of Florida, I highly recommend a visit. Just arrive a little earlier than I did.

Chat Noir

I found some ink bottles in a drawer in my studio. Some of them have been there a very long time, possibly from my university days. I’m not sure if the ink is still good, but the shapes are great for drawing.

I drew them first with a very soft 6B Cretacolor pencil on Strathmore 400 toned tan paper. I didn’t erase mistakes in the drawing because I know the paint will mostly cover them.

For gouache painting, I use a Stay-Wet palette which has a sponge inside and keeps the gouache damp for many days. I squeezed out some Ultramarine, Alizarin and Cadmium Yellow, along with white and black.

My first layer was the background. The wash was quite thin because I like to let some of the tan paper show through. I painted right over the transparent bottles because you want that background colour to show through, and it can be hard to match later. It’s much easier to paint it first and cover it up after, if need be.

The next layer was the main colours of glass as well as labels. With a limited palette I can get all the colours I need for this.

I forgot to take a picture after I added the shadows because I was also taking some time lapse video of the process, but here’s the final scanned sketch.

Here’s a little video clip of the last part of the process. I haven’t figured out the perfect camera angle yet, but that will come in time, hopefully.

White on black

I’ve been staring at a screen for too long today. Do you know that feeling? Burning eyes and spinning head? I had to change my focus, get up and walk around, make a cup of tea, and DRAW SOMETHING! I grabbed a Moleskine black page notebook and a Molotow ONE4ALL white acrylic marker, and just started drawing. It didn’t take much. In five minutes, I felt better.

And the project that I’ve been working on for so many hours?? I’m preparing a talk and visual presentation about my work on Thursday for the Lunchtime Series at the Atwater Library. If you’re around, drop in to say hi. I’ll have lots of my sketchbooks with me, and admission is free. The Atwater Library is at 1200 Atwater Avenue in Westmount, and the event is from 12:30 — 1:30.

Alice in blue

Today I sketched Alice with a Phthalo Blue water-soluble pencil from Caran d’Ache. It’s one from a set I received some time ago, part of their Technalo RGB line. From what I can see from the Caran d’Ache website, these pencils are actually graphite gently tinted with colour, so although you might expect a blue pencil to release blue pigment when wet, it’s actually a blue/grey mix, and quite nice for drawing the subtleties of Alice’s light fur. Along with three standard water-soluble pencils of different hardnesses, the set also includes Dark Phthalo Green and Carmine Lake pencils, although don’t expect to be surprised by any more colour than on this one.

On the road to León

On the 90-minute van ride from San Miguel de Allende to the airport in León, you pass through some beautiful landscapes. Big skies, distant blue mountains and wide plateaux covered in cacti and yellowed scrub vegetation, for the most part. Occasionally the van slows down and you realize you are passing through a town. From the van window you catch a glimpse of typical Mexican street life. There’s no chance to stop for photos in this van full of anxious travellers, but I snap iPhone pics from the window. Most of them are trash, but a few are good enough to merit a second look and perhaps end up as reference for a painting.

This big tree — likely an Acacia, from my research — was a lucky capture with the phone. So much life in the shade of that tree, including a shoe kiosk and a family settling down for lunch. And almost as if they knew I would be passing — a yellow wheelbarrow. Painted on a half sheet of Arches 140 lb rough paper.