The north side

When the thermometer goes down to 3°C, it’s car studio time for me. And I’ve come to realize that I am very comfortable painting from my car. I’ve been doing for so many years that I don’t really think about where anything goes anymore. Water container in the cup holder, palette on the passenger’s seat, sketchpad leaning on the steering wheel. Everything has its place.

In Pointe Claire Village, there’s a perfectly good parking spot with a no-parking sign ahead. That means I will have a clear view of the storefronts and the sidewalk, which is starting to buzz with shoppers, dog walkers and coffee drinkers. Some might find this view uninteresting, but I like the overlapping signs and shapes that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. The light is soft so I choose a limited palette of Cobalt Blue, Alizarin Crimson and Hansa Yellow, and try to include a bit of foliage, knowing that in a week or so the autumn colours will be gone.

17 Comments on “The north side”

  1. I love this. It really captures the liveliness of a street scene, in this region, in this season. It conveys a lightness and optimism, which is what I think we are starting to feel now.

    Just today I was thinking that I must get out and try sketching from my wee car before it gets too cold. We’ll see how that goes. Interesting that you now find the car set-up so comfortable.

    Question: at what point do you choose to work with a limited palette and choose the colours. While drawing? Or as soon as you decide on the scene? Or… ?


    • Alison, thanks a lot. Such thoughtful comments to read.
      Yes, there is certainly a sense of optimism that we haven’t felt in a long time. It is nice to feel surrounded by that when you go out, even though we are still masked and careful. As for you, you definitely need to do some car sketching in that little car. I suspect you might get a bit cold though.
      Good question about the colour! Sometimes my palette is limited because I haven’t filled it before leaving the house, but I know that is not the answer you are looking for. More often it is the scene that tells me how to paint it, and often it is the choice of blue that sways the value. For example, today the light was very soft so instead of choosing Ultramarine, I chose Cobalt Blue, knowing that it would be give me softer greens and not very dark darks.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Bernadette says:

    Great on site painting. I find it exciting that you include such variety, people, signs, umbrellas, buildings and produce stands. I’m impressed, always, by your compositions. With so much going on, how do you pick and choose? How do you decide what to eliminate? I suppose your years of experience just guide your hand. Tell me, when working in your car, what size paper do you use?


    • Bernadette, thanks so much. It’s interesting that you asked about this composition. I actually started by drawing the sandwich board on the ground. From there I just drew around it, adding pieces of the puzzle as they fit in around the sign. A strange way of working, and I don’t always do that, but I really wanted the focus to be on the signs. I worked on a pad of Arches that is 11 x 15 inches, but I cropped out a piece on the left with a badly drawn car and the other side of the street. It did not add anything to the composition. As for working in the car, that is about as big as I can go on top of my steering wheel.


  3. Francine La Rocque says:

    Thank you… this, so dynamic!


  4. Uma Maheswar Nakka says:

    Good Morning dear friend Shari,

    Wishing you and your family
    Ma Mahalakshmi shower her blessings on you and your family, with lots of prosperity, happiness, health, wealth, success, joy, love, safe and peaceful long life.

    I love this painting very much, so nice.



  5. mcammeehan says:

    I admire your ability to sketch and paint in your car!! I’ve only tried it once and the results weren’t bad but I felt a bit self-conscious.


    • Maureen, I used to feel like that too. But I got over it long ago. I realize that when people walk by, they feel just as self-conscious as you do if they look into your car. The only people who stop are the ones who know me. So sketch away and don’t worry about it.


  6. Barry says:

    Really NICE, Shari! I’m still painting outdoors on my little pack stool but its getting chilly and my hands get stiff, so maybe its time to start working from the car. I’ve read about your system for working in a car, and it sounds like you’ve got a great system for that! I’ll have to work on it…


    • Barry, you are more hardy than I am! But of course with your pack stool you can get to more places than I can. I am limited to where I can park the car, and that would not be in the middle of a field or wetland, which is where I imagine you are with your gear.


  7. We only have one car so its not available regularly for sketching duty. That said, my biggest problem with car sketching is finding a location. The old city is where the best sketching is to be had in Quebec City and if you have to go by car, you don’t go unless you want to pay $16 for an underground parking spot (grin). Residential areas are about the only places you can park here and those are rather plain. Still, I’ll probably try again this winter, mostly because I keep reading about the fun you have doing it.

    I was surprised to hear you work on 11×15 in your car, but the more I thought about it the more I think that may be the ideal. I find trying to balance a 5×8 sketchbook on a steering wheel to be, well, hard. Maybe a larger panel would be just the thing. Thanks so much for the answers you gave to others in this thread. Most helpful.


    • Hi Larry. I can see what your issue is, having been to Old Quebec. Yes, underground parking does not lend itself to good views. I am lucky to have Pointe Claire Village, Lachine, and even Ste. Anne de Bellevue closeby. All have older buildings as well as parking, as long as you get the right spot at the right time of day. As for the size of my work, yes, I would probably have a very cramped hand if I was working in a small book. Plus, I can’t really work small anymore. All my books are larger, at least 8″ x 8″. Hope you get out anyway this winter. With some snow on it, even a boring house looks nice.


      • I think I’ll have to find my own Point Claire. There are lots of towns around here 🙂 As for size, my eyes have been opened to many things, including size. I’ve spent 10 years learning to draw with a fountain pen and small sketchbook. I’ve never drawn ANYTHING larger than 8×10 and most of my sketches have been 3×5 to 8×10. Your workshops taught me that switching to a pencil and not relying upon hard outlines to define my art has great potential, though much learning attached to such a shift. I’ve set aside my fountain pens, and even my watercolors because they’re so tied to my use of those fountain pens, and I’m trying to learn to develop form using oil paints, which require me to abandon the line contour approach. Lots of fun, though with some frustration 🙂 Anyways, thanks again for opening my eyes.


  8. A sketch like this attracts me right away and this is really so well done. The man with the white shirt draws the eye and then the small areas of white in all the signs make your eyes dance around the page…perfect! It was funny but this morning a friend sent me a message about this post of yours and how you painted from your car and you were so comfortable doing it. She knows that I am always mentioning my “mobile studio” which I use more often than not. It came in especially handy this year because of my hip surgery and limited mobility. If I can find a good spot to park I don’t bother leaving the car. In the summer I rolled down all the windows and in the cold I just bundle up so I don’t have to keep the heat on. It works well! I am glad to see you are traveling and teaching again. It must feel like things are getting back to normal. I doubt that I will be traveling for quite a while yet but I can dream about it and live vicariously through you.


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