Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Out for a Walk - Back in 5 Weeks

I'm leaving this afternoon for Spain.  I'm going there to walk the Camino de Santiago - The Way of St. James.  This is an ancient route, used by traders and armies long before it was declared a pilgrimage in the 800's.  I'll start in St Jean Pied de Port, 8 kilometers from the Spanish border in France, pass over the Pyrenees and spend my first night as a pilgrim in a refugio in a monastery in  Roncesvalles.  With some luck, I'll cover the 800 kilometers to Santiago de Compostella in the following 30 days.

I've decided not to blog along the way.  I'll focus my time on sketching and hope to have a good batch of images to share when I get home.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Camino Stones

One of the traditions on the Way of Saint James is to leave a stone at the base of a large iron cross just a few days away from the end of the pilgrimage in Santiago de Copostella.  This symbolizes relieving oneself of a burden.  It involves recognizing that there are things in our lives that we cannot change, but need not take responsibility or feel guilt about. The issue may not change, but we can change how we deal with it.

I asked some friends and family if they would like to send some stones with me and have a small bag to deliver at the "Cruz de Ferro".  The stones themselves are interesting  as many have been brought home from travels. It seems it is not an unusual thing to bring back interesting rocks as memories of different places.  Two of the stones were passed from hand to hand at my Church on Sunday, making me feel like an emissary carrying all those private thoughts.

I have labeled each one and anticipate that it will be a very emotional experience placing them on the huge mound of Pilgrim's stones after carrying them some 400 miles across Spain, some three weeks from now.

I'll be away 5 weeks and will be pretty much unplugged.  There will lots of places with WiFi, but I have decided not to try to blog, so tonight I'm "turning out the lights".  I should have lots to post when I return.

Sketcher's Travel Kit

So I am headed off for an adventure in Spain. I'm going there to walk the Camino and have been obsessively selecting equipment and clothing to keep my pack weight to an absolute minimum.  A large part of the trip will be sketching, but I have been very disciplined to keep that kit minimal also.

I have two small Laloran sketchbooks (approx. 5 1/2" x 8',  1 landscape, 1 portrait) which are the heavy things.  I have a brush protector with 3 brushes - No 12, 4 and a 3/4" flat.  A few pencils , 2  trusty Lamy pens and some Noodler's Bulletproof Black Ink in a plastic bottle, double sealed in zip-lock plastic bags.  A collapsible cup for water and  a nice little watercolour field box with 2 yellows, 2 reds, 2 browns , 3 blues , 2 greens and ochre.  I am also taking a few tubes to provide some different primaries  - cadmium red and cerulean blue and a what I think of as "Shari Blaukopf's Barcelona Primaries" - Cadmium Orange, Ultramarine Blue and  Rose Madder. Shari is one of my Urban Sketching mentors and that palette is what she intends to use in her workshop this summer at the Symposium in Barcelona.   I intend to to use Shari's primaries as much as possible to give my sketches continuity. I'm debating throwing another sketchbook in my pack as, the ultimate disappointment would be to run out of paper on this trip of a lifetime.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Finally Some Colour

I took some watercolour pencils with me today to experiment.  I mooshed the colour around a bit with a waterbrush on the lower sketch, but regretted it as I refer the toothiness of the pencil marks.  Spring colours are just starting to emerge at the arboretum here in Ottawa.  The yellow twigs of the willows, which are first out and last to fall, are taking on a hint of green as their leaves emerge.

The huge Bebb's Oak in the upper sketch will be some time before it leafs out.  I would hazard to guess that this is the most photographed tree in the city.  It is also probably the most climbed judging by the smooth surface of the lower, near horizontal branches.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Under the "Hill"

There is a path along the Ottawa River below Parliament Hill that is part of one of my walking routes. It isn't well known, but offers dramatic glimpses of the the various buildings of the Parliamentary precinct.

I'm not sure that I should have added paint to this as the paper buckled severely, but here it is.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Crack Willow

I take my friend to the arboretum fairly often to walk, tear around in circles, sniff and pee on things and chase squirrels.  Well, I walk and he does the doggy stuff.  We were there yesterday and although it was sunny there isn't much colour in the landscape yet, with the exception of the yellow twigs of the weeping and black willows.

Crack willows don't have those distinctive yellow twigs, they are more of an ochre or light brown colour.  Well suited to a black and white drawing as the distinctive thing about them is their deeply ridged bark.  This magnificent specimen lives in a perfect willowy place - on low ground beside a small stream and is at least 20m tall with a crown nearly the same dimension.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Decking the Penthouse Floor

The penthouse on the rear of this first semi-detached building at Parkview was finished last week.  I was able to position myself there and view across to the guys working on the front side facing Stirling-Carruthers Park across the street.  These homes will enjoy calming tree house type views into the upper branches of the trees.

