Plein-air pen and wash on paper


Macdonald’s Lookout.

The Macdonald restaurant on the south end has a seat in front of a window where I can see some houses across the street. Once in a while, the sun came out producing shadows that I marked up with my pen and used some watercolour wash at home to fill in.

The tones from local objects are missing, but there is always next time.


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New Season

Today, I ventured outside and walked past some of my sketching spots to end up at Robins Gardens to draw this building again.

This apartment building is located on a site that is part of the City of Nanaimo’s list of cultural landscapes, thanks to a Mr. Robins, a coal-mine superintendent, who owned the lot and collected trees from other countries. Some of the trees on this site are huge and are about 100 years old, according to the city’s website.

Quick pen and ink sketch with a bit of rendering.


Fishing Boats

Several large fishing boats are moored in the Nanaimo commercial harbour. It is difficult to find out on the internet when and where the herring are spawning this year. The herring fisheries is becoming more and more controversial. If one is not part of the industrie, it difficult to determine who or what to believe. According to some sources a petition with 50,000 signatures was submitted to the DFO, urging to stop the herring fisheries for a number of reasons. This includes the diminishing salmon fisheries. Other sources proclaim that DFO specified quota for catching herring is prudent as confirmed by science.

Years ago, when I still went out on my kayak during the herring season, you could end up in a bay with millions of herring. This was a natural spectacle that attracted many gulls and sea-lions. It also became a tourist attraction as numerous fishing vessels cast their nets to maximize their catch of herring, while being watched by spectators on shore or in kayaks.

Anyways, this year I decided to make some pictures of the boats in the harbour. What attracted me was the many grey boats in contrast with the orange/red bumpers and the reflections in the water.

I think these are prawn boats.
Fishing boat with downtown buildings in the background.


Red Shelf Decor

There is a store on Commercial Street in Nanaimo that has an incredible collection of antiques and artifacts from all over the world, including books.

The owner of the store needed a painting of his establishment, prompting me to work out a front view with a small sample of the collections displayed on the sidewalk in front of the store.

Red Shelf Decor at 123 Commercial Street, Nanaimo.

We traded my picture with one of his books that I looked at before. This book is titled “Totem Poles” by Hilary Stewart. It shows many photos, drawings and maps with background information and stories to describe early aboriginal culture of the Pacific Northwest in Canada.

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Maffeo-Sutton Park

This park is located at the waterfront close to downtown Nanaimo. It is one of my favourite go-to places when the temperature approaches 30 degrees. There is lots of shade and usually with a cool breeze coming from the ocean.

This pen sketch was made in the spring sitting in the sun at a picnic table in Maffeo Park. It shows the new totem pole.

Pen sketch in a 7”x10” sketch book folded open to double the work space.

I like pen sketching and have some TWSBI fountain pens with different sizes of nibs and waterproof inks. They are reasonable priced and have a plunger mechanism that stores a lot of ink. We have a store in Nanaimo called Common Foundry, which has a significant selection of fountain pens and ink-pots to choose from.

So called “fude” pens with a fat nib that is bent, are also nice to sketch with, as these produce varying line-widths, but they have reservoirs referred to as “converters”, which can be messy and too small. One is likely to run out of ink during a sketch and frequent refilling may be needed, however you don’t want to carry ink pots along.


Ladysmith Heritage

This steam donkey is a sample of equipment that was used in the forestry industry about one hundred years ago. Essentially, it is a giant winch that is driven by a steam engine, and was used to pull large logs uphill or towards railcars to be transported to sawmills.

This one is displayed as a heritage monument along the road that leads to Transfer Beach, a local waterfront park, in Ladysmith. One can see several more, all different shapes and sizes, in the Forestry museum in Duncan.

Steam donkey in Ladysmith, B.C.

I sketched this thing several times over the years on site. However this is a painting that was done from a photograph in the studio. It is 11”x15” approximately on watercolour paper. I used only three pigments; Ultra marine blue, Quinacridone Sienna, and Raw Sienna.

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Stones Marina

During August and September, I headed out to a marina adjacent to a little park where it is quiet to make some sketches and paintings of work boats with boathouses in the background.

I used to come here a lot some years ago and this painting is a momentum of that time. The boathouses next to the yellow boat were replaced with some new ones. The yellow barge is still there and operational.

Work boats at Stones Marina some years ago.
Work boats at Stones Marina in 2022.

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Last Market of the Season

Yesterday, I sat down in the shade again to sketch the market on Pioneer Plaza for the last time this season. I opened my 9”x12” sketchbook, 1264 from Fabriano, to get a double page. It took me almost two hours to complete, just in time before the sun came around the tree that provided shade for me.

Market on Pioneer Plaza. Pen and Ink with watercolour on 9”x24” paper.

Every Saturday there is a musician performing. Yesterday we enjoyed listening to one of our local keyboard players, Marti, who has a wide repertoire from Mozart to Brubeck.

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Saturday’s Repetition

Every Saturday in the summer there is a market on Pioneer Plaza. It is a cross section between a farmers market and a craft sale.

There is a lady who sells oatmeal raison cookies and coffee, which is my favourite merchant at that location. Also, a local musician performing, provides a pleasant and festive mood to the event.

There are not that many choices where one can sit comfortably in the shade, even though I bring my own folding chair, so all my sketches take on the same look with the bastion heritage building in the background.

July 2-2022
July 23-2022
Today’ effort, August 6-2022.

There is a tall brick hotel building across the street that a usually choose to ignore, as it does not contribute to the scenery.


Recent Scribbles

In July, the weather has been cooperating a bit more to get me motivated for taking a sketch book and fountain pen along when going out for a walk. All of these sketches are scenes located within walking distance from our apartment in downtown Nanaimo.

Maffeo-Sutton Park.
Church Street
Crane used in the construction of the Convention Centre Hotel
Saturday morning market on Pioneer Plaza.
Thursday evening market at the junction of Church Street and commercial Street.
Foot ferry for Newcastle Island.
Foot bridge in Maffeo-Sutton Park.
Cute little jeep at the yacht-club parking lot.

Section of Selby Street.

For most of these a 6”x 9” sketchbook was used, a fountain pen and sometimes a water-brush for some shading.

If you look back on this site, it becomes obvious that I often end up at the same locations to make a sketch. The reason is that there is a comfortable bench to sit on, probably in the shade, and a bit out of the way from traffic noise.