Plein-air pen and wash on paper

Leave a comment

Front Street.

Monday I settled down in a park around the Centennial Building. This used to be “The Museum and Archives”, but is now occupied by the Vancouver Island Military Museum. In the morning I made a drawing of the building from a different angle than what I did several times before, but it was not “up to par”, so I need to go back there and try again some other time.

In the afternoon I sat down against the wall of this museum building and made a sketch overlooking Front Street with the Bastion historic monument and the same high-rises in the back ground as shown on the previous drawing, but from the opposite direction. The current Covid 19 pandemic is the reason that this facility is closed; nobody around except for the occasional security guard.

Front Street.


Keeping Your Distance and Looking Busy Doing Nothing Much.

Not much to do, as almost everything is closed. “Everything” includes libraries, museums, stores, coffee shops, restaurants, banks, in addition to meetings, appointments, shows, concerts, dinner outings and more that are cancelled. My day-timer is almost blanc; imagine that?!

We are staying a lot by ourselves, in the apartment or studio and avoid other people or, if encountering someone, talk to them from six feet away. It seems that everyone else has the same idea. Most of us are anxious to see if the bump in the curve depicting newly recorded virus infections is going to level out.

The provincial health authority recommends a number of corrections to make to our daily routines. It includes to go outside and take a hike, if I get this right. So on one of my walks I sat down on a bench to enjoy the sunshine of the spring weather to sketch this cenotaph again.

Compared to a week ago, downtown feels deserted; there are only a few people and cars around. However, you will see many folks hiking along the waterfront or sitting far apart on benches in the Maffeo-sutton park.

Leave a comment

Recent Drawings

We try to walk everywhere, but sometimes it is necessary to use the car because of the weather, the longer distance or the transportation of goods. In that case I try to add an hour or so to park the vehicle somewhere and make a sketch from the front seat.

These scribbles are an exception as they were made while having a coffee and looking out of the window at Javawocky located at the waterfront of the commercial harbour, within walking distance from my place.

This one is from a building under construction on Dufferin Street, across from the Hospital. It looks like it is a precast concrete building, where large concrete elements are cast in a factory in Duncan and then assembled on site. This is a common method of construction in the prairies, but not often seen here on the Island. I am sure that the developer and owners had their good reasons for this method of building but in its present condition it looks like a massive and imposing bunker.

The next sketch is from the Diana Krall plaza in downtown Nanaimo with Mount Benson in the background.

One day this week I had a look at the construction progress of the Morden Colliery restorations and could not resist making another sketch of the same subject that I have been using since 1995.

1 Comment

Sketching on Location

Milton Street has both genuine heritage and newly constructed houses with similar designs that are equally attractive to draw. It was raining on Tuesday so that I had to park my car and get a good view. There were several jeeps in this neighbourhood and I wonder if that is part of the local old city quarter fashion. I started out with the Jeep as I like drawing cars, but after the houses were added, I came close to the end of my attention span and decided to leave any shading or colouring for some other time.

Around lunchtime on Wednesday the sun was shining and I found the perfect spot to make a quick sketch. The bench at this location is usually occupied by the same people but at this time it was vacant and inviting in a bleak wintery sun and shielded from the northern wind. The view includes some downtown buildings when looking overtop of the commercial harbour; altogether way to much to draw. So I focussed on the buildings beyond and left out the forest of masts of the fishing trawlers and recreational boats.

Leave a comment

Seasonal Shutdown

Todays’s sketch was made of the fountain on the Pioneer Plaza along the waterfront in downtown Nanaimo. The pumps are not working in the wintertime but will be turned on again in the spring to the delight of many youngsters.

Fountain on Pioneer Plaza

In the summer it is used by people to sit on the benches surrounding this fountain to take a break, a rest, or eat their lunch.

The shadows in this picture are already getting longer around two o’clock in the afternoon when the temperature also starts to drop and my hands and feet are getting cold; time to go home. Looking forward to another sunny day tomorrow for another sketch at midday.

Leave a comment

Gusola Building

The Gusola building in Nanaimo is named after the original owners who had it built around 1937 to operate their business on the corner of Commercial Street and Wharf Street in Nanaimo.

According the website of the City of Nanaimo Heritage Register, the Gusola’s operated a tobacco and razor repair service in the building for many years. Over the years it housed various shops and restaurants. In 2007 it was renovated and converted to a combination of commercial units on the lower floor and residential suites on the upper level.

