Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Hollyburn sleeping tree, sleeping cabin

Like bears, mountain hemlock trees sleep through the winter.  With 2 to 3 meters of snow already, little hemlocks are buried, and the big ones stand dozing stoically with their branches held in close by the snow.  But it's the adolescent ones that are the most entertaining.  The first snow of the year bends their flexible top over.  The next snow bends them a little further down.  Heavier and heavier snows later bend the whole thin trunk, so they look like they are napping with their head hung way down.  Sometimes they'll curl completely around, like the one outside our cabin.  When the snow melts and falls off, they pop part way back up, then fully unfurl themselves in the spring.

Some cabins also look like they are sleeping, under an enormous down comforter of snow.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Bluebird day

Clear sunny skies with fresh powder snow on the mountains - we don't get a lot of these bluebird days in Vancouver.  And we don't get any at all if we stay at work when they happen.  So I took the opportunity to carve some telemark turns on Hollyburn - flawless ones, I might add, which also means "timid".  And, of course, to work on my icecolour painting.  Connoisseurs of the genre will recognize the tell-tale features: blotchy washes, pale colours because the brushes have frozen, blobs of dark colour where ice-paint flakes ended up, and feathery lines of frost crystals.  And subject matter that usually involves snow, mountains or snowy mountains.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Life, exaggerated

Me, exaggerate?  Never in a hundred million billion years would I exaggerate a life drawing.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Portrait and party

Alain Boullard came up with a brilliant idea for a drawing session: an hour and a half of portrait drawing, followed by another hour and a half drawing a blue-grass band in full twang.  The brilliance is the yin-yanginess of it.  Portrait drawing is intense, artists packed close together staring intently at another person's face while struggling to get something respectably human-looking on the paper.  I tend to end up holding my shoulders somewhere above my ears and forgetting to breathe until I notice my drawing hand turning blue.  And then, faster than you can say yippee-ei-o, a change to the complete other end of the looseness spectrum, with The Soots, a duo playing fantastic foot-stomping blue grass.  I have a bit of a different drawing style when I'm dancing, and breathing...

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Icecolour drawings at Hollyburn

Watercolour drawings have to be done quickly in the mountains at this time of year.  Frozen fingers I can deal with, but when your paint freezes, then your brush, then your painting water - well, you're done.  You learn to be fast.  I had about 15 minutes at First Lake at Hollyburn, then less than 10 minutes on the weir at the outflow of West Lake.  First Lake had cheerful cross-country skiers and seemed a fairly benign place even though I was shaded from the low afternoon sun.  West Lake sits in a cold air pocket, and its outflow drops into a dark canyon that makes you think of Coleridge's Kubla Khan: "that deep romantic chasm which slanted down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!  A savage place!..."  So savage that I had to thaw my water cup in my slightly warmer hands to melt my brush free.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Keefer Street crawl

I went over to the Eastside Culture Crawl, but it was really too nice to crawl, so I mostly sketched: one drawing from the railway overpass on Keefer St. done patiently with waterproof pen and watercolour; the other a little further west, done more loosely with water-soluble ink.  On the street, about half the people who walked by were admiring the colours or the architecture of the houses - it was a nice change from North Vancouver, where the houses cover the spectrum from grey to beige, and people tend to talk square feet and market value.  I was painting on my bicycle-studio when a homeless man with an extravagant-in-all-dimensions beard shuffled by with his cart, and muttered as he passed "You're as crazy as I am."  Superficial appearances would suggest otherwise, but he was probably right in many ways.  I took it as a compliment.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Anonymous Art - Security

I put one picture in the North Vancouver Arts Council's Anonymous Art Show, which, happily, sold.  (Happily, too, for the Arts Council, since it's a fund-raiser for them, and I donated my half of the sale to their good cause.)  I used acrylic inks on a wood panel, based on sketches at the grain terminal in North Vancouver.  I would have done the whole thing in situ, but when I rode down there, I found the area is now surrounded by fences, and within 10 seconds, a security guard drove up in a large truck and told me, "All this land - this land is our land."  I didn't think he was quoting Woody Guthrie, and I don't think the local Squamish nation would agree, but in any case, he clarified his position: "Go away."  I must match a profile they teach in security-guard school, at least when I'm carrying my sketchbook.  When I drew there a couple years ago, in freer days, I noticed a homeless camp - consisting of a box and a blanket in the brambles by the tracks.  I hope that person, now evicted, has found a more secure home...

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Lonsdale: Carisbrooke, 16th

On a sunny Remembrance Day and Diwali, my random Lonsdale block generator sent me riding way up the hill to Carisbrooke St and Carisbrooke Park, then back down to central Lonsdale.  The park is an impressive stand of big conifers, with more open grassy knolls.  I was surprised to read that it was created in 1912 - one of the oldest things on Lonsdale (I wonder when they'll convert it into condominiums?)  I saw a 1914 photograph, when it was just a muddy clearcut with a few trees planted by some foresightful people.  Apparently it was an arboretum, so I will have to go back and check the species more carefully.
I then coasted down the hill to 16th, for a little section of the collection of small stores and restaurants that I like along the commercial part of Lonsdale.  A musician was playing fabulous guitar behind me, a couple teenage girls watched me for a while quietly and with no apparent teenaged eye-rolling, and I had a conversation with an onlooker that went: "Urban?" "Yes." "Carry on."  

