Blue boots

Boots and shoes are so hard to draw, but on these rainy, snowless Montreal days, they make for a good drawing challenge when I can’t get outside. When I’m done sketching footwear, I often realize that there’s always one that looks bigger than the other, or sometimes both look like they might be owned by someone with two left feet. But I love drawing them. They have personality, complexity and texture. I sketched these in my Hahnemuhle 100% cotton sketchbook, which continues to meet all my sketching needs: great with watercolour, beautiful with pencil, and perfect for ballpoint pens (in this case both the one that ran out of ink as well as the one that blobbed).

Alice on Alice

It’s been a busy week, with no time to draw at all. Lots of family stuff (it’s that time of year) plus a quick trip to New York City to see the Edward Hopper show at the Whitney Museum. (I will write more about the show in my upcoming newsletter — the December issue of The Wheelbarrow.) After a week like this, I realize how much I miss drawing when I haven’t done it for a few days. I went to New York with a sketchbook in my bag, and plenty of good intentions, but the weather was cold and rainy and not at all conducive to sketching. So this morning, after our walk, I sketched Alice in my studio, with the simplest of tools — just a pencil and my Hahnemuhle 100% cotton sketchbook. It took several changes of position for Alice to settle down, but that gave me a chance to warm up my rusty drawing hand with a few pencil lines of her head and paws, and then take my time on a longer drawing.

The edge of the pond

I thought a lot about how to tackle this big area of foreground grass before I put a brush to paper. I don’t use masking fluid or any other form of resist in my watercolours but I wanted light areas in the grass as well as a sense of movement created by the wind coming across the pond AND depth within the grass, without being overly detailed.

My first wash was a light tone of grass colour (mostly Raw Sienna), with lots of white showing through. I tried to think about the movement of crisscrossing lines that would remain light all the way to the end of the painting, so I left some unpainted areas for that. When that bigger shape dried I started to fill in the shapes with other grasses, both behind and in front of the first shape. Then I used a lot of negative painting and smaller darks to add depth to the shapes, using increasingly finer lines. The final step in the grasses was to paint a few strokes of Buff Titanium as well as Titanium White on areas that needed highlights. It was a really good exercise in creating texture.

A pond sketch, a sale and an invitation

Heron Pond at the Technoparc Oiseaux is one of my favourite places to visit and sketch. I love to see the seasonal changes in the wetlands, and record how the light at different times of day affects the surrounding vegetation. Yesterday I visited in the morning but it was too cold to paint on location. Instead I made my way to the edge of the pond to take some reference photos of the backlit bullrushes.

My planning stage for this scene is a value sketch done with a conté stick. I sometimes do value sketches in Payne’s grey watercolour but since this scene is almost entirely based on texture, I used a line tool. Hopefully I will have time to start the painting tomorrow.

A Black Friday Sale

If you’ve taken some of my online courses, you may be interested in my second annual Black Friday Week sale. Most of my courses (except for Rugged Rocks and Sea) are now 30% off until Sunday at midnight ET. Just enter the coupon code BAKERSDOZEN30 at checkout. (This discount doesn’t apply to bundled courses since they are already discounted.)

An Invitation

If you are in the Montreal area, here’s an invitation for a Holiday Pop-Up show that I’m participating in on December 3, at the Lutaflore studio in Pointe Claire. If you haven’t seen the floral arrangements created by Maryse Hudon, you’re in for a treat. It’s been ages since I’ve exhibited work, and I’ll have a selection of small, matted paintings for sale. The address is not on the invitation below, but if you email me, I’ll share it with you. Hope to see you there.

And lastly, to all my friends in the US who celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, have a wonderful long weekend celebration!

Montreal Aviation Museum

Years ago I drew the exterior of the Montreal Aviation Museum, mostly because I was interested in rendering the weathered textures of The Old Stone Barn, where are the aircraft and artifacts are housed. I hadn’t been back there in awhile, and to my pleasant surprise, it’s even more interesting to sketch now because there are planes, or parts of planes, outside the building itself. And of course with a little snow on them, these objects add some interest at the base of the massive grey silos.

There’s not much colour in the November landscape on a cloudy day, but I love mixing greys, so my palette was very limited today. Cerulean Blue, Raw Sienna, Cadmium Red, Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine, mostly. And of course a touch of yellow for the details. Painted on a quarter sheet of Winsor & Newton watercolour paper.

