:: Dorchester Square & Place du Canada ::

“If you want your children to be intelligent,” Einstein is credited with proclaiming, “read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

The Montreal Urban Sketchers met up today at Place du Canada. While I was driving round & round to find a parking space, I must have seen at least 15 sketchers, facing the sun as it was quite frisky with the factor wind in Montreal. Finally found a parking space & saw the amazing views behind Place du Canada & decided to stay on the other side of the street in Dorchester Square, facing south to get the views & the warm sun rays. As I was starting to draw the monument in front of me, a man came up to me & suggested that I draw an axis in the center to help me out in my drawing — he was right! Feeling overwhelmed by the complexity of the monument, I turned around 90 degrees & sat facing the CIBC Tower, which I decided to paint. When I was in my early twenties, I used to work on the 14th floor of that tower… what incredible views that I had!

Les Urban Sketchers de Montréal se sont rencontrés aujourd’hui à la Place du Canada. Alors que je conduisais en rond pour trouver un stationnement, j’ai vu au moins 15 sketchers, faisant face au soleil car la température était très fraîche. J’ai décidé de rester sur le côté du Square Dorchester, plein sud pour obtenir les vues et les rayons du soleil chaud. Comme je commençais à dessiner le monument en face de moi, un homme est venu me voir et a suggéré que je dessine un axe dans le centre pour m’aider dans mon dessin – il avait raison! Me sentant dépassée par la complexité du monument, je me suis tournée vers la Tour CIBC, que j’ai décidé de peindre. Quand j’étais au début de la vingtaine, je travaillais au 14e étage de cette tour … quelles vues incroyables!

Paper: Travelogue Sketchbook 5″x8″
Paint: New Gambodge, Raw Sienna, Cobalt Blue, Burnt Sienna
Location: Dorchester Square in Montreal, Québec, Canada


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:: Portrait ::

“There is something in personal love, caresses, and the magnetic flood of sympathy and friendship, that does, in its way, more good than all the medicine in the world.”
— Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819–March 26, 1892) from Brainpickings

I just tried having fun with this tonight & did a quick portrait of myself.  It is grungy looking & I kind of like it as grunginess represents me well. On another note, the Spring temperatures have finally arrived & apart from hundreds of Pine Siskins, Yellow Warblers, Chickadees at my feeders, life is good. My semester is terminating in 3-1/2 weeks & I have been in a frenzy of correcting, reading, giving off marks, which always leaves me depleated & empty but finally I can see the end of the tunnel. I have never met a teacher that enjoys correcting…


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Save this date :: July 10 juillet 2016 :: Inscrivez cette date

We are hoping for a warm summer so that we can enjoy sketching the great outdoors of Montreal. On Sunday July 10th the Urban Sketchers Montreal has been invited to a Picnic Vernissage Day at Stewart Hall’s Cultural Centre in Pointe-Claire. Stewart Hall is situated in a gorgeous historic mansion and is a unique cultural venue located on the bank of Lake Saint-Louis. Everyone is invited to sketch with us on that day starting at 10:00 am. It is an absolutely stunning spot to sketch, in all seasons! More details to follow soon.

Nous espérons avoir un bel été chaud afin que nous puissions dessiner/peindre les grands espaces de Montréal. Le dimanche 10 juillet 2016, les Urban Sketchers de Montréal ont été invités à participer à un Picnic Vernissage au Centre culturel Stewart Hall de Pointe-Claire. Stewart Hall est une demeure historique sur un lieu culturel unique situé aux abords du Lac Saint-Louis. Tout le monde est invité à esquisser avec nous ce jour-là à partir de 10h00. Un endroit absolument magnifique pour faire des croquis, en toutes saisons! Plus de détails à suivre bientôt. 


