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.
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.
It’s hot. It’s humid. Too hot for an old man to be out walking, that’s for sure. So, I put my stool in a shady spot in the yard and drew a small “scene” designed by Chantal. I thought these little guys were going to be hosta-guarding soldiers (wrote about that), but Chantal had other ideas. As usual, hers was a better one.
I’m trying to get back to a daily walk routine. It’s been hard this spring/summer because of all the rain and a bunch of house stuff we’ve been doing, but I was out the other day and stopped to sit in a park near my house. There was a birch tree there to keep me company and I decided to draw it, or at least its feet and legs.
Stillman & Birn Alpha (9×6 softcover), Kaweco Lilliput pen, DeAtramentis Document Black, Daniel Smith watercolors
In another venue I commented that if not for the internet I might well never use color. I met a friend for coffee in a park and saw this scene. The next day I returned to sketch it. I just couldn’t bring myself to mess it up with color. The plants seemed to speak volumes, at least to me.