Fifteen minutes

I had exactly fifteen minutes to draw — the time it takes from when you finish getting your Covid19 vaccine until the time it is safe to leave the vaccination site. These people also had fifteen minutes. Knowing that I would have a bit of time there, I brought along a sketchbook and a brush pen. At first I started to draw carefully but then my drawing became more animated. Excitement, relief, happiness to be drawing people? A bit of everything I suppose. I forgot to date the drawing before scanning it but I will now. I don’t want to forget this.

Daffodils in gouache

In late fall I planted about 200 spring bulbs in my garden. I know that sounds crazy but I wanted an explosion of colour to sketch this spring. Every day a bit more snow melts, and every day I go out there, looking for signs of at least one or two of the two hundred. Nothing yet. While I wait, I figured I’d better practice so I bought a few from the grocery store and sketched them in gouache today, on hot press paper. And if all 200 bloom, you’ll see them here in some form or another.


It’s easy to make excuses and stay indoors to paint when there’s still snow on the ground. I’ve gotten used to that during this strange pandemic year. But today I pushed myself out the door, after watching the film “In Plain Air” which is part of the International Festival of Films on Art, available online for the next few weeks. The filmmakers of this short doc follow New Zealand painter Pauline Bellamy from one stunning landscape to another and, no matter the weather, film her painting mountains and lakes and clouds and snow. It was wonderful, and inspiring, to watch her.

I saw this cracked tree earlier this morning while out on a walk with Alice, and after bringing her home and gathering up my gear, I tromped back to this spot and set up my easel in the melting snow. It felt AMAZING to be outside. And then I remembered that today is the first day of spring, in the northern hemisphere. How fitting!

Announcing “Luminous Colour for Sketchers” — a new online course!

I’ve been wanting to create a course about colour for a long time, so I’m especially excited today to launch “Luminous Colour for Sketchers.” This course is loaded with content, including three full-length demos, each using a different limited palette, plus lots of practice exercises. 

A bit about my new course

I’ve been working in watercolour for…well, more decades than I care to count. In that time, I’ve definitely had more failures than successes. But one thing has always kept me going: the sense of satisfaction from trying something new and getting fresh, transparent results. 

That’s what makes watercolour so exciting. That you can learn something new every time you pick up a brush. That you can’t ever predict what will happen when paint and water mix on your paper. As for failures, they never get me down. I use the backs of all of those watercolour disasters for more practice.

As an urban sketcher, watercolour is my medium of choice. It’s light, portable and fast-drying. But there’s so much to think about on location that it’s also easy to overwork your sketch and wind up with muddy colour.

So think of this course as strength and resilience training for watercolour:

  • We’ll do lots of practice exercises so you can get a feel for brush wetness, pigment saturation and when the wetness of your paper is just right.
  • We’ll paint three scenes using limited palettes of colour. (Plus, I’ll give you ideas for plenty more triads!)
  • By the end of our workout, you’ll have gained confidence to paint boldly, using lots of fresh paint on a fully-loaded brush.

For a preview of “Luminous Colour for Sketchers“, have a look at the trailer.

And as a thank you for being a loyal blog reader, here’s a 20% OFF coupon for this new course: LOVECOLOUR20USD (if you’re paying in US dollars) or LOVECOLOUR20CDN (if you’re paying in Canadian dollars).

Enter the coupon code at checkout. This coupon is valid until midnight, March 26, 2021.

Hope to see your sketches on my school website!

Alice in the afternoon

Alice is waiting for a walk, and she has every reason to want to go outside. The sun is out, the snow is melting, and that means that all kinds of things that were buried under the snow are hers to discover. It looks like spring has finally arrived in some sort of semi-permanent way. Of course you can never really be sure that it won’t snow again until we get to mid-April, but I’ll take this. I hope that wherever you are (except for my friends down under!), you’re enjoying a bit of spring too today.

Fred and Maryse’s window

It’s hard to choose a view to draw on Window Swap. Some days I long to travel far away and find a place that looks nothing like Montreal in winter. But today I landed on a window in Montreal where the scene of a bare tree and snow falling was so familiar that it felt comforting to draw. I have no window sills in my house, and almost no sunny places for plants, so maybe this was also a little bit of window envy. It was certainly good practice for thinking about values (light outside, dark inside) and colour vs. monochrome. And now I am trying to figure out if I know either Fred or Maryse. If you do, please tell them thanks for the view.

Sketching Eva

Last evening I spent a few hours chatting and drawing with fellow sketcher Marek Badzynski on Instagram live. Marek picked the reference image of Eva (courtesy of Christina by The River), and it was all Canadian content — me in Montreal, Marek in Toronto, and the image taken in the fishing community of Finn Slough in BC. If you don’t know Marek’s work, check out his stunning graphite drawings on Instagram. And if you are interested in seeing how we both tackled the subject in completely different ways, the video is available on Marek’s IGTV archive.

An upcoming event that you may want to add to your calendar is the CSPWC’s first-ever live online critique on March 25th, with accomplished Canadian painter Brian Atyeo and Sheryl Fletcher-Coon, president of the TWSA. Brian and Sheryl will be looking at submissions from artists and offering helpful advice on composition, colour, tone, gradient and more. This is a great opportunity to learn how top artists analyze paintings — insights you can use when working on your own work. Lots more info about tickets and registration here.

Old pole, new pole, and some rust in between

A girl in a tank top. A dog with his head out the car window, ears flapping in the breeze. A runner in shorts. Half a dozen office workers strolling and eating ice cream on a lunch break. A man on a racing bike. These are just a few of the sights that passed me by as I was sketching from my car today. I know we were all thinking the same thing. Well, actually I’m not sure what the dog was thinking but I’m pretty sure all the people were feeling pretty joyful. As for me, it didn’t matter that my drawing felt as rusty as the rods holding the old pole and the new pole together. I was smiling anyway. Spring is on the way.

Join me at the Sketchbook Revival Online Workshop

It’s a pleasure this year to have the time to set up my studio camera and participate in some fun online events. In previous years I’ve had college teaching commitments, but one event that I finally said yes to is the 4th Annual Sketchbook Revival, hosted by Karen Abend. It’s free, and takes place from March 18 to March 30. Sessions are led by accomplished artists, illustrators, painters, mixed media artists, designers, educators, and art therapists from all over the world. I’m leading a session called “The Urban Vignette in Ink and Watercolour.”

The best part about the online workshop is that it’s easy to participate. You’ll be able to watch the sessions from the comfort of your own home, according to your own schedule and without spending a penny – it’s completely free! There are two workshops per day, which adds up to more than two dozen fresh and creative ideas for your sketchbooks. Here’s the link to sign up. Hope to see you there!

Red Wings

I’ve been admiring the patina on these boots all week. And their position on the floor. I have a feeling they were removed and left there, casually discarded, yet they seem ready to go at any moment. Just waiting for the feet that will take them somewhere. Sketched in an Etchr Perfect Sketchbook, using mostly Burnt Sienna, Carbazole Violet and Prussian Blue.