Sunday at the pond

After all the rain in Montreal, there’s a heat wave to keep us complaining. Walking outside is like entering a steamy sauna. I found a bit of shade and a cool breeze near the lake, and set up at the pond outside the Baie d’Urfe Town Hall. The pond is actually covered in some sort of tree pollen but I took a little artistic license and left it out. As prep for teaching at Madeline Island in a few weeks, I’m practicing water and reflections. My workshop is called Red Rocks and Emerald Waves: Capturing the Rugged Shores of Madeline Island. There were no red rocks at the pond, and the water wasn’t really emerald, but it was close enough. And there was a big fat frog under one of the lily pads. Painted in direct watercolour (no pencil or pen) in an Etchr Perfect Sketchbook.

Stuff on my desk

During my Zoom call with Suhita this week, I did a sort of mindless drawing with my Kakimori brass nib dip pen while we chatted. Turns out Suhita was drawing with the same pen. I hadn’t really planned what I was going to draw during our call, but that pen, a sketchbook, and a bottle of ink, are always on my desk. They’re there in case I catch Alice in a good pose after a walk, or if I am on endless hold with tech support for something or other (usually the phone company!), or if I just need to take a break from doing stuff on my computer for a bit.

Here’s another one from a day when Alice had come in from a walk and I needed a work break too.


This week I moderated a wonderful CSPWC demo titled Stylized Florals by Sterling Edwards. If you know his expressive work, you’ll know that he paints very loosely and without much pencil drawing. Watching him paint inspired me to do some wet-in-wet today, which is very appropriate since it doesn’t stop raining in Montreal! Painted on a sheet of Fabriano, approx, 10 x 10 inches, using lots of Scarlet Lake and Quinacridone Coral.

All that is blooming

Just before the rain, I went out to the garden and cut down almost everything in bloom — a few perennials from the beds in front and in back, and for contrast, a few red geraniums from containers on my deck. Sadly, it left me with a bare outdoor garden, but that will fill in again soon enough. The harvest of blooms was too much to fit in one vase so I spread out the wealth amongst several glass containers, and added a white mug, again for contrast. I was so excited to paint this giant mass of colour that I forgot to even tape my paper to a board, but it didn’t matter much. A couple of bulldog clips did the job. Painted on a 16″ x20″ sheet of Arches CP 140 lb.

Santa Fe Railyard

I’m still finding sketches from my Santa Fe sketchbook that I haven’t scanned or posted, including this one of the railyard area — one of my favourite sketching locations in the city. If you’re there on the right day, there’s a fantastic farmer’s market, plus there’s plenty of shade and lots to draw. I love the water tower with a view of the mountains in the distance. The day we were there, there was a vaccination clinic under the tower which added a lot of interest to the shadow areas.

I started with a value sketch, and a bit of colour planning too. By the time I went to put colour on the sketch the light had changed considerably, but the sketch was detailed enough to use as plan for the shadows in the bigger version.

And a bit of advice if you go there (and this is a tip from a local): there’s a cafe in the market that sells the best blue corn blueberry donuts. I am not usually a donut eater but this one was really good. I wish I had done a sketch of it but it didn’t last that long.

Hear and there


It was a real pleasure to be interviewed recently by Kelly Anne Powers from the Learn to Paint Podcast. As part of the prep for our talk, I listened to many of Kelly Anne’s interviews with some of my favourite painters like Andy Evansen, Dean Mitchell and Brienne Brown. She’s a great interviewer — her questions are insightful and they really made me think about how and why I paint. If you are interested in hearing our ramblings, here’s the link. It goes live today.


Workshop season is in full swing, and it feels so great to be sketching on location with people again. Here are a few upcoming events, both this year and next.

It makes me especially happy to be teaching this summer with super-talented friends/artists Uma Kelkar, Paul Heaston and James Richards at the Urban Sketching Summer Retreat on Madeline Island from July 11-15. I know I’ve mentioned many times how much fun we had last year, so forgive me for saying it again, but great times were had by all and we aim to recreate that next month. The sketching locations are gorgeous, the food is delicious, and it really is like summer camp. There are just a few spots left, so if you think you might be interested, sign up soon.

Next year I’ll also be teaching with Madeline Island School at Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, Arizona from February 6-10, 2023. I can’t wait to set up my easel to paint some of those desert landscapes. Registration has just opened up, and if you are interested in learning more, here’s the link.

There’s been one cancellation in my workshop in Costa Brava, Spain from September 10-17, 2022. In pre-Covid times, I taught in France and Italy with Jackie and Valerie from French Escapade, and I can’t wait to meet up with them again. If you’ve never been a guest on one of their holidays, you are in for a treat. They always pick the best sketching spots for us, and their hospitality in unmatched! Here’s the link to find out more.

From the moment I first saw Claude Monet’s magnificent water lily paintings at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, I’ve dreamed of visiting Giverny, France, to view the garden that inspired them. It will be a thrill to host a workshop in France next September, again with French Escapade. Find out more here.

Out of season

I’m out of sync with the season. I should be painting something from the garden instead of the grocery store. I should be eating strawberries instead of pears. I should be painting outside instead of inside. But sometimes it’s just nice to set up a simple still life on a table, turn on the music, and spend a few hours in my studio. Painted on a pad of Arches paper, 10 x 14″, with a mostly limited palette of Quin Coral, Ultramarine and Hansa Yellow.

Falling peonies

Susanne‘s garden is especially nice in June and I often join her to paint poppies. Sometimes I miss the blooming of the peonies, which are usually the following week, but I made it this year! I love the way they look when they fall over and rain petals on the grass. Painted on a quarter sheet of Fabriano CP 140 lb paper.

Martin 16 moment

It happens occasionally when I’m working on location that suddenly something more interesting than what I’m painting catches my eye. That was the case yesterday. I was drawing the masts in the harbour, when a Martin 16 sailboat sailed past and docked next to another boat. The two sails set against the dark building was so striking that I set aside my first painting and quickly did a pencil sketch of this scene.

If you’re not familiar with the Martin 16 boats, read about them here. I tried to capture a bit of the action when the boat came in, but it wasn’t long before the sail was down, the instructors were gone, and I had to finish that part of the scene from memory.

The scene I was going to draw was the one I do often of the docked boats. Below is one I did a few years back. If you’re interested in learning how to simplify a complex scene like this one, my online course “Sketching Boats: Simple Solutions for a Complex Scene” is on sale until tomorrow at midnight! No coupon necessary at checkout.

Green trim

In between two sessions of teaching in Santa Fe we did a couple of road trips outside the city. One day we visited Ghost Ranch, and the next day we took a drive along the Turquoise Trail, a historic byway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. We stopped in a few small towns including Cerrillos and Madrid. If you’ve taken this route, you may know that Madrid was a coal mining settlement back in the 1800s, but now it’s quite a colourful place, with lots of small shops, bars and galleries, and a parade of tourists visiting for the day.

When we stopped for coffee, I did a sketch of a courtyard from the patio where we were seated, but when we got up to leave I saw this abandoned property next door which looked far more interesting than what I had sketched. I took a photo and painted it in studio today. When I look at the reference photo, I can hardly discern any colour in the scene. Every bit of anything, whether man-made or natural, was dried, desiccated, rusted, cracked, corroded, peeling or shrivelled, except for the bright green trim of the peaked roof. It didn’t seem like it really belonged in a town where everything has been prettied up, but that’s what made it, by far, the most interesting scene to paint. Painted on a sheet of Arches CP 140lb, 16″ x 20″.