The village

On my way home from school today I stopped in Pointe Claire Village. It took me a few stops to find the right place to sketch but I settled on a view of the town that I have painted often, in all seasons. The varying heights and shapes of the buildings attract me, along with the colourful signage, awnings and flags. Today I worked a little more loosely than usual, letting the wet puddles of wash flow and combine. Instead of being too precise about architecture, I let the shapes of colour and value lead me towards an impression of what was in front of me. It’s quite a fun way to work. Sketched in a Handbook Journal, 8″ x 8″. Village053.jpg

A corner

If my favourite parking spot is available near this particular corner in Pointe Claire, I always grab it. It’s the first spot after a no-parking zone, so I know no one can park in front of me. Why do I like this view so much? It’s the combination of the curve in the road, the highway signs that add colour, a bit of a foreground building, a few structures in the middle of the picture, and of course a good utility pole with plenty of wires. It makes for a dynamic composition with plenty of detail and interest.

I always start by painting the big shapes — sky, road, then brick building and trees. When those are dry I add the smaller shapes — pole, shadows on the road and buildings, cars and windows. The last details to be painted are the smaller darks in the windows and under the cars, as well as the lines on the sidewalk and the deep greens of the foliage. PteClaireCorner

Art by the Lake: an invitation to drop by

Next weekend I’ll be participating in Art by the Lake — the annual outdoor group show of the Lakeshore Association of Artists  — which takes place on September 9 & 10 from 10 am to 5 pm. As always, all the artists (about 40 of us in all) are hoping for good weather so we can put up our tents and exhibit our work outdoors on the scenic grounds of Stewart Hall in Pointe Claire. If the weather is rainy, we’ll be exhibiting inside instead (which is beautiful too but not half as much fun as being outside!).

I’ll have a booth there with lots of new paintings and I hope you’ll drop by to say hi. I’ll even be doing a short demo on Saturday afternoon at 2 pm. This show is for a great cause — a percentage of the proceeds from sales will go to On Rock Community Services — a food bank that helps out many West Island families. Keep your fingers crossed for good weather and come out to see us next weekend! I’ll be there both days.


Windmill, with friends

After a summer of travel to many spectacular locations, I was wondering how it would be to get back to drawing in my neighbourhood again. I’ve driven around Pointe Claire village so often there are probably very few historic corners I haven’t sketched. But there’s nothing like showing newcomers around to make these familiar locations feel new again.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of being a tour guide to visiting sketchers Liz Steel and Anne-Laure Jacquart. We spent the day driving around the West Island, stopping for a first sketch at the windmill in Pointe Claire. After the exhausting (and thrilling) experience we all had in Chicago at the Urban Sketchers Symposium, the shade and quiet in my sleepy end of the city was somewhat of a relief. (Chicago sketches coming soon!)


If you are in Montreal and interested in meeting and drawing with these two talented artists, there will be a public sketching event tomorrow (Saturday, August 5) in Old Montreal. Details are here and everyone is welcome!


Not anytime soon

The middle of May is usually an exciting time because that’s when the boats around here go in the water. But this is an unusual year, with all the flooding around Quebec, and the water levels at record highs in Lac St. Louis. The other evening I went down to check out the area around the Pointe Claire Yacht Club to see what was happening. The road leading to the club is closed to vehicles but you can walk down towards the lake. I was shocked to see the water up so high that the parking lot where I often paint is submerged. In fact, the waves were so inviting in the lot that my dog wanted to go for a swim.

Today, I went down to the lake again to see if I could see the Yacht Club from the park nearby. There seems to be lots of movement on the grounds of the club — I guess just a bunch of sailors working on their boats and itching to launch them. I tried to get an ETA on launch day from one boat owner who stopped to look at my sketch. He nodded his head slowly and said, “Not anytime soon…”. Instead I sketched the orange cones and the people who came down to the water to stand on the shoreline and fish.


The right place at the wrong time

My sketch story today has a moral to it: don’t paint on beer delivery day in Pointe Claire.

