USk Symposium in Chicago: almost time to register!

Tomorrow, February 11, is early bird registration for the 8th Annual Urban Sketchers Symposium which is taking place in Chicago from July 26-29, 2017. If you haven’t attended one of these events, I encourage you to consider it. It’s the biggest group of sketchers you will ever see in one place and although it’s stimulating, exhausting and completely overwhelming, it is always the highlight of my year. I have a feeling this year’s event will sell out quickly, so if you are contemplating going , make sure you are prepared before registration opens. There are 36 workshops, 30 demos and 5 lectures to choose from when you register, which can get really confusing.  To help you navigate the process, my friend Suhita has written a great post about how to make your choices. Have a look at the full list of workshops here, and take a look at the schedule too.

I’m thrilled to be teaching at an Urban Sketchers annual symposium for the fourth time. My workshop is called “Trees in the City” and I’ll also be doing a short demo on using a limited palettes in watercolour. In celebration of (or to practice for) this I went out today to sketch some trees. That was clearly not a good idea on this really cold day, because even in my car, my paint turned to slush. I had to resort to turning on the seat heater on the passenger side for a few minutes to keep the palette warm so I could finish the sketch. Clearly not an eco-friendly way to paint. I have a feeling it will be warmer in Chicago this summer and I hope to see you there.


From here

Ok, I think this one is out of my system now. A few days ago I painted a sunrise view of my neighbourhood, then I painted the same scene later in the morning, and I’ve been waiting to have a bit of time to paint a larger view of it. I’m not that keen on half-sheet format — 15″ x 22″ is a little to wide for most of what I want to do and full sheets are sometimes just too big — so I’m trying out a 16″ x 20″ format of Arches CP paper today.

I painted this one wet-in-wet, meaning that I saturated both side of the paper and then rolled it with a towel to remove the surface water. This gives me a sheet that remains damp for a long time and allows me to go back into the washes to add layers of colour. My palette choices were quite limited for this — lots of Verditer Blue, Cerulean Chromium, Indigo and of course some yellow and red for the sky. Ok, now on to other things.





From my window

It’s hard to give up my trusty pencil, but when I do, it’s a liberating exercise to paint without drawing first. I am in awe of painters who are skilled at this — Marc Taro Holmes is the first one who comes to mind — but I am often reluctant to just go for it.  I have attempted the technique on several occasions, to disastrous results. Maybe it’s my own impatience.

It’s a different kind of painting experience because you have to be more thoughtful about where the brushstrokes go, especially when you use a big flat brush to start, like I do. But when you are not painting between the pencil lines, stuff can happen.

I tend to think the painting process through before I wet my brush — what goes on the paper first, what areas will be treated with glazes, where the darks will be, etc. If you can relinquish control and plunge right in with your brush, you may find that the happy mix of water and paint on the paper will surprise you by combining in unexpected ways. And you will definitely love the experience of brushing pigment across a perfectly white sheet of paper. Go ahead and give it a try. You might be surprised too.



Join me for a sketching workshop in Provence in 2018

It’s a snowy day in Montreal which naturally lends itself to thoughts of warmer places. Even though it seems like a long time away, I am already planning workshops for summer of 2018, including this first one that I am announcing in Provence, France. Yes, I know it’s a year and a half in advance, but it’s never too early to plan a trip like this.
I am thrilled to be teaching a week-long workshop in Provence from June 24-July 1, 2018. French Escapade is a company that offers plein-air painting holidays in Europe. They are a small tour company that handles everything (accommodations, transportation to locations, gourmet meals, etc.) so all we have to do it paint and have a great time. And what could be better than Provence at the end of June when the lavender is in bloom?
This will be a small group (maximum 12 students) and all the details about the workshop, the spectacular locations and the accommodations are on the French Escapade website:
Check out the testimonials too!

The best thing about our itinerary for travel sketching in Provence is the sheer breadth of subjects to choose from — that, and the near-magical light and colour of this unique part of the world. As well as painting in our central location of St. Remy de Provence, we’ll be taking day trips to Roussillon, Gordes, Isle sur la Sorgue and more.


In our week together I’ll teach you techniques for capturing the close-up and colourful in villages and towns, as well as the distant and scenic in French landscapes. We’ll sketch iconic market scenes, fields of lavender in bloom, hillside towns and panoramas. In true travel sketching tradition, we’ll pack light — carrying a small bag for art materials and a folding stool. We’ll focus on having fun while we sketch, recording as much as we can as we move from café to hilltop. The aim is to have you return home with a fat book filled with fresh and colourful sketches.

If you want to know more, send me an email here.


Photos courtesy of

Nine minutes of procrastination

My graduating students are preparing their final graphic design portfolios and I am sitting in the cafeteria, editing the texts that goes with each piece in the portfolio. It’s a wonderful yet time-consuming and tedious process. This is what I do when I need a break from reading. Each one is a three-minute contour drawing.



Sunrise and Sixth Avenue


This week I had a bit of time to paint but not much time to write, so I am posting two paintings together. Sixth Avenue and St. Louis was painted in Lachine this morning. It’s a spot I sketch at often because I love the rhythm of the poles and wires on this bit of road. This is an older section of Lachine that I find fascinating because of the combination of small residential and commercial buildings, parking lots, depanneurs and bars. The architecture is nondescript which makes the jumble of light and dark shapes all the more interesting for me.


Sunrise is a quick sketch for a larger watercolour I hope to paint soon. It’s the view I see of my street in the early morning when I take my dog out. I tried to capture the sleepy winter houses— details barely visible — and the winter trees set against the orange sky. I think this could be interesting as a larger painting, but I really wanted to work out the values and the colours first.


Too cold to sketch

It was probably a little too chilly for sketching from the car studio today: -10°C with an even colder wind chill meant that I had to turn on the car heater quite often to warm myself up and dry the washes on my paper. But… the light was wonderful on Lakeshore Road and since we haven’t had that many sunny days of late, I sketched away, even if it meant having frozen feet. The yellow wall on the side of the Canadiana-style building had a wonderful shadow on it and that made me forget the discomfort for a bit.