I know there are many parts of the US that are in dire straits from COVID and the lack of governmental concern over it. But that’s not true of many places. In Quebec City, where a mask-wearing mandate, social distancing, and good government response allow us to go and do pretty much as we please (unless you’re a party animal I guess). And yet Chantal and I are still reluctant to range far and wide.
We’re living a hermit existence, but like everyone else we’re going nuts looking at the same walls day after day. We decided to succumb to the urge to go somewhere, anywhere, and headed to Ile d’Orleans, a large island just east of Quebec City in the Ste Lawrence River. There’s 42 miles of road that runs around the perimeter of the island and we figured we couldn’t get in too much trouble as long as we stayed in the car.
And for the most part we did stay in the car. We wandered around a park that’s sort of a mini-botanical garden on the north side of the island and we stopped at a couple of the small marinas where we walked out to look at the St. Lawrence. Most of the fruit and vegetable stands were closed and the couple places that were open we too crowded to tempt us. Because of this, I took a couple photos but sketching wasn’t practical.
At one of the marinas there was a beach with only a couple people on it so we walked around a bit, taking in the fresh air. A girl was sitting at the edge of the water, creating a wonderful scene. Here’s my sketch of her enjoying her own form of solitude.
Apologies to Otis Redding for the title of this post. But it describes pretty well a morning I had at the latest Artistes dans les parcs event. It was all my fault. Sometimes I forsake rational thinking while choosing a sketching subject.
This event took place at a spiritual retreat site that looks like it has its roots as a home for the upper crust. The grounds are huge and high on a hill that overlooks the St. Lawrence River. Almost all of the participants set up easels in a shady area so they could paint the coastline. Those were the smart ones because we were in the middle of a heat wave with pressing heat and humidity.
Me, I took a different approach. I decided to sketch a bunch of stairs. My thinking was simply that I needed practice sketching stairs. I didn’t think about the fact that to do so required that I sit out in the open, in bright sun, and that I would sweat myself to become ill from the process. I cooked, and cooked, and cooked, more concerned about lilies and concrete than how I was feeling.
When I came out of my sketching fog I realized I wasn’t feeling that great. Only then did I realize that I was light-headed and dripping with sweat. I headed for some shade. Then I realized that I had forgotten to bring a waterbottle. All I had to drink was my back up water for painting, all 30ml of the stuff. I drank that and then waited for the little bit of breeze to cool me down. In the end I was fine, with only a hint of stupid to chew on. I did go home early, however. It was just too hot to be out without water.
Winter has grabbed hold of us in Quebec and right now I’m looking out the window at a foot of new snow, but the snow is going sideways due to 60-70km/h winds. I can’t see across the street. I’m praying for the winds to die down this afternoon so I can run my snowblower. Something to look forward to I suppose.
So I’m writing to you about a short trip I took a few days ago with Yvan out to Miriam’s cottage on Ile d’Orleans. It was a bright sunny day but also, how do you say it… nippy. We picked up Miriam and headed to a town called St. Laurent on the island. We arrived at the boulangerie which is one of my favorite places to visit during summer, because they sell the best pesto pizza and it’s great to sit on the balcony of this huge house, overlooking the St. Lawrence, and sketch. I’ve drawn the church it faces a number of times.
Today, though, our target was a cute little building from which they sell crafty things to the tourists. It’s snuggled into the forest edge behind the main building and looks to me like a ginger-bread house. We parked at the end of the driveway (the place is closed during winter) and sketched the building from the car. It was a bit cramped with three of us in the car, with our sketching bags close at hand. We had to start the car several times to defrost the windows but we were out of the wind and plenty warm.
I tried to depict the ‘tucked away’ look of the place by including a bunch of the foreground but I struggled a bit with the snow since I was working on tan paper. I was happy with my “cute” approach on this sketch, though I’ve got to get better creating snow with gouache. It was either too white or not white enough 🙂
From there we ended up across the street in the parking lot behind the church. Miriam and Yvan wanted to draw the big ice blocks that had started to accumulate along the bank of the St. Lawrence. That didn’t really turn my crank and so I just started sketching random things I could see. I enjoy doing this because I can just concentrate on the object, foresaking any semblance of scene-building. Pickings were a bit slim in the parking lot but it was fun nevertheless.
Sketching from a car isn’t ideal, but there’s something cozy about doing it with a couple friends. Sort of like drive-in movies for sketchers.
The Artistes dans les parcs went to Iles d’Orleans to visit Vinoble de Bacchus for a day of painting en plein air. Bacchus is the god of wine so it was only fitting that his vineyard was beautiful. All of the buildings are painted white with blue roofs and the vineyards overlook the St. Lawrence River. We had a great time.
I wandered around a while, just enjoying the place. There was a lot to see and I took it all in. The last time we came I couldn’t walk up/down the hills to the vineyards and so I was enjoying the freedom my rheumatologist has given me.
Eventually, though, I sat down to sketch this building. I just liked the door. Do we need more reason than that? I don’t think so.
Stillman & BIrn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis black, Daniel Smith watercolors
Then it was time for lunch, a very long lunch. A big part of the raison d’etre of the Artistes dans les parcs are its social aspects and the vineyard’s ambience and services emphasized this on this day. They sell yummy cheese plates, serve wine and we could sit outside on a perfect day and talk, and talk, and talk.
While that was happening I did this small sketch of a planter that sat nearby. Not much of a sketch but I thought I’d throw it in as a remembrance of that fine afternoon. Thanks Bacchus, for letting us visit your vineyard.
Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), DeAtramentis Document Black
The Artistes dans les Parcs leader, Denise Bujold arranged for us to spend a Thursday sketching at a winery on the Ile d’Orleans, not far from Quebec City. She surprised us by using her superpowers to give us ideal weather as well. There were sixteen of us scattered around the winery, drawing, painting or enjoying each other’s company. It was quite a day.
I decided to draw this scene, not part of the winery but across a field from it. I was disappointed that I didn’t get more depth into this sketch.
We all took a break for lunch, sitting at some picnic benches available for visitors to the winery. The sun was so inviting that I wanted to lay down in the grass and fall asleep. Ah…to be a kid again where that wouldn’t be seen as rude (grin).
Rejean had done a small vignette of a cluster of grapes and I decided I needed to do one too. I have a tough time walking down hills right now but I found I could walk along a road that wound its way around some buildings and served as a way for tractors to get to the lower level. Eventually I got to the head of one of the fields and found a cluster of grapes near an end post, creating an ideal subject. I was pretty happy with the result and the entire day.