Plein-air pen and wash on paper

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Summer is waning

It seems or feels like the temperature is dropping and the rainy season is returning. Time to enjoy some more outdoor sketching before it is too late. There are still a lot of visitors around town, judging by the licence plates on cars and people sitting on the patio of restaurants, bars and coffee shops. It gives the town a festive atmosphere.

This is particularly evident at the waterfront, such as Maffeo-sutton park, where I settled down the other day taking my time to do some sketching.

Maffeo-Sutton park. 7×10” sketch book from Fabriano (1264) using pen and ink plus watercolour with water brushes.

Yesterday I picked a spot on the crabbing pier to sketch the lighthouse bistro. Unfortunately, the sun hid behind the clouds soon after I started. It is a lot easier and more fun to work when the sun paints objects to provide colour and shadow shapes.

Lighthouse Bistro. 9×12” sketchbook, a Fabriano 1264 product that is now locally available at Iron Oxide.

Somehow the float plain ended up in a position where it looks like an extension of the ramp; a faux pas. Oh well, there is always next time. It started to rain by the time I got home.


Departure Bay

This morning I had to run some errands, requiring the use of the car.

I used the opportunity to stop at Departure Bay to make two sketches. The first one was hurried as it looked like it was going to rain. Only two colours were used, sap green and dioxazine violet.

Houses along the beach at Departure Bay.

After a while I took a short break and the sun started to peak through the clouds, now and then, providing shade and colour to the scenery, which I find inspiring. Again sitting on a log on the beach, I sketched the houses cascading down the hillside, an area of town referred to as as Sherwood Forest with Sugarloaf Mountain at the top.

Sherwood Forest neighbourhood.

Both sketches were made in my new 7”x10” spiral bound sketchbook with the trade name Fabriano 1264. I really like this paper as the pen glides nicely across the surface and the paper (pulp) is sized to receive water colours very well. It is cheap, so nobody has to feel inhibited to try new things or to take some chances here and there.


Ladysmith BC

Today we visited the Arts show or market on the main street in Ladysmith where artists, artisans and craftspeople displayed and offered their work for sale. Before the pandemic it was referred to as Arts on the Avenue, a popular annual event.

Compared to previous years, it was reduced from three city blocks to one but nevertheless very interesting and well attended. I settled down to make some sketches. When I was almost finished with the first drawing, it turned out that my fountain pen was empty.

View from the corner of Roberts Street and 1st Avenue.

The nearby pharmacy was open for business, so I checked if they had pens for sale. Sure enough there was a small stationary section in the far corner where I found a permanent marker. The term permanent indicates that the ink is waterproof and will not wash out.

When I started to draw the market scene from the other end of the avenue, it turned out that this marker produced a much thicker line than what I was used to. Anyways, I carried on and finished my picture. I am always game for trying new things and will probably use this marker again in the future.

Same stage as the previous sketch but viewed from the opposite site on the avenue.

We concluded our visit with dinner or late lunch at the Spice Hut Indian Cuisine. This proved to be an excellent choice, except they did not serve draft beers, however, the bottled beer was effective in quenching the spicy food.

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Under Cover

Today we went to Departure Bay with our regular Monday “Plein Air Nanaimo” group. When we got there, it started to rain. I did not feel like waiting it out, so I found a spot under the roof overhang of the maintenance and washroom building of the Kinsman Park.

The view from here was not great and also obstructed by a playground. However, with the right mindset one can become creative and have fun sketching any mundane subject. Ten minutes after I started, the rain stopped. After about an hour or so I finished this picture and was ready to join the group for coffee and a treat.

On the corner of Loat Street and Christie Street. Sketch on 9” x 12” Fabriano 1264 paper with pen and ink + watercolour.

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Comox Valley

Yesterday we had to go to Courtenay for a reception. We decided to make it a day trip and do some site seeing and sketching.

First we settled down in Comox in a large park adjacent to the downtown area and the harbour, aptly referred to as Marina Park. It was very hot, close to 30 degrees, but we found a shady spot and there is usually a cold breeze coming of the ocean.