Red coat

The first snow of the season usually disappears quickly, but what a gift to find that the snow from yesterday’s storm is still on the ground this morning. I rushed out to paint something, anything, with a bit of snow on it. My old parking spots on Avenue Sainte Anne in Pointe Claire Village have disappeared thanks to some new condo buildings, but luckily I found an interesting scene of a parking lot behind some storefronts on Lakeshore Road. It’s a busy place in the morning because the building on the right is a drugstore, so there’s lots of activity in that parking lot in the back.

When it’s a constantly changing scene like this, I lock in the important parts — or rather the moving parts — of the drawing first. That means I draw the cars and the man in the red coat first and then add in buildings, road and trees. While I sat there at least ten different cars pulled in and out, but I had my drawing and I stuck with it.

Colours in winter are soft, so for this I used mostly Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Quinacridone Rose and Raw Sienna. With those I can get the soft tones of walls and sky as well as the wonderful slushy greys for the road. Sketched on a block of Hahnemuhle The Collection Watercolour paper, CP.

Wet snow

Winter arrived suddenly today. Last week people were outside in shorts and today the snow plows were criss-crossing the neighbourhood. Of course I could hardly sleep last night knowing that I could paint my wheelbarrow today. And although I got to it rather late in the day when everything was starting to melt and I was losing the light, there was still some snow on it and it was a good start to the winter painting season.

I also sketched Alice having her afternoon nap. At the end of the day, there’s always one eye on me as I sketch her in case I suddenly decide to feed her or take out to the park to retrieve tennis balls. She will happily go from sleeping to standing if I move too quickly, so I sketch quietly and hope no one rings the doorbell.

Three plants, three pens

Winter is a great time for studio experimentation. For pulling out all the tools and materials I haven’t used in a while — the ones that have been gathering dust during plein air season. I know, winter is not here yet but it’s dark before 5 pm, and the days are often grey. The studio is bright and warm and it’s just fun to play.

Yesterday I brought in some dead stuff from the garden — various seed pods and dried out flower stalks.Today I set them out on my drawing table and used three different pens for drawing. At the top is my old standby: the Platinum Carbon Desk pen which I love for making very fine lines. In the middle is the fat Confucius Duke Fude pen with the bent nib. That one is great for fat lines and variable width lines. It’s also great when you need to cover a large area with black ink. At the bottom: the lovely Kakimori Brass nib pen dipped in black ink. And the brown: Walnut Ink diluted with a brush and some water.

Imagine winter

Last week it felt like mid-summer and this week it feels like winter is fast approaching. The trees are mostly bare, and night arrives at 5 pm. I really have to make sure I get out to sketch earlier in the afternoon to get the light.

Today I went out to my favourite spot in Pointe Claire Village, to paint my favourite yellow wall. We haven’t had any snow here yet, but I just can’t wait to paint it. I did this from my car, looking at the late fall scene and imagining a dusting of the white stuff on everything.

Announcing a new online course: Rugged Rocks and Sea

I’m thrilled to launch a new online watercolour course today! This is one I’ve been hoping to do for a long time, and I finally found just the right inspiration in the breathtaking coastline of the Mediterranean. Along the rocky shores of Spain and Greece, I painted rugged rocks and crashing waves, and I’ve posted many of those scenes here on the blog.  

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I love painting rocks and waves, and I realized that it’s because when I first started painting in watercolour, I was lucky to attend workshops in Kennebunkport, Maine, with two generous and inspiring teachers. These two workshops were my first experience painting outdoors; my first immersive retreat with other painters; and my first time painting by the sea. These early and powerful experiences gave me a life-long love of plein air painting. It’s why, to this day, painting rocks and waves has so many magical associations for me.

In Rugged Rocks and Sea: Sketching Colourful Coastal Scenes, I’ll show you all the steps I use when painting rocks and waves. We’ll warm up by creating a full palette of swatches for sketching rocks. Then we’ll paint a series of small seaside scenes inspired by my recent travels to the Mediterranean — each one a little different and a little more complex. Along the way, we’ll work on composition, values and edge control in watercolour. 

As always, there’s a special discount for the first week, so have a look here to learn more!