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Painting en plein air, around Bay Saint Paul

April 27, 2022

It’s been a few weeks since our plein-air painting trip to Bay St. Paul. (Just a bit downstream from Quebec City). Here’s a few of the good ones. This is Grands-Jardins National Park. Painted from, quite literally, the parking lot at the entrance. You can’t be too fussy when driving around looking for views. If you don’t jump out at the first sign, pretty soon the day is gone and all you’ve done is drive around.

This is the mill pond at the Papeterie Saint-Gilles. A beautiful location! Sadly – we were solidly rained out, so I painted this side-view and will get back to the wonderful paper mill another time.

I have to say, as a long time watercolorist – if you choose to stand and paint in the rain, it’s pretty nice to be painting in oils.

This last one is painted from the deck of our B&B, the Auberge Cap-Aux-Corbeaux. This one is my favorite, because of the amazing view. (jk.) It is a nice view, but not that day :)

All these works are 9×12″ Oil and Cold Wax Medium on Panel. This time I used W&N Griffin Alkyd mixing white – which is a fast drying white. When mixed with traditional oils it does a wonderful job of setting up the paintings in a few days (maybe a week). Dry to the touch in any case. Very handy for impasto work like this, which might have taken months to cure.

Want to listen into a chat about Online Art Events?

April 21, 2022

I little while back I was chatting with Nishant Jain of Sneaky Artist, home of the Sneaky Artist Podcast, in which we talked about his event Thirty Days of Vancouver.

It’s a rambling discussion that touches on my projects #OneWeek100People (which Nishant knocked out of the park this year – doing 100 of his ‘tiny people’ sketches EVERY DAY of the event!) – and of course we talk about the upcoming June event #30x30DirectWatercolor.

If you’re in the mood for a little inspiration, in the form of a fireside chat about online sketching events, the motivation they offer, and our reasons for why we do these public marathons? Click into the audiogram for a twenty minute preview of the upcoming full-length podcast.

#30x30Direct Watercolor – Free Online Event Coming in June!

April 20, 2022

Hey all! I’m sending you the first reminder about #30x30DirectWatercolor – the annual event where we work together to make thirty paintings in thirty days. < Follow the link for info on how to participate! ]

I hope you guys want to do this again with us!

This year our event co-founder and painting-buddy Uma Kelkar has a special project for us.

Uma says:

“2022 is the fifth year of the #30x30DirectWatercolor Challenge. As always, Marc and I will co-host the event on Facebook. The idea is for all of us who partake to do 30 direct watercolors in 30 days of June. Direct Watercolor’s are paintings without underlying drawing!

Each of us has a different goal for venturing on this journey – for me, it is a study of diminishing light repeatedly over 30 days.

In addition to painting, I also have a research project, that I invite you to participate in.
Everyday, along with a daily painting, I’ll also be sharing a poll with you. Titled, 30×30 2022 Building The Art Habit: One Daily Question.”

I hope you guys will help us out with this!

Uma will be asking you a question that explores your art habit. She’s working on building new tools for artists, and would benefit from your opinions. Each question should take 10 seconds on average and longer if you would like to comment. She’ll sprinkle a few relevant statistics she has come across via her research throughout the month. – I look forward to seeing her infographics!

Sound good?

More on that later! You don’t have to do anything now, just stay tuned and that will just happen along with all the rest of the daily posts.

Ok, thanks :) And I hope to see your paintings pop up in the Facebook group, or, on your media-of-choice using the hashtag #30x30DirectWatercolor.


Urban Sketchers : Quartier des Spectacles (ish)

March 28, 2022

USK Montreal organized a spring meetup at Quartier des Spectacles, the center of our downtown arts district. I apologize, I didn’t actually draw the square, but we took a brisk photo walk in the zero degree weather. Only Canadian degrees Celsius, so not so bad, but still no weather for sketching. Your fingers turn to ice too quickly. We eventually retreated to a lovely café with multiple fireplaces, where we could sit and paint :)

It’s always something, to see the contrast of old and new in Montreal. It is of course, becoming more new every day :) Our city planners love to juxtapose the historic with the ultra-modern. I kind of enjoy the contrast. But I still don’t draw the glass buildings!

I am starting to include the cars in my paintings. So, we’re getting there. Maybe glass architecture will happen next.

These little sketches are only 5×5″. It’s sort of a game to see how much I can represent with tiny brushstrokes. Can you make it look like a street with only some dots and dashes?

