Sunday, 25 September 2011

You can sail on the Ottawa River?

The Ottawa River is one of the world's grest rivers.  And yes, we sail here.  I sail on Lac Deschenes which is about 16 miles long and 3 or 4 miles wide, but extwnds another 16 miles before a major dam.  We get good winds, but seldom have any waves to speak of.

Today I just had to get out on the water,  so me and my faithful dog, "Sailor', took the boat up the river by ourselves. And what a glorious day it was to sail.  These late summer days are so precious, as fall and winter are mere weeks away.

There was a little motor sailor, "Half Moon",  at anchor at a small bay which is a good overnight stop.  I talked to the owners a couple of years ago.  They have been all over the place with this boat as it is easily trailerable..  They have taken it to Georgian Bay, Lake Champlain and the Brador Lakes.  A few of my friends are purists and degrade the craft, but the owners have had way too much fun and too many  adventures to care.

Last night I watched 'Master and Commander', as I do at least once a year.  ...Today was nothing like that.
No hurricanes, no cannons, no amputations, no unnamed speicies.

On the way home we had a nice following breeze.  It was strong enough and a dead run, so I didn't bother with the main'sl.  It was a little hairy drawing while steering with my feet, but who cares about a straight course anyway.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Cows Fly Home

This is one of my favourite pieces of public art anywhere.  It is beside the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa.  Locally the building is known as the 'Cattle Castle', as the Exhibition was agricultural for most of the 20th century. The piece was made by Tim Desclouds and Vic Charelbois and pivots as a weather-vane.

I have had opportunity to work with Tim Desclouds recently as he won the commission for the art along the reconstructed Bank Street in the Glebe neighbourhood, which is one of my projects.  Tim is a very down to earth guy. He is a teacher and coach and has no airs or pretentiousness about his art. It was interesting to hear him talk about the Bank street pieces to some of the construction workers last week.  He just explained it in straightforward terms that they readily accepted.

Back to the flying cows.  There is a poem from the 1851 Old Farmer's Almanac, on the plaque at the base, which provides insight into the sculpture.

The cows fly home on Sunday
Wind from the east is bad for man and beast
Wind from the south is too hot for both
Wind from the north is of very little worth
Wind from the west is the softest and best

The Five Sisters

For starters , I really can count - I only drew 4 of the 5 units of this block of row houses.   I started on the left side and didn't leave enough room for the last tower.  This building is a landmark along the Queen Elizabeth Drive close to my home here in Ottawa.

It isn't really called the Five Sisters, I just think of it that way, as each unit is different yet conforms to similar proportions, details and materials so as to be a unified family.  If I taught architecture, I would walk the first year class to this building, have them draw it, then reinterpret it in contemporary materials and proportions.

Given the era of the construction, I think each unit  would have names like, 'Faith', 'Charity' and' Hope.'  I wouldn't be too enthusiastic to have 'Chastity' or 'Temperance', but would pay extra to live in 'Grace'.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Never Travel Without a Skateboard

This the other part of last weekend's trip, checking out North Oshawa Park.
This was built by Newline, who seem to really know thier business.

So this isn't the park - it's the skate plaza in one corner of the park.  I think I mentioned in the Wild in the Praks post that skate parks are bowls and that the trend is towards plazas, which provide more urban types of elements.

My skateboarding consultant, Tommy, gave it 2 thumbs up.  Very smooth concrete, nicely proportioned rails, hubbas, steps, a neat bump in the middle and most important, nice 'flow'.
Tommy's vid can be seen here :

That's Tommy in the foreground, but tragically, I missed the turquoise  colour on the brim of his hat.  Imagine my guilt.  Dispite that grave ommission  the conclusion is: "it's gnar."

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Hawk Ridge Totem Pole

My father-in-law, Irv Harrell started carving decades ago.  First it was decoys, but that evolved into very detailed and life-like carvings of all manner of birds.  He set that aside for a few years while planting out a tree farm in central Ontario, but recently pulled out his old chisels and gouges.  This new project is a Haida Indian inspired totem pole.  It will stand 5 m tall on the high point of the farm.  Traditionally totem characters represented Haida myths and legends, and reflected events or stories rather than spiritual or religious icons.

The top figure is the Watch Man who will look over the property. You can see his hat in the sketch.  Next is Raven who is a mischievous friend to man, followed by Hawk, in recognition of the frequent presence of hawks soaring over the farm.  Beaver with chewing stick  at the bottom recognizes the beavers who have at times lived on on the property and the relationship between man and other creatures.

Friday, 9 September 2011

A Classic Summer Car

My pal Stephen Nourse has a classic summer ride. It's a 1981 Nissan 280 ZX that he only drives in good weather.  It's a 'driver' not a show car, but even at only 5,000 to 10,000 km.s a year it has piled up 273,000 km.s.  No worries, Steve just casually replaces parts as needed and the car still goes like a scared cat.

Monday, 5 September 2011

A Rocky Day

Today was Labour Day here in Canada.  The weather was cool and gloomy, but as it wasn't actually raining I went sketching for a couple of hours.  Quite unintentionally I ended up drawing stone masonry and stone sculpture as a theme.

 I have had a hankering to get up to Moorside, the Mackenzie King Estate in the Gatineau Hills for some time.  On the way into the property I met   John Shaw-Rimington of The Dry Stone Wall Association of Canada who was doing a dry laid stone wall demonstration.  Well, in fairness, his assistant Shim, was busy, while John chatted to interested visitors.  In addition to shattering the stereotype of what a mason looks like, Shim also demonstrated that it is possible to build very regular walls with rounded field stone.

