Water Tower at John Abbott

The water tower at John Abbott was dismantled in June 2011 after 106 years of service as it was built in 1905. Maintaining this tower and its 44-foot tall steel water storage tank would generate high costs so it was decided to bring it down.

I love these structures, so this is why I decided to paint it. Painting from pictures is very different from painting “live” or on location. Pictures have a one-dimensional feel to them… they are lacking the 3D effect that our eyes take in when looking, touching and hearing. Also, when we are painting on location, all kinds of things happen… birds pass and chirp, raindrops fall and take away all of the watercolour paints, wind picks up and can make your sketchbook fly away, your fingers get cold, or hot, the watercolours take hours to dry in the cold… but there is something in the immediate surroundings that keep your senses on edge that no picture — even though perfect — can transmit.

Voici la vieille tour d’eau, qui n’est plus pour raisons pécuniaires et sécuritaires, au Cégep John Abbott. J’aime tellement ces structures, signes d’un autre temps. Peindre d’une photo, comme celle-ci, et peindre dehors est extrêmement différent. Les photos sont unidimensionnelles… tandis que la réalité, vue par nos yeux et nos sens, est plus que 3D… on pourrait dire 3D à la 3. Quand on peint dehors, tous nos sens sont éveillés. On entend les oiseaux pipitter, le vent se lever ou tomber, le cri d’une sirène, le soleil qui bouge, les doigts gèlent, les nuages arrivent et enlèvent nos ombres, et en plus de problèmes réels comme des bourrasques de vent qui emportent nos papiers, les pinceaux qui tombent par terre, les papiers qui s’envolent… même si il semble avoir beaucoup de désavantages à peindre dehors, rien n’y équivaut. C’est tellement plus sensible et excitant et vrai!

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The Invisible Woman :: La femme invisible

After making chicken stock, tomato soup with slow braised tomatoes (3 hours at 250 degrees F), a curry chicken sandwich and some cleaning, I decided to hop into the car to buy the ingredients that I need for tomorrow’s recipe and while I was there, might as well make the most of it and sketch something at Serres Vaudreuil.

Les Serres Vaudreuil is a small family business, owned by the St-Denis, that has been in operation since 1982. This small business has four facets… horticulture and landscape gardening in the back with multiple greenhouses and a fruit and vegetable old-style barn. They offer home-cooked meals and the vegetables that are produced on this farm are pesticide free… asparagus, corn on the cob, peas, 18 varieties of squash, pumpkins, tomatoes and cucumbers.

While I was sketching in the car, I left the windows open so that Pyper could have some fresh air coming in… well… he made friends with everyone that came into the parking area. There were even some dads and moms that came up to introduce him to their kids… this was kind of nice. And… Jane was totally invisible. People were coming up to the car, talking to Pyper,  petting him, and then moving off. Was I invisible? I do think so as every time that I paint in the car, no one sees me… which suits me fine ;-)

Pyper a tellement le tour avec les humains c’est incroyable. Aujourd’hui j’avais besoin d’ingrédients pour continuer à faire ma razzia de bouffe pour la fin de semaine et j’ai décidé d’aller aux Serres Vaudreuil. Pendant que je “sketchais” dans l’automobile, Pyper était occupé à se faire beaucoup d’amis… des familles entières arrêtaient pour venir le voir, lui parler, le flatter… sans même être conscient que j’étais aussi dans l’automobile. Ce que je trouve incroyable est qu’il semble qu’à chaque fois que je peins dans l’auto, je deviens invisible… les personnes ne me voient pas du tout, et j’en suis assez heureuse car je suis occupée ;-)

Test Driving Fountain Pens

Last night I had fun as I received my new Extra Fine Platinum Carbon Desk Fountain Pen that I ordered on the web from JetPens.com and I had to give it a test drive, right? So I sat down and drew everything that my eyes fell upon. I love it! It is very very fine, and I love it when the lines are thin as opposed to heavy. I also think that this kind of scribbling away, or test-driving situations, are important for anyone that likes to draw and wants to improve their skills. It does not matter if you get it wrong… for every good painting that I do, I have at least three bad ones. But hey! When I started drawing, it took me five drawings to get one right. So I am slowly improving. So here they are…

Ensuite, j’ai dessiné une lampe de nuit qui vient de Tahiti — un cadeau d’un de mes voisins pour avoir entretenu son spa pendant leur séjour de 3 mois là-bas. Et c’est grâce à lui si nous avons un spa aussi car il nous a tellement donné le goût. Mon numériseur semble faire de la distorsion au centre… humph.