It was great to be out in the city again, even though the weather is not quite ready to be honest. But I do kind of like this drab neutral shoulder season. Everything in Montreal is blue-black and tan. But, I’m very much looking forward to this summer. I think we have to return to life now, regardless of the risks of the oncoming sixth wave. It’ll be great to be back in a living city! Any day now :)

Some good news! Three paintings accepted to the Society of Canadian Artists

March 15, 2022

Pleased to say, three of my impasto oils have been accepted to the Society of Canadian Artists 2022 Open International Juried Exhibition. These three pieces will be on display online, and available for purchase from March 15 to June 15, 2022. [Inquiries at:]

These are smaller works, 10×10″. I enjoy this small format because of the scale of the marks in relation to the size of the image. You can scale up this effect of course, but you have to work with larger and larger tools and amounts of paint, and it can become unwieldy. As well, there’s a hidden benefit – the small paintings are easy to ship anywhere in the world!

These three are some of my favorites from a three year long experiment with impasto painting. By which I mean, working with a knife and hand-mixed pigments. (Oil + marble dust + cold wax medium.) The paintings operate simultaneously at two levels – the ‘pulled back’ view, which represents the landscape, and the ‘close up’ view which becomes a complete abstraction of color and brushstroke.

That could be said for any hand made work of art, but I feel the duality is a focus here.

The physicality, or sculptural quality of the paint surface is something we simply don’t have in digital or printed works, or even with my first love – watercolor.

I very much hope I’ll have a chance to return to this kind of painting soon. I’ve been working on other projects lately. These impasto oils are quite a commitment! The extended time to dry, means you have to dedicate space on the wall for three to six months. I had literally run out of wall space for a time there, though I have been able to pack some of these away recently. I’ve used chemical dryers in the past, which does speed things up, but I found myself feeling ill from the fumes, even when working with fans and open windows – and in fact, this becomes a problem in Canada – for a lot of the year you don’t really want your French doors open :) I’ve painted with fans and heaters running, but after a while that just starts to feel silly.

I hope you’ll stop by the national society’s online show. < Follow that link!

The paintings will be available from March 15th to June 15 at a special reduced price, ($250.00 Cdn) in support of the Society of Canadian Artists.

And of course, you can see a selection of the best of my original oils on my gallery site, or flip through work chronologically on my Instagram


Spicy Ramen! Day 05 – #OneWeek100People 2022!

March 11, 2022

Here’s a silly self portrait of me at our local noodle house Kinton Ramen.

It’s probably my favorite self-portrait so far. Even if it doesn’t look very much like me :) I think it looks a bit like my grandfather though.

During the pandemic I started cutting my own hair. My grandmother cut his once a month, with him sitting, leaning over the kitchen sink. Same sink for the cooking, the dishes, and the portable washing machine.

I’m starting to like my hair standing up like this. I think I look more Asian.

Here’s an interesting comparison. The watercolor portrait on 90lb Strathmore Aquarius (above), painted at home, taking my time – versus a sketchbook page (below). The type of paper makes a huge difference.

On the sized (water-resistant) sketchbook paper the brushstrokes are more ‘edgy’ with sharp transitions and distinct edges. Not as much natural ‘bleed’ through the paper fiber. The same sizing that helps your sketchbook pages take paint without buckling, prevents the watercolor from blending naturally.

Aquarius is a very smooth paper physically (even less tooth than a normal cold-press), but more importantly, it’s highly absorbent. The fibers soak up a lot of water, which allows the pigment to ‘creep’ inside the paper, giving you a more ‘blended’ look.

Sadly, that’s the end of my #OneWeek100People for 2022 – but you guys can take the weekend if you want to keep pushing for your 100! I’ll be on the Facebook group commenting on your posts. If you did a project this year that you’re proud of, please post and share!

Take care and see you soon.


#OneWeek100People – Day 04 – Subway Sketching!

March 10, 2022

Tomorrow is the official LAST DAY! of #OneWeek100People – but of course you can use the weekend to finish off.

How many of you are going to hit 100? Did you keep up with 20 a day? or maybe you plan to go out on the weekend and blast through 100 people in a single day!

It’s very possible you know! That’s only 3.5 hours of two minute sketches. So – if you’re behind – don’t worry! You can still catch up!

They don’t have to be fancy watercolor sketches. You could just do them with a brush marker, or a ballpoint even. These little ones are the kind of thing that will get you to 100 in a single day.

Whatever it takes to get the miles out of your pen. What my sketching buddy Liz Steel calls ‘The Hard Yards’ or Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Ten Thousand Hours’ of practice. It all adds up – even the simplest doodles.

So how about some ‘quick tips’;

#1: You don’t have to finish the entire figure every time. Especially when two people are dressed the same-ish.

#2: Parents and children give you nice groupings. Fussing with kids’ jackets gives you a nice time window to sketch. Maybe watch the kid for a little while and pick the best pose. Or even draw a totally different kid if it makes the sketch work :) I stole this hat from a different boy!

