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.

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.