A summer memory

Today I came across a few sketches that I hadn’t scanned from my summer travels, including this one that brought back some memories of a very special place. During my workshop in Provence, we spent a day at Saint Paul de Mausole Monastery, where Van Gogh spent over a year at the asylum and painted some of his most iconic paintings including The Starry Night and Irises. He also painted at least 15 paintings of the olive trees just outside the walls of the asylum.

When I first caught of a glimpse of these ancient, gnarled trees, their shapes were so familiar — from reproductions and originals I’ve seen over the years in books and at various museums — but I didn’t get to paint them that first day. It wasn’t until a week later that I got my wish to sketch them, in between a quick lunch and a car ride to another outing. In the interim, they haunted me. There was something so powerful about their shapes — massive knotted trunks, branches like embracing arms, clouds of silvery leaves  — that I couldn’t get the image of them out of my head. The sketch was done quickly, perhaps in thirty minutes or so, but the memory of being on that hallowed ground will stay with me forever.


Mountain panorama

The wind rattled my windows and kept me up for half the night, but this morning the sky was wonderful. After my morning class I raced up to the top floor of my building at school to paint a view of the city that I can now only see in late fall or winter when the trees lose their leaves. As the sun broke through the clouds, the shapes of the buildings sharpened, and I captured my Montreal mountain panorama with a flat brush and dabs of mostly Quinacridone Gold, Burnt Sienna, Cobalt Blue and Alizarin Crimson.


Thirty minute sketch

It’s been frustratingly difficult to sketch outdoors these days. We’ve had a lot of rain over the past few weeks, and the rainiest days seem to coincide with my free time before or after class. Last week I had a long break but it was pouring outside and I just wasn’t in the mood to sketch in a café. And then there was the day when the weather was good and I had a short break, but I forgot my palette of paints. Ugh. I ended up drawing in ink but it just wasn’t the same because the trees were bright yellow and I painted them grey. Today I had about thirty minutes on my way to school. I sketched directly in pen, and I don’t think the perspective is quite right because I was rushing so much, but I was happy to sketch that bright yellow tree before all the leaves fall.


White gerbera and poppies

Next Saturday November 10, 11-4 pm, I’ll be participating in a fundraiser for a great cause. “White Gerbera” will be one of the painting I’ll have on display at the Square Foot Exhibit. All square foot art is priced at $160 and 10% of all sales will be donated to the Old Brewery Mission. In all, we’ll be 25 Montreal artists with about 100 works of art for sale. Location: 232 Senneville Road, Senneville. Drop by to say hi, have a bowl of soup, buy some art!!


I’m also very excited to be part of this: this week is the launch of Studio 56 Boutique, a new online store with merchandise featuring the sketches of lots of my sketching friends: Stephanie Bower, Brenda L. Murray, Paul Heaston, Matthew Brehm, James Richards, Víctor Swasky, Maru Godas, Ian Fennelly, Lapin, Inma Serrano, Oliver Hoeller, Kiah Kiean Chng and me! Check it out. You’ll find our artwork (mine is the poppies) on pouches, mugs, t-shirts, phone cases, pillows etc.


First frost

Last night when I looked out my window, big wet flakes of snow were falling. Nothing stayed on the ground but this first frost killed all the hostas in my garden. I took a break from school prep today to sketch them from my kitchen window. Painted on a block of Arches Cold Press paper, 10″ x 14″.


Orange, yellow and blue

What do you do when the thing you like drawing least (in my case it’s cars) is front and centre in your scene? There are two choices available to you: move where you are or stay and deal with it the best you can.

Today on my way to school, I had this very situation. I parked on a street near my house with a beautiful row of maples, but blocking their trunks were two cars. With only an hour to sketch, moving was not option. That would have used up all my precious sketching time. Instead I decided to try to find a way to unobtrusively integrate the cars into my sketch. I wasn’t quite sure how to best combine both the gentle shapes and flowing lines of the trees with the shiny, reflective, angular cars, and in the end decided that judicious use of colour would be my best option.

Instead of dipping into the full range of colours on my palette including dark blues and greys for the cars, I chose a limited range of pigments: Naples Yellow, Translucent Orange, Cerulean Blue and Cobalt Blue. I’m always surprised by how harmonious the mixes will be when you only use a few pigments. And I think that because it’s very hard to get deep darks with any of these colours, I avoided making the cars overly obvious. Also please note something new in the suburban landscape this week: the vertical driveway markers put up by the snow clearing companies. A sure sign of changing weather.


Montreal to Toronto train sketching

Testing, testing. I’ve never posted a video before but this is the only way to show my weekend sketch so thought I’d give it a try. Fingers crossed that you can see it too.

On a train ride to Toronto on Saturday I sketched in an accordion sketchbook, adding a new sketch every time the landscape changed. The paper in the book was quite poor for watercolours but it was so much fun to do that I thought I’d post it anyway. The full size is 7 inches by 5.5 feet. I loved the experience so much (the motion of the train, the sound of the whistle as we approached level crossings, the wide open Canadian landscape) that it made we want to cross the country by rail with a ream of better paper and some good paints in my bag.