Urban Sketchers

Urban Sketchers network
I'm an urban sketcher

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Geometry at IKEA

Despite the fact that there was a snowfall this morning with heavy, wet snowflakes, five of us met at the cafeteria in IKEA today. We gathered around one of the round tables almost in the corner of the IKEA cafeteria. There's a great amount of natural lighting in their cafeteria due to the large windows. One of the interesting things about IKEA is that you get light only at the front door and in the cafeteria; everywhere else you feel like you're in the midst of a rabbit warren with no way out!

If you get to IKEA between 9:30am and 10:00am, coffee is free which was a great way to start our sketching. I thought perhaps we might decide to disperse throughout the store but we all stayed around the table and sketched what was right in front of us which included whoever was sitting directly across. Everyone today was just using either pencil or pen to draw.

I noticed one major difference today which was that there was a lot more conversation. This of course was due to the fact that we were gathered around a table where normally we are spread out around whatever location we're working at. This was a nice change as there was lots of fun and stimulating discussion about art and art making.

I forgot to bring my camera today but if anyone else has images they want to share from today, please email them to me and I will update to include. The first image below is of two young men having breakfast at the next table. I liked the rather vacant look on the man facing me; he was thinking while listening to his friend talking. The second image was interesting as I started with a sign and then slowly added one line or more accurately, one further geometric shape to the image and built it that way. Even though it consists entirely of lines and shapes, the process to achieve it was quite organic.

Almost forgot to mention who came out ... Ginette, Jo, Angela, Trevor and Shirley. Welcome to Trevor who came out for the first time to sketch with us.

Two guys having breakfast

The lines and shapes of IKEA

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Union Station

Diane and Shirley met downtown at Union Station at 9:30am. We thought this would be an interesting place to draw architectural elements and people. My initial reaction upon walking into the Union Station was disappointment. I hadn't been inside for a number of years and had a romantic notion of what a probably once grand railway station should look like. There was partitions up here and there as there is some major renovations underway. But ... once you take a seat and start to draw you soon realize that there is something always to sketch and/or paint and you quickly forget about your initial impressions of the space.

I started with an upper corner of the space which is a real test of perspective. Before getting there, I had expectations that somehow I could capture the whole space which is of course not possible to do so you need to focus in on one small bit of space that grabs your attention; either something that is complete in itself or is an interesting portion of a bigger space or object.

The next subject tackled were the benches. Diane and I both sketched the benches. I liked that they were made of wood and how the upper wooden back extended about a foot above the cushions. I chose to do a view where a series of benches overlapped and intersected with each other.
The last drawing for the day was of a young father waiting for his wife who appeared to be in the large hall through the doors. I had peek through the doors earlier and found that it was an Immigration hall of some sorts. It had the look of a large courtroom. He was only in his pose for half a minute or so I got a very sketchy outline of him.

There's always learning lessons. Diane spent some good time drawing one of the benches. These were very challenging to do; particularly the arms. I am always surprise how quickly you can become engaged in what you are doing. It's kind of like how people grow on you and how you find them much more attractive once you know them. That's how I felt about the benches. They were just old benches until I started to sketch them and then I began to appreciate how they just didn't seem like ordinary benches anymore.

When we left today, I suggested to Diane that we could sit on one of the benches outside as it gave us a great view of the Fort Garry Hotel roofline. I wouldn't mind sitting in the hotel and doing some sketching also. Maybe next time if the weather cooperates.

photo makes this space look quite grand

Interesting benches to draw

a sketch of one of the upper corner balconies

like this intersecting view of the rows of benches

a man waiting for his wife

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Every possible subject at the Forks

Diane and Shirley met at 9:30am at the Forks to sketch today. It was slightly coolish feeling due to the light wind which quickly sent us inside. Of course the golden fall foliage continues to grab our attention so this was our first subject. We were sitting inside at the windows so despite the fact they were quite cloudy and dirty looking, it was a good view of the golden tree that had first caught our attention. The only other thing to take away from our "comfort" was the dragging of chairs from people sitting nearby us. Just another one of those things that you have to put up with while painting or sketching from life.

