Mother’s Day

My favourite spring bouquet is always made up of the perennials that are the first to bloom. This year the bleeding hearts were crushed by the snow that fell in late April, but miraculously they survived and seem tougher than ever. They are not fully in bloom yet but I picked them anyway since their heart-shaped blooms seemed like the perfect shape for today.

Bulbs 41-51

As I suspected, all the tulips in the garden are blooming at the same time. These red ones were so bright, so shockingly red, that they required special treatment. I pulled out my Neocolor II Watersoluble pastels. I haven’t used these much but they are perfect for the paper I’m working on because they don’t need much water to release vivid colour.

Here’s what I’ve done so far in the concertina sketchbook. It measures about 6 ft across and I am just about halfway through the first side of the book.

If you’re looking for a great book about art, artists, spring, and much more, I highly recommend the just-released “Spring Cannot be Cancelled: David Hockney in Normandy” by Martin Gayford. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you know that I am a fan of Hockney’s work, and I’ve also enjoyed many books by Gayford. This one is a true joy, especially during this difficult pandemic year. It’s a book that I am reading slowly and cherishing every moment that I have with it.

Bulbs 35-40

I had some catching up to do in my garden sketches today. Only a few sad clumps to draw but more will be ready soon. There are huge groupings of tulips that are about to bloom but I’m waiting until they open to draw them. The buds are starting to turn pink or purple, which means they must be captured them in their prime for the full colour effect.

Today I used both gouache (for a thick paint effect) and a Micron pen (to build up line) because I’m trying to sketch these using as many different materials as I can. If all 200 bulbs end up blooming then I will likely run out of new materials to use, but this paper can’t take a lot of water so most of what I use will have to be on the dryish side.

Alice on the bed

I took a photo of Alice on a bed that she thinks is hers. It’s where she has a nap in the morning after her walk. I loved the composition of the folds of the sheet that covers the bed so I painted it today in gouache on hot press paper in my Etchr sketchbook. My gouache palette has plenty of bright colours on it but I love gouache best when I can mix up all the beautiful greys and neutrals. For this I used mostly Burnt Umber, Ultramarine Blue, Yellow Ochre and of course some white.

An online show starting today

In pre-pandemic times, it was always so much fun to participate — in person — in the Lakeshore Artists Spring Show at Fritz Farm. But like many art groups these days, we’ve had to create a virtual event this year. I’ll miss the experience of being at the show and talking to visitors, but there’s an advantage to the online platform. Instead of a two-day exhibit, the show is on for a full month (May 1-31, 2021), so you really get to peruse the work (from 40 artists!) on your own time.

I’m always especially happy to be a part of this show because 1/3 of all proceeds from sales goes to NOVA West Island — a truly amazing organization that has helped so many families, including my own, in the West Island. If you want to read a bit more about the 32-year collaboration between NOVA and the LAA, have a look at the article in today’s Montreal Gazette. Here’s a link to the full show, and to my gallery, which is also displayed below. If you need more info, or are interested in purchasing a painting, just drop me a line in my contact form here.

“Winter Boatyard” watercolour, 22″ x 15″, $800
“Wetlands” watercolour, 22″ x 15″, $800
“Maritime Museum” watercolour, 22″ x 15″, $800
“Arboretum” watercolour, 19″ x 10″, $750
“Quidi Vidi” watercolour, 22″ x 15″, $800
“Arboretum Melt” watercolour, 22″ x 15″, $800
“Canada Malting” watercolour, 22″ x 15″, $800
“Silver Creek” watercolour, 22″ x 15″, $800

April showers

It’s a rainy day in Montreal, but I was itching to get out to sketch. I took advantage of a break in the showers to do a little drawing from my car. I had just enough time to put in the pencil lines and add some red on the fire hydrant before heavy rain started again. If that hydrant is the only object that’s in focus, it’s because it is. I couldn’t see much else through the window as I painted the rest, but I’m happy that the drippiness of the sketch mirrors the mood of the day.

Magnolias and magenta

This week magnolia trees are in their prime in Montreal, but I don’t have one so I sketched one in my neighbourhood. Every year it’s the same tree because it’s huge, laden with blooms, and fairly close to the road, so I can paint it unobtrusively from my car. The pink on saucer magnolias is kind of a muted colour and I’m never sure what pigment to use. Today I tried Permanent Magenta, since I have that on my palette at the moment.

Last year when I filled my travel palette I left a few spots for colours that I might want to try out, and those are the ones on the far left. A year later they are still there, so I guess they’re staying. At the top is Chromium Black from Winsor & Newton. It’s a black that is not too granulating, and it’s warm, which is nice for greys in urban scenes. In the middle is Cobalt Green — a very opaque pigment that is perfect for accents of colour in sketches with lots of people in them, or for painting glacier-fed lakes or tropical seas. And the third in the row is Permanent Magenta, which I use often for florals, and which came in very handy today with these magnolias.

Earth colours for Earth Day

This spring I’m a little obsessed with anything that resembles a wetland. I think the obsession started in the fall when I discovered the Technoparc Oiseaux, and continued into the winter when I often painted the stream that runs through Angell Woods. This week, on a walk with Alice, I discovered a wooded area that had been flooded from some recent rainfall. It’s an area I know well because that’s the neighbourhood pool where my kids spent their summers, way in the distance. I took a reference photo and painted this from the warmth of my studio, in gouache, on a small piece of 9″ x 7″ watercolour illustration board that I found in the back of a closet, left over from my days as an illustrator. It’s a really nice surface to work on — Arches paper mounted on thick board — because it has some tooth to it and it doesn’t buckle. It’s even better than working on a block of paper, and that’s a good thing because there are more sheets where this one came from.

In the snow: bulbs 31-34

As predicted, we woke up to falling snow today. Not just falling, but actually staying on the ground type of snow. If not for the 200 bulb project, I would not have sketched outside, but I knew it would be possible to do since the sketchbook is small and I was close to the house.

My easel is hinged so I was able to clip my book vertically to keep it as dry as possible. And I worked in gouache, knowing that it would dry quickly. I still had snowflakes on the paper, but droplets on gouache do not do as much damage as they do on watercolour — something to keep in mind for other outings.

I kept my easel quite low to the ground and sat on my camp stool. As you can see, there were no birds in the birdbath to keep me company today.

In the wind: bulbs 26-30

When I started this ambitious project of sketching the 200 bulbs that I planted last autumn, I imagined sitting outside in the warm spring sun. But this week is unseasonably cold, and today I was wrapped in a parka and wearing a hat and gloves. I’m pretty sure a few snowflakes hit my sketchbook, and I had to hang on to the accordion book so that it wouldn’t blow away in the wind. I did manage to sketch the next group of hyacinths, which are beautiful but too heavy for their stalks. They’ve flopped over in the garden, and I have a feeling that tomorrow they’ll be covered in snow, if the forecast on my weather app is correct.

I was hoping to spend a bit more time on the drawing and painting of these but the wind was just too strong. I tried to convey the deep purple of the flowers with just a few washes, mainly a mix of Cobalt Blue and Quin Rose with some darks added at the end. Luckily the fierce wind worked in my favour because drying time was mercifully quick and I was able to get back into the warmth of the house in good time.