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:: Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours ::

Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away. And though hope can be an act of defiance, defiance isn’t enough reason to hope. But there are good reasons.
— Rebecca Solnit

The Montreal Urban Sketchers met up yesterday at the oldest Chapel in Montreal, Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, which was built in 1771 after the first one burned down. Entering the chapel, it is breathtakingly beautiful with so many details that for the two hours that I was sketching I kept thinking about the artisans and craftmen that created all of this intricate work. What were they thinking when they created these special reliefs? Do they have a special significance? I guess that a historian or an architect would know, but to me these are mysteries of great beauty. I also thought that the name Bonsecours was spelled this way, but I realized today that on the chapel’s website, it is spelled de-Bon-Secours even though the market next door seems to be named Bonsecours. If anyone knows why, please let me know… It was the first time that I used the Fluid watercolour paper, and I really liked it as it has high absorbency and the colours mix well on it. And it is not too expensive compared to other quality paper.

Paper: Fluid CP 8″ x 8″
Fountain Pen: Platinum Desk Pen EF DP1000AB
Ink: Noodlers’ Lexington Grey
Colours: Q. Gold, Burnt Sienna & Indanthrone Blue
Location: Old Montreal, Québec, Canada


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:: A promise ::

The other afternoon, when you fell asleep on my shoulder, I drifted off, too. But before I did, it occurred to me looking around at all of your things and your work and going through years of work in my mind, that of all your work, you are still your most beautiful. The most beautiful work of all.
— Letter from Patti Smith to Robert Mapplethorpe found on Brain Pickings

I promised one of my friends that I would paint some paintings in her sketchbook and then forward these to France… and I finalized the last painting today. Fiou! So the paintings will be on their way off to France this Tuesday.

I woke up this morning, painted on location and then drove off to Montreal to join the Montreal Urban Sketchers to paint an old church in Old Montreal. Yes I was late… Jumping in my car to drive to Montreal, it was quite amazing to see that in Montreal there are no traces of snow whatsoever, but in Rigaud? We are still knee deep in it! While I was painting the backdrop trees I was thinking of Peter Doig, an artist that I greatly admire and I started painting my trees in his way… and they turned out looking like a mountain -)

Mistakes? I keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. I thought for a very long time that when I painted less, I became rusty… But now I think that we forget the mistakes or how to prevent the mistakes and a little bit rusty too. When you are painting on a day-to-day basis, you do not forget that snow must be painted in one long sweep as opposed to short stances! You do not forget to wet the paper behind your skies. You do not forget that mixing certain colours together they become muddy. Oh well, I think that I should start writing down the important lessons that I have learned over the years.

Paper: Handbook created by my friend Chi Mai
Fountain Pen: Platinum Desk Pen EF DP1000AB
Ink: Noodlers’ Lexington Grey
Colours: Q. Gold, Burnt Sienna, Violet & Indanthrone Blue
Location: Rigaud, Québec, Canada


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:: Eve’s Needle ::

Echoing Wendell Berry’s beautiful assertion that in true solitude “one’s inner voice becomes audible,” she adds:

The feelings and purposes around art-making … ricochet among private, public, and communal places, but the creative process often demands seclusion to germinate its seed.
— Brain Pickings

The latin name for this cactus is Opuntia subulata and seems to have many names, such as Eve’s Needle, Eve’s-pin prickleypear, Long Spine Cactus, Eve’s Pin Cactus, Eve’s Needle Cactus, Eve’s Pin & Cane Cholla. I would really like to know where all of these different names come from! This plant is a native to the Andes in Peru and can grow up to 12′ tall. As I am very good with plants, it might reach the ceiling in a few years. Oh boy, oh boy!

