Urban Sketchers

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I'm an urban sketcher

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