Plein-air pen and wash on paper


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.


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.


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.


Tosh in Qualicum Beach.

Today, Gerda and I went to Qualicum Beach to participate in the annual “Grand Prix of Art”. The format was changed like many public events during the Covid pandemic.

Instead of having 40 people or so coming out to paint “en plain air” in downtown cosy Qualicum Beach, the organiser scheduled 3 people for Fridays and 3 for Saturdays during July and August. The competitive aspect, the reception, socializing and the jury were removed from the usual program but the challenge to produce a reasonable looking picture on location in 3 hours time was still there.

For the location, I drew the spot number 1 out of a hat, which happened to be the old school house (tosh) itself.

The Old Schoolhouse in Qualicum Beach. Pen and ink with water colour on 12”x18” Fabriano cold pressed water colour block.

In retrospect, the hydro pole could have been more to one side or the other, away from the middle, and I could have done without the station wagon, but it didn’t move until I was committed, and was almost immediately replaced by a pick-up truck. It’s the way the cooky crumbles.

All submissions will be exhibited in the Tosh gallery during September and virtually on their website, when the public will have the opportunity to vote on their favorite picture.

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On the Avenue in Ladysmith

Today we visited “Art on the Avenue”, an annual event in Ladysmith, where Artists and Artisans display their work. It as busy as many other visitors had the same idea.

My daughter Janice also had a booth here where she had her artwork offered for sale.

After walking the length of the street to have a look at the whole show and getting a coffee with a hot dog, I settled down in a shady spot at the corner of First Avenue and Kitchener Street to sketch the blue building across the road.

I used pen and ink with a wash of sepia watercolour on good paper in my 8″ by 10″ sketchbook.

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The Old Schoolhouse

The Old School House (Tosh) in Qualicum Beach is a tribute to the local community spirit of this town. Yesterday, Gerda and I participated in the Grand Prix of Art in Qualicum Beach, an annual fun event organized by Tosh with the involvement of many dedicated volunteers.

I was assigned a spot in a small park in front of the Townhall/Library, a landmark building in the centre of town, to make a drawing, a sketch or painting from that location within a three hour time limit.

I don’t usually sit that close to a building, but had no choice without giving up this comfortable and somewhat reclusive location in the shade on a nice bench with a backrest. As all spots are numbered on a map that is issued to participants and the general public, I had some visitors and curious onlookers who made some small talk or pleasant conversations about drawing from real live or plein air as it is sometimes referred too.

Before starting with watercolours, I took my time drawing this view by measuring and more measuring and double checking to make the representation of this 3-D object in two dimensions look acceptable to a viewer or observer of my sketch.

Then a watercolour wash was applied by starting out using a large brush, two inches wide, to apply pigments with lots of water and some random splashing of mostly warm colours. I let this dry and repeated the process several times but more carefully with normal sized brushes such as a three quarter inch flat; my favourite. A Fabriano product, with 140 lbs cold-pressed watercolour paper that is sold in blocks of 12″ x 18″ in size was used for this sketch.

There was a tree in front of the building covering some of the windows, but I left it out. I had fun with this picture and as usual, time flies. The whole thing was substantially completed in two hours.

At two o’clock everyone had to return to Tosh for some lunch and chat with other participants and to admire each other’s work which was put on public display.

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Canada Day

We started out today with a Plein Air Nanaimo outing at Pipers lagoon where I made a quick sketch and a watercolour of the lagoon on a quarter sheet of good paper.

The purpose of the sketch was to get a general feel for the scenery.

Then in the afternoon, we went to Maffeo-Sutton park at the waterfront, together with hundreds of other people, to enjoy the local Canada Day celebrations.

I found a spot in the shade to make some sketches while listening to the different bands that were playing music.

The second sketch shows the permanent canvas roof with the first-aid truck in the foreground. Originally I was going to draw a red firetruck, but shortly after I started the firemen left, leaving me with an outlook as shown in this picture.



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Aboriginal Day in the Park.

Once a year the people of the Snuneymuxw First Nation share their culture with the citizens of Nanaimo in Maffeo Sutton Park located along the waterfront close to downtown. Every time there is a huge turnout of the aboriginals and the general public.

There are several artisans displaying their artwork, there is traditional music and dance and activities for kids. But the most popular attraction is the salmon BBQ and bannock. Essentially the latter is dough fried in hot oil, and it is said that bread baked in this manner is a main staple of First Nations food. At this point, I want to mix up some cultures. In the Netherlands were we came from, a similarly baked bread is used as a treat on new years’s eve referred to as “oliebollen”.

I settled down in the shade of a tree with a view of the general area to make this quick sketch. I is impossible to find a spot that meets all your desires; shade, comfortable seating and a nice view with no obstructions. When starting out, I thought that the van would move eventually as it was unloading stuff but it didn’t, so it got included. It was still there when I left.



This weekend we participated in the “Grand Prix of Art 2018” in Steveston, B.C., just south of Vancouver. This is a community event organized by Mark Glavina, a local artist who has been successful, for several years now, in attracting more than 100 artists to go outside and paint for three hours, rain or shine.

People brave enough to take part in this were assigned a spot along the waterfront or in the old village centre, where heritage features and idyllic scenery are abound. Many visitors and onlookers interact with the artists to make it a unique event.

It took me almost three hours to draw these tanks located in front of the Gulf of Georgia Cannery heritage site, on a 12″×16″ sheet of arches watercolour paper, with my favourite TWSBI fountain pen and a brown ink complimented with some watercolours.

Afterwards all work was displayed in one of the historic wharf buildings, attracting about 2000 visitors Saturday and Sunday afternoon; the duration of the exhibit, showing a huge diversity of work produced by the participants.

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Cruise Ship

The travellers that came off the cruise ship this morning were blessed with sunshine. When there are so many people walking around in downtown and surrounding areas, it makes the place come to live with an almost festive mood.

On this occasion, a farmers market and craft fair spring up on the water front plaza, attracting a lot of visitors. This is one of my preferred events to sit down in a corner and do some sketching, with live music in the background and many happy people wandering around.