The Snow Has Melted And The Heavy Coats Are Gone

I think spring has sprung, though it’s still pretty cool around here. But the snow is gone and we’re starting to get typical April rainy days. Still no leaves on trees and our tulips are just little shoots coming out of the ground. But, for a sketcher, one nice thing is that people are switching from big, bulky coats to lighter jackets, making them more interesting to draw.

I was downtown and did a quick scribble of this guy. When I got home I fleshed him out with ink and then added some color.

Is There Anything Worse than Losing Your Sketchbag?

The last year of the Before Times, I almost lost my sketchbag. Lucky for me the coffee shop where I had mindlessly left it, put it behind the counter and I was able to retrieve it.

More recently, in the After Times, I haven’t been so lucky. I’d hadn’t taken my main bag out throughout the pandemic and rarely after it. When I found out that Laurel and Marc Holmes were coming to visit I decided that I should prep for the occasion and, eeeek…I couldn’t find my sketch bag.

I don’t really know when I lost it. I’ve been carrying my tiny bag and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d used the big one. What I did know was that it was missing, along with a couple sketchbooks, my good travel brushes and paint kit, a couple fountain pens and mechanical pencils and the rest of the bag’s contents.

I’m putting a new sketchbag together – this time a backpack. I decided to go this way so I could carry my WalkStool or tripod in it rather than carry those in my hand. I’m still working out how to use it but here’s what it looks like so far.

The main bag: It’s a Samsonite backpack that seems particularly suitable as a sketchbag because of all its storage segments.

Front Pouch: This is where all the pens, pencils, and waterbrushes go. Lots of room for expansion here. Not necessarily a good thing 🙂

Small pouch: I use this for clips, kneaded eraser and such

Main section: This is the big space. It’s got some storage pouches in the back but I’ve reserved the main space for my WalkStool or tripod. I’ve also got one of those roll-up seat pads that I use mostly when it’s been raining and benches or ground are wet. Notice the small pouch at the front of the pouch. I use this to carry small pieces of watercolor paper.

Back pouch: I looooove this section. I think it’s for a laptop but it’s just dandy for carrying my backing boards and larger format papers. I also keep my paint kit in this section. Carrying 9x12s was impossible with my old bag. Not anymore.

Paint Kit: As the name implies, this holds my palette, brushes and paper towels. Water is contained in Nalgen containers in the side pockets of the backpack.

Now all I’ve got to do is train my brain to know where I put everything. While sketching with Laurel and Marc I found myself opening ever section to find stuff. For me, getting use to a backpack instead of a messenger bag will also take some time. The whole thing only weighs about five pounds, though, and my shoulder is less tired after a long session. But I can’t retrieve stuff from it without removing it like I did with the messenger bag so It’s not as convenient for stand-up sketching.

Inspiration Comes To Town

It’s been fairly obvious from my lack of posting and my comments that I’ve been lacking inspiration. That it’s still too cold to sketch outdoors hasn’t helped but the problem has been more basic than that.

So how can it be that I woke up this morning chomping at the bit to do material prep and to draw? It came from this past weekend when Laurel and Marc Holmes stopped to visit. Two of the best people I know, we had a great time, mostly while sitting and talking.

The idea was to sketch together and we did that, but not much. We bumped into two problems. The first was cold and windy weather that made sketching outdoors almost painful. From the looks of things, outdoor sketching is a couple weeks away for me.

The other problem was the Museum of Civilization here in Quebec City. Pre-pandemic this was my go to place to sketch when weather was bad because it was always full of stuff to sketch. I hadn’t been there since 2019 but it seemed like a good solution to our dilemma. I spent a bunch of money to renew my membership and Marc and Laurel spent a lot of money on tickets. We all wasted it.

You know those movies where someone returns to a place of fond memories only to find it devastated or inhabited by zombies? That was how I felt. The bedrock of this museum has always been two large permanent exhibits and four large exposition halls where expositions came and went, always providing good stuff to draw. What we faced were three of those halls permanently empty and one of the permanent exhibits gutted and closed off. What remained was horrible. The “big” exhibit was a historical presentation of a famous Quebec politician but it was just a bunch of large photos of him and a few trinkets from his life. There was very little to draw. And so I got to enjoy Laurel and Marc while sitting in restaurants or the drawing room of their B&B. And while I’m sure they were disappointed, I thoroughly enjoyed their presence and our discussions.

Marc showed me a bunch of 5×5 direct watercolors he’d done during the excursion they were returning from and they really excited me. I couldn’t think of much else. I’ve got to learn this approach to “sketching” (when Marc does it the results need to be framed and hung on a wall) and I’ve commited to doing his annual 30 paintings in 30 days event that starts in June. Hopefully I can figure out how to do it before then.

Here are a couple sketches that I did in our empty museum.

Mysterious Sketch Of 2022

After a long stretch of disinterest, I’m getting back into sketching. The time away caused my sketch bags to flounder, pens got moved or removed, and so I’m going through everything to get things back in order.

I was flipping through my daily bag sketchbook and found this ???sketch??? Waxing eloquently I said “Huh?” I stared at it a while, noted the date, which was last July and tried to scrape my old man brain for recollection. I also scrolled through photos from that same time period and solved the puzzle. It was this guy.

I remembered coming across him and thinking that I’d never drawn one of these fat-tire electric bikes and that it might be an opportunity to do so. Memory is a bit fuzzy but I obviously grabbed a pencil, marking out some dimension points so I had a drawing reference. I’ve darkened the lines of that hen-scratching so you can see them but they were much lighter in the sketchbook. I thought it might interest someone to see them as a precursor to doing a drawing. Those few lines provide the location of the guy and the bike and took no more than a few seconds to draw.

Unfortunately, just as I started, the guy finished his phone call and rode away. Lucky for me I did what I often do, I’d snapped a photo before beginning. And so, eight months later, using those marks and my phone photo, I drew this sketch. I didn’t feel it worth adding all the background so I just drew some thin lines to represent trees and such. I wonder what that guy is doing right now.

Spring In Canada

I saw a YouTube video about how Canada has Spring, Summer, Winter and a period of time where yuo can’t predict from one hour to the next what will happen. And so it goes in Quebec times two.`

We should be starting our rainy period that most people would call spring but it’s snowing right now and my brain is deciding whether that means another tour with the snowblower or will rain melt everything. Given our temps right now, it could go either way.

I haven’t been chomping at the bit to go sketching, maybe because of the weather but maybe because I’ve just found other things worth doing. I blame COVID for this, or credit it. But I am getting things ready for sketching… and painting. I’m putting together a separate backpack to support gouache and oil painting en plein air this year. Weather has to improve, even in Quebec.

In the meantime, I followed the old advice of “all you need is a pencil to sketch.” I was meeting a guy for coffee and making some notes as I waited for him to arrive. A girl walked up to order coffee and she was wearing really baggy pants that caught my eye. I flipped the page of my notebook and drew her. I dug in my pockets for some other pointy device and came up with a highlighter pen and added a background to provide some spice. It won’t bump Mona Lisa off her throne but it felt good to draw something.