After finishing our first sketch, we noticed that the bigger glassed enclosure was now available. When we arrived initially, there had been a closed meeting going on inside. This is a great spot to try and sketch or paint people. Given that we were there over the lunch hour, there were lots of young people coming in and out and sitting for just long enough for us to try and capture a likeness. While sitting there in the corner, we noticed a young guy at the next table that was also drawing. Diane struck up a conversation with him while I was off getting lunch from Tall Grass Prairie.

We attempted to do several sketches, some more or less successful. I particularly like doing fast gestural sketches of people. The light was ideal as it rimmed our subjects. The subject we enjoyed the most was of an older woman who sat with her back to us. She had on a lovely soft warm pink sweater and a tam on her head. You could see the pink of her sweater reflecting on the bottom of her tam. Very lovely subject.

The last drawing I did was a simple line drawing with my LAMY pen. I was intrigued by the way I could still make the different elements stand out by using different types of lines and lines that went in different directions. This sketch was one of my favorite of the day.

We left when our three hour parking limit was up. Three hours seemed like a long time to sketch and paint but we could have stayed all day. The Forks is really one of the best places to do this type of artwork. It has everything; variety of subject matter, food, washrooms, interesting people .....
We'll be back!!
Where we did our people sketches

Human Rights Museum with workmen

First sketch of golden trees with old railway bridge in background

People sketches done with LAMY pen and wash

ink and watercolor sketches

older woman with soft pink sweater and tam

line drawing of strings of lights and tree branches

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Kildonan Park in its fall splendor

Diane and Shirley got out plein-air painting again. The leaves are falling fast and who knows how long the weather is going to hold to allow us to paint outside comfortably. We met at the witches' hut in Kildonan Park. This is a place we painted last fall so it was interesting to come back to a repeat location. There were less leaves on the trees and the weather was colder. The high this day was 10 degrees centrigrade.

I chose to paint over an old failed painting which worked very well for me. This kind of scene is very difficult to paint due to the complexity of it and it's easy to get lost in it as Diane experienced. I think the key to not losing your way is to do your big shape drawing and value study and then block those major shapes on your painting so that you have your roadmap to work within. After that, it's all about continuing to squint and look at your scene continuously.

My failed painting provided a really good underpainting due to the colors that were in it. I found that half the painting was greens and half the painting was more greyed colors so I oriented the canvas so that the greens were in the upper half under my fall foliage and the greyed colors were under the water in the scene. What worked really well is how much faster the painting worked up when you started with a fully painted canvas board. I am a real fan of an underpainting or a toned support; particularly for plein-air painting where you have limited time. Our whole session was approximately two hours from start to finish.

The only negative thing today was my new brush washer that I bought in Denver "broke". At some point I looked at the lid and the seal had popped out of the lid. I tried to fit it back in but the darn thing had expanded so much that it was not possible to do this. I think this must just be a defective one. I sent an email to the art store in Denver to see what they can do for me. I had only used the thing twice and since it's for plein-air painting, a sealed brush washer is absolutely essential.

Diane and I have agreed to meet at the Forks this coming Wednesday; this time we will bring pen and ink plus watercolor to see what we can do with this popular urban scape.
the scene we chose to paint

a longer view including the witches' hut

Diane doing her shape sketch

my finished study

my shape and value sketch

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Perfect Indian Summer Day in Winnipeg

The sky was a beautiful bright blue and there was no perceivable wind. The fall colored leaves are mostly still on the trees. It was also quite warm today with the projected high being 19 degrees C. Diane and Shirley decided this was going to be a good day to go out and get in some painting before the weather turns cooler and the leaves have all dropped from the trees.

