Silo details

I was a tourist in my own city this weekend. After the long winter indoors it felt great to stroll down some of my favourite streets in Montreal, and also to sketch a few of my favourite spots. Grain Silo 5 was as rusty and decayed as ever, and even though the light was not that great, I had so much fun trying to capture its textures. There are so many windows, most of them broken, on the buildings, that it would have taken hours to draw them all. Instead, I simply painted layers of texture on the rusty elevators and added some window details with the brush. Sketched in an Etchr A4 sketchbook, using lots of blues and earth colours.

Today and yesterday

I thought I posted this sketch from yesterday, but apparently not! Here is what I wrote:

There was a long line outside Dragon Flower today. Everyone was buying bouquets, maybe to celebrate Easter or maybe to simply celebrate the joy of being outside on a cold but very sunny April day in Montreal. I sketched from across the street, in my car, and I celebrated too, with a take-out cappuccino in my cup holder and the freshest yellow I could find on my palette.

I was also out this morning, again sketching from the car. The scene wasn’t nearly as colourful, nor was there takeout coffee, but there were trash bins and that’s good enough for me.

First day, last day

It’s the first day of April, but it’s the last day for these tulips that have been sitting on my counter for many days. Today I continued playing with gouache, this time using a limited palette of Primary Magenta, Ultramarine and Cadmium Yellow, plus White. My favourite paper for gouache is hot press, and this one is in an Etchr sketchbook. Although I rarely use hot press paper for pure watercolour, I love the creamy texture of gouache on the smooth surface of this book.

Fill up

There was a window of opportunity this morning before the rain to do some car sketching in Valois. I brought along my gouache palette and some new M Graham gouache colours that I’m trying. I’ve been reading a lot about this brand of gouache, and although I have been perfectly happy with both Holbein and Winsor & Newton, these colours are really nice. M Graham paints are made with honey and gum arabic, so they’re very creamy. And after testing them out with this quick sketch, it seems to me that they are also highly pigmented. More testing needs to be done but so far, so good. Sketched with a limited palette of Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre and White with a bit of Cadmium Red for details.

Goran’s window

On a damp and rainy day in Montreal, the sunny view from Goran’s window in Porto, Portugal, is much appreciated. — where Goran and others post their views — has been so useful for finding inspiration these past few months. I paint some of these while on a Zoom call with friends, and now sometimes even on my own. The views are all in video format, which is what makes them a little more intriguing for me than a still image. Clouds move, cars go by, there’s ambient sound either from inside or outside the window. After a while you feel as if you are really there, in a strange way. Sometimes the views are uninteresting and rather mundane, but occasionally you come upon something like Goran’s window which just make you gasp. I had to sketch this one!

Inside outside blooms

This was a good way to end my current sketchbook — a bouquet of flowers drooping in a vase on my counter, followed by the first crocuses in my spring garden. It’s very warm in Montreal today and it seems like the garden is coming to life a little earlier than usual. Here are previous posts when I painted these on April 1, April 17, April 21, and again another year on April 21.

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!