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Concrete expressionism

Expanses of concrete or asphalt are a challenge - all that grey can kill a picture.  Fortunately, grey is just a subtler version of white, a mixture of all colours, so you can choose which ones to emphasize.  I picked purple and yellow for the tarmac at Vancouver airport on a late fall day, and blue and brown for a bird's-eye view of an alleyway descending into an early dusk in Edmonton.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

People, people, people, and dessert

Some small people drawings from the last few days.  (The drawings are small, not the people.  Some of the people were very large indeed.)  First, in transit to the airport - a lady with a developmental disorder, who flashed through emotions as rapidly as the rest of us, but was honest enough to display them; and people with hats, including hats on top of hats.

At the airport, a mechanic trying to fix our plane.  I'm sure he was very good at his job, but he didn't look it.  In the end, they had to find another plane.  Being a bit tired of airports, I was at a loss for anything to draw to fill the time, until a troop of Buddhist monks showed up.  The young monks were attending a venerable elder monk, and taking occasional there-is-no-selfies on their phones.  That's the thing with sketching in public - when you think there's nothing to draw, a troop of monks will always appear, metaphorically or otherwise.

Then people hanging out at the Starbucks at the Chapters in Edmonton.  Everyone there seemed just a little bit outside of the normal range of standard humanity.  I fit right in.  (I like the way the big circular feature in the roof looks like a cartoon "thought balloon" in the drawing.  But what exactly are they thinking...?)

The table next to me at dinner had two chatty church ladies, no doubt as devoted as the monks to their faith.
On the seabus home in dark rainy Vancouver.
And a postscript: My hotel in Edmonton has complimentary wine and cheese tastings, and, on Thursdays, miraculously, chocolates.  A little dessert can cure a lot of the indignities and disappointments of travel.


Saturday, 31 October 2015

Lonsdale Quay - early days, and late

Two lunch-time drawings from Lonsdale Quay - one in early October when there was still summer warmth in the sun, and one from the end of the month when summer is a memory already fading.  The multi-coloured school-kids eating lunch in the sun were all energy and life, but still, you remember what insecurities and jealousies can torment those early days.  The old man sitting alone looking over the grey ocean under the darkening clouds doesn't seem to support much ambiguity.  But still, that red hat!

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Granville Island: Bird poop and a super cute stranger

We had a morning meet-up at Granville Island, thanks to Lea, who knows the coolest things.  I was there early, so I went to get coffee at the Railspur cafe, but there was a huge line-up.  I decided to skip the coffee and do my groceries instead - a fateful decision, as it turned out.  I bought my cucumber, tomato, bun and tofu salami-substitute.  I usually like the smells in the market, but today, caffeine-less, none appealed.  Even a super cute stranger passing by didn't inspire me.  I decided to head home and make a sandwich.  When I got there, the misery of my loneliness grew, until, despondent, I headed to a nearby park and threw myself off a cliff into the ocean.  At the last moment, a remarkable delegation of geese, pigeons and crows picked me up and carried me off, leaving me one last glimpse of the lovely hair of the stranger.

Wait, no, that's not how it was meant to end.  I didn't actually throw myself off the cliff, or even go home to make a sandwich.  I decided to find true love and went searching the island for the stranger, super cute as she was.  I even went so far as to look in Woofles, the pet treat bakery.  Alas, the gods of romantic love chose to punish me for perceived past transgressions, and covered me in avian effluvia before I encountered the object of my ardour.  She disappeared.  Resigned to my misery, I decided to flee the island - running right across a busy street.  Remarkably though I went right over the cars, becoming lighter and lighter as I ran, until finally I literally flew home.

~ The End ~

Choose your adventure(s) story courtesy of Active Fiction (http://activefictionproject.com/), at locations around Granville Island during the Vancouver Writer's Festival.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Two more Lonsdale

Another two installments of draw-every-block-on-Lonsdale.  I now realize that there are quite a few boring blocks on Lonsdale.  In retrospect, I should have decided to draw every block of, say, the Champs Elysee.  But, here I am on Lonsdale.  The upper block at St. James featured a west coast house with the obligatory Rona fence panels and dark brooding conifers.  But it was exciting to draw, because the much-heralded remnants of Hurricane Oho were arriving, with gusty wind, rushing clouds and the first rain starting as I finished.  The lower block between 4th and 5th "featured" beige apartment buildings.  I used the desperate move of including a tree branch in the foreground to try to make it more interesting.  The most exciting part of that sketch was when I sat down under the oak tree - in what turned out to be a very prickly shrub.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Lonsdale - Upper Levels Highway

