The pond next to City Hall in Baie d’Urfé is one of my favourite places to paint. Even though it’s situated fairly close to a busy road and a noisy bus stop, when I paint there I hear nothing of the traffic going by. My brain tunes out everything except the call of the red-winged Blackbirds and the burbling of the water. A little oasis, really. It’s not a huge pond but there’s a little stream that leads from one pool to another, a spot under the trees for my easel, and a fountain in case I run out of painting water. Painted wet-in-wet on Arches paper, 15″ x 11″.
I’m so excited to announce that my first online Craftsy class “Sketching Landscapes in Pen, Ink & Watercolour” is now out on DVD. I have been asked many times for this by people who have slower internet connections or can’t watch online courses for one reason or another. This DVD is the exact same course content as the online version, broken up into seven convenient lessons and including all my tips and techniques for composition, painting skies, drawing with pen and ink, and painting with quick watercolour washes. For blog readers, click here for a 25% off coupon. And watch for a June launch of my other online class “Sketching the City in Pen, Ink and Watercolour” on DVD too!
I’ve painted lots of fruit but this may be a first for cherries. These were great fun to paint because when you look carefully at each one you see so many colours. The lightest ones go from red to orange and others are so dark that I had to mix up a black from Alizarin and Phthalo Green to obtain the intensity I wanted. The fruit also picks up little bounces of light from the plate so in some places I tried to give a hint of that too. When I paint something this dark I aim for a deep colour to start with, in this case Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Quinacridone Rose, Ultramarine Blue and Phthalo Blue, with a little yellow to warm up a few of the fruit. If you want clean colour, you don’t want to paint this in too many layers because you’ll lose the freshness of the paint. Sketched in a Handbook Watercolour Journal, 5.5″ x 8.5″.
Thanks to Les Amis de la Montagne for inviting Urban Sketchers Montreal to enjoy the third annual day of sketching in Mount Royal Park. There’s always so many things to draw on the mountain, especially on the weekend. The morning started off pretty quiet with hardly a soul in sight when I sketched the pavilion at Beaver Lake. At the last minute I added in a few figures so it wouldn’t look completely deserted.
In the afternoon things got a little more lively in the park. Entire families arrived with coolers of food, bags of charcoal and kids in tow. Soon the air was filled with the aroma of grilling meat. We were headed up to the lookout to paint a panorama of the city but stopped in our tracks when we saw the birthday party under the trees. Who can resist the balloons, the ribbons, the party favours and loot bags? With a scene like this the hardest part for me is the figures, so I just jumped right in and drew those first. I’m not used to drawing children so I started with the little girl in the white dress and moved on from there. The day ended with a nearby family offering our group of sketchers a plate of food from their table. Can’t get much better than this on a Sunday in the park.
The middle of May is usually an exciting time because that’s when the boats around here go in the water. But this is an unusual year, with all the flooding around Quebec, and the water levels at record highs in Lac St. Louis. The other evening I went down to check out the area around the Pointe Claire Yacht Club to see what was happening. The road leading to the club is closed to vehicles but you can walk down towards the lake. I was shocked to see the water up so high that the parking lot where I often paint is submerged. In fact, the waves were so inviting in the lot that my dog wanted to go for a swim.
Today, I went down to the lake again to see if I could see the Yacht Club from the park nearby. There seems to be lots of movement on the grounds of the club — I guess just a bunch of sailors working on their boats and itching to launch them. I tried to get an ETA on launch day from one boat owner who stopped to look at my sketch. He nodded his head slowly and said, “Not anytime soon…”. Instead I sketched the orange cones and the people who came down to the water to stand on the shoreline and fish.
Continuing my series of faded tulips in the garden, today I focused on greens — warm, cool and dark. At this time of year, as the trees start to leaf out, my mind swirls with recipes for mixing greens. I try to avoid the one-dimensional Sap Green and instead combine yellows and blues to create a wider range of hues that go from yellowish to deep blue/green. When the green is too bright I add in a bit of the complementary colour (red) to dull it down, or sometimes Burnt Sienna to give it warmth. For the darkest greens, instead of using a convenience pigment like Deep Sap, I have been experimenting with a mix of Viridian, Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. One word of warning when using Viridian: this isn’t a colour you often find in nature. I usually tame it with some yellow or blue so that I don’t end up with patches of Astroturf in my sketches.
In preparation for painting this year at the Plein Air Invitational at the New York Botanical Gardens, Marc Holmes and I spent the day at our local Jardin Botanique in Montreal. It was a perfect day for some plein air painting — just the right temperature and no wind — so we started in the perennial garden where the tulips were just starting to fade. It was a good warmup for painting in New York, where the featured event will be Chihuly in the Garden. If you are visiting the gardens on Sunday, June 11, drop by to say hello. Over 20 painters will be spread out all around the site, and I’m not sure where I’ll be, but there’s usually a map at the garden entrance so you can find us. Hope to see you there!