Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sketching the Human Library and Special Moments

For the fifth year, the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) and CBC Ottawa hosted a Human Library event on February 27, 2016 and I decided to spend a couple of hours there and sketch some of the "human books".

The concept: 
"Human ‘Books’ have volunteered to take part in the event with the goal of building tolerance and respect for diversity in our community.
A Reader ‘borrows’ a Book and engages in a one-on-one conversation to gain a better understanding of that person. (Source: OPL)
The OPL 2016 Human Library banner

There were lots of OPL Library staff and CBC staff on hand to help keep things running smoothly. Once you entered the library, you received a brochure with the names of the human books that were available to borrow and a brief biography on their story.

The Human Library kiosk where you sign out your Human Books
The thing that I loved about sketching at the Ottawa Public Library is that there are so many locations to sketch from.

Below, that's me looking down at the Human Library from the second floor. That's where I sketched Chi Way Lee from.

Tweet by @idilmussa of Councillor @TimTierney

In the photo below, I was trying to sketch the "human books" at one of the sessions. When you borrow a human book, there are a number of guidelines you must follow (i.e. be respectful, don't ask for contact infomation etc - common sense guidelines) and you borrow the book for twenty minutes.

Twenty minutes allowed me to do this quick and loose sketch of six of the sixteen human books.

Sketched from the second floor
It was a really great couple of hours of sketching. The folks were so engaged with the human books that they "borrowed". Below is the two page spread I completed after two hours.

My two page spread of my two ours at the OPL-CBC  Human Library

A lovely story:

I have always left the Human Library with a story that touched me and demonstrates why this Human Library movement  (now in 60 countries) is so important. (I recommend you watch the 45-minute documentary which delves into the stories of the human books who participated in the CBC's 2015 Human Library project)

There were 16 human books (see my screen capture at the bottom of this post) at the OPL Main branch and not enough time in two hours to "read them all" or sketch them.

This year, two stories touched me. One of  Chi Way Lee (see sketch above) who found himself homeless following a serious depression after his father's death in Malaysia. He took shelter at the Salvation Army where a chaplain invited him to join an art program which rekindled his lifelong passion for graphic arts. The other was the story of Jay Odjick, an artist who I sketched as he was "borrowed" by a woman and a young boy.

Jay Odjick (bottom sketch) being borrowed by a woman and young boy
My Jay Odjick Story:

For a great video about Jay Odjick by CBC Ottawa, visit
Jay Odjick is a writer and artist from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Algonquin Nation in Quebec. Outside of Jay’s work in comics, he has provided illustrations for the works of writers such as Clive Barker and Robert Munsch and created the webcomic Power Hour for director Kevin Smith’s After creating the graphic novel KAGAGI: The Raven, Jay is now the executive producer and lead writer on the animated series Kagagi, which airs on APTN in Canada and FNX in the U.S. (Source OPL:
My story is that I tweeted my sketch of Jay talking to the woman and the young boy (who I referred to as #26). I told Jay that I was assuming that the young boy was a fan of Kagagi. (On APTN at

Jay Odjick's Kagagi on APTN
 Jay's response to my tweet makes this the highlight for me of this year's Human Library

It was my special moment too - thanks Jay!

Below is a screen capture of the 2016 books at the OPL Main branch: Visit to access full descriptions

Screen Capture:

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Daily Sketch: Centretown Melt

"Centretown Melt"
Watercolour, gouache and pen and ink on 100% cotton paper
Done in two hours while I was waiting for my laundry to dry.
Photo on left and progression from watercolour to final mixed media.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

My Daily Sketch: Ottawa Snow Storm

In February, a winter storm hit Ottawa dropping a record-setting 51.2 cm of snow! (The previous record of 45.7 cm was set on Feb. 8, 1895.)

Ottawa photographer (and self-named history nerd) Christopher Ryan posted a number of breathtaking photographs on his twitter feed, and instagram and I knew that I just had to do a daily sketch of one of them in my moleskine!

Daily Sketch in my moleskine
I used my Lamy safari fountain pen, two pentel water brushes (one loaded with Noodler's Lexington gray and the other with Noodler's Raven black ink) and a uni-ball 1.0 white gel pen.

