Monday, 29 June 2015

MY SKETCHBOOK - Pages 31 through 40

Now that we all agree that maintaining a sketchbook, and sketching and drawing on a regular basis, is important to the development of drawing skills there's something to keep in mind if you want your sketchbooks to last a lifetime. Of course, when you begin to sketch you may think that as the sketchbook only contains rough sketches and drawings, it makes no sense to go the extra mile and purchase a sketchbook containing good paper. By good paper I mean acid free, or neutral PH paper. At present I'm digitally scanning drawings and sketches made 35 years ago, and am finding that many have faded and some are in danger of falling apart simply because I didn't go the extra mile, and purchase acid free drawing papers. You may think as I once did that your sketches aren't important enough to last a lifetime, but consider that you might just become famous, or as I'm presently doing, you might wish to make use of them to archive your time spent making art. No one knows what the future will bring. Best, perhaps, to be safe than sorry years from now.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

MY SKETCHBOOK - pages 21 through 30.

Occasionally, in the course of maintaining a sketchbook we make a not so great sketch. Yes, it happens. It's as if the sketchbook is ruined, that it's has a blemish, and our first thought is to remove the offending sketch. But, you shouldn't because as I've stated before, a sketch is but a sketch, it's a rough idea. Good, or bad, each sketch contains a memory. Should you make what you think is a bad sketch the solution is to simply write a message at the bottom of the page to yourself saying something like, "a not so great sketch", then go on with the next page. Often when I look back, sometimes years later, I realize that although the sketch wasn't that great, the memory of the moment and the reason that I attempted this effort, still exists. Remember it's only a sketch, and was not intended as a masterpiece.

The reason that I'm going on about my "leave everything intact" policy is that while scanning this sketchbook I discovered that several pages have been cut out. Why, I don't know? I can only hope that I used the sketches as reference for drawings, and that they're in a folder somewhere. Perhaps, I removed the pages before I adopted my "leave everything intact" policy. It's a mystery that will no doubt never be answered.

Memories are gold as one ages.....

It was late afternoon, early evening, and I had just finished walking the marsh when I noticed an owl beginning its evening prowl. I quickly made a rough sketch that later, back in the studio, was turned into a drawing, and a small watercolour painting. I believe that I may still have the drawing. The painting has long since been sold.

I used this sketch as reference for a small watercolour. Instead of ducks, however, I painted a pair of Canada Geese coming in for a landing.

Reference also for a painting, a large painting, again substituting Canada Geese for the ducks in the sketch. I believe that I called this painting, "TINY MARSH".

The date on this sketch should read December 21/87.  Puzzling as to just why I'd write 1983. It couldn't have been a memory lapse due to old age, as back then I would have been a young 56 year old. Must have been a cold day, and my fingers were numb. One of those mysteries with no answer. I do recall making the sketch, however. The snow was late in coming that year, and I went for a walk in the Copeland Forest surfacing on Horseshoe Resort's cross-country ski trails above what was called "Heart Attack Hill. As I reached the top of the hill a bird of prey, most likely a Red-tailed Hawk, flew over the crest of the hill. I later used the sketch as reference material for a painting of a Snowy Owl launching from a fence post. A good painting as I recall.

This was an idea for a full sheet watercolour. The painting, however, featured only one soaring Red-tailed Hawk.

A study, one of many, for an etching that never got printed.

I was relatively close to a couple of artists. We sometimes all exhibited at the same festivals. We often spoke of getting together, and doing some sketching. On this one occasion we met at Buckhorn, Ontario, and between reminiscing we jumped in our cars, and went off sketching. It was interesting to learn that some of the artists not only never sketched, but couldn't draw, and made exclusive use of photographs to make their drawing and paintings. Slides, projectors, and tracings to make their paintings that were ultimately turned into limited edition reproductions by a printing press. Art?

There were times when I tired of attempting to realistically portray wildlife, and played with doing something more graphic in nature. I made a whole series of waterfowl paintings layering on Prussian blue in stripes of varying intensity, then added realistic geese and ducks. This was an early study for the series.

