The Parents Head To Ottawa

Last weekend Chantal and I headed for Ottawa.  It was a holiday weekend and we went to visit our daughter who is in school there, but as I write this I realize that it was more than that.  Because of a lot of good stuff that happened, our daughter wasn’t going to come home for the summer as she normally would so the trip was at least as much an attempt to deal with that disappointment as anything else.

That’s a simple way of explaining that this wasn’t a sketching trip.  In spite of that, I did a bunch of quick sketches throughout the visit and I thought I’d present some of them as an indication of how easy it is to fit urban sketching into a trip that is otherwise occupied with things that make most people say “I was too busy to sketch.”

We arrived on Friday and our daughter was still at school so we got some lunch, went to an art store (more of a crafts store as so many have become) and then headed to one of the parks.   As we walked around I saw this scene and decided that I’d do a very quick, thumbnail-style sketch just to capture the major masses.  I didn’t worry much about proper perspective or drawing accurate lines and the initial sketch took only a few minutes.  Then my daughter called and said she would be there shortly so we stayed put.  I decided to add some more lines to the drawing and, ultimately, I slopped some color on the sketch.

Stillman & Birn Gamma (8x5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Gamma (8×5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black


Field Notes “Sweet Tooth” (3×5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black, Uniball UM_153 white pen

I was sitting under a flowering crab apple tree (I think) and  I decided to sketch of some of the flowers in my red Field Notes “Sweet Tooth” notebook and I thought it came out pretty well for a 3-4 minutes I spent doing it.  I was rewarded by my daughter showing up with an “hic c’est beau.”

We spent the rest of the evening hanging out as a family, eating in market area, buying candy and listening to street musicians.

The next morning, however, was laundry day.  We gathered up ever stitch of clothing, bedding, and towels and hauled them to a laundromat where we commenced to feed an obscene number of dollar coins into the machines.  We drank coffee, ate muffins, and I drew this little scene in the tiny coffee shop associated with the laundromat.  Not much but it was fun to do and made the time pass more quickly.


taned notebook, Platinum 3776,

Then it was off to the grocery store where we bought one of everything and two of some things.  My biggest fear was that there wouldn’t be room for it all in my daughter’s apartment.  Parents do get carried away some times.  And we did, of course.

Once we shoehorned all the groceries into their proper places, we headed off on a quest for shoes.  Understand, this was two women and an old guy.  We went EVERYWHERE looking at shoes.  I knew my life would end while looking for size 9 flats.

But surprise, surprise, we tracked down the illusive ideal shoe, bought two of them then went to a park where geese lived and they had lots of baby goslings running around.  They were fun to watch and I should have sketched them but I was worn out from the shoe chase.  Eventually we got hungry and headed for my daughter’s favorite Korean restaurant.

After dinner we walked to Major Hill Park, a park where the towers around Parliament poke up above the trees.  We drank bubble tea and enjoyed the changing sky as sunset was near.  I did a couple quick sketches in the failing light and probably should have settled for just a silhouette.

Parliament library roofline, FN Sweet Tooth, Platinum 37762016-05-21-56majorhillpark2











We did a bunch of park hopping the next day, mostly because we just wanted to be out in the sun.   We sat for a long time in Andrew Haydon Park, looking out at the boats having fun in the Ottawa River.  There wasn’t much close to me to draw so I drew some rocks.  I love drawing rocks, though I’m not particularly good at it.

Stillman & Birn Gamma (8x5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Gamma (8×5), Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

As it got hotter, though, the desire for shade took hold and we ended up in a park along the Rideau River.  Another place to practice my sloth, I was getting quite good at it, particularly because there were a group of guys in a drum circle providing entertainment.  I did break out the sketchbook to do this quick capture of a few of the players.  It’s not very detailed but it’s the best I can do in a few minutes.

Stillman & Birn Gamma (8x5), Platinum 3776

Stillman & Birn Gamma (8×5), Platinum 3776

2016-05-22-48RideauRiverKidI did several really quick (< 1-min) sketches of people as they wandered by where we were sitting and I’ll share only this one of a small boy who stopped to admire the river.  We had a delightful dinner at the apartment and then headed out to wander some more, ultimately ended up back at Major Hill Park.  It was pretty dark when we got there so sketching anything other than the proverbial black cat in a dark room there were no real sketching opportunities.

