Plein-air pen and wash on paper

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Goats on the Roof.

A popular destination in the Parksville/Qualicum Beach area for tourists and local visitors is ‘’Goats on the Roof.’’ in Coombs.

It started out years ago with a few quasi agricultural type buildings under a ‘’green roof’’, occupied by goats. Over the years it developed into a rural shopping centre or market with imported merchandize from China, Mexico, and who knows where else. Needless to say that it includes an ice cream bar, donuts shop, coffee shop, bakery and other goodies.

What attracted us today was the Italien restaurant, the Cuckoo. The menu and service is excellent and comes highly recommended. However, the prices they charge for their alcoholic beverages is outrages.

Nevertheless, we enjoyed the visit and the dinner and I managed to make a sketch of their fruit and vegetable sales shack while sitting in the autumn sun and enjoying a coffee with oatmeal raisin cookies; my favourite past-time.

Produce vending shack of the Goats on the roof compound, in Coombs, BC. The Italien Restaurant building in the background.

The goats were outside today, on top of the roof of the main building. Even though the tourist season is pretty well finished, it was very busy today; hardly any parking spots left.

During our visit to nearby Qualicum Beach, I made a sketch of this grocery store, a complicated building, while Gerda did some site seeing and shopping.

One corner of the Qualicum Foods grocery store.

Years ago I did provide structural engineering services for the architect of this building. He designed many prominent buildings in the Qualicum Beach and Parksville area. The man was very creative, like a sculpter, but his work involved complicated structures.

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The Vault

A heritage building in Nanaimo, referred to as ‘the Vault’, was originally a bank around 1900. It is now used as a very popular coffee shop operated by local entrepreneurs.

As most restaurants and coffee shops now have an outdoor seating area or patio, I took the liberty to sit down and sketch one of the the magnificant windows of this building.


Surprise Email

Today I got an email from Tosh (The Old School House) in Qualicum Beach about our paint-out sometime in July during the heatwave here in BC.

Downtown in Qualicum Beach

I now recall spending a couple of hours on the sidewalk to produce a pen-sketch with water colour during the annual Grand Prix of Art. We participate every year as it is a challenging and a fun event, even though the participation and the scale is reduced compared to a pre- pandemic caliber.

If possible, we will be back again next year.

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Comox Valley

Last week we made a trip to Courtenay. It was a nice late summer day and I took the opportunity to sketch a sawmill. When I was still working, we had several projects in the Comox Valley, so I passed this site many times, but never had enough time to make a decent sketch.

This operation is the Thomson Bros. Lumber Co. Ltd. They have an interesting website:, explaining their services and history, which started in 1968. This happens to be the year in which I immigrated to Canada.

I took my time to make the first sketch while sitting across the road with my back to the sun.

Some of the timber structures of the sawmill along Cumberland Road.

After taking a break there was about one half hour time left for making another sketch; this one real quick. The colours where added after I got home.

The sawmill’s front office.

If it was up to me, this facility would be added to the local heritage register in the industrial heritage category.


City View

This week the Plein Air Nanaimo group ventured to a new location. It was an empty lot along Machleary Street, with a view over the downtown area and the Straight of Georgia in the background.

It used to be the site of The Malaspina Lodge, a landmark building from the 1920’s, but recently demolished. It took the owners about a year to get a development permit for a new facility at this location, to be used for seniors housing or assisted living, as it is sometimes referred too.

Years ago now, when I was still working at RJC, I had to make a structural assessment and report of the old concrete building; a strong and solid structure. However, the short spans, low ceilings and the reinforced concrete walls , floors etc, among other things, is what probably made it cost prohibitive for making structural alterations in trying to achieve large open spaces and other features meeting 21st century’s expectations.

Anyways, our meeting at the site was on a cold Monday morning, but I like this kind of view, so I made an effort to fill one page in my sketchbook notwithstanding weather conditions, cold hands and feet.

Partial view over downtown with some islands and the Straight of Georgia or Salish Sea in the background.

As with most of these sites, garbage is accumulating over time. Most notably four large (empty) oil drums, that I included in the foreground.

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Last Monday‘s Paint-out

Last Monday we went to Pipers Lagoon park. The sky was clear but there was a cold wind blowing in from the ocean. I knew of a perfect spot on the beach on the lee-side of a rock bluff with a view of the beach to make a sketch.

Pipers Lagoon beach

In After lunch, I decided that I was on a roll and sat down at a bus stop on Front Street to sketch this view of Church Street. The white van parked on the sidewalk is a City service vehicle that stayed put long enough to get it in the drawing.

Intersection of Front and Church Streets.

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Colliery Dam Park

Yesterday I got new glasses with progressive lenses and felt a need to try it out. It turned out to be a great improvement. It was a very nice day with a mixture of clouds and sunshine; ideal conditions for a bicycle trip.

I sat down on a bench in Colliery Dam Park to focus on a small section of forest across the lake and started doodling with the water colours on Fabriano 1264 paper. It was great to alternate between looking close-up on my sketch-block, with distant observations of the subject within a split second. Just like it should be.

Foliage at the edge of the lake.

Today it looks like the rain season is seriously considering to take over the summer weather that we enjoyed recently.

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Melange is a restaurant on Commercial Street, operated by a french speaking owner or Quebecois. It is next door to “the Modern Café”, operated by a husband and wife team, also originating from Quebec. Both places serve excellent lunches and dinners.

Anyways, I sat on a chair across the street in front of Artzi Stuff, to make this sketch from the people enjoying their (late) lunch on the patio of Melange. What caught my attention was the reflection of the umbrellas in the store windows; an interesting repetition of blue shapes.

I looked up what melange stands for. The french dictionary returns the word “mixing”.Perhaps it alludes to the variety of dishes offered on the menu, or a blending of flavours?

Folks enjoying their lunch. Pen and ink sketch in my 7”x10” sketchbook.

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Labour Day Sketching

This morning we joined the Plein Air Nanaimo outdoor sketching group at the yacht-club for the second time this season at this location, as it was anticipated that the parks would be over crowded.

It was busy there as well, but we settled down anyways and started ‘labouring’.

View of the Maffeo-sutton park at the end of the seawall with some apartment buildings in the background. The tide is going out, which made for a convenient “lead-in” for my picture.

In the afternoon I decided to find a spot at the Swy-A-Lana Lagoon park to make a sketch of the lighthouse bistro.

7×10” sketch book.

This time I remembered to photograph the pen drawing before starting with the watercolours.

Drawing with my favorite fountain pen, TWSBI ECO, using platinum carbon waterproof ink.