Spring in my studio

I’m impatient for spring. I know it’s coming soon, but March is always SO long and SO grey. I made my annual expedition to the grocery store to buy a bouquet for my studio, which I do every year when I can’t wait any longer to see fresh flowers. Usually I pick from the sale bin, but I splurged on the good flowers this time and then painted on a pad of Saunders Waterford 140lb Cold Press, using lots of Winsor Blue and Turquoise for a background that I hope looks like the blue sky I am missing.

No grass to mow

There’s no grass to mow in the winter so this landscaping company’s trucks and equipment are buried from December until spring. I saw this scene on a walk with Alice this morning, and I loved the jumble of shapes under the snow. This is another painting for the Peggi Kroll Roberts class on that just ended called Speaking the Vocabulary of Light. Painted on Canson Hot Press paper, which is really fun to use with gouache.

This week’s wheelbarrows

Don’t think this rusty wheelbarrow has been forgotten. It hasn’t. I look at it every day, even if I haven’t had time to sketch it much these past few weeks.

A few days ago there was some great sun on it, so I sketched it in watercolour in my Hahnemuhle sketchbook. Today it’s almost buried under the snow, but I sketched it in gouache. And next week it will make an appearance again in my newsletter “The Wheelbarrow”. Not on my mailing list to receive that? Here’s a link. Just scroll down to the bottom of the page to add your info.

Friday homework

I haven’t done homework in a long time but the past few weeks I’ve been taking an online class with Peggi Kroll Roberts called “Speaking the Vocabulary of Light” and this is one of the final exercises from the course. I love Peggi’s work — her simplified shapes and flat colours — and it’s been a wonderful three weeks watching her demos during the class and then doing the exercises on my own. We’ve done a lot of work in monochrome — naming the different types of light on objects in sun and shadow — and our last exercise was to paint something in full colour.

I was walking Alice this morning when I saw this scene and thought it might work for my homework. The cast shadows were easy to identify and I liked the composition of the foreground bins, the car and the buildings in the distance. If you understand Peggi’s main point that everything in shadow is darker than everything in sunlight, you will realize that the hardest part of this was the blue bin in sunlight and the cast shadow of the bin on the snow. It was homework that demanded a lot of comparing A to B and B to C, but once you start you get a bit hooked on trying to figure things out. Good thing I worked in gouache and not watercolour, since I painted different parts of the bin several times over.

Sketching Trees: a new online course

There’s still snow on the ground when I look out my window, and apparently my friends in California saw some snow this weekend too! But eventually it will be spring here (and there) and I’ll be out sketching trees. I’m looking forward to that.

My sketchbooks are filled with drawings of trees. If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you may have seen my favourite tree. It’s a big old sugar maple that I’ve sketched every fall, and sometimes in winter and spring too. I’ve also sketched loads of trees when I travel, both in cities and in rural settings.

Trees convey so much about a location. They tell a story about the time of year. They provide scale, against which to measure people or buildings. Sometimes they’re a backdrop to what’s going on in the foreground. And often enough, they’re not just a backdrop. They’re the main subject. That’s why I felt like it was time to create a course focused on sketching trees.

Sketching Trees in their Time and Place is longer than most of my other offerings (over four hours long!) because we paint four full tree scenes (including my favourite tree) in watercolour, but I’ve kept it at the same price as previous courses. As always, for this first week, the class is discounted to $30 US or $42 CDN until Sunday, March 5 at midnight ET. After that it goes up to $35 US and $47 CDN.

Here are the trees we paint in this course. Have a look at my website to find out more!

Cars in snow

I haven’t been out to paint in ages, and sometimes the longer it’s been, the harder it is to get going. The list of excuses is long (it’s been REALLY cold outside, I had Covid, AND I’ve been hard at work on a new online course coming out tomorrow) but still, I was overdue. I had another perfectly acceptable excuse lined up for today and then my friend Poppy sent me an email: It is cold here today but beautiful with sunshine on crisp snow. I hope you get out to paint some of that! That was all it took. I packed up my stuff and out the door I went. Turns out all I needed was a gentle push.

