Falling Off The Earth

I haven’t reallly fallen off the Earth, but almost.  For me, this has been a really weird year.  Certainly, all the pandemic stuff that preceded it messed with my mind more than I thought but weather and life contributed to this year being, what was the word…oh yeah…WEIRD.

I came out of the pandemic looking to spend the spring/summer/fall out sketching like I normally do, but I never really got into that groove.  Partly this was because of near constant rain from April to June.  We had an amazing flower crop, though, and I dodged the rain to draw some of them.

By the time the rain stopped we felt pressed to get the housework we’d planned to get done in the spring and so everyday was spent with construction tools or paint brushes in my hand.  We got a lot accomplished but not nearly as much as we’d planned.  Anyways, we followed this with several picnics and other “we need to just hang out” actvities.  Gals prices were too high to go anywhere so we didn’t. Should I blame Biden for our Quebec $6+/gal prices or credit him for the fact that they used to be $7.50/gal?

I resumed daily walking and during it I did a bunch of little sketches but I wasn’t too interested in scanning them and posting them.  To be honest, social media is kinda getting to me.  It’s become a steady stream of artists replacing posts of their finished products with frantic videos, sped up to a stess-inducing rate of scribbling and I just can’t watch this stuff.  That, I guess is a topic for another discussion.

And then it got to be late August and September when we got a surprise.  Just as cool/cold should have been setting in here, it got warm and beautiful.  It was so nice that Chantal and I couldn’t resist spending the day in the backyard sipping wine, reading books and enjoying the sun.  So, rather than a daily sketcher, I’ve become a daily reader…a serious daily reader – hours at a time.  Here are a few of my new friends.  Just a different way to feed the mind and now I want to draw Don Quixote and Sancho Panza (grin)


The Bande Dessinee Truck Comes To Limoilu

Every month, Cathy Johnson runs a virtual sketchcrawl where we all agree to go out, sketch, and then post the results on a Facebook page for that purpose.  This Saturday was that day and I needed to do my part in the sketchcrawl, meet up with people at an event, get my daily walk in (2 hours) and them a few things at home.

I headed off to accomplish all those things, sketchbag at my side, feet pounding the pavement.  And then it happened.  I missed a golden opportunity to take a photo to show you.  My only excuse was that I was caught up in the moment and also didn’t want to risk taking the photo.  Why?  What?  Where?  Ah, but this is a “who” story.

Those of us who are street sketchers are used to sketching in public.  It’s what we do.  We also try to convince others that it’s fun and that there is no risk of embarrassment or harassment.  Nobody needed to tell a little girl I met any of that.

I came upon her, sitting next to the sidewalk, on 3rd Avenue.  She was drawing the typical drawing of an 8-year old – parents, child, sun in the sky, and lots of sky – she was working on the sky with vigor.  I stopped and told her how nice her drawing was and tried to engage her in some chit-chat.  She was shy, as you might expect.  She also had a small box sitting next to her that you might not expect.  It was a box in which people who admired her work could drop a coin or three.  How could I resist.  I emptied my pocket into her box, repeated my praise for her sketch, and moved on.  Oh how I wish I’d taken a picture.

Anyways, I continued my walk and realized that we’re in the middle of a heat wave, or rather a humidity wave.  The temps are only 26-28C but the humidity his very high and I was melting as I plodded along.  I mention this as my excuse for not sketching.  I know it’s not a great excuse but it’s the best I’ve got.

20150815BDLimoilu2I got to my event, which was a small block party in Limoilu and was thrilled to find that I could get a bottle of cold water from them for free.  It was my lucky day.  The reason I was there, though, was that the Bande Dessinee (comics/graphic novels for the French-challenged) Francophone de Quebec had their mobile library available and an outdoor reading room.  It was being manned by a fellow sketcher, and superb artist, Andre Gagnon.

2015-08-14VirtSketchcrawl3As we sat and talked I noticed a couple kids with big foam hats that looked like Pluto and Donald Duck.  As they were reading you could only see the hat above the book and I couldn’t resist doing a quick-sketch of this young girl as she read.  In some small way I hope it saves my honor in the sketchcrawl.


Book Review: Freehand Sketching: An Introduction

“While perspective is a handy device to construct imagined spaces, it is not useful, and possibly detrimental, to sketching existing environments.” — Paul Laseau

A while ago, in a Facebook group, Liz Steel posted the quote above.  To be completely honest I can’t remember what the thread was that it was in reference to but she said that Paul Laseau’s book, Freehand Sketching: An Introduction, was one of her favorites.


I listen closely when Liz speaks but in this case her words were overshadowed by the Paul Laseau quote.  Every book on drawing is filled with ‘explanations’ on how to do proper perspective, complete with mind-boggling graphics with lines going in all directions, vanishing points, etc.  I’ve often joked that I’m afraid to read a book on perspective for fear that I’ll get too confused to do my building sketches.

I’ve long felt the sentiment that Paul Laseau’s comment is true and, for myself, I never do all that perspective “stuff” beyond noticing where my “horizon line” (eye line) is when I do a sketch.  So, I just had to buy Freehand Sketching to see why Paul Laseau’s view was so different from the art world’s descriptions of structure drawing.

I did buy it and, if you’re a location sketcher, I highly recommend you put aside your traditional drawing books and read this one – a couple times.  You’ll be the better for it.  In a mere 112 pages, Laseau will first convince you that drawing ‘existing environments’ is different from making stuff up in a studio environment and he teaches, in simple terms, how to see and organize a scene than most modern approaches to drawing ever will.

