Live gouache demo

Want to learn more about gouache? This Friday October 23, I’m excited (ok, a bit nervous too) to do a free live demo on YouTube hosted by Etchr. I’ll be painting something similar to the paint tubes below. My gouache tubes will be set up on my table in front of me, and I’ll be painting them using… gouache! I’ll demonstrate how to play with highlights and shadows and since the session is moderated by Maria from Etchr, you’ll also be able to ask any questions you have on the topic.

If you want to paint along, have your paints, brushes, and paper ready for the session. And in case you don’t have any paint tubes, you can also find the reference photo here.

Here is the schedule for different time zones:

4:00 pm LA Time Friday (October 23rd)
7:00 pm NY Time Friday (October 23rd)
12:00 am London Time Saturday (October 24th)
7:00 am Singapore Time Saturday (October 24th)
10:00 am Melbourne Time Saturday (October 24th)

Hope to see you there, or at least answer your questions in the chat!!


Announcing a new online class “Sketching Boats: Simple Solutions for a Complex Scene”

If you follow this blog you’ve seen many sketches of the sailboats at my favourite spot in Pointe Claire Village. I painted there many times this summer. I love that crazy, jumbled view of sailboats with their masts swaying in the wind, but I’ve spent many hours struggling with how to make sense of that scene. And thinking about past successes and failures sketching this gave me an idea for a new course. Sketching Boats: Simple Solutions for a Complex Scene is about just that: finding ways to simplify that tangle of sail covers, masts, ropes, rails and hulls, AND giving you a logical sketching process that you can apply to any complex scene.

In this course I’m excited to share all the steps I use on location, like analyzing the composition first, doing a little value sketch, and then painting from big shapes to smaller ones.

For a preview of Sketching Boats: Simple Solutions for a Complex Scene, have a look at the trailer.


My favourite tree, year 8

I paint this maple every year. It has a perfect domed shape, and in the fall the whole tree turns a luminous yellow orange. The property where the tree grows was purchased this year, and the new owners have done extensive renovations on the house and garden, but thankfully the tree remains as is. In any case, you have to get a permit from the city to cut down any trees, and there would be no sensible reason to touch this once since it is not near any power lines, nor is it diseased. If you’re interested in seeing previous sketches of the tree: year 7, year 6, year 5, year 4, year 3, year 2 and year 1.

There are some upcoming events that I’m excited to share info about in the next few days. Watch for a new course launch in a day or so, as well as a live gouache demo with Etchr on YouTube.


Woods on fire

This really is the week to paint autumn colours, at least in Montreal. We are enjoying some warm days, and the yellows are at their brightest. The other day I painted this scene from Angell Woods in monochrome, and then took it a step further by painting it in colour and just slightly larger (16″ x 12″ on a block of Winsor & Newton Rough paper). I wasn’t really intending on having it this yellow/orange but somehow the colours outside my studio window made their way onto my brush.

My intention was to create a contrast between warm (the foliage, both on the trees and on the ground) and cool (the houses in shade and tree trunks). Here’s a photo of what the painting looks like on my easel as I set up the warms and cools.

Here’s the finished painting.

My value sketch was nearby as I painted, and it was a really helpful reference. There were a few details in the composition that I adjusted as I went from monochrome to colour, but the major one is the size and placement of the foreground trees.


Freya on the boat

Today’s virtual life drawing was a little crazy. Our model, Freya, was posing on a boat, somewhere out on the ocean off the coast of Sao Tomé and Principe. She was also somewhat of a contortionist. So the experience was like trying to draw one of the acrobats from the Cirque du Soleil, AT THE SAME TIME AS going out on a sailboat on a windy day. A great challenge and probably one of the hardest life drawing sessions I have ever done. This was one my more successful attempts.

Here are the ones where I became completely lost in body parts.


The edge of the woods

The light was really beautiful this morning in Angell Woods, and as I approached an area of the path bordered by houses, this grouping of buildings caught my eye. The pattern of light was so sharp as it cut through a clearing, that I quickly snapped a photo to use as a reference in studio.

