Painting local

Another rainy day in Charlevoix, but this time I’m prepared. Yesterday I made a couple of stops at some interesting local producers.

Papeterie Saint-Gilles is well known in this area for its beautiful handmade cotton papers. It’s a popular attraction in this area, located in Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive, right across from the Musée Maritime where I sketched yesterday, and very close to the water. I bought a few samples of the paper to try. These tomatoes are sketched on the smoother version (closest to a cold press paper) and if the rain lets up I’ll go out later to try the rough sheet. I clipped the paper into my sketchbook for now, but I’ll probably use photo corners to give the sheet a permanent home in the book. It’s very nice 100% cotton paper that holds the colour really well. If you manage to get to this area, you can watch them producing it when you visit.

The tomatoes come from La Ferme des Quatre-Temps in Port-au-Persil. This is another well-known stop as you make your way through Charlevoix. During the week the farm stand has local produce that you can buy using the honour system, but if you want more choice, the kiosk is open on Friday afternoons. I bought two sizes of tomatoes but the big heirloom ones were so huge they didn’t fit on the page. I’ll paint those too, if we don’t end up eating them first.


Years ago I sat on the rocks at Port-au-Persil and painted the chapel in the distance. I had hoped to do the same today, but as soon as we parked, the first drops fell and from there it was rain for the rest of the day. But I’m an old pro at car sketching, and that works here too, if you can find a good viewpoint, which I did.

White birch

As predicted, it was a rainy day in Charlevoix, but that gave me time to drive around and scope out painting locations for when the weather improves. We made it all the way to where the Saguenay and the St. Lawrence Rivers meet, and when the fog lifted, we were rewarded with sightings of belugas in the distance. When we returned, it was dry enough to sit on the porch and sketch the white birch.

Les vignes

I’ll be doing a little remote posting this week, hopefully sketching the coastal views from Charlevoix. This area is one of the Quebec’s most scenic, but the forecast is for rain for most of the week, so not sure how far I’ll get. After an early departure and a long drive, looking down at the grapevines and listening to the birds is about all I want to do on day one.

Flower share 2: the wild ones

I received my second bouquet from my CSA farmers at Tourne-Sol. These blooms are so wild-looking, so interesting in shape and colour and so untamed that it make take several paintings to get them all in. It will require a subtle turning of the vase every day to capture all of their wonderful forms. Painted on Arches CP paper, 9″ x 12″.

Announcing a new class filmed entirely on location: The Broken Mill

I’m so thrilled to launch a new class today. “The Broken Mill” was filmed entirely on location, in Pointe Claire Village, with the soundtrack of red-winged blackbirds and in the company of many bugs and the occasional dog walker.

What excites me about this course is that I get to share everything I love about urban sketching, taking you along with me as I compose the scene, share the story of what inspires me about the location, and show you how I plan and sketch (in ink and watercolour) the windmill from start to finish. I also get to finally show you my full compact plein air setup that I take with me on daily sketch outings. In fact, this course is as close as I can get to the experience of an in-person workshop these days!

My subject is one I’ve sketched often — a 300-year-old windmill in Pointe Claire that is situated on a peninsula that juts out into Lac St. Louis — and is interesting not just for its historical significance but also because it was recently damaged in a storm (hence the “broken” in my course title) and is awaiting repair. For me, that enriches the story behind the sketch. 

You’ll learn about: 

  • Plein Air Sketching Tools: My own take on a compact, transportable sketching kit
  • Narrative: Choosing a subject that tells a story
  • Good Planning: Creating a values thumbnail to establish composition, along with lights and darks
  • Preliminary sketch: Using rough pencil lines to block in shapes and composition
  • Ink and wash: Combining ink and wash to create a lively under-structure
  • Shadows: Using shadows to add volume to your subject
  • Darks: Finishing with details that “finish” your sketch

Along the way, you’ll also see how I deal with changing light, and how I mix colours on my palette for stone, sky and trees.

“The Broken Mill” includes:

  • Eight video demos
  • A downloadable reference image
  • A full list of materials for my plein air sketching setup

For a preview of “The Broken Mill,” check out the trailer.

The west side

We were all waiting on the street, me on the east side and them on the west. Me, for a dental appointment (during Covid times waiting rooms are off limits!). Them, to get into the bank, or get on a bus, or cross the street. I sat on a low wall, pulled out my leaky brush pen (leaky from neglect, I think) and tried to draw them quickly, as they moved along in the line, or crossed the street, or got on the bus. I drew until I got the call that the dentist was ready for me.

Waiting for the birds

I planted Campsis Radicans (Trumpet Vine) about four years ago. The first year, there were no flowers. Second year, the same. Last year, I had one cluster of buds that was quickly eaten by something. This year the thing is covered with flowers. I know, some consider it invasive, and it can grow up to 40 feet. But I have it in a spot where it has room to move, and I really enjoy the deep coral colour of the blooms, so I am letting it go for now. Plus, the flowers attract hummingbirds, and that is certainly something worth waiting for.

A very fast step-by-step

The daisies in the garden are at their best right now, and the Coreopsis that I painted a few weeks ago are fading. I sketched this one using lots of negative painting and a mostly limited palette of Alizarin Crimson, Phthalo Green and Winsor Lemon, with a bit of Cadmium Yellow for the shrivelled Coreopsis.

At the same time, I did a few videos for an Instagram story. I should have taken step-by-step photos too, but I was in a bit of a hurry before an appointment, so short videos are all I have. Here they are, included with the captions from Instagram, which you will notice are also very concise. Next time I promise to be a bit less brief in my documentation of the process.

Step One: Paint everything but the whites
Step two: Negative painting for stems and leaves
Step three: Add the details

Opening today

Everything in my garden seems to be blooming this week. That is likely the result of poor planning on my part. A few weeks ago there was no colour at all and now I have too much choice. Better gardeners would have had more blooming in June, but for me, it all starts to look good around mid-July. This week, in one corner of a bed, the first Echinacea opened, and next to that the Veronicastrum. When I did a little research on this long-blooming plant, it was described as “extremely showy with elegant vertical lines.” I can also attest to the fact that it attracts plenty of bees and butterflies. Cobalt Violet mixed with a little Cobalt Blue seems to work best for its spikes of tiny flowers.