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New Brush: Rosemary and Co, Comber Brush

October 17, 2017

The second interesting brush Rosemary offered me, was their Series 2250 Flat Comber.

The gimmick here is, we have a flat, with tiny serrations along the edge. Giving you rake-like marks – a series of parallel lines.

I do this normally using a pointed round and grinding the brush into the palette so the tip splays out into a jagged fan. But that’s kind of a grim way to handle your brushes. Nice that Rosemary’s created this serrated flat, to give you a similar effect.

I have a few more examples from figure drawing, but there’s hand-drawn nudity involved. If you’re of legal age to view such scandalous material, you can click over to my life drawing blog. Otherwise, you’ll have to take the word of that one example above.

But seriously, it’s really a neat effect – and I’m sure I’ll find many applications for this brush next time I go landscape painting.


New Brush: Rosemary and Co, Pyramid Brush

October 10, 2017

I’ve recently been given a couple of brushes to test – this first set of sketches is the Rosemary and Co Series 40 Triangular Pyramid brush. It’s a natural squirrel hair fiber, with a needle sharp point and an odd pyramidal brush-body.

By popular demand – photo of what the brush tip looks like. (Sorry, mine is a little blood-red spattered now).

My first impression – what fun brush!

It’s a little weird – getting the feel of it on my first attempts. But the fine line drawing with the point is excellent, and you’re able to lay it on on the triangular sides, squash into a wedge, or twist the pyramid to get unpredictable chisel shaped mark making. It goes from thin to thick very quickly, with a fun feeling of being on the edge of control.

If you’re at all a fan of gesture drawing, or a direct, calligraphic kind of painting – you might very much enjoy this brush. I’ll be looking forward to doing some more figure drawing or street sketching with it.

Lining up to visit Parliament

October 3, 2017

Sometimes it seems like I never draw anymore! With my watercolors – once you master mixing stronger colors, (and add some rich-dark pigments to your palette), you can do anything an ink drawing can do, but with the ability to work with shape as well as lines.

Still, there’s nothing more instantaneous than a direct ink drawing. Or more convenient. You can’t beat the immediacy of just a pen in hand.

These are done with a platinum carbon pen (extra fine line) and a brushpen (extra bold, of course).

They’re all done while waiting in line to visit the Canadian Parliament buildings in Ottawa. Then, carrying on doodling while following the cellphone snapping tour group.

I’ve drawn this place from the outside – but never taken the time to go in. But we were vising with friends for the weekend, so we thought, ok – lets finally do this touristy thing.

Ok, well, the opening sketch up top is from breakfast at the hotel, not the tour itself. Our friends were some kind of card carrying VIPs. They had us upgraded so we could all enjoy the view from the members lounge.

So, actually, I hate to admit it – but the tour is kind of worth it. I must be getting old! I’d never have stood around for this before. But I was surprised to find myself enjoying it.

The interior architecture is fabulous – especially the Gothic library, the only one of it’s kind, done in carved white white pine. (No drawing allowed there, too hush hush. Important people working on important speeches!)

The halls are full of big’ol historical paintings and memorial statues. The docents do a great job of explaining the quirky traditions of our governments’ hallowed halls. Even with the canned jokes they must have to deliver 100 times a day.

I suppose, every so often it’s worth it to go on a holiday and leave your paints behind. Not everything has be a trophy winning piece – isn’t that right Lord Stanley?

Traditional Methods

September 30, 2017

You have to love sketching in museums – the lighting on the objects is always dramatic. You can learn a lot about drawing complex forms, using this kind of classical lighting.

Something about a museum trip encourages me to slow down and take my time sketching. There’s that hushed library feeling, if you can avoid the days there’s a school trip.

Nothing much to say about these, except, I’ll never pass up a chance to draw a suit of Samurai armor :)

Morning at Cooper Marsh

September 19, 2017

Cooper Marsh Conservation Area is a little over an hour’s drive from Montreal. Just over the provincial border into Ontario. You’re not too far from the US – the nearby town of Cornwall has a bridge crossing to upstate New York.

The park is open all year round, and is free (with optional donation).

You’ll find a visitors center with basic facilities: washrooms, picnic tables, vending drinks, but no food – though you’re less than 10 min from the town of South Lancaster, with the usual roadside attractions.

You’ll also meet a friendly docent who can give you an orientation. They’ll tell you about a pair of boardwalks (East or West) that will each take you a short 1 km-ish walk over the lush wetlands. It’s a rustling sea of tall grasses and water-plants, and home to a tremendous variety of birds. The rockstars being Grey Herons and some kind of falcons. There are wooden sheds that serve as bird blinds, if you’re so inclined to wait it out and see the wild life up close.

We did see an ermine, which was pretty cool. And there are supposed to be beavers, but they’re in an area that’s flooded for now, so out of reach of casual walkers.

I had brought some random paper with me – on a mission to use up some old pads I have in the studio. Big mistake! This was cheap machine made cellulose paper – and boy was it TERRIBLE. We’re always telling people not to use student grade stuff, but you forget why.

It’s like painting on butcher paper. It doesn’t absorb the pigment. Color comes out weak and scrubby looking. There aren’t any long fibers for color to creep along. It just feels plasticky. In open areas here you can see an icky mechanical texture, like a cheap canvas print. Not pleasant to work on at all.