I came home and tried out a technique I watched in a CSPWC demo by Poppy Balser the other night. Poppy is a Nova Scotia painter whose work I have admired for a very long time. Her technique for working in values is a little different than mine. Her value paintings are full size, meaning that they are on the same size paper as the sheet she is intending to paint on in colour, whereas my value sketches are always smaller than my paintings, more like postcard size. And instead of working in a single pigment like Payne’s Grey, she makes a gorgeous mix of Daniel Smith Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna and paints with that.

Why work in values first? In watercolour, this really lets you figure out where the lights and darks in a painting will be. I have been using this planning method for many years, but it was nice to hear someone else think their way through a painting, and see them paint in a slightly different way than what I do. I decided to try her method in studio today, so I worked on a 10″ x 14″ sheet of Arches CP 140 lb. Tomorrow I will paint this in colour and we will see how that turns out.

As for the demo series, most of the free events the CSPWC is offering on Zoom in October sold out quickly, but there are still tickets for a panel discussion about plein air painting that I think will be really interesting.


Park action

I go to the park every day to walk Alice. It has been particularly beautiful this week because the trees around the perimeter of the soccer field are in full autumn splendour. I may have mentioned already that the park was recently renovated by the city — lots of new play equipment mostly, plus a bocce court —and it went from a place where hardly anyone went to a gathering spot for families with young kids. It’s really wonderful to see, especially during these months where it’s hard to gather anywhere. Today it’s very warm in Montreal, and very windy, so I couldn’t set up my easel but I did find a seat across the field where I could sketch the action.


Unscheduled outage

There was an unscheduled power outage in my neighbourhood this morning. Poof, just like that, on a beautiful sunny autumn day, my studio went dark. Luckily I had some fresh ballpoint pens on hand, a sketchbook at the ready, and a seat at the window. There’s nothing like having a little unexpected break for drawing.

I haven’t drawn with a ballpoint in a long time but I loved the scribblyness of it, and how much fun it is for building up tones. It’s quite forgiving, for an ink pen, since you can start quite light and layer the lines. I thought it might be nice to take it along to the next life drawing session, but the city has put that on hold, like all other recreational and sports activities. I had a feeling this would happen one of these days with our new Covid restrictions. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.


Red-on-red, step-by-step

I took process shots while painting these hot peppers because it was a watercolour challenge for me. Red peppers on a red cloth. What gets painted first? The red subject or the red background?

In this experiment, I decided to try painting the background first. The cloth is a deep crimson, so I used mostly Alizarin Crimson mixed with a bit of Cobalt Blue in places. I used a 1″ flat brush that carries a lot of wash and has a good edge. I mixed up enough paint in a big puddle so that I wouldn’t have to make more wash while painting.

Next I painted the peppers. For these I used mostly Cadmium Red, mixed with a little Hansa Yellow for the light parts, and Alizarin for the shadow sides. I left the white of the paper for the shiny highlights on the peppers.

The green pepper and the stems were painted with a mixture of Hansa Yellow and Prussian Blue. I wanted to choose a blue that made a nice bright green, and this worked well.

The last steps are adding the shadows on the cloth. Here’s the trick with this: if you paint the cloth too dark to start with, you won’t see the shadows, so paint this a little lighter than it was. Reds are tricky. Also, make sure your background is dry so your shadows remain sharp.

This is the final, scanned version of the sketch. The previous images are photos of the sketch on my easel.


Myriam, mostly in contour

Myriam has a wonderful body to draw. She must be a dancer, although I never got around to asking her. Wearing a mask definitely limits small talk in a life drawing session.

In our Monday sessions we start with three minute poses. Today I worked in pencil with a contour line.

With quick contours like this I try to follow the edge of her body with my eyes, and let my pencil follow along on the paper.

Five minute poses are ideal for me. It gives me a little more time to do contours and then measure both vertically and horizontally to line things up.

With a ten minute pose you can add a bit of shading. Or in my case, work on getting that foreshortened right leg right!

Or that foreshortened arm!

The final poses are longer, but we can’t move around the room if we want a better angle on the model. We are restricted to staying within our taped-off squares on the floor. This was a very difficult pose to draw from where I was sitting, but I figure that I am there to be challenged so I struggled all the way through.