Monday, 31 December 2012

Don River pumphouse, Toronto

Something old and something new for New Year's Eve - an old stone pumphouse (I think?) on the Don River in Toronto, with a new coat of paint.  My guess is that the building will outlast the graffiti, which is already fading away.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

St John's church on Christmas Eve

I went to church on Christmas Eve - that's "to", not "in".  I sat outside St. John's York Mills in Toronto where I was visiting my family, and sketched the church.  It was a bit of a challenge, drawing after dark at mid-winter.  The church itself was well-lit by floodlights, but I could only really see the page I was working on by shining my Blackberry screen on it.  It was also below freezing and exposed to the north wind, so everything from my wrist down was frozen, including brush and paint.  Shadows were tricky too, with several spotlights pointing upwards.  But it is a lovely old (1845) building, and a fine way to spend an hour on a winter evening.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

9570 YS

My old truck Sally finally gave up the internally-combusted ghost.  She went out with a bang, not a whimper, involving broken valve stems and rocker arms.  In addition to long-lasting transport, she was also a hotspot of biological diversity (in part because the fan leaked water into the cab from day 1).  Even the license plate had a variety of fungi, algae, a moss and at least 3 species of lichen.  Unfortunately, you're not allowed to keep your licence plates here when you take a vehicle off the road, even when they have a thriving ecological community.  So all I have left is the drawing...

Monday, 17 December 2012

Figures on mylar

Three recent figure drawings on mylar - charcoal and black pastel from 20- or 30-minute poses on the front, acrylic paint added later on the back.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

St. Eval

This is the St. Eval, a British tugboat now owned by Dennis Washington, who owns, essentially, everything. (At least, everything visible looking east from Lonsdale Quay).  The St. Eval started life in the 1920's working with the last of the cargo sailing ships, spent the war rescuing torpedoed ships in the English Channel, and served as a tender ship for an America's Cup yachter, before being bought by the owner of SeaSpan, moved here and refurbished.  It's an elegant boat, brightening up a cloudy dull day at the Quay.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

View west from North Vancouver library

The third-floor balcony of the North Vancouver library seems to be reserved for social pariahs - smokers, cell phone users, and people who draw in public.  But it has a nice view of Stanley Park, the Lion's Gate bridge, an industrial area, and an awful brown and white 3-storey apartment building (the drawing doesn't do it justice).  Ro and I braved the cold wind on a damp December day, watching the light fade by 4pm.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Howe Sound view and cypress snag

The Cypress ski area reported that they had 151cm of snow, which means there was actually 30cm.  Their exaggeration factor is 5 in the early season, but it declines to about 2 later in the winter.  The snow was frozen solid after rain last week, so I walked to the Bowen Island lookout and to the Howe Sound Crest trail carrying my snowshoes.  It was warm in the sun at the lookout, until the bank of fog seen in the distance here swooshed in.  It was paint-freezing cold in the forest when I drew the huge cedar snag, so I left it uncoloured.  A sapsucker was working the hemlock tree I was sitting under.  He apparently thought I too was frozen solid, so he came within 6 feet of my head.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Pen and watercolour life drawings

Some drawings from last night's Wednesday evening life drawing session.  I switch to pen and ink with watercolour when charcoal is being uncooperative.  I use a dip pen and two brushes, one for the warm tones and one for the cold.  The critical thing I've learned for the two-minute poses (top image) is to make sure that whichever one I'm holding in my mouth has its working end outward.  Otherwise, anything goes, and if it's a mess, at least it's a colourful mess.  The last one I was trying to make a bit more abstact.  The animator on one side was talking about the line-of-action of the curving pose, so I was trying to exaggerate that, while the conversation on the other side (it's not the quietest drawing group) was about a pieta scene, so maybe that contributed to the somewhat gruesome look. 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Fraser River from Iona

I rode out to Iona Island to look for a cave swallow, a very rare bird from Texas or Mexico.  I didn't see it - I'm hoping it headed south, and quickly - but it was a great ride, and I took the opportunity to sketch the log booms in the Fraser River.  This is also a view of Vancouver.  I'm always amazed how often the view of the city becomes water, trees and mountains, with maybe 4 houses peaking out if you look carefully.  Not a bad place to visit if you're an avian tourist from Texas.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Hollyburn Mtn

I hiked up Hollyburn Mountain today.  The snow that fell a couple weeks ago had melted away last week, so it was an easy walk, sunshine and bare ground, which are both exceptional in mid-November.  But it was -5C and breezy at the top.  That meant, first off, that the whiskey jacks felt they were entitled to all the crackers I'd brought for lunch.  It also meant that my paint froze right away, followed by my brush, followed by myself.  The roughness of the sky is because it is very hard to do a smooth wash when you're pushing little flakes of tinted ice around on the page. But the Canadian wine industry has made a lucrative market of ice wine - maybe Canadian painters can cash in on "icecolour paintings". 