I turned this quick study into an acrylic painting. I mainly painted with watercolour, but on the rare occasion I'd turn out a small oil landscape, or an acrylic painting. They quickly sold. Some think that oil paintings are the "real thing". I suppose that they must be for if you tour the National Gallery, or any major gallery for that matter, you're hard pressed to find a watercolour painting. Perhaps, I should have switched mediums......

Canada Geese, a successful reintroduction program gone viral. Used to be, back in the 1940s, or thereabouts, it was thought that the giant Canada Goose had gone extinct. However, a small population was discovered out west somewheres, and a breeding program was begun. Years later the success of the program has become a nightmare with Canada Geese everywhere fouling beaches and parks. God help us should the reintroduction of the Trumpeter Swan, a much larger goose, become as successful!

More BLACK 8" X 10 "  More sketches to come........

Sunday, 21 June 2015

MY SKETCHBOOK - Pages 11 through 20

Old sketchbooks are in many ways like diaries, reviving memories of events long past. I've mentioned in other writings that when I view an old sketch I actually relive the moment. Perhaps, it's true for you, as well? 

The Copeland's Bush later renamed The Copeland Forest was owned by the Copeland family out of Elmvale,  Ontario. They operated a a sawmill in the forest for years. There used to be a small village for the workers and a railroad siding off of the main rail line. When the sawmill burned down in the 1970s the Copelands quit logging the forest and used the forest as their private preserve, building a small log cabin for overnight stays. As the forest was located only a short distance from our property at Horseshoe Valley we used to sneak into the forest and hike the old logging roads. Eventually, the family sold off the forest to the Province of Ontario for a bit of cash, and back taxes. All signs of the village, mill, and rail siding, have been erased. It's presently administered by The Ministry of Natural Resources, and is now designated for multiple recreation use. A bit of history that's been lost to, so called, progress.

Awenda Provincial Park is located not too far away from Penetanguishene on the shore of Georgian Bay. I've been going up that way since I was a boy, long before it was designated Provincial Park status. It's history reads much like the Copeland Forest. There's a lot of history involving this piece of Ontario, logging efforts and attempts by various families to live a remote existence. Fortunately, the history is being archived by the Provincial Government and will be available for future generations.
An interesting aspect of my Awenda shoreline sketches, something that occurs unintentionally in my sketches, is a record of the water level of Georgian Bay. When I was a boy the water level would have been almost up to the trees. Georgian Bay's water level has since my grandparents time been considered cyclical. Some say it's a 10 year cycle, some say 7 years, between the high and low level mark. In recent times the cycle seems to have been broken. Milder winters and more water being drawn off by municipalities situated around the Great Lakes could be the cause of record low levels. Fortunately, a couple of severe winters have seen the water level rise.

I recall this moment.  It was very early spring. I had just gotten out of my car and was proceeding across the parking lot on my way to hike the marsh, when my attention was attracted to the call of a shorebird in the adjacent ,freshly ploughed, farmer's field. On thinking back I believe that it was a Killdeer, and it struck me that here was an idea for a print, or painting. I very hurriedly made a sketch and carried on to the marsh. Some time later I made a print, a drypoint, but apart from pulling a couple of proofs I never took the idea any further. Somehow, on paper the idea just didn't possess the magic of the moment.

Come the mid 1980s I'm involved almost full-time making waterfowl paintings and intaglio prints. Not all of the drawings and studies became finished works. This particular sketch/drawing was more of an attempt to graphically work things out before committing to something more finished. Best to work things out before spending days making a finished piece, and realizing that graphically it doesn't work. Here I've cropped one of the mallards thinking that this might work. It didn't, and I never went ahead with the finished painting. Today, with technology the way that it is one can simply play with this and that and almost instantly determine what it probably took me a couple of hours to realize.

There are lots more sketches to scan, but we'll give it a few days before continuing........

