Sketching Landscapes At The Quebec Aquarium

The grounds of the Quebec Aquarium are great for a sketcher.  Whoever designed them had esthetics in mind as well as the ability to accommodate families with kids running all over the place.  And so it’s a fun place to do small landscape sketches.  With winter looming in front of us, I’ve spent most of my aquarium time doing those kinds of sketches.

rocks at Quebec aquarium

Monologue sketchbook (4×5), Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon ink

Claudette and I were at the aquarium this week (last week?).  While waiting for it to open I quickly sketched a grouping of large rocks that sit near the entrance.  I’m still trying to get a handle on drawing rocks.

trees at aquarium

Monologue sketchbook (4×5), Hero 578, Platinum Carbon Black

Later I made this little sketch out the window of the cafeteria.  I was drawing trees but more, I was playing with my Hero 578 “fude” pen.  I still haven’t tapped the expressiveness of this pen and should use it a lot more.

But I spent most of my time drawing this scene.  It took me the best part of two hours to complete it.  This included a chat with the security guard, another with a grounds-keeper and a couple visitors stopped to comment.  The weather was ideal, as were the social interactions.

main waterfall at the aquarium

Stillman & Birn Alpha (10×7), Pilot Falcon, Platinum Carbon Black

Sketching Down A Different Road

Fabriano Artistico paper, Hero 578 w/Platinum Carbon Black

Fabriano Artistico paper, Hero 578 w/Platinum Carbon Black

My urban sketching has become pretty well-defined.  My ‘style’ is sort of cartoony with a heavy emphasis on linework as that’s what I like to do.  Color is thrown in as an afterthought.

But if I’m ever going to improved with color I’ve got to experiment and so here’s a couple baby steps down that road.  In both cases I’ve retained my penchant for fountain pen line work but I started by doing a wet-in-wet background.  Much to learn here but I had fun which is, afterall, the whole point of my sketching.  Hope you like these little guys, done from my imagination.

shot glass

Fabriano Artistico paper, Hero 578 w/Platinum Carbon Black

Sketchcrawling Through The Garden

Yesterday I reported on our 44th Worldwide Sketchcrawl participation.  What I didn’t do was show you my sketches and talk a bit about them as that post became quite large because of all the photos.  Here be the follow up post on my sketchcrawl sketches.

The sketchcrawl was supposed to start at 10AM but I ended up getting there around 9:30.  As you enter the botanical gardens there is a large water feature amounting to several lily-pad-filled ponds with small water features between them.  I located shade, my first prerequisite for sketching on a sunny day, and started sketching next to the second of these ponds.  It was a great place to be as I could meet people as they arrived while sketching.  It breaks my meditative sketching state to have to get up ever few minutes to say hi but gosh… isn’t that what sketchcrawls are all about?  I think so.

Stillman & Birn Delta (6x8), Pilot Prera, Lexington Gray ink

Stillman & Birn Delta (6×8), Pilot Prera, Lexington Gray ink

By the time I’d finished this sketch, I was sitting in the sun as at this time of year the sun swings across its southerly track across our sky fairly quickly.  So, I was once again hunting for a shady spot.

I found it on the other side of the entrance, with several sketching options.  I decided to draw the main kiosk that faces the entrance.  Lots of brightly-colored flowers, a nice shape and the girl who manned (womaned?) the kiosk obliged by wearing a red shirt.  I switched weapons for this sketch as I wanted to get some more experience with my Hero pens.  I’ve got several of them and I don’t use them enough.

Stillman & Birn Delta (6x8), Hero 578, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Delta (6×8), Hero 578, Platinum Carbon Black

It was lunch time so we all met together to swap sketchbooks and wish we were as good as everyone else.  For me, this is the best part of sketchcrawls.  I do a lot of solo sketching and it’s really fun to get together with other sketchers, though my French is sufficiently bad that I’m more than a little bit limited in my ability to talk like an adult.  Quebecers are quite patient, however.

After lunch I decided I should draw flowers.  I don’t know flowers beyond red flowers, purple flowers, orange flowers, etc.  I can tell you the names of all their parts, discuss at length the mating ‘habits’ of plants, and all the rest, as in another life I was a research scientist but when it comes to naming flowers… I got nada, or as we say around here, rien.


Stillman & Birn Delta (6×8), Pilot Penmanship XF, Lexington Gray

But flowers are cool.  Depending upon how accurate you want to be while drawing them, they can be quite challenging as the more you drill down into their details the more difficult they become to properly depict.  I’ve drawn very few, and it shows (grin).  Here’s a couple.  At least they look like flowers.

Stillman & Birn Delta (6x8), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Delta (6×8), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black

The Sketches That Don’t Get Posted

I’ve never done a count but I think that I post less than 50% of the sketches that I do.  I know this is true if I include my constant doodling.  Sketching is about learning to see, hand-eye coordination and building a vocabulary to turn 3D images into 2D sketches.  While stated often by experts, I think most want to believe that there’s some way to get past the need to practice, practice, practice.

Because of this constant sketching I generally have sketches to post but, right now, I’m sick.  Mr. Flu came to visit our house and I’ve spent the last few days staring at Olympics and debating whether living or dying was the best course of action.  Such is the nature of Mr. Flu.  Because of this, I haven’t done much sketching.

But this morning I read a great post by Tina Koyama.  She came across a couple of her sketches that she’d forgotten about and decided to share.  They were great and appreciated that she took the time to post them.

Her post made me think of all the sketches that never see the light of day and gave me an idea.   In defiance of Mr. Flu, I offer this little doodle I did while looking out the window at three people who were walking slowly down the sidewalk in front of our house.  No big deal and the middle guy’s head seems too large to me, but heck, it’s not bad given that I had a 102F temperature at the time.

Canson Ingres paper, Hero 578 pen

Canson Ingres paper, Hero 578 pen

Thick Lines and Quick Hands

One of the days that I was waiting for my hard drive to arrive it rained.  I’m not one for sketching from photos but desperation will drive me to such extremes.  My pointy device of choice is a very fine pen and I thought it might be an opportunity to play with pens that produce a heavier line and to use them in a more loose fashion than is my norm.

And so I did some quick sketches in a 3×5 sketchbook. Here are four of them.


Done with a Hero 578 ‘bent nib’ pen


Done with Sharpie ‘fine’ pen (not marker)


TWSBI Mini w/Platinum Carbon Black


Done with Hero 578 “bent nib” pen in about five minutes.

The next day I went out sketching and continued the experiment.  I stopped to pick up a coffee and drew the car across the street.


Done with Hero 578 “bent nib” pen

I was walking along the St. Charles River and decided to stop and sketch these rudbeckia.  I’m not much of a flower sketcher but this was fun.

There is a large water regulation reservoir along the banks of the river and I decided to draw it as quickly as I could.  I spent less than 15 minutes on it, which is something of a world record for me when it comes to doing buildings.  I found the format too small for a building with all those fiddly bits.

Done with TWSBI Mini w/Platinum Carbon Black

Done with TWSBI Mini w/Platinum Carbon Black