Diane had seen a photo of Truro creek which runs through Bruce Park. We agreed to meet in the Assiniboine Gordon Hotel parking lot on Portage Ave and then go from there. It was a bit tricky finding the right street to go down but on try number two, Diane found it. This is a lovely park and I recognize it from cycling; in fact we did see several cyclists throughout the day.

Having come off a workshop with Liz Haywood-Sullivan, I wanted to take my time scouting around to look for the right scene to paint. We were initially attracted to the creek with rocks crossing it in one location. Moving on, we came out on to a relatively open area which had one really large nicely shaped tree. The tree was masses of various golds and a small amount of green.

We started with a very simple shape and value sketch of the tree. Once we were satisfied with our drawing, we decided to start with an oil value sketch using only white, black, and a grey. This was worth doing as it cemented in our brains where the light and dark masses were in the scene.

Now for color! We were both working on a support that had a pretty intense venetian red color. We squeezed out yellow ochre, cad yellow deep, greenish umber (my new color that Marc Hanson likes), permanent rose, cad yellow, white and each of chose the blue we wanted for the sky. It was tricky to get the right greyed gold and green color that was the undercolor of the leaf masses. After building a base of more greyed and sometimes darker masses, we put the more brightly lit yellow leaves on top.

I think we were both pretty happy with our studies. What worked well was our composition and drawing which was due to the time we took to carefully draw out our design. We both felt we could have done better at mixing colors. A challenge for next time! We both agreed that yellow ochre really dulled the color down and perhaps wasn't a good choice or we used too much in our mixtures.

One thing of note was we had a visit from a fellow artist. John stopped by to ask a question and it was at this point that I recognized him as one of the artists that gave us a workshop last year in drawing.
A little complicated to tackle? but beautiful

Look at this lovely shaped tree .. this is the one

Our finished studies ... good effort for both of us today

Monday, 2 September 2013

The Cornish Library

A small group of us met at the Cornish Library this morning to sketch and paint. This was a perfect location to set up and do some painting. The Cornish Library is a lovely old building that is turning a 100 years old in 2015.  It's holiday Monday today so we didn't even have the flow of people borrowing and returning library books to distract us from our painting. Of course we don't mind people showing an interest ... this is part of the adventure of painting outdoors. Today we had a visit from the couple that lives across the street from the Cornish Library. She was the one that told us the age of the building.

It is really difficult to get the perspective right on buildings. Two of us started with a somewhat more easy view which was being more directly in front of the building. The other two painters were off to one side and closer so the lines, angle and perspective was even more complicated. I started with a watercolor sketch and then decided to do the other view as it looked more interesting when I saw it on Ginette's easel. This is the second time I have "stolen" her view. It's a good thing for me that she can't copyright her view. It's always beneficial to sometimes work with others for this reason. You can learn lots and get ideas just by watching fellow artists.

Below are photos that I took of the location and my two sketches/paintings. I didn't get photos of everyone else's work but hopefully I will have a chance to photograph them and include them later.

The more direct view of the Cornish Library

One artist sketching, One artist painting

Working the difficult view in oils

Nice perspective and shadows

The signage looks more like hieroglyphics than english

Very tricky to get the angles right

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Sketching on Corydon Avenue

This past Monday we chose Corydon Avenue as our sketching destination. We were thirsting for some urban sketching! It was mentioned by one of our members that there was a new gallery down on Corydon avenue run by Richard who formerly did framing at Artist Emporium. Ruth, Ginette, Luanne and I met at 10:00am and started with a tour of Richard's new gallery. The space looks great and we particularly liked the space that you first entered which was like a lower courtyard. There were beautiful cast shadows on the walls from the outdoor railings and you could see flowers outside through the open ironwork.

