Monday, 22 May 2017

Long weekend of drawing

I fit a lot of drawing into the first long weekend of the summer.  I started with a ride up the Seymour River, an annual trip to see some birds for my yearly "NMT" (non-motorized transport) bird list.  When I was there last year - the first person in the morning up the bikes-only road - I was coming down a long hill and slowed for a speed gate (put in to avoid head-on collisions among cyclists).  Just ahead, I saw a big black bear feeding on the side of the road.  This year, I was passing through the gate thinking how grateful I was that it had prevented me from zooming down the hill right into the bear, when I looked up and saw (the same?) very large bear about 40m away.  He stared at me for a few seconds until I gave him a loud "Good morning, bear!", then he turned and ran down the road into the forest.  There's a lot of power rippling through those creatures when they run!  I drew the surrounding valleyside from a bear-free picnic area, serenaded by a MacGillivray's warblers, one of the birds I was looking for.

Back home, the garden is blooming on a compressed schedule after a cold wet spring, juxtaposing flowers that normally bloom at different times.  I carefully composed the white poppies in this drawing, then, annoyingly, forgot and painted one azalea-purple.  There's no going back with watercolour...

The next morning I went down to Maplewood Flats, where a passing boater had discovered why they are called "Flats".  The tide was still going down, and it looked hit-or-miss as to whether the boat was going to be lying sideways on the mud-bar when the tide came back in.

Then I rode over to West Vancouver and an UrbanSketchers' meetup at the Ambleside Artisan Farmers' Market.  It's a happy mix of busy market - more artisan than farmer at this time of year - the beach with many weekend loungers-about, and a few food trucks, including new-for-me Burmese food - tasty!

And finally today, the buy-two-get-one-free day of the weekend, I skied up Hollyburn Peak, where there was still a good 4m of snow, even though the temperature was getting up towards 20C.  I've drawn quickly in the past because I was cold, or hot, or about to get soaked or eaten by bugs, but today's motivating force was a UV index that must have been off scale up a mountain with clear skies in late May and a bright white snowpack.  I also made a stop at First Lake by Hollyburn Lodge, where the inky-black water is starting to melt pathways through the still-deep snow.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Bright life

Apparently I've been into the bright colours at life drawing recently.  And so, fortunately, was one of the models, the props on the stage, and the world at large.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Maplewood Flats

I spend a lot of time at Maplewood Flats this time of year, watching the passing waves of migrating birds.  It's funny how different habitats have different psychological feelings.  The Swamp is flooded in spring, the willows and alders twisted and covered in moss.  It seems forbidding; the word "dismal" comes to mind when you look at it; there's something primeval, or at least medieval, about it.  The West Pond, on the other hand, is a happy little habitat.  Turtles bask, dragonflies flit, ducks do ducky things.  It always seems to be cloudy, rain threatening, when I walk by the swamp.  Two minutes away, the pond glints in warm sunlight.  These feelings make no sense, except that we are also creatures of habitat - something bad must have happened to some distant ancestor in a swamp somewhere.
On a different theme - "Draw your food" - here is a Maplewood delicacy, the fertile fronds of the giant horsetail.  Essentially nothing has eaten horsetails for the last 300 million years, and for good reason - they are full of silica, so it would be like eating a sheet of sandpaper.  An exception is the young spore-producing stalks of the giant horsetail.  When the dark brown bracts are removed, the stem is crunchy, juicy and vaguely celery-like.  Which is actually not very exciting, and you probably wouldn't want to eat too much of something tough enough to survive 200 times longer than our species, but it is worth a nibble at least to celebrate the spring season.


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Life styles

Life drawing is a good place to practice new drawing styles - lots of quick drawings, familiar subject matter, and it doesn't feel like you have to produce an epic masterpiece every time.  Good opportunities for mistakes, and, eventually, new ways of expressing yourself.

