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.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Cenotaph and beech tree

The cenotaph in Victoria Park, and a nearby beech tree.  Romantic though it may be to carve initials in a heart on a tree (unless, of course, you're the tree), it does make you wonder where the besotted are now, years later when their names are illegible scars on the bark - especially when there is a big stone monument right beside it reading "The Glorious Dead"...  

Monday, 8 October 2012

Arbutus at Caulfeild point

The arbutus is Canada's only native evergreen broadleaf tree (although global warming may change that some day).  This one in West Vancouver doesn't look like it will be evergreen for very much longer.  In the background is Ambleside, Stanley Park and downtown Vancouver, with Mt. Baker appearing in the distance over the city.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Chioggia for Thanksgiving

Chioggia is a lovely island off of Venice, where, unfortunately, I am not.  However, the Marina di Chioggia is also a heirloom Italian squash, which we grew in the front yard, inspired by Barbara Kingsolver's rhapsodizing about it in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  It is also apparently called the "sea pumpkin", which seems odd, but appropriate for Venice.  The mature Chioggia is the big lumpy warty one in the back, dwarfing our normal pumpkin, with an adolescent Chioggia to the left.  

Friday, 5 October 2012

Queen Mary School and garden

Queen Mary school is the other heritage school in our neighbourhood, designed by the same architect as our local Ridgeway school <>  It has a beautiful community garden around it.  The soil is so rich that the sunflowers in some people's plots are a threat to low-flying aircraft.  The school is closed for 2 years for its seismic upgrade, which freed up the schoolkids' garden plots for a demonstration grain garden, with 3 varieties of wheat and barley, oats, corn, flax and quinoa all growing profusely.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Life drawing

Two traditional charcoal and black pastel life drawings from recent months: one models firmly attached to the ground; the other, remarkably, floating 6 inches above it for 20 minutes.  (Not really, but I was tempted to add a little cartoon shadow below her to make it look that way.)  

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Maplewood Flats

Artist Ken Lum made these scale models of squatters' shacks that were in the intertidal areas of North Vancouver and Burnaby from the railway-building days through the early 1970's.  These ones were owned by Malcolm Lowry, Tom Burrows and Paul Spung, a noted author, artist and environmentalist, respectively.  The models spent some time on display in downtown Vancouver, but then they were donated to the District of North Vancouver, who installed them near their original location at Maplewood Flats.  The high tide comes well up the pilings, just like in the originals.  While I was drawing them, I met a lady who remembered them from her walk across the railway bridge to school (I don't think kids that any more...)  She says they look right, except the real thing looked a lot more lived-in, with collected driftwood and junk, crooked chimneys, hanging laundry and haphazard walkways above the mud.

And an older drawing of the mudflats themselves.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Strathcona Fire Hall No 1 Edmonton

A quick drawing on a quick trip to Edmonton - and words of wisdom from someone in an Alberta-sized pick-up truck.  The brown "thing" beside the building is a larger-than-life bronze statue of a fireman heroically saving a small child from a presumably-burning building.  They should have gas-jets shooting flames all around them.