Friday, 29 November 2013


Another sketch from tea time in France...this one with water not tea.   Not that it improved the accuracy of my draughtsmanship.

This was done in a tiny 3" x  5" sketchbook that begs to be opened and used as double pages. I prefer the landscape format but shouldn't quibble as Laloran was generous enough to provide these to the Urban Sketcher participants in Barcelona last summer and more to the point, I love the paper they use.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Whales downtown - honestly

I have been leading a sketching group one evening a week this fall.  I say lead rather than teach, as I coach more than lecture.  We did have a few indoor classes to cover some basics including an evening explaining perspective.   Many people have trouble with perspective which isn't surprising really when you look at the history of art and how many centuries it took to figure it out.  We anayzed and copied photographs to understand the main principles.

We've moved on to drawing on location, which because it is now cold and dark in the evening has to be indoors.  This was at the  World Exchange Plaza in Ottawa, where yes, beluga whales and one narwal swim through the air.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Generating Station No. 4

Victoria and Chaudiere Islands lie in the Ottawa River between the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau.  These islands were the site of the lumber industry from the early 1800's when timber rafts were piloted down the rapids.  Later the water was harnessed for generating electricity and the lumber industry evolved from transferring logs to making matches and later paper.  Most of the industrial remains are not active and inaccessible except for this one generating station on Victoria Island.

The term "hydro" confuses people from outside Ontario.  Understandably so, as it isn't water, its' water generated electricity  The equipment in the sketch is used to adjust the stop logs in the dam and control the water flow to that particular generator's turbines - prosaically know as Generating Station No 4.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Bishop John

Two things that I noticed at the Carnet de Voyage book fair were drawing people and annotating the pages.  Even old dogs can learn new tricks, or at least practise them.

I am also getting pretty cheeky about drawing surreptitiously. Not that anyone really usually notices, it just seems irreverent sometimes.  That's another thing I heard from several of the exhibitors at the Carnet de Voyage - often in remote places people are very curious and tremendously complimented to be drawn.  Unlike photography which usually feels very intrusive, sketching seems to well received and open doors.  Exactly what I would hope for when travelling, or for that matter, anywhere.

John Chapman is Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Painting in the Rain

Last week in Last week in Clarmont-Ferrand, I did manage a couple of sketches outdoors even though it was spitting a few drops of rain.  The trick was to find an overhang to at least avoid the direct drops.

As always working while standing forces me to be fast and loose.  Not qualities one would normally aspire to, or use as a self description.  I was quite taken by the roofscapes with overlapping forms of tiled roofs and large chimneys with many pots and could have done dozens of sketches of those skylines.

Friday, 22 November 2013

No Need to be Bored

The annoying thing about travel is always the interminable waiting.  Drawing steps up the natural activity of people watching to a productive activity.  I filled several pages of my little pocket sized notebook last week while waiting for my flight home.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Tea time in France

It was cool and damp for most of my trip, but I did manage to find the occasional coffee house with a view.  Sketching inevitably amuses the waiters, particularly when caught so absorbed that I was dipping my brush in my tea, instead of my water.  That's a really bad idea as there are some nasty things in watercolour pigments, so I ordered a fresh pot of tea.

I could do the same thing here at home, but when in a different place all I can see are potential compositions.  It's attitude as much as observation and the challenge is to see the familiar with fresh eyes.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Basilica Notre Dame du Port

While attending the Carnet de Voyage book fair in Clement-Ferrand, France I attended mass an 800 year old Basilica.  It was a very serene building and was absolutely full.  One of the interesting things, from my Canadian perspective was the number of children who sat quietly through the whole service, rather than going off to Sunday School.  But then again, this is something I have noticed repeatedly in Europe, the strength of family life and mixing of generations which seems at times, to have fallen apart here in North America.

A major theme in the travel journals I saw at the book fair was the mix of annotations with the drawings and so, I was working at incorporating that into the pages I filled while there.  Luckily, no seemed to notice my eccentric behaviour of painting through the service as I was a little nervous it might be seen as disrespectful.

Drawn Along The Way

Earlier this month, I put together a draft book of my collection of sketches from my pilgrimage in Spain last spring.  This was the Camino de Santiago which involved a month long walk across northern Spain culminating in the city of Santiago de Compostella.  This is also know as the Way of Saint James, as the remains of the Apostle are believed to be enshrined in the Cathedral there. Hence the Title - DRAWN ALONG THE WAY, My Camino sketchbook.

The book is not a guide, rather a reflection of the experience and includes about 70 of the 110 sketches I did while on the trail.  My good friend, Anne-Louise Mahoney, who is a professional editor did a very helpful edit and I will be launching the book and offering it for sale in the next few weeks.  It has been a very satisfying project in part because writing it helped me process the incredible experience of this ancient pilgrimage and share the drawings in the form of a book.

Carnet de Voyage

Last week I journeyed to France to attend the Carnet de Voyage.  This is a book fair that focuses on illustrated travel journals.  This genre is very popular in France, and there is nothing close to it here in North America.  I went primarily to learn and investigate what  is being done as well as in the hopes of finding a publisher for my book about the Camino de Santiago.

The show was much larger than I had anticipated.  There were easily 100 artists with booths profiling their work, as well as books for sale.  These books were both by some large publishing houses as well as a table of self-publications by the participating artists, offered for sale by volunteers helping with the fair.  Only the juried artists were able to meet with publishers, but I did manage to talk to a couple of them and left copies of my draft book as well as many conversations with the participating artists.  I learned something and built enthusiasm with each conversation.  Several of my Urban Sketcher mentors and friends, that I met last July in Barcelona were participating, so I had the fun of visiting with them also.

On reflection, as much as it was a long way to go, it was extremely worthwhile.  I brought home some great examples of books and had several signed by the artists and while it's a long way away, I'm thinking I should submit to participate next year by way of a goal and deadline to work towards.

In addition, the overriding impression was the wide variety of styles, the rigour and volume of work each artist had produced and above all,  people following their dream to go out and explore the world and document it through their own eyes.