Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Stone Men

Last night our sketching group visited the studios of Smith & Barber -stone carvers.  They are currently working on the restoration of the West Block of the Parliament Buildings here in Ottawa.  Their specific contributions is the replication of various architectural ornaments and details.

They work in an amazingly traditional manner - mallet and chisel on stone, with incredible precision.

Phillip Smith stayed late to let us in and in talking to him his passion for stone carving was evident and infectious.

I was taken by some of the "green men", sort male nymphs or fairies which became part of the Gothic lexicon of ornament, but have much longer origins back to the Celts.

I invited my sketching friends Marc and Laurel to come all the way from Montreal ( a 2 hour drive) and they did!   A gift to me for their company. They made friends, as they usually do and documented the evening with Laurel's photos and Marc's sketches.  More to come, no doubt, this summer at the Stone Carving Festival.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

A Little Colour on a Grey Day

A little bit of colour is welcome on a grey winter day when there aren't even distinct shadows.  This yellow shed around the block from my home was the closest to sunshine I saw yesterday - unusual here in Ottawa which is known for is cold but clear, sunny winter weather.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Daly Street

The backsides of buildings continue to fascinate me.  As the large trees in front of homes decline, are removed and not replaced, more and more, the large trees can only be found in the interiors of the blocks.

I also like the way you can read the evolution of the buildings with additions cobbled onto additions in stages.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

A New Father

Earlier this week I attended an ordination service at the Anglican Cathedral here in Ottawa.  My friend Jonathan Askwith was one of the new Priests brought into the Church.  It was a formal, but very moving ceremony which included all the priests in the Diocese laying on their hands onto the Ordinates.

I felt a little self- conscious sketching in church, fearing that some might think it irreverent, but as usual, I don't think anyone really noticed.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Above the Clouds

The sun was setting behind a distant range to the west and I had to work quickly to catch the yellow and orange glow.  The other, unusual effect for me, was the cloud lower down in the valley.  I was only up 1500 or 1700m, but the cloud cover over Lake Geneva had spread up towards Gryon.

Very ephermal.

Monday, 3 November 2014

The Hidden Pools

Well up a long valley in the Swiss Alps there is a hidden stream with smooth rock basins, or pools.  It is in a cool, shady ravine not far, but well screened from the narrow road and walking track.  A place where children paddle on a hot summer day, with low water, or maybe a quick skinny dip later in the evening.

My visit was on a fall day with it's weakening sun and long shadows.  It had snowed a couple of days before and the glacier blue-grey water was full and between it's turbulence and temperature did not tempt me to even wade.

The forest has a palpable spirit here, with trees growing out of cleft rocks and twisted trunks looking like wise, bearded faces.  If there are fairies or wood nymphs, surely they dwell here in under the canopy of the trees and music of the stream.

I don't believe in any of that, but did leave some of my lunch for the fairies...just in case.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Walking in the Swiss Alps

I haven't been doing much sketching this fall.  However, there is nothing like a trip to interest me in breaking out the sketch kit.  Last week I was in Switzerland and enjoyed glorious clear weather most days while walking in the mountains.  This is the view south to the Dente du Midi from near Sololex (Gryon).

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.