Sketchbook Skool And Rainy Days

The last couple days have been rainy and windy and I haven’t been able to walk and sketch like I normally do this time of year.  So I thought I’d talk a bit about something new in my sketching life.

It’s called Sketchbook Skool and if you’re part of the social media crowd, you’ve probably heard of it.  Operated by Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene, it’s a school that’s as much about motivation and ideas as it is about teaching techniques.  This is the second session they’ve held and it’s called “Seeing”, with emphasis on how artists see and communicate what they see in their art.  It brings together Liz Steel, Cathy Johnson, Danny Gregory, Brenda Swenson, Andrea Joseph, and Koosje Koene as instructors.

It seemed ideal for me, and comes at an ideal time.  I’ve been very myopic in my approach to sketching thus far.  When I started sketching, 2 1/2 years ago, I couldn’t draw anything.  So I set out with a single goal – to learn to draw something… anything.  I didn’t worry about watercolors, compositions, or any of the myriad of details that one can be involved with in art.  I just wanted to draw stuff.

While I still have a lot to learn about drawing, I’ve gotten to the point where I can make scratches on paper that people at least recognize as the thing I was looking at so it seems to me that now is the time to start thinking of some of those other things that make an artist actually be an artist.  And I think Sketchbook Skool is going to help me in that.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9x6), Pilot Prera

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9×6), Pilot Prera

So far we’ve had two assignments from our first teacher, Danny Gregory.  We were to draw a piece of toast, with emphasis on drawing all the details of the surface.   It was an interesting sketch as I nearly went cross-eyed trying to ensure that I got all the little holes and crevices in the right places.  I want to do it again with a small section of grass or some other heavily textured surface.

Our second assignment was an investigation of how we see when drawing quickly vs slowly.  We were supposed to draw something in a minute and then draw right on top of that drawing, but more slowly, trying to do a detailed drawing.  Danny’s example used color for the first, fast rendition and pen for the second, slower version.

I drew our vacuum cleaner using yellow and gray Tombow brush pens.  We were to spend one minute on this.  I then spent 10 minutes drawing the machine using a Pilot Prera.  I really like this idea and hope to do a bunch of them.


Stillman & Birn Alpha (9×6), Pilot Prera, Lex Gray ink

So far, I’m having a ball in Sketchbook Skool.  The video instruction is first class and interactions with other students is providing a bunch of great ideas.  Maybe I will be an artist some day.


Sketching On The Montmorency River

CMontmorencyOne of the tourist spectacles around Quebec City is Montmorency Falls.  The falls themselves are nice but the tourist areas around it are equally nice so it’s fun to go sketching there.  To make it even better, I can hop a bus that will take me there, which is what I did this morning.

Yvan and I met very early  and headed for the Montmorency Falls area.  The falls weren’t our target though.  Our quary was rocks.  I’m tempted to make a quary/quarry joke here but I won’t.

Suffice it to say that when we got to the falls we crossed the bridge above them and headed north, up the river.  It was much cooler than I’d expected and my shorts and t-shirt left me shaking in my boots, almost literally.  Yvan was smarter, wore long pants and even brought a windbreaker.  Even so, he said he was cold.  I was colder.  I win…errr…lose.

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

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

But we’re tough sketchers and had fun anyways.  I got to break in a new Stillman & Birn sketchbook. This one is a 6×8 spiral-bound Delta series book.  It’s the first time I’ve used their ivory paper but I thought I should try it.  I think I like the ivory color.  It’s probably better for some things than for others but this morning’s subjects seemed to like it just fine.  The paper itself goes without saying as it’s one of the best watercolor sketchbook papers in existence.  For those who may wonder, the Delta is the equivalent of S&B’s Beta series which is very popular with the watercolor crowd.

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

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


We’re Having A Heat Wave

We’re having a heat wave.  In French it’s called a canicule.  Regardless of what language you use, it means hot and humid and we’ve certainly got that.  I blame myself.  I spent so much time whining that I couldn’t go sketching because winter wouldn’t end that, it seems, someone from down south sent us a dose of hot.

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Pilot Prera, Lex Gray ink

Stillman & Birn Alpha, Pilot Prera, Lex Gray ink

In spite of the heat, though, this sketcher marches onward.  I was to meet sketching buddy Claudette at Place d’Youville, a busy area just outside the St. Jean Gate into the old city.  While I waited for her I did this sketch of the entrance toan Italian restaurant.

When Claudette arrived we headed into the old city to find something to sketch.  Our goals were a bit atypical because what to sketch took a back seat to finding a shady, cool place to sit.  It wasn’t easy.

Eventually, though, we found ourselves in Carmel Park, a tiny little park (you can easily throw a stone across it) that’s up on a hill within the walled city.  Trees gave us shade and our altitude gave us access to a nice breeze that kept us comfortable.  Claudette sketched church steeples while I fixated on the back porch of an apartment building that was probably 30-40 feet below me.  Mostly I got caught up in the gorgeous flowers, flowers I didn’t do justice to I’m afraid.  Nevertheless, we had fun and stayed cool.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9x6), Pilot Prera, Lex Gray

Stillman & Birn Alpha (9×6), Pilot Prera, Lex Gray

Sketching “Around Back”

I wander my town, sketching the older buildings of our fine city.  They remain my favorite sketching subject.  I try to avoid the touristy buildings; their spirits have been stolen by the gazillion photographs taken of them annually.  I’ve been doing building portraits it for about 2 1/2 years.

It may be, however, that I’ve missed the best subjects because I’ve always drawn the front doors, the facade, the part of the building designed to invite you in.  Here in Quebec, however, some of the older areas of the city present challenging and interesting subjects if you walk “around back” where some of the age and development of the city are more visible.

In these neighborhoods you see porches, old garage areas, tiny apartments and sheds, all scrunched together such that no space is underutilized.  It’s as though the logic was that ‘Here’s a wall.  We only need three more and we can…’   Quebecers refer to it as “rebouter”, which I think translates to “tied together” or something similar.  All I know is that it’s in these rear spaces you can find unrenovated structures that must date back to the 1800s.

Claudette and I were out on a sketching adventure when we came across this opportunity.  Across from this scene is a nice little park area with lots of shade.  Guess where we sat as we drew this scene.

Stillman & BIrn Alpha (9x6), Pilot Prera, Lex Gray

Stillman & BIrn Alpha (9×6), Pilot Prera, Lex Gray

Long Walk – Little Sketches

We had a rain day that prevented me from taking my daily walk so when I was greeted with sun the next morning I decided to double my walking efforts.

It was a great day for walking and I was thoroughly enjoying myself.  Rather than spending a long time on a single sketch, I did a couple of small, quicker sketches, just to feed the urban sketcher in me.

Looking down from the bike path into Parc Brebeuf

Looking down from the bike path into Parc Brebeuf

These are both around four inches in size and done with my Pilot Penmanship, a very fine pen.   I don’t think the watercolor was an improvement, but that’s often the case.  I really do need to practice doing watercolors.

Along the St. Charles River

Along the St. Charles River