This year has been an odd one, with lots more rain than usual and very high temperatures with jacket days interspersed. Our flowering plants have put on quite a show as a result but at the same time, insects have been scarce. I’ve seen a single Monarch but no other butterflies. No mosquitos, one moth, a few flies, but nothing like a typical Quebec summer cadre of insects. And NO spiders. I typically get to play with small jumping spiders and we normally end up with a bunch of web-building Theridids around our yard. Not this year.
But one species that comes and goes like clockwork are the excavators. These huge yellow and orange beasts trundle around Quebec City like they own the place, digging holes here and there, dragging a stream of orange traffic barrels in their wake. They show up ever spring. They start to die out when it turns cold.
As a biologist I’m always interested in the life cycles of organisms and excavators are no exception. The adult shown above is a prime example of the type. I drew this one several years ago and confess that anyone who believes urban sketching should be done quickly would take offense to the couple hours I spent drawing this one. There are several things to note beyond their overall size. First, its feet are huge as are its muddy footprints. Second, its head is sized to hold a single human and its small relative to its huge, elongated body that swings a long beak here and there.
While walking on my river, I came across a baby excavator. It was hiding next to an apartment building being built along my river. You can immediately see that it’s an infant. Notice how large its head is relative to its body. Its body is short and pudgy and its feet aren’t as developed as the adult versions. If you see these little guys operate you’ll notice it bouncing around and rocking back and forth, unlike the adults who move steadily. I wonder if they simply grow larger with age or maybe there’s a metamorphosis that takes place, maybe during the winter season. More study is required.
I live not far from Quebec City’s exposition center, which is convenient because there’s a farmer’s market, park area, and a large activity area associated with it. There’s also a very large statue. It stands 30-40 feet high and represents, I think, a deer, walking across ice. The deer is looking down and its reflection is depicted by a white version of itself. It’s pretty impressive.
I decided to draw it and I found it more difficult than it looks. The reason is that it’s an animal with four spindly legs balanced upon a second, upside down set of spindly legs. Clearly, if I got the angles of those thin legs wrong, my sketch would look like it was falling over. Not having the mass of the top animal balanced on those legs would, of course, have the same result.
So, I spent probably half an hour just triangulating all the points, getting the proportions figured out, and the result was a whole bunch of lines and dots that didn’t look like much. Drawing it was easier and while painting always reveals my poor brush work, that wasn’t too bad either. The one thing I regret was that I didn’t do it larger (sketch is only 6″ high).
Stillman & BIrn Nova Gray, pencil, Daniel Smith Watercolors
The beauty of nature comes in many forms. In the last week or so I’ve found three mice that have succumbed to the rigors of summer. I don’t know if this was because of the stifling heat and humidity or not but that’s my guess.
In any case, I tried to have a conversation with this one, Ms Mouse. As I drew her she didn’t have much to say but she was a very cooperative model and didn’t move at all. Her peacefulness spoke volumes though.
Stillman & Birn Alpha, DeAtramentis Document Black, Pilot Falcon, Daniel Smith watercolors
As in many places, high temps and humidities have been the norm. Until yesterday. I bopped out the door, heading for my walk and stopped. It was COLD!!! I had to change into long pants and put on a windbreaker to walk. Mr Weather, a close friend of Mr. Google, told me that it was 58F. During that day it barely cracked the 60s. Today it’s very windy and rainy so I’m indoors.
Stillman & BIrn Alpha, Pilot Falcon, DeAtramentis Document Black, Daniel Smith watercolors
I’ve decided to post a sketch I did last week. I wasn’t going to share it because there are many things wrong with it, some due to my shortcomings and others due to the fact that it was so hot I had a hard time getting into it.
The sketch suffers a bit but the real problem is with the watercolor, which is too flat, with not enough contrast. By the time the brush came out my shady perch had become open sun and I was burning up, so this was more slop and dash watercolor and it shows.
I don’t know if high humidity and almost daily rain is a new normal for Quebec City but this summer has been a frustration because of it. That said, the plant world is having a great time. Everything is more lush, a lot greener, and flowers are everywhere.
I’m trying to fit my powerwalks (old man power walks mean distance, not speed) into our renovation work and I found myself in Parc de l’Amerique Latin, which is a park that features a bunch of statues of famous people from Latin America.
It was hot and I needed a break so I sat down to practice drawing flower blossoms. I love drawing plants where I try to draw an individual plant or flower, leaf by leaf or petal by petal. This is great practice in size/orientation relationships of organic subjects. Here’s what I came up with on that day.