So it is my husband’s birthday today and my mother always said that he was born on St. Joseph’s day. We are going out for supper in a Spanish Club in Montreal where some of our friends will be meeting with us. Hope to see a bit of flamenco dancing tonight, eat tapas and paella and have a good time. So here is my cactus that donned overnight its colours in a grand style -)

Paper: Handbook created by my friend Chi Mai
Fountain Pen: Sailor Desk fountain pen
Ink: De Atrementis Document Ink Black
Colours: New Gambodge, French Ultramarine & Burnt Sienna
Location: Rigaud, Québec, Canada


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Three for one :: Trois pour un

“A friend,” wrote the poet and philosopher John O’Donohue in his beautiful meditation on the Ancient Celtic notion of anam cara, “awakens your life in order to free the wild possibilities within you.”
— Brain Pickings

My first love has to be drawing and if I decide to paint, without drawing first, the downhill trend is quite steep and abrupt, I lose all faculties for pressing onwards and I get all mixed up — really do not know where to put the paints. However, if I draw first, it grounds me and then I can actually do what I want, without the fear of ruining the drawing or painting. Funny huh? This drawing is a triple bonus because the two pots that hold the cactus were created by me during a pottery workshop in Hemmingford that I followed with one of my very good friends a few weeks ago. It is quite surprising that the pots fit perfectly one into the other as it had not been intended that way…  I was pleasantly surprised! One of my friends has organized a small communal painting/drawing event where we each paint/draw three paintings in a sketchbook and then pass on to another artist. I am the second one in the list, and I will be passing it on to France in a week or so. I do not know yet if I will paint it or not… another joy of drawing first. I have the choice. So nice -)

This little cactus has grown quite a bit, and it is close to my heart as it was given to all guests for an event that my little niece had organized. I will not see her as much now as recent family events are looming over chances of meeting up. Still… it is close to my heart, as she is. Today Canada geese were flying over my house, in beautiful amazing triangles, honking high and loud and announcing to everyone that cared to listen that Spring has arrived.. our beautiful harbingers of Spring.

Paper: Handbook created by my friend Chi Mai
Fountain Pen: Sailor Desk fountain pen
Ink: De Atrementis Document Ink Black
Location: Rigaud, Québec, Canada

Cactus Plant

Cactus Plant

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:: Live model workshop :: Atelier modèle vivant ::

“A person’s identity,” Amin Maalouf wrote as he contemplated what he so poetically called the genes of the soul, “is like a pattern drawn on a tightly stretched parchment. Touch just one part of it, just one allegiance, and the whole person will react, the whole drum will sound.”
— BrainPickings.org

Chi Mai and I went to a live model workshop today and it was an exciting experience. We were 8 artists, we paid $15 for a session of 3 hours and the model was exceptional. He weaved his body into shapes that could only stem from a dancer’s body and also someone who practices some form of meditation. We started at 1:00 pm sharp and had five 1 minute sessions, then we had  minute sessions, then 10 and finally we finished with three 20 minute sessions back-to-back.

To prepare for this I decided that I would do some “gesture” drawings for the one minute sessions where I tried to capture the movement as opposed to the shape of the model. In five seconds I needed to sketch the entire body and its movement, which is quite fast and is excellent in taking out the tension in our bodies. Then I moved to “contour” drawing for the longer sessions. If you are interested in learning more about these techniques, there is an excellent book that I have had for years that is named — Nicolaides “The Natural way to Draw” that is well worth the price. Here are two examples of what I tried to do.

If you would like to join us, these live model sessions go on every first Saturday of the month and you can find the info here. On top of this, the location is quite exceptional as there is small park, hundreds of graffitis, NO parking meters? (can you believe this), an overpass, an exceptional view of the city (if you go on the overpass outside). All in all, a really nice experience!

Workshop: Atelier Modèle Vivant Art-Faubert avec Karsten Kroll Danseur
Location:    5795, De Gaspé, Montréal



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:: Who loves trees? ::

Who loves trees best?
“I,” said the spring,
“Their leaves so beautiful
To them I bring.”

Who loves the trees best?
“I,” summer said,
“I give them blossoms,
White, yellow, red.”

Who loves the trees best?
“I,” said the fall,
“I give luscious fruits,
Bright tints to all!”