The park was seemed to be very popular and busy as it featured shelters, a playground with a water park and a large parking lot with free parking. I made a sketch of this elaborate wooden structure. It seemed to me like a modern park shelter with an alluring design. The palm tree as a landscaping feature was bothersome; it blocked my view and these things belong on Islands like Hawaii, not here.

After lunch we sought refuse in the air conditioned library in Courtenay before we ventured out again. This time I found a spot in a park in Courtenay along the river, Simms Millennium Park, where another elaborate wooden structure is located.

Corner of a band stand in Simms Park.

This one seemed quite a few years older to me than the one from this morning, perhaps a centennial project. It has a really complicated design with beams, columns and struts in all directions, sitting on top of large concrete pedestals above a concrete platform. Maybe placement above the flood level of the Courtenay River was part of the design criteria. Not very elegant but probably a proud or boastful project for members of the carpenters union at the time it was built.

I had my hands full just trying to sketch this one corner during the time available to me.

My new 8”x8” sketch block, 1264 Fabriano product, was used for both sketches. I am very pleased with the quality of this paper.

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Morningstar Farm

Today we went with Plein Air Nanaimo to the Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, a large farm in Parksville, to do some outdoor sketching.

It is one of our annual destinations and I was looking forward to it because the last time we were there, before the pandemic, they had a coffee shop with delicious cinnamon buns. Unfortunately still not in operation this time.

I found a nice spot in the shade with a view on this silo and some cow barns to make this sketch on my new Fabriano 9” x 12” watercolour block.

Farm structures.

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My Playground

This morning I got a coffee from Ronald MacD and sat down on a bench in a quiet playground nearby to make a sketch in my new sketch book.

I decided to try my hand on this complicated playground structure. Soon after the place became flooded little monkeys, sometimes referred to as kids, that were climbing all over this thing. Probably a daycare operation taking out their customers to let them unwind from an abundance of energy. It did not bother me as they ignored me.

I tried out my new 8”x 8” watercolour block from Fabriano. It is made from 100% pulp in sheets (30 pieces) of 120 lbs paperweight, properly sized to accept watercolour paints. For the low price I paid for this, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of this product. It is referred to as Fabriano 1264.

playground structure.

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Wheatcroft Park

Last Monday the Plein Air Nanaimo group visited a small waterfront park with shade trees. I have painted this view on Shack Island many times before from this location, and probably not the last time yet. So here goes another one.


At one o’clock we all went to Pipers Pub for a well desrved lunch and a “cool one”.


Qualicum Beach

The annual event ‘Grant Prix of Art’ in Qualicum Beach has been scaled down during the pandemic. Instead of the one-day event where 30 or 40 people would come out to sketch or paint ‘en plein air’ , it now has only two to four participants spaced out in time; that is every Friday during July and August.

The resulting paintings will be exhibited on the the website of TOSH (The Old School House) in September for the public to view and to vote for their favourite painting.

Every year, after drawing a location number out of a hat, I go first to the grocery store across the street to get some raisin buns and a coffee before proceeding to my spot. The temperature today was around 30 degrees Celsius, so it was essential to settle down in the shade for the next 2 to 3 hours. Also every year I bring out my Arches (or Fabriano) 16”x20” water colour block to work on.

This year I started with a pencil outline and then watercolour. This was fun but did not turn out very presentable. So the decision had to be made to abandon the whole idea or try something different. I chose the latter and pulled out a Sailor fude fountain pen to start scribbling on top of the watercolour sketch coming up with this result.

Qualicum Beach at Primrose Street and 2nd Ave.

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Recently we have been hiding in the studio as it is air-conditioned.

I use photographs or old paintings to make new (edited) pictures on 8.5”x11” watercolour paper.

Shacks from Shack Island.
Shacks from Shack Island
Shacks from Shack Island.

Over the years the shacks are slightly modified and sometimes repainted in different colours.

Steam Locomotive from the Forestry Museum.
A photograph of the signage with a description of the Locomotive.

Years ago when we took our grandchildren to this park, this impressive steam engine was still used to pull some passenger cars over the tracks that run around the site.

This thing was a lot of work to get properly copied from my photograph at the site. The background and the car with the lumber was just ‘fabricated’ by me using other photographs, to display the locomotive in context.