 

First Time for Everything :: Il y a toujours une première fois, pour tout

The Urban Sketchers of Montreal gathered together for the first time at the Jean Talon Market in Montreal. It was also my first time that I sketched with this group, and it was quite invigorating, temperature-wise and crowd-wise, to say the least. I had never painted in a market and it was overwhelming as there were so many distractions, and to be able to choose your subject, let alone how many fruits to paint, was a bit daunting. But by my second sketch in the day, which I will post at a later date, I had zoomed into the subject, concentrating on certain aspects of the colourful landscape in front of me.

Dimanche à 9h30 les Sketchers urbains de Montréal se sont rencontrés pour la première fois au Marché Jean Talon de Montréal. Nous étions neuf, tous contents d’être là. Peindre seule dans une foule est difficile, mais peindre avec neuf autres personnes rend la chose “normale”, car on se dégêne assez vite. La prochaine sortie se tiendra au Carré Dorchester, à côté de la cathédrale à 9h30 le dimanche 28 octobre.

Missing Old Water Tower :: Vieille tour d’eau me manque

Here is where the Old Water Tower used to reside… on top of this old building. It was torn down last year for security reasons, and to me, they looked wonderful. I found a photograph of the old water tower that I am planning on painting very soon. In this painting the sky looks so empty.

Voici le bâtiment qui donnait résidence à la vieille tour d’eau qui s’est fait démolir l’année passée pour des raisons de sécurité… c’est dommage, car ces vieilles tours d’eau étaient majestueuses et belles, synonymes d’un temps passé, et qui ont eu leur utilité et leur charme. Il n’en reste plus beaucoup à Montréal et j’ai trouvé une photo de la vieille tour d’eau à John Abbott, que je vais peindre très bientôt. Le ciel a de l’air tellement vide sans elle.

Paper is Key for a Watercolour Painting

I am astounded… the paper that we use to paint our watercolours is so very important. Since I started painting last May I have been using the Moleskine watercolour sketchbooks, with a few attempts with an Arches paper and a Fabriano paper (I have not tried them long enough to be able to say which one I prefer… I know that they are very different). This weekend, using the Stillman & Birn Beta Series sketchbook, is a whole new adjustment. As I said yesterday, I love this paper… and I am adjusting to it. When I let my paint “bead” onto the paper, and it dries out, the beads almost disappear as the paper seems to unify the washes. Wow! I need practice with this paper, but it is very interesting to paint on it.

The Hertzberg building is the central buildling at Cégep John Abbott College, and its name honours Gerhard Herzberg, a physicist and physical chemist who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1971. The college is named after John Abbott (1821-1893), who then became the first native born prime minister of Canada, and former Mayor of Montreal who lived in nearby Senneville.

Voici l’édifice Hertzberg au Cégep John Abbott College. C’est tellement une belle architecture, avec une fénestration incroyable. Ce qui est triste est que certaines fenêtres sont bannies, par manque d’espace, car une bibliothèque peut résider en avant d’une fenêtre ou une cloison pour diviser un espace. Les terrains de ce Cégep sont immense (300 acres) et ont beaucoup d’arbres matures. Cette semaine les élèves étaient couchés sur le gazon, regroupés en petits groupes… beaux moments.

 

A Walk in the Rigaud Woods

Yesterday Guy, Pyper and I went walking in the majestic woods of Rigaud. It was fabulous, quiet, the sun was filtering onto the forest canopy, Pyper was following his invisible scent trails and we were enjoying the moment.

I was also very excited on Friday when I received my  two new Stillman & Birn sketchbooks, Beta Series hardbound, natural white, 180 lbs, cold pressed paper. The UPS delivery arrived with a price tag that I had not expected… 24$ COD of import fees. So these inexpensive sketchbooks, about 19$, became suddenly expensive. I bought them from Hyatt’s, NY.

The first time that I applied paint onto this paper, I went wow! The paintbrush glided over the surface. In the top half of the forest I think that I used the colour correctly, but clearly, on the bottom half I overworked my paints. As this paper is quite heavy, it does not warp under the successive layers of water being added on… it stays straight.

Voici notre magnifique forêt sur la montagne de Rigaud… c’était paisible et rassurant de marcher sur des sentiers qui, peut-être, ont été traversés par les Amérindiens il y a très très longtemps.