We decided to set up right in front of the gallery. What could be better than artists painting "on the avenue" in front of an art gallery. We were well shaded and very comfortable for our painting session. Ginette was looking very cute in her all white outfit and very spiffy hat so I chose to paint a portrait of her sitting in her beach chair holding the small canvas that she was painting on. I worked this oil sketch on a board that had been painted with Venetian Red gesso. I chose not to cover all the red ground. The painting ending up having quite an abstract quality to it.

The plan is to head back to Corydon Avenue for next Monday. I do hope the weather cooperates as this is a fantastic location and I'm sure Richard would like to have us back.

Artist on the Avenue

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Beautiful Charleswood Garden

It has been a few weeks since I was able to join the Charleswood group on their Monday sketching excursions. Having freshly come off a plein-air oil painting workshop, I definitely wanted to do my "field sketching" in oils.

This week's location was a beautiful garden in Charleswood. We'd like to thank Deloris for arranging this visit. What was astounding about this garden is that it was conceived and designed only in 2008. To think that this family could design and build such a garden in a period of a few years is quite remarkable. Like many well designed gardens, it featured many different and distinct areas including a wall with a waterfall cascading over it. The day was sunny and pleasantly warm.

When you enter a garden like this, it can be overwhelming for an artist. There is so much to look at and it can be difficult to decide what view to paint and what you wish to say about it. Most people start by taking photos around the yard to keep as a reference point. On this day I found that I was able to zero in on what interested me almost immediately. There were a few lovely golden green tamarack trees in the yard which had towering thistles in front of them. I liked the contrast of the color and texture of the trees against the dark backdrop of background trees and the linear, vertical stems of the thistles topped with their mauve balls of flower.

We had two hours in the garden so I quickly set up and using a small support for the job was able to complete a study in the timeframe. The support was a birch panel that was gessoed with Venetian red. When I got home and saw the study in less light, I realized that the very intense red gesso really greyed out all the greens in my study. I added some highlights but will need to think more carefully about my choice of ground.

Wandering through the Charleswood garden

My chosen view for a study

An oil field study of thistles and tamarack tree

Friday, 28 June 2013

Monday Sketchout at Anita's Place

Last Monday was a hot and sunny day which was perfect for sketching and painting in Anita's backyard. Anita had timed our visit for the opening of her white poppies. Of course I remembered how wonderful her homemade soup and bread was from a previous visit so I looked forward to it again. She didn't disappoint ... she had a wonderful, perfectly spiced sausage chowder. Homemade bread accompanied it and cheesecake made by Ruth finished off our delicious lunch.

The group that came out this Monday included Analee, Sylvia, Jim, Ruth, Anita, Luanne, Bernice and myself (Shirley). I find as some others in the group that it's fun to do portraits of people painting ... it's a nice change from doing flowers or other garden subjects. Luanne as a subject never disappoints as she always wears a really colorful top. Nice day in Anita's garden!

Luanne - Wonderful bright top

Jim - Hats are interesting

Like the simplicity of the chair shapes and shadows

Anita's poppies

The Charleswood Gang

Just needed a little white pencil crayon

Monday, 17 June 2013

St. Boniface Cathedral

Today started out as one of those glorious beautiful days. The sun was shining with a slight breeze. Charleswood Art Group members were to meet at the St. Boniface Cathedral for 10:00am. I wanted to work with my oil paints today so I arrived earlier and was set up to paint for 9:00am. Today I brought along a piece of Arches oil paper to try. The old façade of the cathedral that remains is a stunning piece of architecture. It has a large circular opening in the upper part through which the blue sky was visible. The whole cathedral façade is too large a subject so I chose to focus on the doorway openings. The copper roofing of the newer structure was visible through the doorways and slashes of light were hi-lighting the steps. What was interesting to me also was that the façade circular opening showed up on the front lawn as an elliptical hi-light. I really enjoyed my painting time today. After 10:00am a few different student and tourist groups came to the cathedral for a tour. A few dropped by to see what I was painting.

