Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Asleep on the Train

3.5"X5.5" Pencil on paper

There are some advantages to drawing people while they are asleep. This lady was completely oblivious to my presence, although the man beside her was giving me some funny looks. Of course her head kept nodding forward which spoiled my concentration somewhat. The Moleskine notebook's pages are so thin that the drawing I did on the page behind is showing through on this one. That is for another day.

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Monday, 29 June 2009

Subway Riders

7"X5.5" Pencil on paper

My trip to Toronto last week gave me the opportunity to indulge in one of my favourite pastimes, sketching subway riders. This young couple were completely absorbed in each other.

I think that the next time I can think of nothing to draw I will practise drawing my hands (or at least my left hand). I always seem to cop out when I get to the hands on these quick sketches and they end up pretty ... well um, sketchy. Maybe if I practised some more I would have more of an arsenal to fall back on.

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Sunday, 28 June 2009

Ice Cream

7"X5" Oil on panel

We went out for ice cream last night to the Avondale Dairy Bar, an iconic Niagara landmark. Admittedly it doesn't sell the best ice cream in the world but it is a great place for people watching. This family have the air of long-time patrons.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

More Peppers

6"X4" Oil on board

It has been a long time since I painted peppers. They are quite satisfying, having just enough complexity of tone to be interesting to paint without any complicated detail to get snarled up in. I was feeling lazy and didn't want to get involved in anything difficult.

Friday, 26 June 2009


5"X7" Oil on panel

Daylilies are so brave and jolly! They also grow well in my very sandy well-drained garden, so I went out and bought some more today, a nice deep red this time.

The garden centres have clearance sales on already and I am a sucker for discount plants. I always think I can revive that poor little abandoned perennial, only 50 cents reduced from $5! I am often wrong, but sometimes I pick up a real bargain.

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Thursday, 25 June 2009


7"X5.5" Pencil on paper

I had to go to Toronto for a meeting today. It is only about 20 miles (33k) as the crow flies but closer to 70 (110k) by road. The road in question being the QEW or Queen Elizabeth Way which joins Toronto to Buffalo and all points south, and which must be one of the busiest and nastiest on the continent. As my meeting was ending at 4:30 (not a good time to be driving out of Toronto) I decided to drive to Burlington (about half way) and take the "GO train" into Union Station.

I had a bit of a wait at Union coming home but found a seat right opposite the Commuters Lounge. I did a couple of quick studies of my fellow commuters too which I may post some other time.

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Tuesday, 23 June 2009


9"X12" Watercolour and pen on paper

Another old one.

I have always liked geraniums, more properly called pelargoniums, in pots. For some reason I don't much like them as bedding plants. In a basic terra cotta flower pot they have a simple elegance, in beds with african marigolds and petunias they are just boring.

While we are on the subject, I wonder why it is so hard to find English marigolds (calendula) here? I can find seeds if I look hard enough but I have never seen them sold as bedding plants. They seem to grow well here and are a nice way to add some mid-season colour to the beds.

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Monday, 22 June 2009

Ladies who Lunch 2

7"X5.5" Pencil & marker on paper

Not much to offer today, just another guerrilla sketch on the green-room patio.

I made it into another Etsy treasury today. It is great when this happens because it can really boost sales. Last time I made three sales in 24 hours that I can directly attribute to the treasury.

I have had a number of people ask about Etsy and whether I think it is worthwhile and I must say that it is probably the most successful art marketing I have done aside from my own website and this blog. I am not sure that it would work for everyone, my pieces are small and inexpensive which means they fit well with what is being offered on Etsy. It does seem to be one of the only art marketing sites that actually attracts non-artists. On all the others all my "fans" and "friends" seem to be other artists. Nothing wrong with that of course but they are less likely to make purchases. Etsy is also fairly inexpensive to use, there is no sign-up fee and they charge .20 (USD) per item to list for four months and 3.5% commission. All in all much better than Ebay which is expensive and labour intensive

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Sunday, 21 June 2009


7"X5" Oil on panel

I knew this was a mistake about three minutes after I started it, not because of the difficult perspective (although it was), but because of the panel I was using. It had been previously tinted with some leftover paint. I often do this but this time the paint I had used was far too oily so the surface was quite slick.

With a house full of instruments it was only a matter of time before I was driven to paint one. J. has several ukuleles, although not as many as guitars!

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Saturday, 20 June 2009

Lock 2 Raceway

5"X7" Oil on panel SOLD

The Welland Canal is endlessly fascinating. The current canal is the fourth and was completed in 1932. The first canal, completed in 1829, was much longer and more meandering, it joined Twelve Mile Creek and the Welland River with a flight of 40 locks which were all constructed from wood. The climb from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie is about 100 metres.
I have painted this same view before here and here.
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Friday, 19 June 2009

Toronto Skyline

9"X6" Watercolour on paper

This is a really old one. I was living in Toronto and had just taken a watercolour course at Three Schools (that dates me right there). I was trying to break away from the very precise pen and ink work I had been doing.