When I left, the sun was out here too, but within minutes it clouded over and started to snow. Giant flakes covered my windshield, but luckily I was looking out the driver’s side window to paint this scene. Happily painted on a quarter sheet of Winsor & Newton rough paper, with a limited palette of yellow, red, blue and black.

Announcing a new workshop in Bar Harbor, Maine

This coming October I’ll be renewing my lifelong love affair with Maine, and I invite you to come along. As a young artist growing up in Montreal, the first and most influential workshops I attended were on Maine’s sublimely beautiful coast. I was impressionable. But who could fail to fall in love with the salty air and soaring seabirds. The rocky coastlines and colourful lobster boats bobbing in the distance. The crowded harbours, the creaking timbers and iconic lighthouses.

While I’ve painted in several parts of Maine over the years, this will be my first trip to historic Bar Harbor — and I can’t wait! Especially as this 5-day workshop is organized and hosted by the welcoming professionals from Madeline Island School of the Arts, at their new MISA East campus in Bar Harbor. The workshop dates are October 9-13, 2023.

I’m planning five days of plein air sketching (including the fall colours of Acadia National Park), starting with a demo each morning, lots of personal interaction and instruction through the day, and ending with a review of that day’s progress. I invite you to join me.

To find out more about my workshop in Bar Harbor, visit the MISA site.

Tools of the trade

On my weekend off at Tanque Verde Ranch, after one group of students went on their way and another arrived, I had a bit of time to sketch on my own. As a city girl with no experience on ranches, I was fascinated with the tools of the trade — saddles, boots, ropes, anvils and horseshoes, all so worn and incredibly beautiful to draw. I spent a few hours sketching from a bench near the farrier’s stall.

From my bench I had a great view of Yoshi, waiting patiently for a ride with Angela, the head wrangler. I also had some company while drawing, because Joe — a wrangler who’s been working there since the 70s — sketched along with me. I managed to get a quick pencil sketch in of him too, when he stopped to eat some popcorn. That half hour spent in that quiet spot, in Joe’s company, was one the nicest sketching moments of the trip.

One Sunday mornings, the ranch serves up a pancake breakfast at the old homestead. The horses are parked there while people eat, so I had a chance to draw them. The cook who makes the pancakes offers leftovers to the horses. Some prefer their pancakes with no blueberries, so he cooks up a special batch for them.

The old homestead

I’m back. Back at my desk. Back at my scanner. And thinking back on the wonderful experience of teaching in the desert near Tucson, Arizona. I’m also recovering from Covid which is making the return to sketching and writing a little slower than expected.

I have tons of sketches to scan but I’ll start slowly. Here’s one I did when I first arrived at Tanque Verde Ranch, in preparation for my workshop with MISA. It’s the old homestead, built in the 1930s, and situated on a hilltop with a view of the ranch below and a panorama of mountains in all directions. It’s a spectacular setting at any time of day, but I really loved sketching there in the morning when the sun-bleached stone of the building was at its brightest against the sharp blue of the Arizona sky. The embers of the campfire from the pancake breakfast were still smoking, but I had the place to myself except for the occasional raven or desert songbird. Sketched in my Hahnemuhle 100% cotton sketchbook, A4 size.

Down by the wash

The landscapes of the Sonoran desert near Tucson are stupendous. The tall Saguaro cactus, the prickly pear and the many varieties of shrubby cholla dot the landscape, but it’s difficult to find contrast in these hills. It’s mainly a faded green with the occasional dark mesquite branch to break up the scenery. So you can imagine my excitement in being directed down to a wash area of Tanque Verde where I found some pools of water. And a mountain top with a bit of snow on it.

This was a class demo from last week. I’m part way through my second week of teaching here with Madeline Island School, and I haven’t been posting much because teaching and group meals take up most of my time but the groups of sketchers have been wonderful and I will have lots to scan and post when I get home.