Monday, 5 November 2012

Gravel lane, colourful houses

Two nearby members of the Society for the Promotion of Purple Houses, one honorary and one most definite.  The laneway is one of the last gravel lanes, which gives a cheerful small-town feel.  People say the lanes should all be paved so that you don't have to wash your car as often, but the last time I washed my truck was in 1997, so that's not an issue for me.  (It always rains before I get around to it.)  The two Douglas-firs in front of the purple house were majestic trees when our house was built in 1926; the sequoia behind the blue house is working hard to catch up.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Airport views

Two contrasting views from airport windows on a work trip.  The Vancouver scene full of colour on a rare sunny late fall day, as big clouds billowed over the mountains and city; Edmonton a much more fashionable wabi-sabi grey and brown with just a hint of red from the sun setting early on a cold snowy afternoon. The snow on the tarmac made interesting patterns where it was pushed around by taxiing jets.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Garden flowers through the year

I had a project this year to draw all the flowers in our yard and gardens.  It started innocuously enough, when I noticed the last flower of the winter-flowering witch-hazel at the start of March, and thought "If I want to draw all the flowers in the garden, I better draw that one before it disappears."  After that, I somehow felt obliged to draw the other 273 flowers that appeared through October.  It was a great exercise in paying attention throughout the summer - including noticing details of all the showy flowers, but also all the little weeds, and changes like a period when most flowers were purple, then a switch to the reds and cadmium yellows.  It also forced me to draw regularly, even if it was only a 5-minute sketch of a little flower that was in danger of disappearing overnight, even if it was a bit overwhelming sometimes, like when I was away for 6 days in May and came back to find 35 new flowers on the "To Draw List".  [Click thumbnails below to enlarge]

Flowers1   Flowers2 Flowers3 Flowers4
Flowers5 Flowers6 Flowers7 Flowers8
Flowers9 Flowers10 Flowers11 Flowers12
Flowers13 Flowers14 Flowers15 Flowers16
Flowers17 Flowers18 Flowers19 Flowers20
Flowers21 Flowers22 Flowers23 Flowers24
Flowers25 Flowers26 Flowers27

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Back lane ecosystem

This ramshackle back of a building in a lane in lower Lonsdale had a remarkable amount of "life" - literally.  There were gulls, crows, roosting pigeons and nesting house sparrows (in October).  The "nutrient contribution" from the pigeons supports big swaths of mosses and lichens, 2 species of ferns and grass.  As I was drawing, 40 pigeons suddenly took off.  I looked up and saw an eagle far overhead, but the pigeons seemed excessively nervous for that - then a peregrine falcon came down the lane in a dive, unsuccessful but at a fantastic speed.  I'm expecting the wall to have mountain goats being hunted by cougars in a couple years.  (Actually, I'm expecting the building to be gone in a couple years, because condos in the area sell for $800 per square foot.)

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Just like da Vinci

The ink, that is.  The drawing - not so much...

I made walnut ink, as used by Leonardo and cohorts.  The recipe is quite easy.  You gather 30 or so walnuts under a tree in the fall, so they are still in their green or blackening skin (pericarp).  (Beware of jealous squirrels at this step).  Put them (the walnuts, not the squirrels) in a non-metal pot with water and a bunch of rusty nails, and boil. At this point, experienced cooks will be saying "Hey, that's just the recipe for traditional Walnut and Rusty Nail Soup."  True, but the difference is that you boil the ink for 10 hours.  Then you let it sit overnight, sieve out the solids and boil the liquid down until it looks like ink.  It's very pleasant to use, with good gradations where you overlap several layers.  It also lifts well, like watercolour - I've always thought that da Vinci was amazing to do his detailed drawings in ink, where you can't correct mistakes, but actually it's quite easy to almost completely remove a bad line.  Gum arabic might thicken the ink and make the tone more intense, but I haven't tried that yet.  

Now I just have to figure out how to draw like him.  Or maybe I'll stick to designing impractical flying machines.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

ICBC building

In theory, I should like the North Vancouver ICBC building - it adds diversity to the normal slabs of concrete and glass.  But it's a tough building to love.  For one thing, it looks like it is built out of some kind of enormous child's construction set, maybe a failed competitor to tinker-toys.  The building itself is hidden by the thick white (or formerly white) tubes that seem like obese scaffolding or maybe immense udon noodles.  There are so many white tubes at various angles in some places that you wonder if the architects actually calculated the forces, or just thought "If we put in enough braces, it's bound to remain standing."  On the other hand, it is cheerful to paint a sky-blue building on a day when the sky is concrete-grey.

Seymour stump

The old-growth forests in North Vancouver were almost all logged in the 1920's and 1930's.  The cedar went to the fashionable cedar shake siding of houses being built for the California citrus boom, while the Douglas-fir became wharves and warehouses on the booming waterfront.  Big stumps are all that is left.  The second-growth is up to 50m tall, but it is dwarfed by your imagination of what the original forest must have been like.  The stumps do provide a substrate for hemlock seedlings, red huckleberry bushes and salal, getting them above the rabble of ferns on the forest floor.  

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Decaying canoe

This canoe abandoned at Maplewood Flats was once brightly coloured, but it's now fading into the leaf litter and brambles.  I'm sure it is serving as a good home for many creeping, crawling and scurrying creatures.