Sunday, 30 April 2017

Maplewood Flats

I spend a lot of time at Maplewood Flats this time of year, watching the passing waves of migrating birds.  It's funny how different habitats have different psychological feelings.  The Swamp is flooded in spring, the willows and alders twisted and covered in moss.  It seems forbidding; the word "dismal" comes to mind when you look at it; there's something primeval, or at least medieval, about it.  The West Pond, on the other hand, is a happy little habitat.  Turtles bask, dragonflies flit, ducks do ducky things.  It always seems to be cloudy, rain threatening, when I walk by the swamp.  Two minutes away, the pond glints in warm sunlight.  These feelings make no sense, except that we are also creatures of habitat - something bad must have happened to some distant ancestor in a swamp somewhere.
On a different theme - "Draw your food" - here is a Maplewood delicacy, the fertile fronds of the giant horsetail.  Essentially nothing has eaten horsetails for the last 300 million years, and for good reason - they are full of silica, so it would be like eating a sheet of sandpaper.  An exception is the young spore-producing stalks of the giant horsetail.  When the dark brown bracts are removed, the stem is crunchy, juicy and vaguely celery-like.  Which is actually not very exciting, and you probably wouldn't want to eat too much of something tough enough to survive 200 times longer than our species, but it is worth a nibble at least to celebrate the spring season.


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Life styles

Life drawing is a good place to practice new drawing styles - lots of quick drawings, familiar subject matter, and it doesn't feel like you have to produce an epic masterpiece every time.  Good opportunities for mistakes, and, eventually, new ways of expressing yourself.

This is my standard two-minute gesture in charcoal pastel.  They're all about getting hands and eyes working together quickly.
A couple of my more traditional 15-minute poses - not quite "classical", but straightforward depiction is the general goal.

Two more challenging poses, with a bit more emphasis on a visually interesting composition.

Then moving into colour with short poses, thinking about the gesture, form and warm/cool shading.
Moving right along, a somewhat longer pose, done in water-soluble ink and watercolour, for a bit more "painterly" effect.
Then some experiments with soluble Kuretake markers, some water and a lot of chaos - really an excuse to play with bright shiny colours.

And finally, working towards more expressive options, some mixed media on Yupo paper (aka as "messes").  These are the only ones here done from images rather than live models.  There are pens, charcoal, pastels, inks and watercolour involved here, and sandpaper too - a bit much kit for a live-model studio!

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Two waterfronts

Saltmarshes are unique ecosystems.  Flooded by the highest winter tides, the plants have to be adapted to salt, but also to freshwater and dry spells.  Sadly, only about 1% of them are left in Vancouver, the rest now industrial sites or landfill.  The west saltmarsh at Maplewood conservation area was a vibrant green as the plants started growing again on a sunny spring morning.
This is a more typical sight on the North Vancouver waterfront, though an extreme version - the 80m tall shipbuilding crane built for a big federal military contract to Seaspan, Dennis Washington's company that owns essentially everything along the North Vancouver waterfront (hence the red-and-white "W" logo seen everywhere).  It towered over the remains of the MacKay Creek estuary on a much colder greyer afternoon. 

Sunday, 2 April 2017

All over cherry blossoms

We had an urban-sketchers ride-and-draw today (healthier than a drink-and-draw, and certainly healthier than a drink-and-ride) - thanks Lea and Ekaterina!  The topic was cherry blossoms, and there are a lot of them in the West End of Vancouver, looking splendid on a sunny, breezy spring day.  We drew for 15 minutes, rode a few blocks and repeated, five times.  I like the short drawing time, it makes me focus on the key thing.  Which, of course, was cherry blossoms today.

One of the sketcher's profiles said that she was inspired by Paul Madonna's All Over Coffee, which is also one of my favourites.  He does beautiful ink pen-and-wash drawings of San Francisco, accompanied by snippets of conversations that may or may not have anything to do with the drawing.  It made me record some of to the passers-by today - of which there are many in this lively part of Vancouver, about half of them out viewing and photographing the cherries.