Besides myself, Ruth, Anita and Ginette came out today. They chose to start with watercolor sketches of the Human Rights Museum and some later sketches of the cathedral façade. After sketching/painting, the plan was to have lunch at Chez Sophie. Unfortunately ... just call me stupid while packing her art supplies in the trunk, locked her keys inside. I had to sit and wait an hour for CAA to get me into my car so I could retrieve my keys. Because of this, I also didn't get photos of anyone else's sketches. I hope the rest of the group enjoyed their lunch!

Learning Lesson of the day: Always make sure you have your hands on your car keys or at least make sure you put them away. At least I had my phone with me to call CAA.

St. Boniface Cathedral

Monday, 10 June 2013

Fort Whyte - A day to draw boats

The plan was for the Charleswood Group of sketchers to meet at 10:00am at Fort Whyte. Angela and I were going to meet earlier with our usual oil painting gear. We decided to postpone the plein-air oil painting until tomorrow in hopes of better weather. I made the last minute decision to head out to Fort Whyte with my smaller sketching/watercolor bag just in case some Charleswood members showed up. At the very least, I could get a cup of coffee.

I was only at the center for a few minutes when Ginette found me. I was very happy to find her and together we walked outside the center to find a spot to sketch. The woman at the desk said it was OK to just go outside without paying if we weren't hitting the trails. We walked down to the area where the sailboats are docked. Two women were there and when we told them what we were going to do, they offered us a couple of lawnchairs. Mine had a cup holder which meant I had room for my takeout coffee.

This morning was going to be about learning to sketch boats. In our part of the world we don't often get the opportunity to draw boats and they are very challenging to draw! We weren't there for too long before a group of high school students from Vincent Massey came for an outing in the sailboats. This was great as it gave us some additional sketching opportunities. We were very comfortable in our "matching" bluejean jackets and weren't bothered by the warming and cooling of the air as the sun couldn't make its mind up whether to stay in or out. This was a lot of fun this morning and the lessons learned today are: Don't always wait for "fair weather" to paint and Just pick a spot and you will always find lots to paint. This was a good day and thankyou to Ginette for coming out and keeping me company.

A sketch from Sunday outing at the Forks

First sketch of sailboat

Vincent Massey girls waiting for their turn to sail
Preparing to launch

Final boat sketch - Lund boat and sailboats docked


Monday, 3 June 2013

Charleswood Art Group at Leo Mol Garden

The weather was perfect today ... not too hot; just nicely temperate with the sun shining. The tulips are out in full bloom in the Leo Mol Garden at Assiniboine Park. I arrived for 9:00am and set myself up in front of a scene where large lilacs framed a Leo Mol statue. This was particularly appealing because at this hour the trees were backlit.

Four other Charleswood members arrived at 10:00am and I departed for an appointment. Arrangements were made to meet for lunch at the Qualico Family Center. There were five of us for lunch at the Qualico center. Over lunch, other locations for sketching were discussed. It was agreed that the next two outings respectively would be Fort Whyte and Market Square. Let us keep our fingers crossed for good weather the next two Mondays.

Getting started ....

Statue and Lilacs by Luanne

Tulip sketch by Roberta

Another sketch by Roberta

Backlit statue and lilacs by Shirley

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Rainy Day Sketching in the Library

What do you do when it's pouring rain outside? It's a great opportunity to head indoors. I hitched a ride downtown and following some lunch, I sat inside the Millenium Library and did some surreptitious sketching of people at the study desks. I used my LAMY pen and a few watercolor pencils that I had with me. I love the LAMY pen which does have LAMY ink in it. What I like about the LAMY ink is that it moves so easily with water and has subtle variation in the colors once wet. I became engrossed in my sketching and by the time I looked at my watch, it was three minutes before I was to be out on the curb to wait for my ride back home. As I was out on the street, I saw so many people that I would just love to have sketched. I will definitely have to come downtown again when there's better weather for being outdoors.

People Sketching at the Millenium Library