Monday, August 24, 2015

Daily Sketch

Lexie's summer swim at Bon Echo provicial park

The three amigos
My art journal page

Friday, August 21, 2015

Ancient Landscapes: Stromatolite Studies

I spent two days on the Ottawa river this week to paint. The weather was rough on Day One (windy, threatening to rain) and I had to leave after two hours. On Day Two the weather was quite pleasant and I managed to get in four hours of painting and sketching.

Even when I don't have a completed painting to show, there is always lots of enjoyment and learning that goes on and I am confident that I will put these two quick acrylic studies to good use at some point in the future.

Day One

On Day One I set up facing the Champlain bridge that connects Ottawa to Gatineau in order to paint the stromatolites that are visible in August when water levels are low.

My easel


The Ottawa stromatolite remnants are over 450 million years old! If you believe, like I do, that landscape is a wild and living thing, these rocks carry in them quite a story!

Landscape as a Wild and Living Thing

Transcript: John O'Donohue: The Inner Landscape of Beauty

Thumbnail sketch: the "Why?"

Watercolour sketch to test out value design
Values: Light foreground and light tree, dark midground
and medium background

Photograph of location
I realized, after I had set up, that I had forgotten some essential painting supplies when I hurried out the door. Important things like a palette and my titanium white. I managed to make a palette out of a tin I had in my sketch bag but there was nothing I could do about forgetting Titanium white!

So I decided to paint Fauve style for this quick study. I think the fauve study composition is interesting with the values reversed?

Day 1: Two hour study: Stromatolites Fauve style
(values reversed)
Shetch from previous blog post
Value Does All The Work and Colour Gets All The Glory

Day Two

On Day Two I approached the scene from a different angle and here is what I painted:

Day 2: Two hour study

In some ways, the parched and pale look of the stromalite foreground (and the tree) really demonstrates the fact that stromalites are the oldest living things on earth. I felt I needed to paint them in colours that reflected their age and refelected the ancient conversation they have held with the Ottawa river over time.

I only had four hours to paint and sketch and I took many breaks to chat with the wonderful visitors that wondered off the shore on Day Two. The visitors were:
  • a father and son catching minnows 
  • two men who had apparently read an article about the Ottawa stromatolites and decided to make the trip
  • a group of university students who came with maps that they had printed online (links below)

Group of students on trip to see stromatolites.
There was even a pair of ducks that swam over for a little visit. What a wonderful two days it was!
My duck friends

Stromatolite Links

Carleton University

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Alley Project Week 9

For Week 9 of the Alley Project the location was in behind Barrymore's and included the alleyways that run from Gilmour to Somerset St West.

I chose the space above for my first sketch. It had just finished raining and the pavement was still damp.

First graphite wash sketch

These alleyways were familiar to me. I have walked them many times and I previously sketched one of the facades (below) and blogged about experimenting with printmaking using styrofoam relief methods.

July sketch 
There is something quite beautiful about this view (above) and I particularly liked how you could see through the rear door all the way to the front at Bank Street. I think it is one of my favourite spots.

My next sketch (below) of the back of Foster's Sport Centre was another quick black & white using the General's Sketch & Wash #588

Foster's Sports Centre
The clouds were incredible as I packed up my gear to move to my next location towards the back of the demolished Duke of Somerset building. I had to take a picture!

Incredible clouds
My art journal page

McLaren & Bank
Back of Somerset House

The back of the Somerset House (or Duke of Somerset) is beautiful and sad at the same time. The Duke of Somerset building has sat empty since 2007, the same year it partially collapsed.

Ottawa’s heritage committee approved renovation plans in October 2013 that would see part of the building restored and part replaced with glass but there were no signs that anything has changed at all.

I couldn't help but wonder as I was sketching, whatever happened to the beautiful mural  that was painted in 1991 by American artist Robert Dafford. ( ) that was at the back of the building? (Robin Kelsey wondered the same thing back in 2007 and you can read about it here:

Only a small section of it could still be seen from where I was sketching.

It was a great night of clouds and sketching alleys and reflecting. I am really enjoying this Alley Project and so grateful to be part of this great group of folks.

Alley Project Week 10 is scheduled for the market laneways and alleyways and I won't be available but I am looking forward to week 11.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Drawing at the Rooster

August 18 was my first time "Drawing at the Rooster" (DATR) and I had a blast. I have not sketched models since high school in Miss Kertesz' life drawing class!