Who loves the trees best?
“I love them best,”
Harsh winter answered,
“I give them rest.”
— The Pearl Story Book” by Ada. M Skinner

And I love them ALL! I have started drawing again on a regular basis and for me, drawing comes first and painting is secondary. I love painting, do not get me wrong, but if the drawing is weak, the painting will be weaker in my humble point of view. The drawing needs to have life, before starting to paint. However, I do know that one of these days I will paint without any drawn lines, it will be as is. I am not ready for that day, so I am happy to be drawing and I am also waiting in anticipation for that day.

Paper: Moleskine Sketchbook
Fountain Pen: Sailor Desk fountain pen
Ink: De Atrementis Document Ink Black
Location: from my imagination -)))


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:: Grande bibliothèque de Montréal ::

          You must clean and arrange your studio in a way that will forward a quiet state of mind. This cautious care of atmosphere is really needed to show respect for the work. Respect for art work and everything connected with it, one’s own and that of everyone else, must be maintained and forwarded. No disrespect, carelessness or ego [and] selfishness must be allowed to interfere if it can be prevented. Indifference and antagonism are easily detected — you should take such people out immediately. Just turning the paintings to the wall is not enough. You yourself should not go to your studio in an indifferent or fighting mood.
          — Agnes Martin: Paintings, Writings, Remembrances (public library)

I was with the Urban Sketchers of Montreal today at the Grande Bibliothèque de Montréal, and what a place! It made me think of the quote from Agnes Martin and how she valued her space.
I changed places three times, very comfortably seated, and my first sketch was of the Montreal skyline. Then I decided to sit at a table with most people’s backs towards me… ideal for sketching people. So my first person stayed there, reading from a real book, and did not budge for at least one half hour, which was a delight for me. Then my second sketch was of someone who was sideways to me, and I do not know if he had a third eye, but the minute that I started sketching him, he started fidgeting, clearly anxious. I did not have the heart to sketch him much longer even though he did not even see me. So I rushed his sketch, to appease his anguish. Then my eyes fell on this wonderful asiatic beauty, and the minute that my pencil touched the paper, she was gone. Then I realized, at 12:15 pm, that I had not paid for my parking downstairs. How could I have forgotten that? I went to see a Security Officer, and he told me to run to my car as I could have a ticket waiting for me… I rushed downstairs, found my car, unscathed by paper — lucky me! But still, how could I get out of the parking space if I did not have a voucher proving that I had paid? So I paid, and when I got to the gate, it opened without asking me to give proof of my payment… sheesh! Anyway, very glad that I had no ticket and la Grande Bibliothèque was a wonderful sketching place. Thank you Shari for bringing us there -)

Paper: Moleskine Sketchbook
Location: La Grande Bibliothèque de Montréal



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:: Three beets… oh no! Three onions ::

“To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love.”
           — legendary Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh (b. October 11, 1926) explores in How to Love (public library) — a slim, simply worded collection of his immeasurably wise insights on the most complex and most rewarding human potentiality.
           “… If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform…”

I am very rusty with my watercolours and I was glad to dab into them today. It has been awhile -) My shadows are not strong enough, the top beet has a too much of an intense colour, but at least the two beets on the plate are better as they were painted after the top one… you see, we always improve, even when we start on the wrong foot -)

Paper: Travelogue Sketchbook
Fountain Pen: Platinum Desk Pen EF DP1000AB
Colours: Aureolin Yellow, Raw Sienna, Alizarin Crimson, Indanthrone Blue
Ink: Noodlers’ Lexington Grey
Location: Rigaud, Québec, Canada


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:: Primary consciousness & taxidermy ::

What keeps us from happiness, is our inability to fully inhabit the present:
The “primary consciousness,” the basic mind which knows reality rather than ideas about it, does not know the future. It lives completely in the present, and perceives nothing more than what is at this moment. The ingenious brain, however, looks at that part of present experience called memory, and by studying it is able to make predictions. These predictions are, relatively, so accurate and reliable (e.g., “everyone will die”) that the future assumes a high degree of reality — so high that the present loses its value.
— Alain Watts

Taxidermy: the art of preparing, stuffing, and mounting the skins of animals with lifelike effect.