We had a flat roof, accessible from the third floor window. We used it as a sort of balcony and had tubs of plants out there. I enjoyed drawing and painting from up there too. This was Concord Avenue I think, just south of Bloor West and not far from Ossington. I am not sure where exactly the church is, maybe on Ossington as this is looking north-east.

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Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Gothic Barn

7"X5" Pen on paper

It is hard to go anywhere in Niagara-on-the-Lake without tripping over an antique shop. This barn is a classic "gothic vernacular", a style which was very common for homes in Southern Ontario in the latter part of the 19th century. It is a little more unusual to find barns in this style but this one has been converted anyway, into the ubiquitous antique shop.

This is a relatively new medium for me. I am using a fountain pen and a water brush with ordinary (not watercolour) sketch-book paper. I am constantly trying to find the most compact and inexpensive sketching kit that will still allow me to get as much information down as possible. This setup is promising, although I am on the lookout for a better drawing pen. The nib if this one isn't quite ideal. The sketching paper seems to work, I was afraid it would buckle, but it holds up quite well.

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Tuesday, 16 June 2009

In Chapters

7"X5.5" Pencil on paper

Nothing much to offer today. I sketched this lady at the magazine racks in Chapters on the weekend. My local Starbucks is located inside the Chapters store so you get to watch the shoppers as well as the sippers. There was something wistful about her pose, poring through the travel magazines in her flowery shirt.

I am still using my much maligned Moleskine notebook (as opposed to a Moleskine sketchbook, which I am sure has better paper but is unavailable around here). It is handy to have something so small to carry in my purse. With my Staedtler 0.9 mm mechanical pencil, I am usually ready for every opportunity

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Sunday, 14 June 2009

Little House, Big Tree 4

5"X7" Oil on panel

Here is the house accross the street. It is another of my almost plein air paintings, I actually sat just inside my front door. The house is now full of flies, how we suffer for art! I used my new cigar box pochade, for details see my other blog.

Saturday, 13 June 2009


6"X6" Oil on panel

I enjoyed painting the eggs last week so I thought I would try the same composition again (more or less). I have to paint strawberries at least once a year. The last couple of times I have had any in the house they have been eaten so fast I haven't had time to paint them. These are already sliced with sugar and are waiting in the fridge to have for dessert with some vanilla yoghurt.

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Friday, 12 June 2009

Red Gerbera

4.5"X6" Watercolour & guache on paper

I used my English purchases for this. The gouache primaries I bought at the London Graphic Centre, and the handmade watercolour paper I bought at the Tate shop. The gouache set was a real bargain, at least I would have had to pay twice as much here. I suspect that I was ripped off for the paper, all those museum and gallery shops charge an arm and a leg.

I am an easy mark for art supplies, there really isn't anything any closer than Hamilton where there is a very nice Curry's. We do have a Michaels, what a depressing place that is, overpriced and little selection, everything comes in a kit. I suppose that anything that helps people to express themselves and work with their hands must be a good thing, but somehow I am not sure that selling them "cookie cutter" craft supplies is the best way of going about it.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

On the Verandah

5"X7" Watercolour & pen on paper

I really shouldn't try to do portraits with watercolour. I fiddled with this for far too long and then after scanning it I fiddled some more and completely trashed it. So this doesn't really exist any more. Oh well, for what it is worth, this is today's offering.

Once a month we have a lunchtime book club at work. Now that the weather is pleasant we are able to meet on the verandah. I couldn't think of anything else to call this, preferring not to use names in order to protect the innocent.

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Tuesday, 9 June 2009


5"X7" Linocut print

I want to do some more of these, I started one this evening but I won't be finished for a few days so I thought I would post this one which I did a couple of years ago. It is a bit rough but it was my first attempt since childhood, so I wasn't too unhappy with it. It is based on this lighthouse by the marina in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
I have never attempted a multicolour print, I am thinking of adding a second colour to the one I am doing now, not as a reductive print but with a another block.

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Sunday, 7 June 2009

Eggs is Eggs

6"X6" Oil on panel

I am lucky enough to have a colleague who keeps chickens and supplies me regularly with lovely free-range eggs. They come in all shapes, sizes and colours ranging from deep brown to almost white. I have no objection to white eggs, but many of her customers prefer the brown ones thinking that they are better for you (there is actually no difference and the colour of the egg depends entirely on the breed of chicken).