On the DATR facebook page it says, "Drawing at the Rooster is a monthly life drawing event. There are multiple live models (clothed/costumed) that will do a variety of short and long poses. Each event has a different theme! 

 Drawing at the Rooster is a no cover event, and is a creative, non-judgmental environment where artists of all skill levels will have an opportunity to practice their life drawing skills. Bring your own sketchbook and be sure to come a bit early to ensure you get a good seat. 

 Please post pictures or sketches from Drawing at the Rooster Events! As always, there are food and beverage specials too".

The DATR facebook group has 336 members!

The poster for the event

A LOT of folks showed up to sketch. There were three models: Emilie, Karen and Sarah who each posed for a 2 minute, 3 minute, 5 minute and then a 20 minute pose.

Model #1 - Emilie

My 2, 3 and 5 minute sketches

The 20 minute pose

My 20 minute sketch

Model #2 - Erin

Model #3 - Sarah

At the end of the evening there is an optional contest for the best sketch. The artists, if they chooose to participate, all pick their favourite sketch of the night and the best sketch of them all (democratically voted on) wins a gift certificate for the Atomic Rooster.

The sketches being voted on using pencils to vote

The beautiful sketch that won!!!
I had a blast and I am looking forward to September's "Drawing at the Rooster"!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Artist's Bike-easels and Stroller-easels

You know what they say, "Necessity is the mother of invention". Plein air painting requires that the artist carry a fair amount of gear and I wondered, "How did they manage in the days before cars?" and how do "car-less" artists manage today?

Biking and painting. 

The photo of the painter's bicycle from the first half of the twentieth century below was found at Museo Galileo : "With the increasing use of the bicycle, artists who painted en plein air began to use them to wander through the countryside, stopping at attractive sites. The vehicle was usually equipped with wooden cases holding the paints, brushes, rags and palette. The bag on the front could be transformed into an easel."

The Painter's Bicycle
( First half of the 20th century) 

It made me curious about current day modifications and "Painter's Bicycles" so I searched for images.

Artist Robert Genn did a blog post entitled "Mobile Methodologies" and said "A few years ago I built an "Art-Dog", a mobile paintbox I towed behind my bike."

Robert Genn's "Art Dog"

I understand the need to tow art equipment but, for my personal needs, I was hoping to find something more compact and lightweight.

I like this compact modification (below) from the Try Everything blog.

Found on Try Everything blog
Matthew Mattingly went mobile with his rig, which he calls the Bi-Sketch-Cycle. (Instructions here)


This one from Brian Bickrell is quite an elaborate modification of the towing variety but Brian travels extensively in his RV and this set-up was exactly what he needed.

Brian Buckrell's modification
and bike-easel set up
I was actually drawn to much more simple modifications and there are a few more images with links to the artist's pages below.
Poppy Balser's set-up

Andre Jute's acrylic set up

Found on a Wet Canvas forum
Found on a Wet Canvas forum

Brazilian artist from Rio de Janeiro, Sandra Nunes bike-easel set up

Brazilian artist from Rio de Janeiro, Sandra Nunes bike-easel set up

Artist Strollers

I loved when I stumbled across artist strollers like this one complete with instructions at Loriann Sigori's blog. She explained, "Last year I met up with my friend Mike McMullin in Washington state. He was sporting a new plein air painting machine, the Cadillac of transports. The magician that he is, Mike took a used baby jogging stroller and turned it into an easel and transport system on the go. Check it out!"

And here is a modification of an umbrella stroller by Diana Horowitz who found it challenging to cityscape paint with small children:
Diana Horowitz stroller modification
And lastly, I love this one that I found at Gurney's Journey gas station painting challenge page. He writes, "Jared Cullum captured the full scene with all its detail: the signs, the plantings, and even the cars. The result gives a strong feeling of being there....He deserves special commendation for doing the painting while babysitting and adapting the stroller into an easel."

Gurney's Journey Gas Station challenge

More Bike-Easel Internet Finds Since August 2015

Florida artist David Alejandro Del Toro‎ post in the
Plein Air Painters Facebook page (Oct 8, 2015)
Last, but certainly not least, 
enjoy this James Gurney video 
of the 
Unicycle Painter!

Links to DIY Easels