#3: Have a mental list of what you’re after. For the people doing the Scavenger Hunt – I actually found someone reading a book! Not a phone, but a real book! I knew I would get at least one book-reader if I was out the entire day and when I saw her through the window of a passing train, I didn’t have to think ‘is this a good one?’ – it was on my list already!

#4 Exaggerate! It’s more fun if this lady’s bag is HUUUUGE!

#5 Finish even if it’s not working. I couldn’t remember how this guys legs looked, and the final result is kind of weird – but hey – finish the sketch anway!

#6 Look for different body shapes.

#6 It’s easier to draw a hat than a face. A hat is an instant character. People choose their hats carefully!

#7 If you see something more than once, it’s a good subject! These giant scarves are on-trend this year in Montreal. Once you notice something is in fashion, you see it everywhere. Grab these details and they make your sketches ‘of the moment’ and/or ‘of the place’.

Bonus Tip!: Eat more dessert. A sketching friend from Switzerland taught me that three stops for dessert can make your whole sketching day better. Every time I stop for a snack, I paint a few sketches. That way I don’t have a lot of drawings to paint when I get home. If I don’t get things finished the same day, I tend to never get back to them. So I think this is a good trick – plus – three desserts a day!

Ok – enough silliness – I hope you’re enjoying your #OneWeek100People. If you’ve done anything at all this week, please take a snapshot and post it with the hashtag. You might encourage someone to go out tomorrow and try to get their 100!

Thanks ~m :)

High Vis Jackets : #OneWeek100People Day 03 Part One

March 9, 2022

Please enjoy a #OneWeek100People video-sketch of some working men in high visibility winter parkas.

This was painted from a shot out the car window, driving home one February afternoon. Typical street-activity in Montreal at this time of year. Fresh potholes every spring!

I quite enjoy how abstract a figure can be and still look real. (Well, it does to me anyway :) I’m trying for an effect here. An everyday image caught at the traffic light, – seen out of the corner of your eye on your drive home from work.

The Dog Walker : #OneWeek100People Day 03 Part Two

March 9, 2022

Please enjoy a bonus video! The Dog Walker :)

This is a watercolor silhouette sketch, done from a cellphone photo snapped out my living room window. This dog is one of our new neighbors I think. They sometimes go by around dinner time, so my looking out the window and their walk seems to line up.

The goal for this video is HOW LITTLE YOU NEED in a silhouette sketch. Just the shape – filled with any random color – and then you can go back with shadows on top.

As we head in to Day Three of #OneWeek100People, I hope you’ve been getting your 20 people a day? I expect I’m probably behind! But it doesn’t matter if you ‘win’ the marathon – the point is just to be doing something every day and sharing with the rest of us! It’s the team spirit that keeps us all motivated.

So – I’m heading over to the Facebook group to see what you guys have been sketching.

See you there!


#OneWeek100People: Day 02 -The Moving Crew

March 8, 2022

Here’s another little film for Day Two of #OneWeek100People!

There’s a few neat things I want to show here. The most important is – to be ready to sketch at any time! But also – be on the lookout for things you’ve never drawn before!

It’s very easy to get set in your ways. To end up with an entire book full of ‘people reading on their phones’ or ‘my husband on the couch watching netflix’ because – those are the easy sketches to get.

They’re the ones where the people hold still for you. And – the ones you can get at any time of the day or night.

So when I saw this moving van pull up – I knew I had to sketch these guys – even if the subject is stupid – there’s nothing really all that interesting about guys carrying boxes! BUT – they did give me some postures that I’ve never drawn before.

It’s wild that in 20 years of life drawing class, nobody ever did a session with the model carrying boxes. I suppose that’s too much work for the poor model. But – it gives you weight-bearing poses you really can’t get any other way.

There’s also another neat thing going on – I wanted to put these guys into a kind of composite sketch – so – I went back and drew their van. It doesn’t have to be a great drawing. Just a doodle at the correct scale, (I used two sheets because the van was too large – plus a little scrap for the next car on the street) all so I could put all the figures on top and see how it looked.

Just a little game for myself – so I could see the figures in context.

In this case I took phone snapshots of my best figures, and collaged them in Procreate on the iPad.

It’s the kind of thing I do for fun, but it’s also the way you might do an illustration for some kind of reportage project. Grab all the figures as gestures – and then collage them later into a background that makes a ‘finished piece’ out of it. That’s just one way to make it easier to get people ‘in the moment’.

So I hope you enjoyed watching The Moving Crew – and – I hope you’ll be inspired to find something this week that you’ve never drawn before.

Thanks to everyone posting their #OneWeek100People! I’m going to head over to our Facebook group and see what you guys are up too.

Thanks ~marc