This was a very satisfying project. I chose to do it from a viewpoint directly overhead to avoid having to deal with a partial ellipse. Ellipses are hard enough, without having them cut off on two sides. In fact I went one step further and cheated on the circle by using a makeshift compass to get is laid down in the drawing. Other than that it was really just a study in neutrals. I wasn't getting the colour of the eggs right until I realized that I needed to add just a touch of red. So my palette was burnt umber, raw sienna, white, cerulean blue and just a tiny touch of cadmium red, cadmium yellow and black. I rarely use black but I just added a touch to some of the deeper shadows to provide more contrast.

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Saturday, 6 June 2009

Peony Season

8"X10" Oil on canvas

Today is Drawing Day, this will be my contribution. It was only after I started it that I remembered that I painted a peony for Drawing Day last year. I guess that is what happens when you have Drawing Day on the first Saturday in June. My peonies started to flower on Monday and they are almost finished today. I was worried that I wouldn't get to paint them at all.

I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time mixing greens, there really aren't any tube greens that are useful for grass or foliage. Sap Green isn't bad, apparently it was originally made from buckthorn berries but now is usually a blend incorporating the ubiquitous Phthalocyanine green. Otherwise I am using mixes of siennas, umbers, white, yellow and various blues. I love Terre Verte but it is very transparent and limited in its usefulness.

I am always surprised by how much flowers move after you cut them. They really don't qualify as absolutely still life. I found myself wanting to make corrections in the position of the petals and the leaves but then realizing that I would have to completely redo the whole thing. It is hard to know when to stop.

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Friday, 5 June 2009

By the Lake

5.5"X3.5" Watercolour pencil & pen on paper

This is the very corner of where the Niagara River meets the Lake. I am looking northish across Lake Ontario, toward Toronto. I have painted from this little car park at the foot of Turntable Way at least a couple of times before. If I had looked just to my right (East) I would be looking at Fort Niagara. I believe that the turntable in question was where the narrow-gauge railway ended and the trains were turned around to head back to St Catharines, but I am just speculating, I can't find any information on it.

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Thursday, 4 June 2009

Noon Shadows

11"X3.5" Watercolour pencil & pen on paper

The same parking lot where I sat to sketch the winery the other day but looking North instead of West. There is a footpath running all along the Niagara River, very popular with walkers, cyclists and roller-bladers.

I am still using this little Moleskine watercolour sketchbook but I am not sure how much I like it. I am not keen on the extra wide format and would prefer a standard portrait format that I can turn around or use a double page when I want to. I realize that I am almost committing sacrilege admitting any reservations about the almighty Moleskine but I do think that they are just a teensy bit overrated. Their regular plain pocket sketchbook for instance, at around $14 CND is no better than the Derwent sketchbook of the same size that retails for about $8. Watercolour sketchbooks are hard to find, so I was pretty excited when I picked up my Moleskine in London, but surely someone could make one more cheaply. I have made my own before, and may have to do so again.

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Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Runner on Third

7"X5.5" Pencil on paper

Alex Mackenzie park is generally acknowledged to be the coldest spot in the Niagara Peninsula. The fact that it is surrounded by big old maples and is also some kind of wind tunnel combined to make it mighty chilly on an already unseasonably cool early summer evening.

Sunday night was baseball night for my sons. Now that they are in house league everything is much more relaxed. They are enjoying the fact that they get to play all sorts of positions and get to bat no matter whether they are playing on the field or not. For the past few years, playing on elite travel teams, they have only played outfield and pitched (or sat on the bench). On Sunday they both got to play first base and shortstop. The level of play is understandably somewhat limited but they are willing to put up with that for now.

I find baseball players a challenge but continue to try to capture their poses. I have a lovely new camera that will take multiple shots per second, so I took some great pictures of them pitching. I will probably use these to do some studies of the mechanics.

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Monday, 1 June 2009



Saturday was a pleasant Summer day and I ran my usual errands to the library and the market. The "Society for Creative Anachronism" was doing demonstrations on James Street and I took the opportunity to do some sketches.

According to their promotional material the SCA is an "international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe". The chap in the funny hat here was a kind of master of ceremonies and spent a lot of time explaining what the "knights" were doing. There were ladies in period costumes demonstrating mediaeval crafts and even a few who were dressed up as knights and taking part in the duels, I guess they thought that was more fun.

The watching children were enjoying it. I am sure that my boys would have had fun if they had been about ten years younger. They once had the opportunity to watch a stage fighting workshop and I am convinced that all small boys should have that opportunity. Yes I am being sexist here, I expect that there are some girls that would benefit too.

Womankind might well have been responsible for the invention of weaving, pottery, agriculture and a whole bunch of other things, but it was a small boy-child who invented the weapon (imho). One day homo-not-quite-erectus crawled out of his cave, found a rock or a stick and thought "Wow, I can hit someone with this!"