I chose this parking lot scene because there was some great light on the snow-covered cars in a lot facing the back entrance of a popular bar in Pointe Claire Village. A spotlight, really, on the cars, in front of a jumble of nondescript buildings. Just the kind of thing I love to paint.

img_2443About ten minutes into my drawing, a giant beer delivery truck pulled up and blocked the scene. It blocked it so perfectly it was comical. I thought I could wait it out, so I started drawing the car on the right (at the wrong size, I think, because the beer truck blocked the other cars that I was measuring against). And then I waited some more while the guys opened the truck, took out the lift to carry the kegs, loaded up the lift, went inside the bar, came out of the bar, had a smoke, and chatted.


When I thought they might be leaving, they further blocked by view by placing palettes of kegs in front of the only thing I could see, which was the car that I had already drawn (at the wrong size). And when I thought they couldn’t delay any longer because they had already brought in the full kegs and bottles, they started the process of removing the empties. I guess I had no idea how long this whole thing would take.


Here’s the sketch that I finished up quickly when the truck finally left. By the time I got around to painting it, the sharp light had changed completely and I was pretty frozen.


That’s the bad news about my sketching adventure today.

But the good news for today is that my painting “The Town” has been accepted in the American Watercolour Society’s 150th International Exhibition at the Salmagundi Club in New York City. Even if I have to cancel classes, I hope to be able to make it to New York to see the show, which is on from April 3-22, 2017.



After the fall

There was quite a good snowfall in Montreal yesterday, and for once it’s not followed by rain or freezing rain. That’s makes it pretty perfect to paint. After a good storm like this, there’s snow on the vertical surfaces like trees and poles but it doesn’t last long so I went out early. Fortunately the plows had already passed in Pointe Claire. There’s nothing worse like being pushed out of a parking spot by a snowplow driver honking in back of you when you’re in the middle of a sketch.

For a quiet scene like this I stick with lighter colours — mostly Cerulean Blue, Organic Vermilion and Hansa Yellow. I am able to get all the soft tones I like with this triad, but for the wires and evergreens I have to boost it up a little with some darker pigments. Sketched on Arches CP paper, 9″ x 12″ in a cold car with foggy windows.


Back porch

I haven’t done any sketching from my car studio in a long time so it felt really good to get out there today, especially since we had such a good dumping of snow yesterday. I’ve always loved the little play of overlapping shapes of this church in Pointe Claire and the presbytery next to it. With the piles of snow and the many windows on the building, there was plenty of opportunity for repetition in the design. Painted on a pad of Arches CP paper, 9″ x 12″.


In with the wind

This has been a balmy summer in Montreal but, as if on cue, the first day of autumn blew in on a cold wind. And with that began my season of painting from my car studio. I used to think painting in my car was something I did out of necessity, but I have come to love the comfort of the car studio. I can let in as much or as little of the cold wind as I want and I have a support for paints and water. And a fan for drying the washes. I haven’t drawn boats very much this summer but figured I should get some in before they come out of the water. And, as usual for a sketch done on my way to school, I ran out of time before I finished the painting. Sketched at the Pointe Claire Yacht Club, in a Handbook Watercolour Journal.



Receiving a book in the mail is always a thrill, but today it was even more so because the book was Miguel Herranz’s “here and there (again)”, drawings from 2012-2015. I met Miguel a few years ago at the Urban Sketchers symposium in Santo Domingo and had a chance to leaf through his sketchbook during a lecture we both attended. If you were sitting next to me you might have seen my jaw hit the floor. His sketchbook is like an illustrated manuscript, each page more astonishing than the one before. I’ve probably talked about his work in previous posts, but if you haven’t seen it, here is his Flickr stream. You’ll see what I mean. I bought the book through his crowd funding project so I don’t know if it’s readily available, but it’s a treat to have the book in hand so I can really study the detail in the sketches.

I guess I had his pen drawings in mind when I was sketching in Pointe Claire Village today. There’s still no snow in Montreal, but the winter colours are quite beautiful on an overcast day. And with all this rain we’ve been having, it seems to me that the grass is getting greener every day. Sketched in a Handbook Watercolour Journal, 8″ x 8.