Monday, 31 December 2012

Long Blades

I live very close to the Rideau Canal in Ottawa and in the winter skate frequently, like 3 or 4 nights a week.  The Rideau Skateway is about 7 km long. So up and back is good jaunt - usually about an hour on my wobbly legs.  For years I've wanted to get some speed skates, but never managed to get around to it.  This year I found some really cool long blades under the Christmas Tree,  perfect for a recreational skater like me.  They have cross country bindings on them, which means I can put my boots on at home and click into the blades when I arrive at the ice.  The canal is pretty rough and not yet open as of today, but I hope to try them next weekend at the speed skating oval at Brewer Park nearby.

So this is a fitting way to look towards the new year, in that its about moving forward with grace and speed...or at least, moving forward.  Last winter I sketched the cabins in Gatineau Park; this year I think the theme for my winter sketch outings may be the Skateway.

This closes out 110 postings this year.  I have some followers, and many friends who look intermittently, so to all of you, may you have health, and find beauty and gratitude in what each day presents this next year.

Soft Site

In the parlance of urban design a 'soft site' is one that is prime for redevelopment.  There are many of these in the Hintonburg neighbourhood of Ottawa.  Of course there are many variables, not the least of which is the asking price of the land.  I haven't been inside, but I imagine this small building would make more sense to demolish than renovate.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Reborn as a Taco Stand

After realizing that sketching grey buildings on on overcast day was not the route to dramatic composition, I found my way up to Wellington Street West.  This little building might have been a used car lot office originally, but has been creatively transformed into a little piece of Mexico.
Ole its a snow day!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Grey House, Grey Day

I've been looking to sketch this house for a few weeks.  Today was too cold to draw outside, but I managed to snag a parking spot that nearly had the angle I would have liked.  There are two large silver maple tees in the boulevard which is unusual on Hintonburg's narrow streets.   On hindsight, I might have chosen a more colourful subject on such a grey day - not even enough light for strong shadows.  Oh well, all part of the learning process.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Don't Look Now, but there's a Moose on the Roof

I've been spending some time in the Hintonburg neighbourhood lately as that is the location of the Stirling Avenue house project.  The nieghbourhood and Wellington Street West, in particular, have been undergoing a wonderful transformation and renewal over the last few years.  The street has branded itself as an arts area, but to visit, you might think of it as a foodie district with the number of new, small restaurants with innovative menus.

The law firm Beament Green, has contributed to the momentum of this renewal with a spirited building renovation complete with a moose sculpture on the roof.
Good for them.   Fun on the outside and serious on the inside.

The sculpture is actually a flat silhouette and was crafted by Charley Pachter.  This Toronto based artist is famous for his iconic moose sculptures and paintings, which manage to balance irreverance and respect while incorporating Queen Elizabeth.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Big Day on a Small Site

A surveyor will verify the grades tomorrow, but it seems the breaking-out of rock is complete.  John McRae has been using a large shovel to load the fractured limestone into trucks for two days to empty nearly the whole site to a depth of 1.5 -1.8 m.

The form materials were being delivered ready for forming of the foundation walls directly on the rock. Large packages of the styrofoam modules that will be assembled as insulated concrete forms were lowered into the hole with a special boom truck.  Even on a small project like this as much as possible is done by machine. The next step is is assembly of the forms which will likely take about a week, depending on the weather.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Pond Hockey

So, I'll start this with was pretty cold (-7C) and I have been trying to draw quickly with energy.  The problem is that my hand seems to turn into a claw after about 5 minutes. I did the sketch outside then retreated to my car to muddle and fuss and overwork with some paint.  

In any event, sketching is about the moment. Yesterday was bright and sunny and the pond at Brown's inlet was smooth and hard.  Perfect for some shinny. It doesn't get much more Canadian than that.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Chipping Out

We started removing rock on the Stirling Avenue project Wednesday. It is limestone and breaks fairly easily where it is weathered near the surface, but is much harder below about  60 cm. down.  John McRae is the excavation contractor and he has to really 'put his sholder into it' using the wieght of the machine to force the bit down into the rock which lifts the front of the tracks right off the surface. He handles that machine like a surgical tool.  I think if we taped a pen to the end of the hoe-ram he could sign his name.

We're not going down to a full basement, just for frost cover so we should be ready for forming foundations next week.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

A Hole in the Rock

Cathedral Hill is the name of a new condominium tower under construction here in Ottawa.  It requires an enormous deep excavation for its garage. The tricky part is that its all rock which requires both blasting and breaking to remove.  Fine in an open area or quarry, but it is immediately adjacent the historic Christ Church Cathedral. I'd guess they are about 8m down now and wonder how they will build a haul ramp as they get down to the bottom.

Friday, 7 December 2012

A walk in the Arboretum

Now and then I take my dog for a walk at the Arboretum at the Central Experimental Farm.

This willow tree has a particularly twisted trunk that looks as if the tree spiraled up while it grew.