J’ai aussi acheté un nouveau livret de Stillman & Birn qui est magnifique, grandeur 5.5 “x 8.5”. Le pinceau et l’aquarelle glisse sur la feuille… c’est tellement doux. Je vous souhaite de commencer à faire une forme d’art quelconque… car ça nourrit beaucoup. Étant donné que c’était mon premier essai avec ce papier, le haut de la peinture je crois est bien, mais j’ai trop travaillé la peinture dans le bas. En aquarelle, un toucher léger est requis… pour que la peinture garde sa fraîcheur, il ne faut pas trop la travailler.

Restful Weekend Nights

Well, sometimes in life we have bad days, and sometimes we have bad nights. Well last night was one of them. I started painting at about 7:30 p.m. and 15 minutes into the painting, blackout… the electricity was gone. So I got up and started turning off the lights in the house… except for a few–to save the electricity when the power came back on. The electricity suddenly came back about 5 minutes later, so I got back up and turned on more lights and then sat back down to continue painting, however I was a tad frazzled as it was now raining, thunder was clapping all around me and lightning was surrounding me… another blackout… and my paintbrush stayed on the page — too long — — yikes! I then got up, and started thinking that I had to give this up… when the lights came back on. I finally managed to finish the painting in quite a hurry, with many blurry moments.

My night had just started.

I got to bed at 11:30 p.m., woke up all of a sudden at 1:30 a.m. as Pyper was howling in the house, running to and fro, in a frenzy. I shuffled through the house and turned on the lights, to see three beautiful baby raccoons eating in the bird feeder. Pyper managed to break a plant glass holder, as I was bringing in the bird feeder from outside after scooting off the raccoons (they just looked at me with their big brown eyes), swept the floor and… guess what? I was wide awake by then. So back to bed, turned on the TV and by 3:00 a.m. I finally feel asleep. At 6:00 a.m., my radio turned on… I had forgotten to close my alarm. Then at 7:30 a.m. Guy came back home… so with very little sleep I got up and I guess that I will not be at my best today. Might as well go with the flow, and relax. Hah! I love weekends ;-) They are so restful, are they not?

Head Games and Colour Quests

Since taking my watercolours out from the closet last May, I have been painting about 3 times a week. Usually on Mondays, Saturdays and Sundays. However, my colours have been changing in my head as I seem to use them in leaps and bounds — as some weeks I am in an Indigo mood, then the next week I completely forget Indigo and delve into Mayan Blue. Payne’s Gray is surely a winter colour as Mayan Violet, without question, is a summer colour.

So today, to balance out the colours in my head, and heart, I decided to paint a Colour Wheel, manipulating the colours that I already have in my palette. Only one colour was mixed from two other colours, and it is the purple at the bottom, which I created using Cobalt Blue with Cadmium Red Light.

Now as I look at my colour wheel, I can see that I have a net preference for warm colours as I have bought more… but ideally, I should have a balance between the cold colours (greens, blues, and purples) and the warm colours (yellows, oranges and reds). In the middle line, I have put the neutral colours.

So “I can see clearly now” my colours… there is a song that just popped into my head and its title evades me… ahhhh! being in the fifties sure has its moments ;-)

My Home in Rigaud

My husband has been pestering me for quite awhile now about painting our house. I personally thought that it would be good to wait until I improved my skills? But he kept repeating: “You’re always driving around trying to find interesting things to paint… your house is not interesting enough?” So… demured, I had to agree. So here it is.

My favourite colour has always been orange… and there is alot of Burnt Orange in this painting, which suits me fine as the house is this colour too… well the colour is cedar, but close enough.

Everything in this painting was going fine, until I got to the screen porch… how do you paint a black mosquitoe screen? Do you paint it black? No way… do you paint it blue? Maybe a disaster in the making? So I decided to paint it Vivianite (which is a neutral grey) but it did not work out at all. Everything was streaking though. This is when I realized that the Moleskine paper has a grain that prefers (if you are painting portrait-wise) that the paintbrush moves downwards. I was originally painting from left to right… argh! and this streaked the whole mosquitoe curtain. So then I decided to mix a new colour (Vivianite with Burnt Sienna) and then repainted downwards… and it worked. Well… to say that it worked is an exaggeration, but I am still happy that I managed to save this painting. It could have been much worse.

