Getting Away From It All in Quebec

It’s been a busy time lately with travel and painting side-by-side with must-do’s, but I found myself recently on the banks of a roaring stream, conveniently located next to the best place to be in the small town of Val David, Quebec:  a microbrewery-cum-quaint-inn–a true jewel of a find.  (It is called “Le Baril Roulant MicroBrasserie” should you wish to look it up.)

ValDavid (2)

Illustration: “Val David, Quebec,” Watercolor and gouache in a home-made sketchbook with hot press Arches watercolor paper by Black Elephant Blog author (2017)

Being in places different from one’s usual world is always great for curious people, and this was no exception.  About an hour outside of Montreal, Val David is perfectly situated for a weekend get-away.  There are several choices of places to stay, like this place (below) seen from the bike path.


Illustration: “C’est La Vie Cafe”, Val David, Quebec, watercolor and gouache on Arches cold press paper (2017)

There’s always so much to absorb–great museums (with a tremendous exhibition on Chagall), wonderful sights, and sounds–in Montreal.  Layers upon layers of new impressions mix in with older assumptions, and it is quite clear suddenly that new approaches must be tried as soon as one gets home:  this is always one of the benefits of travel.

Surprise, Uncategorized

A Tiny Sketchbook To-Go (To Meetings With…)

At last, while rummaging around in an art supply coop in Montreal last week, I found a tiny sketchbook that is proving to match, or beat, the Stillman &Birn sketchbook series for on-location watercolor sketching.  This is the Pentalic  3.5 by 5.375-Inch watercolor journal, which opens up, as you might figure, to about 10.5 inches.  (It has a tiny loop at the top for a tiny paintbrush too.) As someone who has experimented with many papers (including Arches, Bockingford, Saunders, Fabriano, Moleskin, Stillman &Birn, etc.), and continues to do so, this one has been a pleasant surprise relative to all other sketchbooks I’ve tried, including Moleskin and Stillman & Birn. It has 140 lb. cotton rag cold press paper with a nice light texture; really comparable to the big names in the field, so far.  It also has a nice quality hard binding, opens flat, and has an elastic band to secure it when closed.

There are huge advantages to going small when sketching, moreover, and–if you’re using water-based media– all kinds of good reasons to choose the best paper (as any serious sketcher will confirm).  This is a sketchbook that can literally fit in your pocket or a pocket of briefcase.  (You could even take it to a meeting without drawing (oops!) much attention, and sketch the participants as a way to pass the time.)

LA market sketch

Illustration: Watercolor and ink sketch, “Market day,” by Black Elephant Blog author

Drawing small sketches can compel you to try to get those shadows on the faces or in the pulled-back hair of a figure with merely a dot of paint.  Drawing small leaves you with more energy for the larger pieces done later inside when it’s raining. So far I have three little watercolor sketches in my tiny Pentalic watercolor journal using M. Graham, Daniel Smith, and Yarka paints, as well as ink.  (It’s been very  hot and humid in this area lately so that people (and animals) are moving slower and generally are easier to sketch.)

Lake Fishing

Illustration: Watercolor and pen-and-ink by Black Elephant Blog author

The paper handles washes and heavier watercolor applications perfectly, so I thought I’d jot this down here while thinking about it. The sketchbook is only a bit bigger than my small travel palette, which measures 4.75″ x 3.75″.  So between the two of them and a paint brush, a bit of paper towel and some water, there’s a complete studio-to-go, unbelievably small and light-weight but with no compromise in quality.

Anyway, a small sketch kit is sure to make those meetings at work more interesting!  And hopefully the day is not far away when sketching in meetings will be regarded as a sign that you’re paying appropriate attention to the proceedings.  Sketching is a form of seeing, and clearly can enhance our powers of observation and sensitivity which anyone could tell you these days we all could use more of…

Uncategorized, urban sketching

Quebec Watercolor Sketch

Now back at home under the ‘heat dome” enveloping most everyone in the USA, it’s a good time to finish off sketches started last week during a quick trip (in much, much cooler weather) to Quebec, Canada.

Quebec City watercolor

Illustration:  “Balloons over the rue du Petit-Champlain” in Quebec City in watercolor, gouache, and Faber-Castell white artists pen on Arches watercolor paper by Black Elephant Blog author.

Of course, lots of people had the same idea to visit Montreal and Quebec City last week but in general the crowds were quite manageable.  Though it was a short trip, there was time to listen to music on the Place Jacques-Cartier, check out some amazing waterfalls, see the mesmerizing “Pompeii” exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and buy some watercolor paper made by the “Bee Paper Company” in Canada to add to my small collection of watercolor papers.

The rest of the sketches I’ve made while on this short trip are still in pencil drafts but, with the heat dome effects  (100 degrees or more!) projected to last a few more days, it seems likely I’ll have a chance to get to them. So, until then…