Late fall

You have to look pretty hard to see colour in the landscape today. At first glance it’s all grey but then you notice that some of those greys are greenish and some are reddish. In fact, it’s such a dreary day that even at 3 p.m. I could have used a headlamp to paint from my car. When the colours are that subtle, I use a limited palette — this time Cerulean Blue, Organic Vermillion and Hansa Yellow Medium. The mixes that I get from this primary triad of colour are both muted and granulating. Sketched on a block of Fluid CP paper, 8″ x 8″.


Lunchtime panorama number 10

I’m not really sure how many times I’ve painted this panorama of Montreal from a window at school. I’m guessing about 10, so I used that in the title. It’s at least that many, if not more. This is a view I can only paint it in the late fall and winter when the leaves have fallen from the trees and I can actually see the mountain. Every year as the branches grow, more and more of the view is obscured, and eventually I’ll have to stand on a crate to paint it, but it’s a place I love to set up at. Besides the window ledge that is perfect to paint on, the nearby stairwell makes it a great spot for students to gather, so I I end up spending some time chatting with anyone who looks over my shoulder.vanierpanorama

Urban Sketchers Montreal in La Presse

Well this is pretty exciting. There’s a big feature article about Urban Sketchers Montreal in the travel section of La Presse this weekend. The print edition has a double-page spread with lots of great sketches and a terrific article about our group with great tips for sketching around Montreal.


The La Presse+ app has lots more features, but of course you’ll need to download the app to see them. You’ll see Marc Holmes’s great sketch of some typical Montreal buildings.


As well, there’s a section that features our favourite sketching spots in Montreal.


There’s also a section with profiles of different cities where there are big chapters of Urban Sketchers.


And then there’s a really cool interactive page with all our materials. When you click on the buttons, you’ll find tips about sketching using pen, pencil, ink and watercolour.



I heard this on the radio this morning. On a doubly sad day, at the end of a very sad week, here’s Leonard Cohen reading the poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae.


Front yard

The best parking spots are the ones that are: a) walking distance to where you need to go and b) have a view of something to sketch after you go where you need to go. This front yard in Westmount was a riot of fall colour, and luckily most of the foliage was still on the shrubs even though most of the taller trees have already lost their leaves. When I found a parking spot facing this, I knew I would have to find a little time to sketch it.

Today I tried out two more Princeton brushes from the box I received last week. This time I used rounds — a Summit series synthetic round #8, and a Heritage synthetic sable round #8. Both were a perfect size for sketching in my 8″ x 8″ sketchbook. The Summit is a little more springy, a bit like another favourite of mine — the Escoda Perla. The Heritage is also a good brush for sketching but neither of these hold a lot of water so need to be used in conjunction with a larger brush for bigger washes.


Changing fast

The suns sets so early now that we are in Eastern Standard Time. Of course it’s a welcome change because it’s lighter in the morning when I go to school, but since I mostly sketch in the afternoon, there is little light left after 4 pm. I find myself sketching with a sense of dread, waiting for my subject to disappear into the fading light. This afternoon the shadows were sharp but they didn’t last long so I painted quickly.

I tried another Princeton brush today, this time a small flat — a Heritage 4050 Synthetic sable 1/2″ wash brush. I love painting with flats, but I am used to brushes that have a thicker belly and hold more water. This one is great for smaller areas but I had difficulty gathering up enough wash to get me all the way through the sky. You can see areas where the blue wash started to dry before I was able to wet the brush again. Flats are wonderful for painting straight edges of buildings, poles and trees trunks, big chunks of foliage, etc., but I would need a bigger size for large wash areas. The brush has good spring and a nice sharp edge, so I’ll be saving it for the detail work in my sketches when I use more pigment and less water. In this sketch I liked it best for painting the dark foliage and shadows under the eaves.


Three leaves

I’m flattered that Princeton Brush Company sent me some watercolour brushes to try out — a good selection of mops, flats and rounds. Instead of using them all in one sketch, I thought I’d be a little more scientific than usual and test them one by one. The first one I chose is a Neptune Series 4750 #8 Round. It’s a faux squirrel brush and it’s advertised as being their “softest and thirstiest brush”. I already own the Neptune quill brush (a big fat mop) but this is sleeker with a great point on it. After drawing lightly with a pen, I painted the leaves, first with big juicy washes and then moved into the smaller details. The brush holds quite a bit of wash for its relatively small size, but what I liked best was the sharp point that allowed me to move into the curly leaf ends without having to change brushes. Good quality for the price, which seems to be under $15 on their website. The real test will be to see how long the sharp point lasts.