I suppose, being out in the early AM humidity I couldn’t totally hate the lack of detail I was getting.

Those textured bands of color are masses of bushy grasses. I wouldn’t want to try to actually paint the millions of tiny grass blades. I think a distant foggy impression is the better part of valor.

Later in the day the sun came out, giving me a more predictable watercolor experience.

If you walk out on the non-boardwalk paths – it’s a long walk inside a trench of trees and tall grasses. But eventually you come to a lookout platform where you can see the grasslands gradually becoming open water. Here you’ll see jumping fish, shore birds and turtles. And zillions of frogs along the way.


Book Review: Sketch by Sketch: Along Nova Scotia’s South Shore, by Emma FitzGerald

September 14, 2017

Artist Emma FitzGerald has just released her second book of sketches and stories about Nova Scotia. Sketch by Sketch (128pp, fully illustrated in color) is available in bookstores starting Sept. 15, 2017.

This book is a natural followup to her debut, Hand Drawn Halifax, which we’ve previously reviewed here.

The first volume took us on a local’s tour of FitzGerald’s adopted home town – this time we’re travelling down the rugged coast of Nova Scotia. Home to fishermen and boatwrights, and the ancestral territory of the Mi’kmaw people.

FitzGerald’s drawings remain fresh and direct. Charming sketches, clearly executed quickly – in the moment. Probably she does many of these agile pen drawings, looking for the perfect gems.

Along the way, she collects stories and bits of overheard conversation relating to whatever she’s inspired to sketch. FitzGerald has an engaging conversational style of writing. She gives us factual anecdotes about the history of the towns and waterways, or short bio’s of the quirky entrepreneurs that work and live in these small communities.  But the highlights for me are her cleverly annotated overheard conversations.

I get the feeling a young woman quietly sketching in the corner can probably get away with a lot of eavesdropping. Her pen jots down bits of cross-talk along with her un-spoken retorts. She’s got the sharp tongue of an East coaster, but the politeness of a Canadian not to speak up – at least not that she tells us.

The stories, next to the drawings, gradually build up a sense of the region. We clearly feel the locals’ love of this challenging place to live. Something you can only get from a sustained sketchbook. Not the flyby sketch-tourism of the weekender or the round-the-world traveler.

As with the first book, at the heart it’s about the community. Through her drawings we check in to some of the area’s odd little ventures. Such as The Littlest Flower Farm – a woman who harvest flowers from natural sources – road side ditches!

Or a workshop of sail makers who sew while sitting in holes cut through the floor – so the sails can spread out on the floorboards.

We get local recipes, such as Rose Vinegar, and the secrets of how IronWorks Distillery gets the pear into the bottles of Pear Eau de Vie.

FitzGerald’s second sketchbook is a perfect companion to the first, and a great gift for anyone summering on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. Certainly every Bed and Breakfast in the area should have these on their lending shelf :)

If you’re in the Halifax area, Emma is doing two public appearances to promote the book and meet her readers! You can get a book signed, or just say hello in person on Wed. Nov 22 at the Central Library’s Paul O’Regan Hall,  6:30 to 8:30 or at the Lunenburg School of the Arts, Nov 23, 7-9pm. If you do stop by to say hello, perhaps you can ask her about her next project Hand Drawn Vancouver! to be published by Appetite of Penguin Random House, projected for release in 2019.

You can purchase Sketch by Sketch  at the usual online retailers [ ] <affiliate links, thx], or check your local bookshop. If they don’t have it, I’m sure they can place an order from Formac Publishing of Halifax.


Vermont Sketching Tour

September 8, 2017

The final leg of our Urban Sketchers painting tour was three days in Vermont, painting with Anne-Laure and her friend Carol. They’ve both gone on to continue painting in Boston and New York, and I’m back to normal life in Montreal.

A little different than the chaos of the Chicago streets hey? Just a pleasant afternoon sketching the oldest covered bridge in Vermont.

I showed this to a guy down by the Round Barn Gallery and he said “Oh, the Warren Store”. So I guess it’s a good likeness.

Swimming holes are still a thing in Vermont.

I finally got it – why they call them the Green Mountains. You can’t go wrong with a scenic shot around here. These picturesque mountains make every sketch a winner.

Our host Carol can wake up to these mist shrouded hills every morning.

I didn’t get the amazing sunflowers into this sketch. Though I did make a bid for the Queen Anne’s Lace.

A field of flowers is something I haven’t quite figured out. Do you cut around them? But they’re so tiny! Do you try to add them afterwards with opaque? You’ll loose the glow for sure! For now, they’re downplayed in this sketch.

Couldn’t skip painting a barn. I mean, they really are part of life in Vermont. Seems like every other shop, art gallery and restaurant – even the craftsman homes, are made from refurbished barns.

Our host Carol (normally a pastel painter, but this week a watercolorist alongside us!) made sure we got a painting out of every bit of daylight :)

Even this final gasp of sunset over the mountains.

We had a great time in the short visit down here – and I can say, if you’re looking for Plein Air Painting – my goodness, give Vermont a try.