A different day

I started this sketch using the leftover paint in the wells of my palette. Unexpected colours appeared, and maybe they weren’t what I would have chosen to start out with, especially on a sunny day, but I like being surprised. It’s not my usual way of working because my palette is usually clean when I go out, but this yielded some muted hues that made it seem like a different sort of day than it was, or maybe a different place, and in these turbulent times we sometimes need a little escape, even if it is only through our sketches.


Two firsts

There were two firsts for me today. After over 2000 blog posts (!) this is the first time I sketch a cantaloupe. Also a first for me today: I gave my brush a very good rinse in a cup of tea I was drinking. Not a gentle dip but a really good swim that required a full wash of both the brush and the tea cup.

The colour of cantaloupe is quite delicious to mix. I really wasn’t sure what to use, but I had a blob of Cadmium Orange on my palette, so I started with that. For the lightest part of the melon, I added a bit of yellow and for the part that was backlit, I added some Transparent Orange from Schminke. That seemed to do the trick. I think with colour this bright, you want to get it right the first time with a big juicy wash that is as juicy as the melon itself.


Reflections on a glass surface

I have my work cut out for me today, cleaning up this mess. But before I start, it seems like a good idea to observe and paint how all these bits reflect on a glass surface. For this one, it’s all about the values, so first I try to identify the lights (sunny side of the objects), mid-tones (the glass surface) and the darks (reflections and shadows on glass). Here’s the process:

  1. After a quick drawing on watercolour paper, I paint the objects and their reflections, mostly with a light green wash.
  2. When that’s dry, I paint the glass surface with some saturated blue (leaving a few bits of white), at times glazing over the reflections as well, to darken them slightly. A reflection of an object is often a little darker than the object itself.
  3. The last step is to put in the darks, which for the most part, are the undersides of the objects, as well as their shadows.

Dreaming Alice

In my studio, painting has taken over from drawing these days, but when my friend Suhita posted a graphite drawing on Instagram of some shoes she had sketched, I was reminded of how long it’s been since I drew in pencil.

There’s nothing like the feeling of a soft pencil on some good drawing paper. To draw Alice today, I used a water-soluble graphite pencil in a Koh-i-noor Bristol Smooth sketchbook. On paper with no texture like this one, the graphite glides over the surface, and allows you to build up smoother layers of dark than you can on a bumpy sheet. And what I enjoyed most during the sketching process was using my pencil to feel the volume of Alice’s head, torso and limbs — almost like carving with graphite lines.


Musée Maritime de Charlevoix

The Musée Maritime de Charlevoix is my kinda place. It’s right on the water in Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive, and even if you don’t pay the entry fee, you still get a great view of the old shipyard from across a little bay. I love painting old boats, but had never had a chance to go inside a wooden schooner so after sketching I visited the museum too. It was the first time I’ve visited a museum since the pandemic started, but it wasn’t very crowded, and with a mask on I felt perfectly safe. Definitely worth a stop to see the old sawmill, tour the four wooden schooners and one tugboat that are outside, and learn a little bit about the history of shipbuilding and navigation on the Saint Lawrence River. The sketch of this survey ship was done in my sketchbook but I did a larger painting with a wider view that I will scan and post soon.


Hydrangeas before and after breakfast

While I was weeding the garden the other day I discovered lots of hydrangea blooms hidden under some other plants. Since they flower too low to be seen from any other vantage point in the garden, I cut them and stuck them in a vase so I can enjoy them in the house.

This morning before breakfast I sketched them quickly in Procreate, on my iPad. I love how they flop out of the vase and bend in all directions. That’s likely because they were blooming on the ground so all of the flower heads are flattened on one side and a little bit odd.

After breakfast and a walk with Alice, I tried them in watercolour. I was hoping to keep the same simplicity of shapes as in my digital sketch. White blooms can be tricky because you want them to have a light side and a shadow side, but you still want them to be white. I used a variety of colours in the shadows but still tried to keep the values light. Painted on a block of Winsor & Newton Rough paper, 16″ x 12″.


Chez Chantal

Chez Chantal is one of those places that begs to be sketched. It’s pink, it’s covered in colourful signs, it’s next to railroad tracks, it’s backed by trees, it’s surrounded by blue and yellow houses AND you can buy ice cream or poutine when you are done sketching. If you are looking for it, it’s on rue du Quai in La Malbaie, right next to where the Train de Charlevoix picks you up to take you to Baie St. Paul. Just don’t make the mistake of painting there on a Monday when Chez Chantal is closed and the train is not running. There will no people to add to your scene and, more importantly, no ice cream when you are done sketching.


West Coast inspiration

These days painting inspiration can be hard to find. The pandemic has confined so many of my sketcher friends to home, and let’s face it, after a while, drawing your immediate surroundings can get tedious, even for the most motivated sketchers.

Yesterday my painting inspiration came in the form of a text message. My son — who is on a kayaking trip on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia — sent me a photo of a bay he had just paddled into after a long day on the water. The low viewpoint of the image (taken from the kayak), combined with the deep green West Coast trees and inky dark water spoke to me immediately. After dinner I headed down to my studio to paint it. It’s just a little painting (9″ x 12″) on a pad of Arches CP paper, but it was good practice for moving paint around on paper. And it satisfied a little bit of the urge I had to paint that part of the country since I was, in fact, supposed to be teaching in BC this month.


I’ve given up

I’ve given up on growing tomatoes. I can’t compete with the squirrels and chipmunks. I was destroyed this morning when I found this almost-ripe very fat heirloom tomato knocked to the ground and partially eaten. I’ve watched this beauty grow and ripen all summer. I had big plans for it. And while the squirrel watched from his perch on a fence, and to torture myself even more, I weighed it after I found it this morning. One pound, two ounces. Probably would have been one pound three if you count what the squirrel ate.

So that’s it for me and growing tomatoes. That’s why this sketch is my form of a note to self: Leave it to the farmers next year and stick to sketching.


Dark beauties

When I first receive my bouquet from Ferme Tournesol, it’s wrapped in brown paper and the flowers are hidden under foliage. As I unwrap it on my counter and separate the blossoms from the greenery, its beauty is revealed. This week it’s a dark beauty, with lots of deep magentas, oranges and reds. To play up the dark flowers, I keep the rest of it light in value, including some of the foliage. Painted on a block of Winsor & Newton Rough, 12″ x 16″, using lots of Permanent Magenta and Sap Green.