Maritime Museum, and an online show

A few weeks ago I posted a sketch that I did at the Musée Maritime de Charlevoix. These days are busy, and although it was on my list to scan the full painting that I did based on that sketch, it’s been sitting in my studio until this week when it finally made it to the scanner. It seemed fitting to paint the larger version on a half sheet of watercolour paper that is made right across the street from the museum at Papeterie Saint-Gilles.

I’ve been experimenting a bit with this paper, which is very different from the Fabriano and Arches sheets I’m used to working on. It’s quite soft and beautiful to draw on, and the surface is a little smoother than what I’m used to, which makes it really easy to lift paint.

I also painted my final bouquet from Ferme Tournesol on some of the Saint-Gilles paper. I’ll certainly miss the flowers and vegetable baskets I’ve been receiving from them this summer, and sadly it will be back to the grocery store for me for both of those.

September is usually the month when I’m preparing for the Lakeshore Association of Artists outdoor show at Stewart Hall in Pointe Claire. This year we’ve decided to go virtual so everything is on our new website. Have a look at the show and at my recent paintings for sale on my sales page. Every year we support a community group, and this year 25% of each and every sale will go to On Rock Community Services/food bank. The show will be up until October 23, and if you’re interested in purchasing a watercolour, just let me know. Prices are in Canadian dollars and paintings are shipped unframed.


It was with some trepidation that I went back to life drawing sessions today. We’ve had six months of staying at home, in our own bubbles, except for occasional visits to grocery stores, banks, pharmacies, etc. But this weekly session is run by the City of Pointe Claire, and I feel that they are quite diligent with the hygiene of the room, which is in fact a huge space, and the reason I feel comfortable in it. Plus there are only a handful of us drawing — fewer than ten I think — plus the model. Once we are seated in our distanced spots we can take our masks off but most people leave them on anyway, including me.

After such a long break I was feeling rusty with life drawing too. I brought along some inexpensive Canson watercolour paper and decided to paint with just two pigments — Prussian Blue and Lunar Black. The black is a weak pigment, so the blue takes over, but the black has wonderful sedimentation, which seems to give an interesting effect on the Canson paper.

In the three hour session our model Melanie did lots of short poses, but these are the last two longer ones of twenty minutes each. It really was a joy to be back in that room drawing live people. I’m already looking forward to next week.

Urban sketching and other stuff

It’s been a challenging summer for urban sketching. The pandemic has kept me away from crowded places, and the warm temperatures in Montreal weren’t conducive to car sketching. But it’s almost autumn, the air is fresher and I’ll be getting out more to draw. I miss it, and my location sketching feels rusty! And when I feel out of practice I go back to what is familiar. Today I drew Chocolatier Marlain, one of my favourite little spots in Pointe Claire Village. I usually draw this in winter because it’s particularly interesting with snow on the awning and stairs, but I’ve never sketched it in summer.

Along with more location sketching, other activities seem to be starting up again, even if they are more limited or are online. I start Monday life drawing sessions, in person, tomorrow. I’m so excited for that to begin, even if everyone in the room, including the model, will be masked and distanced.

My local art group — Lakeshore Association of Artists — will be having a fall show coming up at the end of the week, but instead of being outdoors at Stewart Hall, it’s been moved online. I’ll post a link to that later in the week.

There are lots of new virtual workshops to help fill your autumn schedule. Suhita Shirodkar has a new online class called The Art of Capturing People, Places and Objects. Suhita’s a great teacher and this is guaranteed to be a wonderful class. Here’s a link to register.

I was interviewed recently by Chicago sketcher Nishant Jain for his brand new The Sneaky Art Podcast. Nishant and I met at the Chicago Sketch Seminar when I took his people drawing workshop. He’s a really smart guy and I had so much fun talking to him. You can listen to the full interview on your browser here or on Spotify or on Apple podcasts. And while you are on his podcast site, spend some time listening to his interview with Paul Heaston too!


