Sketching The Bar Laitier

One of the things I’ve always wondered about are the small ice cream places that exist in Quebec City.  We have a fairly short summer and most of them simply close up in the fall and sit idle all winter.  Things must be moving slowly for them this spring as we haven’t had much ice cream weather thus far.  But the stores persist, in spite of the short selling season.  I wonder how.

This is one of the cutest.  It’s on chemin St. Louis in the old city and is very inviting, or it will be when it warms up a bit more.  Done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (9×6) with a Hero 9296 pen and Lex Gray ink.  New pen for me but so far I like it.  I always like new pens.



The Missing Sketching Equipment

Most books on sketching will start by telling you how much fun sketching is and how little equipment is required to do it.  A pencil and a piece of paper is sufficient, they say.  And it’s true…sort of.  But it’s a lot more fun if you buy one of each kind of pencil, pen and paint and try every flat drawing surface on the market today…or so it seems if I look around my office.

If you’re a street sketcher, however, there are other things you need.  The most basic thing, of course, is something in which to carry your one of everything, or some subset thereof.  AND, if you’re like me and aren’t comfortable sketching while standing, you need a stool.

StoolOpen_smI carry a Walk Stool myself.  I’ve owned it for a couple years and use it several times a week.  In spite of this heavy use it still looks like new.  It’s light; it’s comfortable; and it folds up small.  But it only works if you take it with you and that was my problem last Tuesday when I went to the Musée de la Civilisation to sketch.  I’d forgotten to put it in my bag.

There were lots of things to sketch.  There were lots of places to sit.  The problem was that they weren’t in the same place.  I wandered, and wandered, looking for a place that would provide both subject and seat.  About the third circuit of the museum I my criterion for a suitable place reached a sufficiently low point that I realized that I could sit in the hallway and look through windows at the back of some of the exhibits in the Native American exhibition.  The back of this dancer is the result.

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6x9), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black

Sketching At Paillard In Quebec City

2013-10-10Gallerie_colorThe first restaurant I sketched was the new Paillard in one of the Quebec City Malls.  You can read about it in a post about the brown-paper sketchbook, if you like.  This one has few walls and I sketched it while standing outside the restaurant.

But there’s another Paillard that is more famous, if restaurant fame is measured by being part of tourist’s agenda items when they visit Quebec City.  logo-paillardThis one, the original Paillard, is in downtown Quebec City, the “old” city, on rue St. Jean.  This is not a really old cafe where poetry was read and music played in the 60s like Chez Temporel.  In fact, when I came to Quebec City long ago to do a post-doctoral fellowship, the location of Paillard was a grocery store ‘down the street’ from my apartment and I shopped there regularly.

But in the intervening years I moved away and Paillard took the place of the grocery store. It has become a ‘hot spot’ for tourists.  It’s a large, brightly-lit and roomy melange of a bakery and a café.  Their pastries are wonderful but the real star is their frothy coffee drinks, including one of my favorites, the bol de café au lait.  I’m mostly ignorant of differences between latte, cappuccino, and the other frothy drinks are but in the case of café au lait  I think it’s heaven.  While I normally drink my coffee black, I’ll break with tradition for a bol de café au lait.  It’s strong coffee with lots of frothy milk added to it and I add a bit of brown sugar to the mix.  But it’s the bol part of the equation that’s important…it comes in a soup bowl so you get a lot of it.

I’m rambling.  Sorry.  Claudette and I went to sketch Paillard the other day and we had a great time.  I got my bol de café au lait and a muffin.  She was less of a cochon (pig) and got a regular café au lait.  We were there early and pretty much had the place to ourselves.  There were a couple people sitting behind me and Claudette started sketching them.  With no people in my sight line I drew food and chairs and tables.  Ultimately I did quickly sketch a woman who was ordering something, maybe her own bol de café au lait .  Here is my tribute to Paillard.

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4x6), TWSBI MIni, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), TWSBI MIni, Platinum Carbon Black

A Little Bit Of Paris

If you’ve been following this blog you know that I’m spending some of my winter sketching time at our museum and its Paris 1900 exhibit.  This week I decided, without giving it sufficient thought, that I should sketch a huge black and white photo that’s projected on a wall.  It must be 12-14 feet tall and shows an indoor shopping area that, I understand, still exists today.

So I opened my Stillman & Birn 6×9 Zeta sketchbook, grabbed my TWSBI Mini, and started drawing.  Somewhere in the early stages I realized that I’d either chosen too large a subject, a sketchbook that was too small, or the TWSBI nib wasn’t fine enough.  Maybe the problem was a combination of all three of these things with a dash of my penchant for drawing everything.  Leaving stuff out is hard for me.  Whatever the reasons, the result was like the proverbial 10-pounds of potatoes in a 5-pound bag.

But I persevered because the process itself was fun – it’s always fun.  Lots of stuff to organize, proportion, and to draw.  I’m not sure what the woman in the middle was doing or carrying but you can see that several men were looking at her.  While the photo was a bit vague in its over-sized presentation, there was a large ‘something’ flowing out from her hands.  Maybe it was a shawl, a scarf or maybe a smoke bomb (grin).  It was impossible to say.  But I thought a bit of color would help center their gaze, and maybe yours.

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6x9), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Zeta (6×9), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black


Sketching At Chez Temporel

I first came to Quebec City to do a post-doctoral fellowship.  That was to last two years and it did, and I left as I took a research position in Ontario.  More significant, though, was that during that period I met my wife.

I knew nothing of Quebec and even less French than I know now.  You can’t do much with a vocabulary that consists of bonjour, champagne and pamplemousse.  Why I knew the word for grapefruit is still a mystery to me.  If you’ve ever been in a city where you don’t speak the language, you know that sticking to tourist areas and shopping where prices are clearly marked is a survival skill.  I ate at McDonalds a lot because I could order by number.  And so life was for me.  Many parts of the city were off limits to me.

When I started dating my wife, she took me places I’d never been.  One of those places was Chez Temporel, a small cafe off the main streets.  Its facade would not be out of place in Paris and, at the time, the inside could easily have been a place where writers and artists went to talk and philosophize.  In fact, according to history, Chez Temporel hosted poetry readings and folk music on its second floor.

I discovered bol du cafe au lait (bowl of coffee with milk).  I’d never heard of drinking coffee from a bowl and, typically, I put nothing in my coffee.  But I LIKED this stuff, particularly the large volume of it that came in the bowl.  My remembrance of that first bol might be sweetened by the memories of a budding love affair but that’s another story, for another time.

Today I’m reporting on a more recent trip to Chez Temporel, this time with sketching buddy Claudette.  We arrived at 9:30 which, on a Monday, is a great time to go there to sketch there if you want to sketch the restaurant itself.  Not so much if you want to sketch people as this is their lull period.  We had a great time.  Claudette did sketch the few people who were eating.  I sketched this:

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4x6), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black

Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6), TWSBI Mini, Platinum Carbon Black