With a couple hours free on a lovely early fall afternoon, I finally returned to my project to draw all the blocks on Lonsdale.  My random number generator sent me to the block where Lonsdale passes over the Upper Levels Highway, so I was able to capture one of the great cultural treasures of North Vancouver - the hours-long traffic jam that extends across the whole city every day as people try to get to the Second Narrows Bridge.  It was a fairly intense drawing experience on the bridge, with traffic roaring up Lonsdale behind me, and traffic going nowhere beneath me.  I did remember one essential drawing tool - noise-cancelling headphones.  That made it quite bearable, and I was thankful that I didn't have to draw that block on a rainy evening in November.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Spare moments

Motivated by starting a new mini-sketchbook, I found some good sketching moments on this week's work trip to Edmonton.  It seems there's a lot more time for drawing than you would think, if you don't do silly things like work all the time...

Fun challenge - try to find Satan in the drawings below.  Hint: He's playing a stringed instrument.  He actually seemed to be a cheerful fellow, but pens slip sometimes.  Or maybe the Guinness let me see through to his true nature?

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Flamenco opening tonight

A group show of flamenco-themed art "Arte y Pasion" is opening tonight at Basic Inquiry - 1011 Main Street, Vancouver (across the street and just north of the Via and Greyhound station).  Everyone is invited to the opening, 7-10pm.  It should be exciting - there are 80 works from 27 artists plus unframed sketches, and there will be flamenco guitar music and dancing courtesy of Flamenco Roasario.  I have 4 pictures in the show and a handful of sketches.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

An eve with Adam

Adam was our model at Simply Drawing on Thursday evening.  (As an unfigleafed model, he's probably a bit tired of the Garden of Eden allusions, but I couldn't resist).  Having done a fair amount of life drawing, there's some trepidation walking into a session, knowing that it's going to be three hours of struggle.  So it's a relief to see a model with features that make the drawing easier - wrinkles, ample curves, well-defined muscles, quirky faces, or ... dreadlocks!  Lots of big dreadlocks!  And a dreadbeard!  (If that's a thing.)  Adam was a joy to draw, especially when I remembered wise words that Shari Blaukopf said in a workshop "You can make your lines and washes accurate or not - that's up to you.  But you have to make them interesting."  Drawing or painting every dreadstrand was out of the question, so I worked on interesting, or at least fun.

As an aside, I've been busy with work recently, mostly pushing artistic endeavours aside.  But tonight I saw a picture on the internet painted in 1943, an urban-sketch of Marakesh.  It was by an amateur artist, name of Winston Churchill.  I understand that he too had a pressing day-job at the time.  But he didn't let it get completely in the way of what was important...


Saturday, 5 September 2015

Dr Tiki

Dr Sketchy returned to a cafe, after the no-fun-loving City of Vancouver shut down the show at the Wallflower Cafe - some licence technicality about not allowing women on stage where good food is served and no gang members are present.  A venue up the street - which should probably remain nameless, because you never know when a Vancouver municipal employee might read my blog - hosted the event, with Lydia deCarlo as Cheeky Tiki.  She had the '60's housewife "exotica" look down pat, with the yellow dress, the hair, and, of course, the leopard-print underwear.  And the cool music to go with it all.  I forgot how much I missed Dr Sketchy nights.  I'll be following it around to its future clandestine locations - until the City of Vancouver shuts it down again, for illegal use of a giant clam shell or simply for being too much fun.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Ontario trip

I'm just back from a trip to Ontario and upstate New York.  It was 7 places in 8 days, so more driving than drawing, but I did manage a picture in all but one day.  The first was on the flight there.  Over Minnesota, the pilot came on the intercom saying "There's a big line of thunderstorms, but we see a bit of a gap, so we're going for it."  Fun flying at 35,000 feet with clouds surging above you on both sides, and even more fun drawing them as we bumped and rattled our way through.

The next day we went to our family cottage in Southampton, an old fishing town on Lake Huron.  The town docks were built when the water levels were a lot higher, so the tied-up fishing boats now look like a bit like submarines, with their hulls below the dock.

A storm rolled in the next day, a proper Three-Day Blow, with squalls, big winds and big waves.  The clouds arrived and the rain just started as I finished the increasingly-frenzied half-hour sketch.
I lost a drawing day to the exhaustion of driving back into Toronto's impossible traffic, but then went on to Kingston, where my sister has a little cabin on a lovely piece of lakeside land.
Then we continued around Lake Ontario to Ithaca in upstate New York, home of Cornell and birthplace of my partner.  We stayed at an elegant bed-and-breakfast in a Victorian era mansion (with, spectacularly, a desert buffet in the evening).

From there, on to a wedding in St. Catharines Ontario, with a quick visit to Niagara Falls.  I only had a few minutes, so I drew the falls themselves, but the crowds and a century's worth of tourist attractions would also have been great subjects.
And finally, the old standby, an airport view, this time through the plane window as we awaited diagnosis of a mysterious fluid leaking from the wing.