That was a last thing on my mind anyway as we had our mitts full of frozen yogourt.  It was the best there is, or so sayeth my daughter.  I think its the first time I’ve ever had any that didn’t come out of a carton.  We’d stopped at Menchies to get it and that was a fun experience unto its own because of the way you put together what you want and then pay by the weight of your concoction.  I drew the spoon in honor of the place.

2016-05-23-54MenchiesSpoonSo there you have it – our trip to Ottawa.  Urban sketching adds so much to trips like this, even if you don’t have time to do it.  Does that make sense?  Hope so.


Cartier Monument And More…

French explorer Jacques Cartier made a couple trips to what is now called Quebec.  On his second visit, in 1535, he and his crew wintered only about 10 minutes from my house, at the confluence of the St. Charles River and the Lairet River.  Why he didn’t stop by for coffee is unclear.  Maybe the timing wasn’t right.  Maybe he knew how bad my French was.

Stillman & Birn Gamma, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Gamma, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Our group was sketching Limoilou just before I headed to Ottawa last weekend and decided to draw the monument erected in his honor in spite of his snubbing me when he was here.  The monument sits in what is now called Cartier-Brébeuf park in honor of you know who.

Sweet Tooth FIeld Notes, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Sweet Tooth FIeld Notes, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

When I finished the sketch I started wandering around, trying to find the other sketchers.  I came across Lisette and Hubert who were drawing an old Catholic church that has become Quebec’s clown school.

They still needed a few minutes to finish up so I decided to do a quick sketch of the church chimney.  Once they finished up we all met for lunch.  All in all, it was a great day as we’re finally getting to sketch outdoors.

Rainy Day Sketching At The Museum

Golf Shoe - Stillman and Birn Gamma, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Golf Shoe – Stillman and Birn Gamma, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

I’m doing a bit of catch-up this morning.  We just got back from a few days in Ottawa and things have piled up a bit.  I should be able to post some of the sketches I did in Ottawa in the next day or so but until that time, here are a couple I did at the museum on a rainy day before we left.

Stillman & Birn Gamma, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Gamma, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Wandering The Alleyways Of Quebec

We’ve finally gotten a couple days where we could sketch outdoors and we’ve taken advantage of it.  A group of us met to wander the alleyways and do some sketching together and we had a lot of fun doing just that.  What alleyways may lack in terms of esthetics, they more than make up for in the form of interesting shape complexes and textures.  If only there were fewer stairs to draw (grin).

Stillman & Birn Delta, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Delta, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Every gathering of sketchers has periods where we ignore one another because we’re lost in our sketching but eventually we get hungry and we come together.  This day was no exception and we gathered at the local coffee shop for food and to chatter away about pens and paper.  Then it was back on the streets, or alleyways in this case, in search of something else to draw.

I decided to sketch a sketcher.  Yvan was sketching up a storm when I sat down to sketch him and while I don’t do him justice, he was a cooperative model.  All in all, it was a wonderful day.  We were teased by those couple days of good weather and I’m looking forward to more of them.  Yesterday it snowed.

Stillman & Birn Gamma, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Gamma, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Spring Has Finally Sprung

A week or so ago I walked to Bassin Louise, which is the part of our port area where private owners keep their boats.  All winter they (the boats) sit on land, wrapped in their cocoons of blue plastic.  When spring does arrive there’s a mad dash to get them in the water so their owners can enjoy them during our all-to-short summer.

During my visit I noticed two things.  There were no boats in the water in spite of it being May.  In fact, in shaded parts of the port there was still ice in the water.  At the time it occurred to me that sailors may be the only people more frustrated with our lack of spring than we sketchers.

It does seem that we’re finally getting hints that winter isn’t going to last forever and I’ve managed a flurry of outdoor sketching activity this week.  I decided to head back to Bassin Louise to see how the sailors were doing.  When I arrived I saw that a few boats had been put in the water – maybe a dozen of the couple hundred that will eventually fill the harbor.  I’m not sure the lock that lets them exit into the St. Lawrence River is functional yet but there were people working on sails, polishing chrome, etc.

While my face is incapable of launching a thousand ships, I thought that maybe my imagination might get one of them moving so I sat down to do a quick sketch of one of the boats moored in the harbor.  It’s seen here, heading out into the St. Lawrence.

Stillman & Birn Gamma (9x6) softcover, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Gamma (9×6) softcover, Platinum 3776, Platinum Carbon Black