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Medicine and history and made up stuff…

April 18, 2011

This weekend was the 31st Worldwide Sketchcrawl. I miss the old sketchcrawl gang in San Francisco. It was always a great time meeting up with a group of artists and swarming a neighborhood. The locals were always giving you those fish eye looks. What’s going on? Who are these people scribbling on every street corner? Well, gang or not, I hit the bricks and sketched two more of my favorite Montreal landmarks. Today’s theme is Old Hospitals.

The Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal

This sprawling walled hospital complex dominates the walk down Rue Parc towards the city. While not as architecturally fanciful as the nearby Royal Victoria hospital, the multi-winged stone structure with it’s dome and bell towers certainly make a dignified impression. You can’t help feeling the history of the city as you walk by. Plans for the initial structure are dated to 1688, but I have heard mention of it being destroyed and rebuilt repeatedly between 1695 and 1734.

As an English speaker, the name Hotel-Dieu seems like such a charming euphemism for a hospital. How nice; “Check into our hotel, and let us take care of you!”, “We’ll have your suit pressed, and transplant your kidney while you’re with us!”

In fact, being the oldest hospital in Canada, they do have some world firsts – including the first kidney removal, and spectacularly, the first patient surviving burns across 90% of the body. So that’s some excellent room service.

Irving Ludmer Psychiatric Research Facility

Now, I don’t actually know anything about this place. But if you walk up Ave Des Pins from the Hôtel-Dieu you might notice this imposing stone pile high on top of a hill.

At first you can just see it through a copse of trees, surrounded by a jagged stone wall, which is collapsing in a marvelously scenic way. Trees growing through the wall have knocked out big chunks, making it into something of a ruined fortress.

You’ll come to a decorative iron gate, with huge square pillars – one of which is shattered into pieces – carrying on with the besieged feeling. Due to the steep terrain here on the side of Mont-Royal, you’re put in the position of an out of breath supplicant, staring up at the building looming above you. The large overhanging eaves, and deeply set window casings make this structure seem ominously shadowed, no matter what the weather.

Then, to find out that it is in fact a Psychiatric Research Facility! It couldn’t be better. This is a place that needs to be permanently under a storm cloud. Lightning striking the weather-vanes, screeches of madmen from deep within. I have visions of patients being plunged into ice water baths or electro-shocked into mind-numbing seizures. Whatever passes for “research” in a gothic horror novel.

I’m sure it’s not as exciting as all that :) The people going up to work looked perfectly normal.

But then, they would wouldn’t they….

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 18, 2011 12:57 PM

    Impressive watercolors! I participated in this Sketchcrawl for the first time and it was nice, but I guess that with a big group it would’ve been a blast.

  2. Måns Asplund permalink
    April 19, 2011 7:53 AM

    Impressive work as always!
    I wonder how big are they and do you do all the work on site?
    Best, Måns

    • April 19, 2011 8:09 AM

      Hey Måns – These are on an odd sized 12×18″ 90 lb watercolor pad I found somewhere. Yes I do the paintings on location – though I’m not above a little retouching when I get home. Also I scan them (instead of photographing) and will make adjustments to exposure and color at that stage.

  3. April 20, 2011 9:19 AM

    Gah. Well, 40 years ago or so your imaginary psych ward wouldn’t have been that far wrong! Beautiful and evocative sketch…

  4. May 3, 2011 5:20 AM

    these are beautiful! composition – colors – contrast. everything works so well!

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