The sketch below is what I think of as the Avenue of the Pines.  The inside rank is Ponderosa Pine which is not supposed to grow anywhere this far north.  Behind are Scot's pine, black pine and white spruce. My friend, Sailor, had a good sniff of each one, between chasing squirrels.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Tree House

This tree house is behind a home in the up and coming Hintonburg neighbourhood here in Ottawa.  It sits up in a maple tree and must be fairly well hidden and a green retreat in summer when the trees are in leaf.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Unused Garage

Unused may not be the right term here, as you can still get to the door of this garage, you just can't get a car inside.  The tree is a Manitoba Maple which was apparently trimmed at some point, but the remaining trunk angles off in front of the garage door and over the neighbouring property.

The garage itself is also unusual. I'm guessing it was a multiple bay garage which was truncated at some point.  Before or after the tree started growing, who knows.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Forming up in the Air

These elevator core towers have been under construction for several weeks at the University of Ottawa. There appears to be a double layer of steel reinforcing bar which has been done encased in separate pours of concrete.  The snorkley thing is a concrete pumper.  The rest of the building is beginning to fill in the the spaces between the towers which will structurally stiffen the whole structure.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

2nd Ave. E of Bank

Behind many of the buildings with shared driveways in the Glebe, there are open parking courts with informal configurations and often large trees.  Despite their utilitarian purpose they can be very charming places.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Another Glebe Laneway

Another glimpse into a Glebe rear yard.  The building on the other side of the block has faded blue clapboard and open windows, hinting at some sort of enclosed balconies.

It was too cold for drawing today (-8 C) and my hand sorta seized up, but the forecast is for grey and wet weather this weekend and I had an urge to draw anyway.

Obsessive maybe, but harmless.

Patience or Perish

There are many ways to learn patience. One is to strip down life to the bare essentials and learn to make fire as indigenous people did for thousands of years.  A reliable but demanding technique is to use a hard rock and a steel.  Flint is perfect, if you can find some.  More common is quartz.  You also need to find a dead poplar tree to strip and prepare the inner bark to receive a spark.  This is only a start, next you must nourish the coal and feed in tiny hemlock twigs to start an actual flame. This precious flame is just enough to start small pine or spruce squall wood twigs until there is enough heat to ignite larger deadwood.  Even if you're good at it and have the materials, it can take an hour.  Hard to stick to unless, you're far along a trail and really ready for a warm fire and dinner.

Another exercise in patience is setting dead-fall traps. They need to be really twitchy to work, but that's alright now that you've developed such patience by starting fires.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Tree Through the Roof

The interior of the Glebe neighbourhood blocks harbour some great trees.  Some were planted intentionally, others by squirrels and still more 'volunteered'.  I imagine this ash tree behind a row house on 2nd Avenue established itself when there was a simple, open stoop and step to the kitchen door.  Porches with roofs were added subsequently, but fortunately some tree loving carpenter, used the good judgement to preserve the tree, by letting it poke through both the porch and shed roof.  Those are the kind of quirky surprises you discover between the streets.

Glebe Avenue

Over the past few weeks I have been poking my nose down driveways looking at the rear yards and interior of some of the blocks in my neighbourhood.  We have a dusting of snow on the ground now, but it was warm enough to do a few quick sketches.  I added some paint in the warmth of our kitchen afterwards, referencing a photo on my cellphone.

Minus 1 C is just on the edge of barehanded comfort, but the other obstacle is that watercolour doesn't dry very quickly.  Sort of the opposite of painting in the hot sun.
Hope I don't get kicked out of Urbansketchers for breach of Manifesto!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Too Cold for Paddling

There was a time when I would put a boat into a lake as long as it wasn't frozen.  I'm either getting smarter, or just older because at 3C the prospect of being on the water just didn't appeal.  As it was my hands stiffened up pretty much in the time it took to sketch these canoes.

This cedar had sluffed over on it's side when the sand under its roots washed away.  Persistent in the way of all northern trees, it has stayed alive even in it's horizontal position.  This was beside a beautiful little sandy beach, but if it was too cold for canoeing, you can bet that the thought of swimming had even less appeal.

Gracefield Camp

I was away overnight on a retreat held at a small camp near Gracefield Quebec.  The leaves are by and large gone and the weather was cool, but it was very peaceful under the tall pines.

There was a very clever little woodshed consisting of an old pick-up truck cap set on a knee wall clad in corrugated steel.  Very resourceful.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Darn Tough Socks

Sometimes it's the little things in life that matter.  Other times the little things become big my favourite socks.  I have several pair and hide them from my boys who regularly raid my sock drawer.

 I have a pal who represents several outdoor products and on occasion he puts samples my way.  The auger tent pegs, the water bottle with solar charged light in the top, the waterproof sleeve for my phone - all useful for an outdoorsy guy, but these socks are far and beyond the best.