My #DailySketch essentials

My DailySketch Kit Essentials
(This kit travels with me wherever I go)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Mixed Media Fun With David Graham's "Nan and Vy"

 "Nan and Vy, Rome, ME,1982"
Photograph used with permission of photographer
David Graham

Why do we fall in love with certain images? The minute the photograph above appeared in my Pinterest feed, I knew that I wanted (or is it that I needed?) to paint it.

But first I wanted to find out who the photograph belonged to. Following the Pinterest link did not provide any information so I used the search feature on google images.

I discovered that David Graham was the photographer.

The above photograph was part of David Graham’s “Thirty-Five Years/35 Pictures” exhibit in 2014 and he has titled the photograph, "Nan and Vy, Rome, ME,1982". According to the article on Slate, this is one image taken over 35 years using an 8-by-10-view camera.

I wrote to David Graham for permission to use his image as  the basis for a mixed-media painting and to use on this website to explain my process. David generously agreed writing, "Sure!! Go right ahead. Have fun."

Thank you, David.

Value study

I played with simple colour palettes.
I love that the two women in the photograph are wearing bathing caps, bathing suits and big smiles. I love that they are standing on the porch of a cottage with laundry hanging and fishing rods at the ready. I love the colours and that the cottage is made of unpeeled logs.

The following Alan Bradley quote sums up my love for this photograph:

In my mind, this image was an opportunity to play with mixed media and I knew that I wanted to start with acrylics. I used yellow, orange and red for the underpainting.

I added dioxazine violet (PV 23) acrylic for the dark areas and added some soft pastel. I love dioxazine violet so much because of its strong tinting strength and I prefer to use it as my "black".

I added beautifully transparent manganese blue hue acrylic (PB15:4 / PG7 / PW4) to other areas. I was given this colour as a free sample and fell in love with it. 

I  used ink and white gel pen for the details and collaged an excerpt of Alan Bradley's quote

To see more of David Graham's photographs, visit his website

This painting is for sale. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Urban Sketching at the Carleton Tavern

On February 10, 2016, Ottawa urban sketchers gathered at Carleton Tavern for a night of sketching

"The Carleton" sketch above by artist Colin White
My first sketch of the night capturing Ottawa urban sketchers Laurie, Colin and Derek.

For me, it really adds to my sketching pleasure when I know a little bit about the story of the place that I am sketching or something about the people that inhabit(ed) the place.

I researched online before sketching at the tavern to see what I could find out.

The Carleton Tavern History

1948 Fire Insurance Plan of Ottawa
shows the Carleton Tavern with its original and expanded structure.

"In 1935, after five years of operating the confectionery, 75-year-old Thomas Moran extensively renovated the house at 223 Armstrong, and opened that fall as the Carleton Hotel…" (Source: Ottawa Valley Irish: Carleton Tavern history)
"On February 26 1941, Moran sold the Carleton Hotel to Harold Starr and Harry Viau, for the sale price of $10,500. Starr was a popular Ottawa sportsman, having played for both the Rough Riders and the original Ottawa Senators in the NHL. Viau was a former barber who grew up in a hotelkeeper family."  (Source: Kitchissippi Times)

"Through its 80 years, little has changed at the Carleton Tavern, and that’s just how its many loyal patrons like it. It is a trip back into time, an experience that has fortunately been preserved in Kitchissippi, and one hopes will continue for many more years to come."  (Source: Kitchissippi Times)
Later in the evening I sketched the folks at two tables nearby

According to Apt613"The tavern has grown into a haven for artists and musicians alike, offering up something for everyone from live entertainment on weekends, to writing/poetry workshops, JazzWorks jams, participatory singing with the 613 Casual Choir, and even theatre productions put on by Chamber Theatre Hintonburg. A large room on the second floor, which was once a series of rooms for rent, was remodelled to house dart leagues and private parties of every occasion. The room is free for use and licensed for 95 people."

February 10, 2016

About twenty urban sketchers stopped over at the Carleton Tavern on the chilly, snowy night of February 10. The staff were welcoming and the place really filled up as the night went on.

To see some of the sketches that some of the other urban sketchers shared, visit our facebook event page (click here) or our facebook group page (click here)

Here are a few of my sketches for the night:

Page 1 of 3 pages of sketches from our night at the Carleton Tavern.

This poster was next o the exit.
It asks, "How will you spend your last 10 years?
In answer to the question on the poster hanging at the Carleton Tavern exit, "How will you spend your last 10 years?" my answer is, ".......hopefully with a sketchbook and pencil in my hands".