The brightest colours

Today I’m catching up on house cleaning and cooking. And also enjoying the fact that we were able to get out to buy some groceries yesterday, since our two weeks of self-isolation are over. I’m really appreciating the fresh vegetables, and you can probably guess what tonight’s dinner will be. And since it’s been raining and dark all day today, I thought I’d use the brightest colours I could find for my sketch. My ink lines are tinted with pigments from Viviva Colorsheets. I’ve used these before, and although I sometimes find them too saturated for urban scenes, these days they seem just right.


Here’s one I painted live on Instagram today. I’ve been wanting to try this for a while, so I threw some paint tubes on my table and pointed the phone at my paper. My son helped with the setup because millennials know how to do these things, and voilà, I started painting. Lots of artists are doing live demos during these weeks of isolation, and it’s a great way to connect. I wasn’t sure anyone would watch but sure enough, people kept popping in and saying hello, from all over the place. Alice even made an appearance. Some people asked that I post about live sessions beforehand so they can tune in, but there was something very nice about the spontaneity of the thing. I think setting a schedule could be stress-inducing, and who needs more stress these days. But it was a nice way to keep my hands busy for an hour, and remember that an hour spent painting is an hour you are not trying to remember not to touch your face. Stay well!

Pool house demo

Apologies for the dark post yesterday. The lack of sun and being confined in the house were not a good combo. Thanks to everyone who sent encouraging comments.

Back to colour today. I just found this little gouache demo from my workshop in South Carolina two weeks ago. This was a very quick one, on the last afternoon of the workshop. I gave everyone a blob of white gouache and showed them how to mix it with watercolour to create more opaque effects on toned paper. Looking forward to more sunny days when I can practice this again in my garden. If you are interested in learning this technique from a pro, have a look at the work of Nathan Fowkes. And look at his book as well. He’s the master.

Black boots

In early spring in Montreal, there’s not much colour outside. One sign of hope was some snowdrops I spotted in my neighbour’s backyard this morning. In my house I suppose I could find colourful things to draw, but black seems to fit the general mood these days, so I used India ink to draw these boots in my front entrance (just noticed that one is too short!). Perhaps it’s my version of austerity measures for sketchers. A friend in France told me that on her weekly excursion to the grocery store (permission form in hand) she filled her basket with black quinoa, black lentils and black chickpeas (which I had never heard of). It was only when she got home that she realized that her shopping had a colour theme.

We all have our own way of dealing with this period. I read that Jim Carrey is growing a beard during his quarantine. Some sketchers are keeping Covid 19 diaries. I’m not saying that I will only draw in ink until we can get out again, it’s just that for the moment, splashes of bright colour seem less appropriate than India ink.

Early spring

Being indoors is making me stir-crazy, and sitting in my car to draw seems too passive these days. So for today’s scribble, I took my pad and my fountain pen to the woods where I walk the dog. There’s never anyone there, so it’s as good as being in isolation at home. Except there are bits of snow and trees to draw. Thirty minutes was about as much as I could stand without gloves, plus it was too cold to paint on site, so I added a bit of wash when I got home.

Everything and the kitchen sink

These days the kitchen is getting more use than normal. With three of us working at home — eating, cooking, working at the counter — it’s become a hub, and often a mess. We try to keep up, but it’s hard. Today I was about to wash some of this stuff, or load it into the dishwasher, but I stopped to draw it first. And that leads me to what I really wanted to say, which is that I am trying to draw every day during all of this isolation and quarantine. Painting too, of course, but these days that’s often from photos, and that is not the same. For me, the skill that has to stay sharp is the looking skill. Drawing from life, whether it’s out the window or in my dirty sink, is what keeps me from getting rusty. (And these days, keeps me from obsessively reading the news.) This is directly with pen, and even though some of the angles and curves could probably be better, I’m happy I did it. Of course the dishes are still in the sink as I type, but it’s only us, right?

Helping hands

I’ve seen lots of sketches of rolls of toilet paper online, but these are the unsung heroes in my house — the various hand creams and rescue ointments that help repair the wreckage from incessant hand washing and disinfecting of various surfaces. What’s your secret remedy for sandpaper skin?