Friday, 22 September 2017


The longest journey starts with ... an even longer flight delay.  But, really, that's just an extra four and a half hours of drawing time (except for the two hours spent waiting in lines to try unsuccessfully to get on an earlier flight).  The Air Canada service people showed remarkable consistency, at least for us economy-class passengers:

Airports are much like one another, but the view is nice in Vancouver.
There was just a little daylight left once the flight finally got going, enough for a quick sketch of clouds over the mountains in British Columbia.

At least Air Canada bought us beer after all that.  (Ha ha, just kidding - of course they didn't buy us beer.  It cost $7.50.  But it did occupy 20 minutes drawing it.)

Monday, 4 September 2017

Long weekend in the 'hood

I stayed around the neighbourhood this weekend.  But what a neighbourhood it is!  And fortunately I started a few days early on the long-weekend draw-a-thon.
First, a rare blustery day for a mid-week trip to Maplewood Flats, my local birding area.  It was so stormy that I thought it might actually rain, but it didn't.

Then a view of the North Shore from Stanley Park on a Thursday ride.  This could be the most viewed painting in (my) art history - I'd guess about 50 people watched me painting while I sat on the Stanley Park seawall.
Friday was a hike up Mts Strachan and Hollyburn, first passing by the 1963 crash site of a T-33 navy training jet.  All the torn-up pieces of the plane are still there.  It's fairly shocking to come across the wreckage along the steep path in the forest, and it's a more striking memorial than a plaque or monument could be.
One of the three groups of people I saw all day were on the summit of Mt Strachan, but they left soon, giving me the whole peak and its fabulous views all to myself.
On Saturday, we went to nearby Gambier Island for an annual Labour Day event with the inlaws.  We traveled via gill-netter, conveniently slow enough to allow sketching on the way.
Some views from the island: morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening:

And cousins of various ages playing volleyball with a watermelon-themed beach-ball.
Finally today, back up Hollyburn Mountain for another hike with friends and a swim in the lake, which supports a diverse marsh at one end.
That's the sort of busy long weekend that you need a long weekend to recover from!

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Scenes around here

No real theme here, except trying to capture a scene quickly and with minimal fuss.  For trees and forest, water-soluble black ink and water colours work well - I have finally learned that there is no point in trying to draw every leaf or branch when that will all wash away anyway.  The ink just suggests the main forms, and to make the darks dark.
Evening sun on the nearby park:
And the outhouse at our cabin, tucked under three looming hemlock trees:

The solid dark look didn't seem appropriate at Iona Island, where the foreshore marsh - full of purple loosestrife - was bright in the sun and blowing in the sea breeze.  I used waterproof ink in a scritchy pen, following the swallows and dragonflies swirling around me, then just added a few broad bands of colour.
And the best way to keep a drawing simple: do it in 5 minutes while you're waiting for the water to boil for dinner...

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

More seabussers

The point of public transport is to provide victims - oops, I mean "models" - for surreptitious portrait drawing.  Here are a few attempts, mostly two per 10-minute trip.  They are all in water-soluble ink, with a wet brush used to draw out some shading.  You might be able to pick one or two of them out of a police line-up - better than I used to do...

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Japanese Festival, False Creek

Sketches from a couple meet-ups in the last two weeks: The Powell Street Japanese Festival happens in a park at the centre of the Downtown Eastside - formerly the Japanese neighbourhood of Vancouver, now Canada's poorest postal code.  The Japanese people are an integral part of BC society now, despite the infamous internments during the war.  The current denizens of the park are more on the fringes, some of them sleeping in the relative security of daylight, a few ranting loudly, and many enjoying the diversion of the big crowd at the festival.  It made for a lively drawing environment.  Like any good festival, there was lots of food, and, of course, dancing - in this case, older ladies dancing traditional, highly formalized dances about cherry blossoms and other things Japanese.  This was during Vancouver's smoky phase a couple weeks ago, so the bright red Rising Sun seemed an appropriate background (I just wish I could draw a round circle...).

At the other end of the Vancouver real estate spectrum, this week's meet-up was in the Yaletown area, the urbane centre of wealthy young professional Vancouver.  I find it a difficult sketching place - the glass towers are just too recent/planned/sterile for my tastes.  But the riding and walking path along the seawall is a very active place, the view over the water is amazing, and there are boats, lots of boats.  I included a big format fish-eye panorama, trying to capture the whole scene while sitting in the shade under the Cambie Street Bridge - challenging and needs work, but fun to try.  And the best subject - another sketcher, who sits still as long as you do, even if that's only ten minutes at the end of the day.

Sunday, 6 August 2017


Greens are tricky - you get the wrong hue or wrong saturation and they just look wrong.  Reds, on the other hand, seem to be pretty much red.  There are four little pans of red in my paint kit, and they all look about the same.  I have an evolutionary theory about this: Greens matter to us, because the difference between one green and another might be a diseased leaf versus a nutritious one, or a poisonous plant versus a healthy one.  With red, the fine discrimination doesn't matter - red means blood, or fire, or poisonous berry, or coral snake, and you really don't want to spend time debating if it's more on the crimson side or the scarlet side.  But when you have a mixed bowl of raspberries and red currants for dessert every night, you realize that there are different reds, and also different degrees of glossiness, and that is really hard to capture in watercolour.
Flowers in the local bog go through a pink phase in spring.  I'm pretty sure they co-ordinate the timing of this - they probably have a committee - and a co-operative "Pollinators prefer pink" marketing campaign.
The garden is also in a red phase, after it's purple spring juvenile phase, and before it's orange and yellow mature phase (we skip the sophisticated white phase around here, by design).

And even the sun is getting in one the act, in smoke-filled Vancouver, where it's red-in-the-morning all day long.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Gastown Grand Prix

A few quick sketches from the Gastown Grand Prix, a couple weeks ago.  "Quick" is the word - this is a full-speed bicycle race around the cobbled streets of Gastown, not the funky little event I was expecting.  The participants are professional cyclists, including Olympic medal winners, they are fast, and there are a lot of them - 60+ in the women's race and 100+ in the men's.  The old brick paving rattles and roars as the herd goes by the huge crowd lining the route.  It was a very exciting place to draw, and probably the biggest challenge since I drew at the horse races a few years ago.  At least here, you get 30 or 40 tries at the blur of riders as they do laps in the race.

And, sitting in the middle of the crowd and the frenzy, this young man was reading a book.  I always like when people just do their thing.