This is my standard two-minute gesture in charcoal pastel.  They're all about getting hands and eyes working together quickly.
A couple of my more traditional 15-minute poses - not quite "classical", but straightforward depiction is the general goal.

Two more challenging poses, with a bit more emphasis on a visually interesting composition.

Then moving into colour with short poses, thinking about the gesture, form and warm/cool shading.
Moving right along, a somewhat longer pose, done in water-soluble ink and watercolour, for a bit more "painterly" effect.
Then some experiments with soluble Kuretake markers, some water and a lot of chaos - really an excuse to play with bright shiny colours.

And finally, working towards more expressive options, some mixed media on Yupo paper (aka as "messes").  These are the only ones here done from images rather than live models.  There are pens, charcoal, pastels, inks and watercolour involved here, and sandpaper too - a bit much kit for a live-model studio!

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Two waterfronts

Saltmarshes are unique ecosystems.  Flooded by the highest winter tides, the plants have to be adapted to salt, but also to freshwater and dry spells.  Sadly, only about 1% of them are left in Vancouver, the rest now industrial sites or landfill.  The west saltmarsh at Maplewood conservation area was a vibrant green as the plants started growing again on a sunny spring morning.
This is a more typical sight on the North Vancouver waterfront, though an extreme version - the 80m tall shipbuilding crane built for a big federal military contract to Seaspan, Dennis Washington's company that owns essentially everything along the North Vancouver waterfront (hence the red-and-white "W" logo seen everywhere).  It towered over the remains of the MacKay Creek estuary on a much colder greyer afternoon. 

Sunday, 2 April 2017

All over cherry blossoms

We had an urban-sketchers ride-and-draw today (healthier than a drink-and-draw, and certainly healthier than a drink-and-ride) - thanks Lea and Ekaterina!  The topic was cherry blossoms, and there are a lot of them in the West End of Vancouver, looking splendid on a sunny, breezy spring day.  We drew for 15 minutes, rode a few blocks and repeated, five times.  I like the short drawing time, it makes me focus on the key thing.  Which, of course, was cherry blossoms today.

One of the sketcher's profiles said that she was inspired by Paul Madonna's All Over Coffee, which is also one of my favourites.  He does beautiful ink pen-and-wash drawings of San Francisco, accompanied by snippets of conversations that may or may not have anything to do with the drawing.  It made me record some of to the passers-by today - of which there are many in this lively part of Vancouver, about half of them out viewing and photographing the cherries.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Lonsdale Quay

A familiar place for me - sometimes a bit too familiar to inspire sketching - but Lonsdale Quay is a great place for drawing on a blustery spring day of showers and sunny periods.  I hosted a meetup there on Saturday, and it was good to see old sketching friends, to be re-invigorated by their enthusiasm, and to appreciate the mix of locations outside, inside, and in sheltered places in-between.

The mosaic fountain is looking a little tired, drained during the below-zero months.  There were 7 people in the view, and all seven were wearing black baseball caps.
The guy who runs the fish shop loves fish - he was talking fish to various customers the whole time I was drawing.  He also very welcomingly brought out a stool for another sketcher to sit on and draw the red snappers.
The big yellow ship-building cranes - love 'em or hate 'em if you're a sketcher.  I always struggle trying to do a bunch of fine lines in yellow, so I kept them as small background elements.  I prefer the pilings with their witches' caps, and the big blue building where they ... do something nautical.
A Quay drawing from a scouting trip a few days before the meetup. I like those hidden spaces under wharves.  I suspect there are a lot of creepy-crawlies right under all the tourists' feet.
And one more on the wharf'ish theme - the loading dock at the Viterra grain terminal at the Vancouver end of the Second Narrows Bridge.  It's a favourite view, but no shelter for sketchers here.  I was out on a dock exposed to the cold wind on the ocean.  My fingers holding the sketchbook froze in place - I had to peel them off when I was done, and I could barely hold the handlebars to ride home.  I'm sure it made me stronger...