Why?  What could he say that others do not?  Well, not much, really.  Mostly he leaves out a lot of stuff that you don’t need to worry about if you’ve got the thing you’re trying to draw right in front of you.

His introductory chapters include some traditional stuff about doing contour drawings, learning how to hatch, etc. and, for me, that part is mostly ho-hum.  But the heart of this book is contained in the middle sections titled Environment: Sketch Construction and Environment: Sketch Tone and Detail.   Here, Laseau shows you how to identify/organize/and lay out with a few lines, the basic shapes of a scene.  This stuff is gold for a street sketcher and demonstrates that no fancy geometry is required but rather it’s a simple matter of ‘seeing’ angles, locations, and edge dimensions.  Once he convinces you of the method, he provides several stepwise examples.

Once a scene is established, Laseau provides an approach to tone and detail and is also directed towards the location sketcher.  This perspective, to me, is important as most drawing books assume a studio atmosphere and an interest in spending hours developing drawings.  Laseau is an architect, who has spent 30 years teaching architect students to develop their sketching skills, who have different approaches and goals from the typical artist approach to such things and very useful, in my opinion, far more useful.  If you’d like to read more about this approach, Liz Steel has just provided some great insights into the mind of an architect.

On a personal note, Laseau’s book explained something else to me.  I’ve often wondered why the urban sketching world is so dominated by architects.  I’ve mostly dismissed it as simply a function of an architect’s interest in buildings but it’s much more than that.  It’s their training.  They’re taught to sketch.  They’re taught to maintain sketchbooks.  They’re taught to think in terms of sketches that can be ends in themselves…what urban sketchers do.


When I bought Freehand Sketching I also bought Watercolor Sketching: An Introduction, Paul Laseau’s sequel.  This second book is more about watercolors than it is about constructing sketches, though there is some of that contained within its pages.  Very valuable information contained within but more a companion book to Freehand Sketching than a substitute for it.

Liz is right; Freehand Sketching is a good and potent book that any location sketcher can benefit from and well worth its small price.  It’s become one of my favorite books too.

Coexist by Julie Crane

Consider this writing task.  Write a young adult novel with a cast of young girls and the occasional hunky guy.  Have them live in a modern computer world, interacting with each other on Facebook.  Oh, and don’t forget to include an elf war.

How would you do that?  I’d give Julia Crane a call.  She’s got more experience with this than the rest of us and she does an amazing thing: she makes it believable.

Coexist starts with Keegan, an teenage elf and her family who are, not surprisingly, also elves.  Elves have their mates chosen for them and she’s thinking about him, whoever he is.  But elves coexist with normal humans, beings without the powers of elves.  And thus the story begins.

Crane weaves a tale of Keegan’s balancing act between living the life of a human teenager while hiding her elfen heritage, her destiny, and her brother’s destiny, which is to have a role in resolving the impending elven war between the light and dark elves.

I’d like to tell you more but that wouldn’t be fair, would it?  If you enjoy young adult fantasy, get this book.  Read it.  You won’t be disappointed.

Book Highlight – Game 7: Deadball by Allen Schatz

I love baseball.  Here in Quebec most people are hockey fans but I prefer to more deliberate nature of baseball.  The rhythm of the game is as relaxing as home runs and double plays are exciting.  And, right now, it’s the baseball season.  What better time to read a baseball book so when I came across Allen Schatz’s Game 7: Deadball, I had to click the ‘buy me’ button.

Author’s Book Description

Secrets, lies, and revenge provide the sparks that ignite a fiery collision between past and present…

A puzzle takes shape as baseball’s World Series unfolds, but the pieces don’t fit: a string of missing women, strange threats, gambling problems, kidnappings, and relationships long dormant are all somehow connected, but Marshall Connors–major league umpire–may run out of time before he can solve the mystery.

Marshall’s season has ended and he is looking forward to post-season plans that include time in Florida, first helping his mentor teach an umpire training class, followed by a lot of sun. Those plans are cut short when Marshall is given a surprise assignment to work the World Series as crew chief, but the real reason is not discovered until he is neck-deep in trouble.

The sudden change in plans rekindles a relationship with the O’Hara family–Terry, major league pitcher and Game 1 starter in the Series, Michael, Terry’s father and former major leaguer, and Samantha, Terry’s mother and Michael’s ex-wife–but Marshall quickly realizes some things truly are better left alone.

As the Series plays out, so does the truth behind long-buried O’Hara family secrets and Marshall is caught in a storm that threatens to destroy him and those he loves. With the help of his best friend, Thomas Hillsborough–ex-CIA spy–Marshall fights to solve the puzzle before the Series reaches its climax in GAME 7: DEAD BALL, the ultimate contest of survival.

My review

The author uses the 2008 World Series as the backdrop for a thriller that includes a history of friendship between several men, who go their separate ways but who share a particular incident.  The lives of these friends converge at the World Series.  Marshall Connors, the main character, is an umpire and without giving anything away, the story involves players on both teams, Connors , baseball security, the FBI and a high-tension situation that involves kidnapping, extortion and the need to prevent these nefarious actions from derailing the World Series and possibly jeopardizing its legitimacy.

Schatz does a remarkable job with a complex plot, involving a number of points of view.  He’s taken some liberties with the real history of the 2008 World Series in that the real World Series was won by the Phillies four games to one.  Schatz needs more time for his story to unfold, so it takes the Phillies until the 7th game to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays.  Nevertheless, if you’re a baseball fan you’ll appreciate the realism Schatz injects into this side of the novel.  If you’re not a baseball fan, that’s ok too as you’ll enjoy this thriller and Schatz’ stiletto-sharp writing style.