Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Seymour triathalon

It's not really skipping off work if your computer is running while you're away, so that's what I did.  It was a sunny morning at Mount Seymour, but a bit eerie with smoke from a forest fire somewhere drifting in.  That smell alarms something deep in the animal brain.  But it's hard to beat getting from your house to the top of a mountain in less than two hours, and not seeing another person the whole way up.

I drew on all three peaks.  I figure that hiking up a mountain then drawing on top is a bit like the biathalon - so hiking to three peaks and drawing must be at least a triathalon, or maybe even a hexathalon(?)  The drawings are small, but then so are the peaks.  In fact, they are known locally as "pumps" - an old Scottish word meaning "We're not sure if they're really peaks, or just bumps, so we'll go halfers and call them 'pumps'."  Each is unique.  The third pump, where I started, is the highest and rocky, with views of the real peaks (which would never put up with being called 'pumps') to the north.  The second pump has battered trees and a little pond, with views over the increasingly hazy and smoky ranges to the east.  The first pump looks south over the hazy city, and is just happy not to be called a 'bump'.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Viterra terminal

I did a couple of quick-and-dirty 10-15 minute dip-pen-and-watercolour drawings of the Viterra grain terminal today.  An astute observer will be able to tell that these were drawn from photos.  How?  There are clouds in the background.  We don't have those in Vancouver any more.  I feel a bit guilty not drawing from reality, but I was stuck in front of my computers minding an obstreperous and ill-behaved analysis for work - it was a lot more pleasant drawing from the photos than watching endless numbers scroll across the screen.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Third Beach

The meet-up group went to the beach.  We were pretty much lost in the crowd on a sunny summer Sunday, even on one of Vancouver's more remote beaches.  The big trees provide nice shade, so I can't blame sunstroke for the curiously exaggerated perspective of the people on the seawall (or maybe the people on the far right were just 12 inches tall - Vancouver is a diverse city).
 I also stopped on the bridge on the way over and did a miniature sketch of the lighthouse and sea wall at Prospect Point.  Drawing while looking over the railing of a tall bridge wouldn't be half so exciting if the whole structure didn't shake and rattle every time something larger than a Moped went by.

Thursday, 25 July 2013


They bring new meaning to "a quick sketch" - 2 seconds is pretty much the maximum pose for a hummingbird.  You have to try to blink and photograph the image in your mind.  But fortunately if you're near a feeder, the birds will be back for another meal every minute or two.  Besides freneticness, I think the high-sugar diet promotes aggression - I watched the one adult male try to chase everyone else away, the adult females chase the juveniles, the bigger juveniles chase the litter ones, and the littlest one chase bees.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Off to the races

The Urban Sketching group went to the races at Hastings Park, just across the bridge from home, but somewhere I'd never been.  There's a beautiful view, and a good crowd, complete with moderately ridiculous hats, fascinators and very pasty-skinned people glued to betting terminals.  I learned that if I want to bet on horses, I better not give up the day job.  In the picture, my horse is off screen to the left, stopping for a drink of water.

 The horse races were primarily an interlude between the main events - the weiner-dog races (sponsored by Schneiders).  We sat in the wiener-dog registration section, so had lots of interaction with the noble beasts.  A detailed analysis of one of the races can be found here.  My favourite was a dog that was making good progress toward the finish, until he noticed a crow in the infield and took off after it, owners in hot pursuit.  If they'd allowed betting on the dog races, I would have bet on him.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Charley's truck

This truck at Seton Portage has been well-used.  The owner, Charley, used to drive up to the mines with supplies, and down from the mines with the gold and the bodies.  There's no easy driving around there - you're either going up a mountain, down a mountain, or, if you're going horizontal, you're on the side of a cliff.  

Monday, 15 July 2013

Old church at Slosh

This is an old mission church at Slosh, a native reserve beside Seton Portage.  It's on its last legs.  That's probably a mixed blessing for the people there, especially the elders, who took up the religion but can't have very kind feelings for the Church as an organization.  When I drew this it was 34 in the shade, and there wasn't any shade.  I'm used to paint freezing on my brush, not drying instantly!

The name "Slosh", incidentally, is a non-native attempt to capture the distinctive sibilant sounds that are in so many first nations' place names.  The next town over is similarly called Shalath.  You make the sounds with your lips pulled way back into one of those smile-for-the-camera grimaces.  A group of natives tried to teach me how to do this properly once.  It was very amusing for them.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Seton Portage II

 We spent at week at the Derban's at Seton Portage.  There's an old orchard on a bench above Seton Lake, irrigated by water diverted from a mountain stream by a series of ditches and pipes, in operation for 100 years.  The apples are so good that Canada used to send a box of them to Buckingham Palace every year - quite a transportation feat, which I hope the recipient appreciated.  The old orchard burned in 2009 when a forest fire burned the entire mountainside, but some trees survived and are growing vigourously again.

An essential piece of equipment for travelling in this area in the summer is an ice-cream maker.  There are three distinct raspberry-like berries in the area - the normal raspberry-coloured raspberry-flavoured ones, a sloe-black one with a richer flavour that grows throughout the southern Interior called a black-cap, and a peachy-coloured sweet mild one that only seems to grow in this area, called a white-cap.  We had sorbet of all of these, and also gelato of saskatoon berries, which grow on full-sized trees here.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Uncanny resemblance

My attempts to draw portraits of life-drawing models always seem to produce uncanny likenesses, in the sense of the Uncanny Valley.  To quote Wikipedia: "The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of human aesthetics which holds that when human features look and move almost, but not perfectly, like natural human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers."  These are drawn with charcoal pastels on mylar, which lets me erase and move lines.  Changing a feature by a millimeter (at nearly life-size) can completely change the face - but never quite seems to make it look right.  The top one is so scary that I had to banish it to the garage.  When it was in the house, we'd catch a glimpse of it at night and terrify ourselves.  Oh well, I guess I have lots of time to practice still before I get to the 10,000 hours that make an expert.  In the meantime, the pictures are useful for scaring away burglars.