Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Montreal - Biodome and botanical garden

The last drawings from Montreal.  I went to the Biodome, the velodrome from the 1976 Olympics converted to a big indoor zoo.  Most zoos are a bit hard to take for someone who likes the animals more than most of their spectators, but the huge open areas representing four environments - polar, two temperate and tropical, with native plants, rocks, even snow for the penguins - make it feel less like the animals are fenced in.  Though presumably something is stopping the lynx (which I never saw) from eating the beaver next door.

Being an adult drawing and painting in a zoo made me as much an attraction as the furry and feathery creatures, at least to the pint-size people who made up 90% of the crowd.  The kids had remarkably good attention spans, many watching me for a long time, and they invariably declared of my drawings "Ils sont tres beau".  Encouragement is always welcome, especially from the connoisseurs of animal pictures.

After the zoo, I walked for seeming miles across the hot, barren Olympic site to get to the Jardin Botanique.  I decided that the Olympic venue was built to send a Cold War message: "We've got more concrete than you do."  Apparently it would be too expensive to take it down, so it sits there with its once-white surfaces blotchy, rust-stained and cracking.  But it does make the beautiful botanical gardens across the street seem all the more lush, and mercifully, cool.  I sat in a wooden Adirondack chair thoughtfully provided in the rose garden, listening to two talented musicians and one enthusiastic little boy play a piano that was out in the middle of the garden, and drew the roses, statuary and the big white elephant in the background.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Montreal - Mont Royal

Three more from Montreal, all on Mont Royal, which backs the downtown, and helps create distinct neighbourhoods near the city centre.  The first is a view of downtown from the Chalet (=enormous lodge), drawn and painted with increasing franticness as I roasted on an exposed sunny terrace.  The squirrel is one of a series of identical sculptures sitting on the end of every roof beam in the timber-framed chalet.  I think my drawing captures the inherent dual nature of squirrels - cute and diabolical.  

The last painting is Saint Joseph's Oratorio, an impressive building built over several decades in the early 20th century, with a quite strikingly modernist interior.  I found a shady bench with the view at a nice angle, only realizing later that I was in the backyard of an old-folks' home.  I was the star attraction of the day, and about 10 old Quebecois men came up to talk to me.  My French has gotten quite bad, but my old Quebecois is hopeless, so I didn't really understand anything they said.  But I just went "Ah, ouais" a lot, and that seemed to work to keep the conversation going.  I've seen some stunning pictures of the Oratorio by Montreal sketchers, so I was a bit intimidated, but it came out pretty well.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Portland West Coast Urban Sketchers SketchCrawl

We went down to Portland for the Second Annual West Coast Urban Sketchers SketchCrawl - and everything else Portland has.  Portland is becoming our favourite American city (watch out, Santa Fe!).  We went a day early to wander the many funky streets downtown, visit the beautiful Japanese gardens - perfect on a day that got to 33C - and sample beer from one of Portland's innumerable breweries.  Current projections are that by 2027 there will be more micro-breweries in Portland than people.

Friday evening was a Drink-and-Draw at a brewpub - a regular Portland event, I understand, with 80+ people.  The main drawing event was an all-day sketchcrawl, with over 100 sketchers from all along the west coast, Vancouver to San Diego.  The organizers wisely chose the South Park blocks as the site, where 12 city blocks in a row are devoted to pedestrians, and most importantly on a scorching day, covered by 130 year-old shade trees.  I drew in the morning at the Saturday farmers' market, which takes up two of those blocks, with an amazing amount and diversity of products, and a whole small-town worth of people.  (The person in the drawing who looks like he is wearing a pink wig was, in fact, wearing a pink wig.)

In the increasingly hot afternoon, I sat under a huge shade tree and drew one of the elegant mansions found throughout the older parts of Portland.

Starting to wilt, I headed for the air-conditioned Portland Art Museum, which had given all sketchers free admission, but found that a mass yoga session had broken out outside the gallery.  I couldn't resist free life-drawing models, so did a bunch of quick sketches.