They're made of very fine merino wool and don't itch. They aren't knit so much as engineered.  The sole is thicker than the top, the heel and toe are shaped and the ribs over the ankle are smooth on the inside so you your skin doesn't look like you've been extruded after wearing them all day. The machines that do the knitting must be amazing.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Little Star Shine Bright

This little Star Magnolia has been glowing with its yellow, orange and brown fall colours all week.  It's cousin, a Saucer Magnolia in our front yard, was also magnificent, but lost all its leaves in one day.  This little tree in the more sheltered rear garden flowers first in spring and goes longer into autumn than the big Saucer Magnolia.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Big Ol' Elm

If you look for them, it's surprising how many elms are still around considering that they were decimated by Dutch Elm disease about 40 years ago.  Here in Ottawa, the National Capital Commission has taken special custody of several dozen elms along major streets and scenic parkways.  This has involved injecting pesticide into the 'viens' of the trees to kill the parasite which kills the trees.  Money well spent in my opinion, considering the devastation to main streets across the country with the demise of these majestic arching trees.  Here in Ontario we associate the removal of the elms from small town main streets in the late 1960's with the 'progressive' widening of roads for parking.

If you mention elm trees here in Ottawa, its really surprising how many people recall this one.  It's located on Queen Elizabeth Drive, just east of Bank Street where the road divides each side of a treed median.  If anyone, besides me, considers large trees to be heritage elements, this surely qualifies.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The tugboat Kenneth A.

Now that most of Toronto harbour has been gentrified with condo towers you have to work a little harder to find authentic working boats.  I climbed a fence on the east harbour and was ejected by security before I found this old tugboat down by the outlet of the Don River under the shadow of the Gardiner Expressway.

The Kenneth A. appears to be abandoned and may well be past restoration, especially now that there are so few freighters to tow.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Cruising the North Shore of Georgian Bay

The North Channel, north of Manotoulin Island is regarded as one of the best cruising grounds in the world.  The north shore of Georgian Bay, east of Manotoulin Island is also exceptional.  There are thousands of islands and shoals so the cruising is often more open rather than through the channels, but the bays and inlets are far more complex and offer some incredibly sheltered anchorages.  Often we push up a channel and tie off to shore .  After a windy day out on the lake this feels about as cozy

Strawberry Island Lighthouse

There are still some lighthouses on Georgian Bay.  This one on Strawberry Island is just east of Little Current.

Not far away is the charming village of Kilarney where there are still working fishing boats and a number of lodges.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Little Current

Little Current is the name of the channel and town whcich separate the North Channel of Lake Huron from Georgian Bay.  The name describes the interesting hydraulic effect here, where there can be a current from either direction due to wind, and differing atmospheric pressures and consequently surface elevations on Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.  This is called a seiche effect (or sometimes a slosh effect) and is similar to hurricane storm surges on ocean coastlines in that the surface of the water tilts.  On the Great lakes this can work back and forth as it settles to equilibrium.

There is a large swing bridge (112m span) which opens on the hour to allow large sail boats to pass.  It was built in 1913 as a rail bridge but now serves as a one lane road access to Manitoulin Island.  Seldom have we arrived on time for the bridge opening and usually tie up at the town docks for a few minutes to pump out the holding tank, take on fuel and inevitably a dash to the liquor store.  Rob, who gets called Wally by most of the boaters, from Wally's boat service even recognizes us our penchant fro sailing through the bridge passage.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Northwest ready for winter

This time of year most recreational boats along the North Channel have been pulled out of the water for the season.  This steel trawler must have started out in life as a working boat, and has a few dents in her hull to prove it. I'm guessing its has been serving as someone's 'cottage' in it's senior years.  As far as Northwest and her owner are concerned the gales of November are free to come early.

They use a travel lift in the Gore Bay harbour, which is a wheeled frame with slings to pick up the boat and manoeuvre between the quay and storage yard.  As a result,  owners leave the masts up all year on sailboats, so haul out and launch are a quick job.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Covered Portage Cove

Covered Portage Cove is one of the most protected harbours on Georgian Bay.  It is only a few miles from Kilarney and is a pool about 400m across protected by 60m high cliffs on three sides.  A classic 'huricane hole'. Mid summer it can be a crowded anchorage, but the night we pulled in, in mid September, there was only one other boat  'on the hook'.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

An Evening in Kingston

I spent the night in Kingston and had a few minutes waiting for a pal.  Luckily I had a small sketch book, and my small watercolour box and waterbrush in my pocket.

I drew the harbour at dusk and City Hall in the dark.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Launches, Skiffs and Raceboats

More from my afternoon at the Wooden Boat Museum in Clayton New York.  

Boats and sketching - a perfect pairing.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Wooden Boat Museum

I've been trying to visiting the wooden Boat Museum in Clayton New York for years and finally managed to stop in today.  It is a superb and professional facility - I'll be back.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Patterson Creek Park

This park is along Patterson Creek which flows into the Rideau Canal.  The large willow trees arch over the pathway and frame the change hut at the east end.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Star Magnolia

The textbooks tell us that Magnolias should not survive Ottawa's harsh winters, but here in the Glebe neighbourhood with the sheltered near courtyard conditions there are a couple of dozen beautiful specimens.

This little magnolia tree was surrounded by overgrown volunteer trees when we purchased this home 5 years ago.  It was quite misshapen from the shading of another tree very close by.  We removed the scrub around it and now it is a specimen tree - the star of the rear garden.  It has filled in nicely and rewards us with white blossoms every spring.