Sunday, 30 September 2012

North Vancouver grain elevators

Much of the North Vancouver waterfront is dominated by coal and grain shipping.  It's a lively place to draw, with traffic, big flocks of grain-fed pigeons and geese, and the sudden bang-bang-bang-bang of shunting trains a few feet away testing nerves.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Allied shipyards

The ship-painting facility near the Second Narrows Bridge is a colourful place on a dull grey day.  Perhaps too colourful sometimes - they have a sign at the parking spot warning that they use a lot of spray paint and it's not their fault if your vehicle is downwind.  Mind you, that might be an improvement for my old truck.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Hodson Block

The Hodson Block is a 1912 building a couple blocks from home, now with a neighbourhood cafe and wine-making shop.  When I drew it, the walls were actually exactly the same colour as the sky, but the building is being restored and the bright blue is making way for a more traditional green and red.  I particularly like the shingles, which include diamonds on the turrets, and some remarkably haphazard rows - they didn't necessarily do everything a lot more carefully in the old days... 

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Mount Burwell

Mount Burwell is one of the more challenging hikes on the North Shore - a flat 7km followed by a continuous climb for another 7km, then turn around and do the whole thing in reverse. It's the highest peak that I can get to in a day hike (well, without driving any distance), but of course there is always a higher peak just beyond, in this case the well-named Cathedral Mountain.  Drawing on a distant mountain-top is a bit like the biathalon, where you have to be calm and focused for half-an-hour after charging uphill at full speed for 5 hours.  The other two groups that were in the area passed me heading down when I was drawing the well-weathered hemlock on the lower Coliseum Mountain, making me very aware that it was a long way back, that the days are getting shorter quickly - and that there are lots of branches and clumps of foliage to draw even in a quick sketch!

In the gallery this week...

Our house, however humble, at least has a gallery.  Admittedly, most people would call it "the basement stairwell", but when you don't have a lot of space you have to make the most of it...

A sequence of 1-minute poses, well-suited to the the repetitive lines from the flat side of a black pastel stick.

A 30-minute pose, drawn with charcoal and black pastel on mylar, with the colour and extra black painted on the underside.  The composition gives the impression of a moon-lit mountain as you stumble down those basement stairs.

Sunday, 23 September 2012


One lighthouse from the west coast - the Point Atkinson lighthouse in West Vancouver - and two from the "middle coast" - the Saugeen range light and the Chantry Island lighthouse at Southampton, Ontario on Lake Huron.  The Point Atkinson lighthouse is the baby of the group, at a mere 100 years old.  The Saugeen range light, along with its twin upriver, are 109 years old.  Pre-GPS, approaching sailors would line up their lights to enter the small harbour on the river safely.  The Chantry Island lighthouse is the granddaddy at 153 years, older than the city of Vancouver.  Colour schemes seem pretty limited for Canadian lighthouses - the Society for the Promotion of Purple Lighthouses would be a forlorn group (see
The marsh in the second drawing is new since I was kid, forming as the water levels in the Great Lakes drop.  It is neat to see the change, but it is still a much simpler ecosystem than the old shoreline marshes that are being left high-and-dry as the water recedes.

Brother's Ck, Lost Lk, blue gentians

Some sketches from a mid-day hike up Brother's Creek to Lost Lake and Blue Gentian Lake in West Vancouver.

Grand trees on Grand Blvd

Grand Boulevard in North Vancouver was laid out in 1906.  At over 100m wide, it was meant to be the widest boulevard in the world - apparently a point of pride for some city planners.  More practically, 1906 was also the year of the San Francisco earthquake and fire, so the wide boulevard would (will?) also serve as a firebreak.  There was a rule stating that houses had to cost at least $4,000 to build, to keep out the riff-raff.  That's about what an upscale birdhouse costs in the area nowadays.
Grand Boulevard is also home to some grand trees.  The huge beech was almost certainly planted during the initial development.  I'm not sure about the katsura, but it is an impressive tree - the first to change colours in the fall and the first to lose its leaves.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Back lane

For a little while at this time of year, the setting sun aligns with the back lanes and fills them with a warm light.

Ridgeway School

Our local elementary school is one of the oldest buildings in North Vancouver, built in 1911.  It recently underwent a 2-year "seismic upgrade", which removed and replaced almost everything except the front facade and the clock tower.  (This included 2 weeks unaccountably spent lifting large boulders with the construction crane and then dropping them - making authentically local gravel?).  It was easy to say "They could have torn the whole thing down and rebuilt it in half the time."  But when I drew it, I realized how many layers upon layers of details there are in the brickwork and masonry - probably no one has the skills, let alone the budget, to do that anymore.  We probably wouldn't have separate entrances labelled "Boys" and "Girls" anymore either.  The two sequoias out front must also be around 100 years old, and are pretty amazing in their own right.

Purple house

Hello, all.  I set up this blog to show some of my nature drawings, urban sketches, life drawing, stained glass and pictures of my pet goat (as soon as I get one).

Here's where I live.  We are official members of the Society for the Promotion of Purple Houses.  ("Purple" is used in the broad sense here, stretching from slightly reddish blue to slightly bluish red, and including yellow, and any other interesting colours that aren't grey or brown.)