Friday, 19 June 2015

MY SKETCH BOOK - Pages 1 through 10

Sketchbook 8" X 10" Black Hardcover
In between enjoying a bit of the outdoors, and trying to get the flower garden in order, I've been working away at another book. This one is my attempt to archive some of my sketches and drawings.  I had thought that I would title this one "Shade of Grey". It then dawned on me that many of my sketches and drawings were also made in watercolour, and that if I proceeded with this title then I'd have to exclude a good number of my sketches. So, this book will simply be titled "My Sketches and Drawings". As this book may take awhile to put together, primarily due to the fact that many sketches that were scanned some years ago have become useless due to changes in technology and must be scanned again, I've decided to share another of my sketchbooks in a series of postings.

I came upon this particular sketchbook while looking for material for my book, and thought that by sharing my early efforts it may help to inspire others to take a stab at sketching. I continue to believe that sketching and drawing are extremely important in the development of an artist. Sketching is not only a means of capturing the moment for future consideration, it helps the artist to learn to see.

When sketching keep in mind that, " a sketch is a sketch, is a sketch". It's not suppose to be perfect. It can be as little as a few lines, or a study of sorts, to remind you at some later date of a moment and of possibility.

This sketchbook was begun in the summer of 1980 following my return to my art studies at 39 years of age. I was a bit of a novelty. I was older than everyone in the Foundation year including my instructors. I had something to prove and threw myself into my studies and the need for me to learn how to draw. I sketched and drew at every opportunity......

Saturday, 13 June 2015


We recently travelled to Canada’s national capital, Ottawa. I make a point of mentioning that it was Canada’s national capital that I visited as many readers of this blog are not from Canada. Pretty much the sole purpose of my getting in the car and travelling  a distance of some 550 odd kilometers over a period of some seven hours, over sometimes bumpy roads, and making our way through road construction, was to view the ongoing Alex Colville exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada.

Incidentally, for those of you planning to visit Canada, and explore by car, you should be aware that we have but two seasons, 6 months of winter and 6 months of road repair/construction. During the road repair/construction season add an extra hour to your travelling time.

Back to Alex Colville; the exhibition was amazing. I lost count of the pieces on display, but there must have been in excess of 100 paintings, prints, and drawings, many that I’d never seen before. I was particularly drawn to the exhibition wanting to view both the working drawings for his paintings, as well as his very early art school drawings. We seldom, if ever, have the opportunity to view the artist’s working drawings, and various works on paper. For the most part artists don’t put much store in their drawings and sketches, often viewing them as lesser works of art and storing them away in folders. In the case of Alex Colville it was determined early on in his career that his major works were of significance, ground breaking, and that at some point in time his work would not only be collectable, but would find a home in Canada’s major art museums. With this in mind an effort was made to archive just about every drawing that he ever made.

It was quite amazing to view the original paintings. Interesting to note that Colville rarely painted shadows, creating the impression that his subjects were floating and three dimensional. As for his drawings, crude, exploratory, making use of geometric lines for placement on the canvas. His art school drawings were nothing out of the ordinary providing hope for students that might take in the exhibition. In other words Colville provides evidence that becoming an artist is part of a long process that requires commitment, and hard work.

The National gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada also houses a huge collection of paintings and sketches by Canada’s Group of Seven Painters, contemporary art exhibitions, travelling exhibitions, as well as chronicling Canada’s art history. 

While in Ottawa we also took in the Nature Museum. Well worth a visit should you ever choose to visit Ottawa. Set aside several days to take in both the National Gallery of Canada and the Nature Museum. We spent most of a day at the National Gallery, 
and didn’t have time to take in the third floor.

When you arrive in Ottawa, find somewhere to park your car, and use the public transportation. Driving in Ottawa is a bit hectic. Everyone seems to be in a big rush and on street parking is at a premium. Besides,Ottawa has an excellent public transit system. And, don’t be surprised to find that everything, food, services, and accommodation are quite expensive, at least they were from my point of view.  Our hotel room for example cost almost $250.00/day.

The trip home to Midland was long, but made enjoyable by travelling through Algonquin Provincial Park, where we were fortunate to view several moose and enjoy the scenery highlighted by its many lakes and majestic forest.

Whitefish Lake - Algonquin Park   Watercolour Sketch