 Then I popped into the gallery, savouring the coolness, and drew the nice cold white marble of a sculpture in an exhibit of art from the Tuileries garden.

Outside again, the yogis were gone, replaced by the usual Portland crowd of urban sketchers, World Domination Congress attendees, Jewish evangelists, foot-racing superheroes and French waiters (two separate events), duelling didgeree-doo players, medieval knights and fair maidens, and, of course, a flaming-bagpipe-playing unicyclist.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Dr Sketchy's, eh.

 Dr. Sketchy's featured Dolly Dynamite this month.  Ms Dynamite had a Canadian theme going, including a much abbreviated Canadian tuxedo (jean jacket with matching jeans), and, of course, a 2-4 of cheap beer.  Beer and burlesque - that's why I went to art school!  (Full disclosure: I didn't go to art school.  I went to science school.).  I went early to get good seats for the group, and dinner, and a warm-up drawing the diversity of other attendees.  Then the model did 1, 2, 5, 10 and 15 minute poses - shown in order below.  My drawings don't get much better after 2 minutes.  I'm not sure if that's a good thing...

Monday, 7 July 2014

Montreal - rainy day

One of our days in Montreal was a steady summer rain, a nice opportunity for some dolce far niente.  I went to the Musee des Beaux-Arts, which didn't really grab me - it seemed too educational, one of those one-Rembrandt-one-Renoir-one-Rothko places, and an awful lot of ramps and corridors.  But it is in one old and one new building, connected by tunnels on opposite sides of the street, which allowed a (perspectively-challenged) sketch out one new window to the old building across the road (with an exuberant Chihuly glass sun sculpture out front).
I sheltered in a cafe for part of the afternoon.  There are far fewer coffeeshops than in Vancouver, but unlike Vancouver, you can draw elegant buildings out their windows (rather than having to draw the Starbucks that is across the street from the Starbucks you're in).

Then in the still drizzly evening, I drew part of a grand, albeit anonymous, civic building, staying dry in the entranceway of an equally grand building across the street.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Montreal - beer and circuses

We were happily surprised by the number, variety and quality of microbreweries in Montreal.  We had a sampler of 4 beers from Dieu du Ciel, 3 out of 4 of which were excellent (the framboise was extravagantly awful, which is probably better than just bland).  Beer illustration is an artistic niche that I might have to investigate further - although I would have to learn to draw at least vaguely symmetrical beer glasses. Another entertainment for us masses was Cirque du Soleil, where we saw the show Kurios.  It has a steampunk theme and electro-swing music, both favourites of ours, so the scenery and sound was a bonus on top of the always incredible acrobatics.  Fortunately it was too dark to draw during the show, so I could watch the performances and just drew some of the characters and contraptions before and at intermission.  

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Montreal Place d'Armes

Our hotel in Old Montreal was beside Place d'Armes, a large square that has been a public space since the 1690's.  It is surrounded by grand buildings, most notably Notre-Dame basilica, with its ornate Gothic Revival towers and arches.  The limestone-clad Art Deco Aldred Building from 1931 holds its own in that august company, as does the brick Victorian-era New York Life building.

 A statue in the middle of the square honours the founder of Montreal, with various characters from that time on the corners of the monument, including an anonymous Iroquois (looking stealthy, because they are cast as the villains of the piece, attacking the new settlement); Lambert Closse, defender against aforementioned stealthy Iroquois (and dog, whose name is lost to history, or at least to Wikipedia's version of it); and Jeanne Mance, also an original settler and the only nurse for the first few decades (seen putting a crying child in a headlock, which I'm sure was standard medical procedure at the time).  This is the most spectated-on drawing I've done, with a crowd of up to 20 people watching me at times, complete with photos, videos and at least one selfie - smile, you're a tourist attraction!
I drew the basilica at twilight, with a 1960's black office tower looming ominously behind.  I wasn't quite brave enough to add in the dark sky, for fear of converting the whole thing into a black scribble of ink lines.  But the church was particularly impressive spot-lit against the dark sky.