Wednesday, 3 September 2014

before dinner cocktail

Just mix, water, paint and a small dog together in your neighbourhood park and you have a delightful late summer afternoon cocktail.  My friend got to run crazy with a succession of afterwork dogs, as I focussed on the various hues of green and reflections in Upper Brown's Inlet.

This is a tiny little painting in my 5" x 3 1/2" Laloran sketchbook - minus the taped edges.  Maybe someday, I'll have the courage to paint without lines, but in the meantime I did manage to avoid the "detail trap" just by working small.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


I don't do it consistently but am always happy that I took the time to do a little thumbnail study before starting a sketch.  In this case, I considered both landscape (horizontal) and portrait (vertical) formats.  In doing so, I also planned what would be in the frame and the composition.  Not only did it help me decide on the format, but I also decided to eliminate the tree behind the building to emphasize the interesting roof shape.

Many people use these thumbnails as a value study also.  I was using watercolour crayons and having trouble with controlling their values, so went with the flatter, graphic approach.

Often I do the thumbnail and then redefine the frame.  Many times his has saved me from running out of paper, simply by taking a minute or two to plan before starting.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Masking a Border

ink and watercolour crayon 
Jim absorbed and unaware of me drawing him
The sketchmaster, Jim Belisle, also introduced me to using masking tape to create a border when we were making smudges on Centre Island.  He recommends the green coloured masking tape and shared his secret of tacking it several times to your shirt so that it's not so sticky that it takes up the surface of the paper.

Many people draw a frame within the page, but the tape very sharply limits the paint and sets off the sketch quite nicely.  It's a rewarding moment removing the paint and seeing the crisp white border.

The upper sketch was done with watercolour crayons - I liked the intense colours but was having trouble controlling values to convey depth,

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Sketching with a Friend

10 1/2" x 2" Franklin's Garden
Jim busy "smudging"
with some new friends
On of the things that I learned and accessed through Urban Sketchers is how fun and it is to sketch with others.  Last weekend, I was in Toronto and spent a delightful afternoon with Jim Belisle sketching on Centre Island.  Jim was one of my wonderful professors at University of Toronto and I got to know him as a teaching assistant for a couple of terms.  He kept sketchbooks then and also introduced me to drop-in life drawing. He has been filing sketchbooks all his lfe and has not lost his enthusiasm to "make smudges".

So all these years later, it was not only fun to catch up but compare techniques and ideas.  He had generously bought me a box of watercolour crayons.  These are softer and more vibrant than  watercolor pencils and amped up my usual muted wash. So in addition to catching up I tried something new and came home full of ideas and enthusiasm for filling sketchbooks.

We encamped and did three sketches, of increasingly larger sketchbooks, from the same location.  That was an interesting exercise in itself and always fun to compare what we chose to portray.  I focused on the landform while Jim (lower sketch) dove into the colour and texture of the perennials in the foreground.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Garden Community

The Toronto Parks Commission manages the islands that make up Toronto Island, including operating the ferries.  Most of the the islands are very park like with the exception of the communities on Algonquin and Ward Islands. These are more like gardens - varying degrees of care, but all lush and green.  The climate is obviously just slightly milder compared to the mainland as several plants can be found here that would not survive even a few kilometres away from the lake.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Boathouse

There are several bed and breakfast lodgings on Toronto Island, and I've stayed at two of them.  The Boathouse on Ward's Island was absolutely perfect. It's a small suite with a kitchenette and washing machine.  Brand spanking new with first class finishes.

Like most of the homes on the Island, it has its own charm and beautiful garden.

Dog Tie Tree

I am pretty good at tree identification - especially when the leaves are on.  There was a new one for me though at the Island Cafe - A Dog Tie Tree.  I would have thought it a fruit tree, but for the sign.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The Island Cafe

A good restaurant is largely about the vibe.  The Island Cafe is a case study in that regard.  It personifies the island community  - very friendly and eclectic.  Great fun always.  I went all crazy and had cafe latte every morning.  Normally too much for my mild metabolism, but it would take much more than a shot of caffeine to rattle me when on the Islands.

Oh, and then there is the Ontario Raspberry Tart!  How did I ever find the strength to leave?

Waiting to Board the Ferry

I spent several days on Toronto Island last week.  One afternoon waiting to get on the Ward Island Ferry I took a few minutes to do a little sketch.  Its amazing what you can do with a fat pen and time constraint.  I decided the story was the rhythm of the kayaks pulled up on the beach and didn't fuss with any detail.