The penthouse walls step in from the first three floors and will sit on steel beams to carry that load.  All the joists are web trusses, which not only results in higher ceilings, as they are just 10" deep are spaced on 1 foot centres to provide the stiffness required for the heated concrete floors. The other benefit is that it will be very easy and fast to run the electrical wires as as well the high volume air conditioning ducts and flexible plumbing hose.   It looks like they are a week away from topping off the building and once the framing is inspected, we'll be seeing some other trades on the job.

Oh, and no, the carpenter poking up through the joists on the right isn't really standing on some one's shoulders - he was on a properly secured ladder.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

No. 1 Ladies Painting Club

Yesterday I visited a friend's painting group.  I'll call them the No. 1 Ladies Painting Club to protect the innocent.  They asked me to do a primer on perspective.  It was a great refresher for me and I think they benefited also.  I covered the basic concepts and demonstrated 1 and 2 point perspectives.  The upper sheet was done while discussing 2 point perspectives.  As an exercise they drew the classroom we were in.  It was perfect as there was a tile ceiling and floor and the tables were set up in the centre which clearly displayed the concepts of convergence, diminution of size and foreshortening.  The lower sheet is my demonstration of those two views.

I pulled out the classic text "Architectural Graphics" by Frank Ching and brushed up on the main concepts.  I had taught myself how to do measured perspectives as a student and did many large hard-line presentation drawings of proposed buildings, bridges and their landscapes in the early years of my career.  Now of course, with computer drafting programs, the detailed mechanics are unnecessary.

What I realized in preparing for the visit, is that even to draw a real urban scene, an understanding of the laws of perspective is extremely helpful. I call them laws, as they are as clear and relentless as gravity.  Fairly simple once explained, but very frustrating to figure out on one's own.  After all, it took artists and architects several hundred years to fully understand how to construct the perception of three dimensions on a flat plane.

It also served as a good reminder to lay in those imaginary rays to the vanishing points to structure my own drawings.  One of my "Groundhog Day" pitfalls.

Evaluating Your Own Work

I came across this sketch this morning and remember deciding not to post it, as I thought it too busy and the musicians not clear enough.  Funny, 4 months later the colours and framing of the chancel arch appealed and I interpreted it's narrative as the whole scene, rather than a failed portrait of the performers.

I find evaluating my own work is  tough.  Often I am overly critical of  my sketches, or am too focused with it not looking like some other artist's work that I am trying to emulate. Or sometimes, I'm just a little tired and not up to being objective.    The one thing I have learned is that time acts as a bit of a distancing mechanism, so I rarely throw things out.  In this case the sketch was in a bound book, which is part of the charm of these books as pieces of work and value as record of progress.


Saturday, 13 April 2013

39th World Wide Sketch Crawl

Despite the cool and gloomy weather we doubled our numbers from the last sketchcrawl to 8 people today. Exponential growth - if we extrapolate that we'll have the whole country drawing in 4 years! ...or maybe not.

We met in the ByWard Market, sketched for a couple of hours then gathered for coffee and chat. Lots of good work and enthusiasm to set up a Facebook page to share our work and coordinate meet ups between WW Sketchcrawl days.

This sketch is one of the local vendors selling maple syrup products.  Carly, who was working the booth, which is owned by her uncle, paid me the compliment of judging the drawing to be "a little cartoony, but  it captures the character of the Market".

Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Caribou Cup

The Caribou Cup is a rite of spring at Mt. Tremblant.  The objective of the event is to get enough speed to cross the length of a 25m long pond of ice cold water on skis or a snowboard.  While many are successful the winner is ultimately judged on their costume.  The more ridiculous, the better.

The approach slope and sides of the pond are lined by spectators, enjoying the spring sunshine, and possible a beverage or two.  I had fun up at the start gate sketching some of the participants.

A few ambitious jumpers decorated their snowboards, like this fellow with a shark fin and a ski patroler with rescue sled full of stuffed toys.  This seemed a flawed strategy as they both had spectacular splashdowns.  Then again the Cardinal didn't seem to have any Divine assistance, unless you count not drowning.

I painted the bottom sketch on site with my water pen but added the colour on the other two with the aid of my notes and memory.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Spring in Ottawa

I did this last week,  just after the first day of spring.  This is what passes for spring here in Ottawa - we see patches of bare pavement.  I am very active all winter and seem to feel the cold less than many people, but enough is enough.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Stirling Roofscape

The guys are starting to deck the third floor. I wasn't comfortable to climb up there to sketch so contented myself with the view form the second floor.  This will be the view from the rear bedroom. The Hintonburg roofscape is charming and the Peace tower is quite prominent. We realized recently that the views from the roof deck will include not only Parliament Hill, but likely the Gatineau Hills as well.  Spectacular.

Marty and Mike, the two lead carpenters, had hung the trusses for the third floor and rear deck and had just discovered a slight discrepancy in the side wall lengths - like an inch over 40 feet.  True to form the conversation was, "find out where the mistake is and we'll fix it".  Cabinet making 30 feet off the ground.