I paint this scene every year, sometimes a few times each summer. I love getting lost in the details of the masts and the sail covers. In September we usually have bright blue skies over the lake, but this week the horizon was unusually hazy, apparently caused by drifting smoke from the West Coast fires. Here’s hoping it gets better soon for all my friends on the other side of the continent, both in the U.S. and in Canada.


Sunflowers are always so difficult for me to paint. I think it has to do with the dark centres that, when looked at straight on, become like black holes in the middle of my sketch. This time I got smart. I turned them in the vase until I could hardly those problematic centres, and then I liked them better. As for the vase, I did a little thrift store shopping the other day and found this tall glass treasure which is perfect for sunflowers.

Announcing “Sketching Fresh Flowers: Late Summer Blooms” — a new online course

As you know if you’ve been following this blog, I’ve been sketching a lot in my garden this past summer. I guess we’re all sticking closer to home and enjoying the beauty that surrounds us — especially the flowers.

Flowers are such a big and in-demand subject, that I’ll be rolling out a series of online classes covering various ways of painting them. But I thought a great way to start would be with a trio of small bouquets that allow me to introduce the basics of painting flowers in watercolour.

I’m so excited to share my love of sketching flowers a new online class! In “Sketching Fresh Flowers: Late Summer Blooms,” I’ve raided my own garden, and a few others, to pick and sketch the best August and September blooms. The fresh flowers are right in front of me in my studio as I sketch, so I can capture the subtleties of their colours and shapes as I draw and then paint them with the most vibrant colours on my palette.

The course includes three full-length demos and lots of tips about colour, composition and painting the transparency of glass vases. Plus there’s a new section within each demo where you can share your sketches with other students.

For a preview of “Sketching Fresh Flowers: Late Summer Blooms,” check out the trailer.

Dark and bright

Six bouquets from Ferme Tournesol and one to come in late September. I’m so happy I’ve been home this summer to enjoy them, and to paint them! Of the six, this was the hardest to paint because of all the darks. Of course I could have simplified the bouquet by removing the dark red Celosia in the back, but part of the challenge of painting these is trying to include everything they give me. (To be totally honest, though, I did add a few yellow flowers of my own, but I made no subtractions.)

My recipe for the darks in this is simple: Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Phthalo Green. You have to be careful when you combine these because if you use too much of the green, it’s quite awful, but mixed with the right amount of red, it’s almost black, and it works most effectively as a contrast to the yellow. (See why I needed them in here?)

Garlic braid in gouache

Every once in a while, especially when I’ve been doing a lot of watercolours, I love to go back to thinking about values. Just good old black and white — in this case gouache in a Stillman & Birn Nova toned sketchbook. I try to simplify the big shapes into three values — lights, mid-tones and darks — even if I sometimes veer into variations in between. It’s a great exercise in looking, especially with a simple subject like my garlic braid, and it’s a rest from thinking about colour.

REM on Labour Day

Montreal’s REM light rail line is making its way west. I draw it often but I stopped for the summer because it was too hot to sketch from the car and there’s not much shade out on the highway. Now that September is here, I’m starting back and I was rewarded with the start of the Kirkland station. This is the first time I get to draw something other than the construction of the line itself. And I’m lucky because this station is being built right in front of a Tim Horton’s coffee shop, which means there’s parking and coffee for me when I draw, especially as the weather starts to change.

If you’re interested to see what this elevated station will look like, have a look at the architectural renders on the REM site. You’ll see a view of the Kirkland station seen from Highway 40. It’s pretty cool.


In my university days, or shortly after, a friend was selling an immense wooden drafting table. Even though I probably had no room for it at the time, I found a way to get it home and have been using it to paint on ever since. It’s been such a fixture in my studio that I take it for granted, but when I was sketching the objects on top of it today, I took a good look at it (six feet wide, four feet deep and three inches thick) and I realized what a treasure it is. The surface is so vast that I can work on two paintings at the same time and still have room for jugs of water and cans of brushes. At times it serves at a cutting surface for paper, a tabletop for still life, and if I lowered it and put some chairs around it, a family of six could comfortably eat a meal on it. I sketched it today with a limited palette of four gouache colours (red, yellow, blue and white) on some toned paper.