Plein-air pen and wash on paper


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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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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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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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”.

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This morning, the Plein Air Nanaimo group ventured out to Beachcomber Park in Nanoose, about a half hour ride from where we live.

I found a spot in the shade with a cool breeze coming of the ocean and started to make a watercolour sketch of some waterfront properties across the bay.

Beachfront in Nanoose on 8.5×11 Fabriano watercolour paper.

No pen and ink this time. I started about 10:30 with a pencil to rough-in the main elements in reasonable proportions and with some editing to decide where the darkest areas should to be placed. One should not forget that the sun will not stay put but will continually change the patterns of light and dark areas. So I committed to some dark shapes such as the tall fir trees in the back and kept going with that configuration in mind.

After some time I noticed people on the beach with binoculars that where pointing at the top of the trees behind me. Turns out there was a large eagle’s nest. These always draw the attention from locals and visitors alike. I did not let that disturb my focus on painting as I was having fun and wanted to limit my time to complete this watercolour at noon or so, in one go without stopping.


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Living Forest Campground

Once a year, the Plein Air Nanaimo group visits a campground located on Maki Road, along the Nanaimo River. It is a popular camping in a mature second growth forest. It is always busy or occupied to nearly full capacity, summer and winter.

When I was walking to my usual spot along the river, I noticed that many blackberries were ripe and could not resist foraging these delicious fruits. That was not a waist of time, but did take out of my sketching time.

Nanaimo River

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Sebastian Beach

Today, the Plein Air Nanaimo group went to the Sebastian Beach in Lantzville. We got to enjoy another hot summer day. There is always a cool breeze along the ocean front to stay cool if you can also find a tree that provides shade as well. However, this morning the breeze was only a bit short of a storm but not strong enough to blow me of my little stool.

From my spot I looked at two houses in the distance against a continuous green wall of trees in the background, with a sandy beach in the foreground. Some creativity was necessary to vary the size, spacing etc. of the trees to keep it interesting.

Incoming tide at Sebastian Beach. Pen &ink with watercolour using a sheet of 8.5” x 11”, 90 lbs Fabriano paper.

The best part of the outing came at noon when we all met at the local pub for lunch. Pleasant atmosphere and great bar food.


Steam Donkey

Today we joined the Plein Air Nanaimo, Monday morning outing, to the Transfer Beach Park in Ladysmith.

My favourite subject there is this piece of forestry heritage equipment that was used to pull logs to a central processing area in the woods. It is a large winch operated by a steam engine. It was mounted on two logs so that it could be hauled around on difficult terrain.

I started with a pen drawing on a 11” x 15” sketchbook on water colour paper.

pen and ink sketch.

As I had inadvertently omitted to pack my chair with side tray used for out door painting, the work was completed in our air conditioned studio using a series of photographs.

The Steam Donkey from Ladysmith, BC.

A photograph of the “real” thing.

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At Lindsey’s

This week’s paint-out with P.A.N. or Plein Air Nanaimo, took place at Linsey’s place in Cedar.

We finally got to enjoy great summer weather conditions. I found a shady spot where I could relax and focus on this sketch. There are a lot of flowers in the front yard and a vegetable garden in the back, overlooking a natural marshy area.

Lindsey’s house.

Last week Thursday we took the ferry (walk-on) to Gabriola to make some sketches and have dinner at Robert’s Place.

Gabriola Museum.
On the way back, the ferry was about half an hour behind schedule, enough time to make this sketch of sandstone rocks and their reflections.