I inherited a very very old bell jar filled with birds & eggs filled with various grasses and pieces of wood. And I also received by mail today some beautiful inks to put in my beautiful fountain pens. So I had to try my new DeAtrementis Grey Fog ink in my Pilot Prera Fine fountain pen… and wow! What a glide, what a softness. I love it. The colour is darker than I would have thought and the grey has some dark blue nuances in it, but still… it is wonderful. Very happy about this new ink!

If you feel like sketching with us this coming Sunday, join us at the Grande Bibliothèque de Montréal with the Montreal Urban Sketchers, a truly beautiful library and well worth the visit… and the sketch -)))

Paper: Moleskine Sketchbook
Location: Rigaud, Québec, Canada


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:: Inspiration ::

Inspiration :: It is an untroubled state of mind. Of course, we know that an untroubled state of mind cannot last, so we say that inspiration comes and goes, but it is there all the time waiting for us to be untroubled again. We can therefore say that it is pervasive.
— Agnes Martin (March 22, 1912–December 16, 2004) Agnes Martin: Paintings, Writings, Remembrances by Arne Glimcher (20th Century Living Masters)

This book seems to be a very interesting read for anyone that is interested in art, art studios and art friends. I think that I will buy it — whoa I just saw the price. No wonder people are saying that it is wonderful — it is quite expensive.

Small dried myosotis flowers in a grunge-like presentation. This Moleskine Sketchbook paper is not made for watercolours as it is a very grunge-like effect… sometimes happily, and sometimes not. I guess that flowers are not very grungeable -) For the hundredth time, I should have taken a picture “before” painting it in… and I would have had a reasonable drawing, and if the results had been good with the watercolours, I would have had a 2 for one -)

Paper: Moleskine Sketchbook
Watercolours: Hansa Medium, Violet & Serpentine Green
Fountain Pen: Pilot Prera F
Location: Rigaud, Québec, Canada


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:: Arthur the cacti ::

White with daisies and red with sorrel
    And empty, empty under the sky! 
Life is a quest and love a quarrel 
    Here is a place for me to lie.
Daisies spring from damned seeds,
    And this red fire that here I see
Is a worthless crop of crimson weeds,
    Cursed by farmers thriftily.

But here, unhated for an hour,
    The sorrel runs in ragged flame,
The daisy stands, a bastard flower,
    Like flowers that bear an honest name.

And here a while, where no wind brings
    The baying of a pack athirst,
May sleep the sleep of blessed things
    The blood too bright, the brow accurst.

— Edna St. Vincent Millay (February 22, 1892–October 19, 1950) was only thirty-one when she became the third woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.

Yes you have guessed it, I do name my plants… all of them! So here is Arthur! I drew this in a Moleskine Sketchbook and I love how the ink glides from my fountain pen on this wonderfully glazed paper. It has a silkiness that is unbeatable… and it soothes my soul to feel a good quality fountain with a good quality ink gliding on top of it. If you do not know these sketchbooks, give them a try. Here is the link for the Large Moleskine Sketchbook.

Fountain Pen: Pilot Prera Fine
Ink: Noodlers’ Lexington Grey
Paper: Large Moleskine Sketchbook 5″x8″
Location: Rigaud, Québec, Canada


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:: Trepidation… for some time off ::

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
— Annie Dillard

I have been spending the last few weeks in a frenzy of prepping new courses, teaching new courses and correcting new courses… all to say that the gruelling time that teachers spend on these tasks is wearisome and one of the rewards is to see the beautiful faces greeting you as you enter the class and the ah-hah moments when they get a concept that you explained. If these episodes in time did not happen, I am guessing that many teachers would just turn away and choose another venue. So here is my drawing for this night as we are watching the excellent British TV series “Luther”. The feeling of trepidation that I had today as I realized that in one week’s time, I would be on March break was totally awesome! Some time off to think about my family, friends and for painting -)

Fountain Pen: Sailor Desk
Ink: Black Carbon Ink
Location: Rigaud, QC, Canada


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