The plan of the building has a triangular shape that follows the original hub-city street configuration of Nanaimo, where the main streets radiated from the harbour like spokes of a wheel. Originally, the Gusola building along Wharf Street and part of Commercial street where located along the waterfront of the inner harbour, which was filled in the 60’s.

Recently, I received a request from one of the descendants of the Gusola’s to make a painting of this building.

In this case I worked in the studio as I did’t feel comfortable sitting on the sidewalk in one of the busiest streets of the downtown area. I took some photographs from different directions and then started out with a number of smaller sized paintings to get a feel for the subject. I selected this view as it shows the characterizing triangular shape of this structure, not so uncommon in downtown Nanaimo. The facade on the left steps up and the facade on the right steps down towards the waterfront following the topography of the area. The Coast Bastion Hotel is towering in the background.

The picture at the top is one of the smaller “studies”, which ended up for sale at Artzi Stuff, while the one below was the final result on 11×14 inch watercolour paper. The watermark of the Fabriano brand, my favourite, is quite visible in the left hand bottom corner.

1 Comment

Having some Fun

This morning I followed up on an invitation of a local architectural firm to join them on a sketching outing downtown. It was a fun event and interesting to see how these people apply their knowledge and skills while drawing from a park bench without Autocad or other computer paraphernalia; very impressive.

This is my rendition of the Dorchester with some steps in the foreground leading up to the cenotaph. I left the complexity of the stair, railings and the actual monument at the top of the stairs, for the architects to work on.

In the afternoon I went back to the studio to experiment with some pen and ink drawings that I made on location earlier this summer but never finished. Instead of using photo references of the subject, I decided to have some fun and improvise with my paint (only two pigments) and brushes to get these results:

The picture at the top is the Lighthouse Bistro , another Nanaimo icon, as viewed from Cameron island.

The one below it depicts the backside of a former garage, located next to the imposing Pacifica building and along the seawall shown in front, as viewed from Sway-a Lana Lagoon. It is the huge Broadleaf maple tree that drew my interest. The front of the garage along Front Street still has a replica of the former Texaco Oil Company emblem, “Star of the Road” as part of the concrete exterior wall. The building has been vacant for several years now and is on list of Nanaimo heritage sites; I wonder for how long?

Leave a comment


Artzi Stuff is a store in downtown Nanaimo who sells products from local artisans including my small (8.5″x11″) pictures to the general public and to tourists.

Tanya, who is the owner told me that she sold most of the images of iconic Nanaimo scenery, and that I had to gear up my production for new stock to put in the window.

So I checked my existing photo references, also made some new ones, and started working. So far these four are considered presentable.

One from Shack Island and three depicting the Bastion. More to come.

1 Comment

Around Town

Every day this week the weather forecast predicted rain, so I decided to stay close to home and walk out instead of riding my bike, to make a sketch. But it has not rained yet; so much for the weather man’s credibility. Hopefully it stays that way because we have many visitors coming to Nanaimo for the dragon boat races this weekend, a major annual event.

This section of Front Street is visible from a bench that is located next to the Dorchester Hotel. It is often used by personnel from nearby businesses to have a cigarette break, or nowadays a vape(?), I think it is called. Anyways when I occupy this bench to sketch these buildings, they choose to sit on the steps about twenty feet away.

The sketch shows part of the Pacifica Apartment building and the Federal building.

Thursday night is market day on Commercial Street. I rushed to get this sketch in my book and finished before trucks and vans from the vendors would block my view. In the rush I missed the big sign on the wall, that says “Dakin Block”. This name can be found on the internet at City of Nanaimo Community Heritage Register, under “Hirst Block” (Dakin Block) at 93-99 Commercial Street. The big pick-up truck in front moved after I left.

The next drawing shows a peculiar building. When we first came to Nanaimo, more than 20 years ago, it was the credit union building until they moved out and was vacant for quite a few years after that. The tower would suggest that it was originally a firehall, as towers like that were needed to dry the hoses, but this is just conjecture on my behalf, as I don’t really know.

Today I sat down in a comfortable chair on the outside seating area of the Vault, a coffee shop at the intersection of Albert Street and Wallace. The building across the road from me appeared old and many times renovated to accommodate the various restaurants that occupied this establishment over the years. It looks like every time it changed owners, that the renovations were carried out by the chef himself instead of a contractor as it looks incoherent and messy, but that makes it an interesting subject for sketching. The Queen’s Hotel is in the background.

By the way, the rumour around town is that the Nana sushi and the Mambo pizza next door to it serve delicious meals, and that’s what counts. Compliments to the chef, just don’t give him a hammer!