John has a blog about dry stone masonry entitled Thinking With My Hands".

Mackenzie-King found the Moorside property in 1900 on a cycling trip.  He spent 50 summers there and over those years created an estate complete with perennial gardens and several faux ruins.  The largest is an amalgam of artifacts including a stone relief from the English House of Parliament that has been damaged by bombing in the second world war and the fireplace of his famous, great grandfather William Lyon Mackenzie.

Mackenzie-King had his "L'arc de Triumphe" constructed from a parts of a demolished building to commemorate his 1935 election victory.  It marks the edge the meadow which surrounds the house and the forest and looks like some sort of "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" portal.

On the way back into town I stopped at the Remic Rapids on the Ottawa River where John Felice Ceprano has been balancing rocks as elegant and unexpected sculptures every summer since 1986.

People stop by all day long and John seems to be a constant presence, even on weekends and evenings. It is a popular destination for photographers, although you'd be better off to just buy the amazing photos John sells right there on site.

John is very friendly and chats and jokes with people  between moments of fiddling and adjusting small rocks and hefting large ones to start new sculptures.

Friday, 2 September 2011

1st Quarter Report

I started Sketch Journal 3 months ago as a personal project to practice drawing and learn a little about scanning, posting and the basic mechanics of the Internet.  It has been a really fun experience, complete with some personal growth and surprises.  As a means to benchmark this milestone, I thought I'd summarize the experience.

Practicing drawing was the fundamental goal.  I set a goal of doing 3 drawings a week and have been able to do least if averaged.  That was good, but the downside is that I haven't I been discriminating enough about what I posted.

When I review,my sketchbooks from the last three months the observation that emerges is 'the faster, the better'.  When I have time and block out in pencil, then ink over the drawing gets really stiff and not necessarily more accurate.  I'm thinking pencil structure should be reserved for  straightening out my wandering vanishing points and overall composition, and let the detail be a looser and implied.

I'm new to painting and loving how a little colour can pull together a vague line drawing.  The discipline here is to figure out when to stop.  I have been observing how my Urbansketcher mentors often use only a few colours and spill colours together.  That is a segue to what I have picked up from mining the USK site.

I've been studying not just the 'corresponandants' but also the 'members' work through the Urbansketchers site.  Like any journey there has been an evolution in what appeals in terms of styles to emulate. My 'hero' at this point is Luis Ruiz, who is an an architect from Malaga, Spain who draws prolifically with a nice balance of perspective accuracy and implied detail.  He is sparing and strategic in his use of colour.  In the words of a an architect colleague, Alex Rankin, he 'draws like an angel'.

Next up is, Mark Selander, a member from the Seattle USK group, who like me, is fascinated by heavy equipment but has taken it to a whole other sophisticated and delightfully wacky level in his day job as an illustrator.

Just as I'm struggling with my propensity to stiffen  and overwork my drawings I'm  trying to mediate  my attraction to the way architects have been taught to draw with the expressiveness of those who have come from art school backgrounds.    Here is a list of the people I am currently studying.

Marc Taro Holmes, a game character development artist from Montreal.

Rob Carey, an American teaching in Germany.

Liz Steele, a very well travelled Australian, tea loving architect.

Omar Jamillo,  who is originally from Ecuador and studied in Germany.  I'm not clear on whether he is an architect or landscape architect (like me) , but it doesn't really matter as he seems to be forging ahead as an artist.  He spent last summer in St. John's Newfoundland and is now on a one month gig sketching the Berlin Ballet company on tour - how cool is that?

There are a bunch of other people I watch, but the shift in interest has been towards a few people who draw people more than things.  Top amongst these are Thomas Thorspecken, who is a former Disney animator who now draws and writes about cultural events in Florida.  Not so much for the stories as the drawings.

I couldn't go to the second USK symposium which was held in Lisbon this summer.  I'm really hoping to get to the 2012 event and waiting with great anticipation for the announcement of next years venue.

Just recently the USK site posted its various chapter sites.  Seattle would be a hands down first choice to meet several of those sketchers, and to visit my stepbrother Mark Glyde. ( check out his blog, wish I could write like him- )  I've been thinking that next time I plan a trip I'll investigate if there is a sketchcrawl planned in that city, or even contact someone to go drawing with.  Which brings me to Ottawa.  I am member no. 4 here and have approached the other 3 about meeting up, but not yet organized a date.  That is on my 'to do' list.


This was the surprise.  I've had fun entering this international virtual society, but didn't expect to have so much fun with the techie side .  I have been watching my visitation statistics with great interest.  Not sure why I need an audience, so much as astounded with the idea that someone I've never met  would check out the site.  I have been hesitant to share the address with work colleagues and friends but have noticed that my passive posting of the URL on my limited Facebook page has attracted many visits. That being said, friends are not necessarily as interested as other sketchers.   The hits have accelerated this last month, but the real test will be repeat visitors.  I am trying to figure out how to install a more sophisticated analytics application to get a sense of that.  It may be distracting from my simple intent of just drawing, but it has been fun nonetheless.  My experience with blogging has prompted, Matt Mills,  a colleague at my office to start a photography site.  With some luck he'll help me figure out the tech piece.  He's off to a good start ...sort of modelled on the USK theme of telling a little story with each image.  Check it out - sent him a comment.

More drawing.  Ink without pencil (I think of this a drawing without a net).

More People.  I'm planning to participate in a life drawing group this fall. I did life drawing for a couple of years while in University and recon that is the best way to concur my fear of drawing people.

The challenge here is flow.  Trying too hard seems to cramp up my style.  I'm  aiming for expressiveness over accuracy over the next 3 months.