Also, I got very excited when one of my friends asked me to paint her house. This is the first time that anyone asks me to paint something for them, and I thought that it would be preferable if I practiced painting stone steps… as she has some. I am planning on going there on a weekend in autumn where the weather will be fine and the leaves will have started turning red… to add a bit of colour to the woods.

Ode to JAC

Did I ever mention that John Abbott College is the best place to work as a teacher? One of my colleagues and friend who has been at JAC for over 27 years, once told me that she felt that she had won the lottery ticket of jobs… and I feel the same way. I hope that I never have to work elsewhere in my life.

Over the years, I have met people from all over the world with such a diverse set of cultures and knowledge — it is incredible. There are so many artists, such as writers, musicians, graphic artists, painters, illustrators, actors, watercolorists, poets, sculptors, photographers, dancers, as well as philosophers, geographers, anthropologists, political analysts, historians, athletes, mathematicians, biologists, psychologists, physicists, chemists, nurses, computer science experts, geeks, technicians, secretaries, etc. I wonder why they did not dedicate the new building to the Arts instead of to the Sciences? I bet that the proportion of artists at JAC is much higher than of the scientists.

I saw the other day that there are over 120 cultures that are represented at our Cégep, and I am very proud of this. Not forgetting the wonderful bunch of students that I have also met over the years, and still keep in touch with even though they have moved on to different places and spaces. So this painting is in dedication to JAC and its entire community.

This is the back view of the main building. The right hand buildling is the Penfield building (where I work), the middle is Herzberg and the left hand side is the Library. This is but a very small portion of what our campus looks like. More to come at a later date ;-)

Une de mes amies et collègues m’a dit un jour qu’elle sentait qu’elle avait gagné le gros lot des jobs en travaillant à JAC (elle rentre dans sa 30e année). Je suis tellement d’accord avec elle.

Il y a une transparence, une simplicité et une complexité qui rend la vie très très agréable à cet endroit. Voici un exemple.

Dans les autres Cégeps, les administrateurs “imposent” la cédule aux enseignants, ainsi qu’aux élèves. Donc un enseignant et un élève peuvent se retrouver avec un cours de 8:30 à 10:30 et le prochain cours de 15:00 à 17:00. À JAC, au lieu d’imposer une cédule, ils nous demandent de construire nos cédules par département et en même temps c’est nous qui créons la cédule des élèves.

Les élèves ont tendance à aimer avoir leurs cours dans une frippe, et les enseignants aussi. En mettant la responsabilité sur les départements, JAC sauve beaucoup d’argent, a des enseignants plus heureux ainsi que des élèves qui apprennent dans un endroit plus pédagogique et en même temps on en fait des heureux. Ceci n’est qu’un exemple parmi tant d’autres pour expliquer le sentiment de la loterie ;-) 

Sunday’s Crop… of Twigs

On weekends, weather permitting, I take the wheelbarrow and walk with Pyper on our lot, down the path that shadows our brook until we get to the point where the creek turns around and back towards the house. On our way back, we start picking up all of the little twigs, branchlets, sticks, shoots, and stems that lie across the trail that will make kindling for the fire. Sometimes the bigger branches end up as walking sticks for our guests, or as a poker for the fire. (Have you noticed that I say “we”? ‘Tis because Pyper is busy searching for twigs that lie at the bottom of the rivulet and brings them back out for me to play with him, and when I don’t, he just puts them on the trail for me to pick up — clean puppy ;-))).

At 4:00 pm I start the fire and I always end up with a huge mass of twigs that keep the fire going until around 6:00 pm. I love the smell & sound of burning wood. So here is Sunday’s crop — a wheelbarrow full of twigs and branches.

Sailboats in Toronto

My brother sent me a picture of his boat named Amarone… the one on the left hand side. There were so many cables as well as a few hundred boats in this photograph that I had to delete many of them. For those of you who do know how sailboats are made, and understand where the cables come from and where they are going, please ignore my ignorance in these matters, as sailboats and their associated cables are a big mystery to me.

Little Birdhouse

This is one of my little favourite birdhouses that lie across my lot in Rigaud. Because I decided to draw this with a Micron technical pen (I was actually thinking of my students and their Doodle project that they have just begun), I decided to sketch in my Sketching Moleskine, instead of in my Watercolour Moleskine. Then, when I decided that I would like to add a tad of colour, well…. the paper does not hold it. Another lesson…