Plein-air pen and wash on paper

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Quick Sketch

Someone put a comfortable bench in front of the old Railway Station with a view on a row of heritage houses across the street.

Houses on Selby Street.

The best part was that the people from the coffee house offered me a coffee while I was drawing. I will have to cut a mat-board and give them my sketch in return, the next time I am out that way.

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Studio Time

Recently, I spend some time in the studio to get back in the “groove”.

Shack Island.

Instead of going out for dinner once a week, we now go for a hike in a local park, take many photographs, and then have a late lunch on a patio of a bar. There are a lot of choices around town, as inside dining is temporarily closed in this province.

On a nice day, the cloud scapes are impressive. There is no pen and ink involved and it becomes a challenge for me to paint these scenes.

Pipers Lagoon at low tide.

When the skies became frustrating, I returned to an old standby; the blue house at the top of Albert Street. using a photograph.

Blue House.

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Cards from Denise

In the beginning of 2021 Denise MacNeill past away after a half year suffering from cancer. She was a great artist and caring person who was a member of Art 10, a co-op of about two dozen artists in Nanaimo. ( I am a member of this group.

She was known for her oil and acrylic paintings of coastal landscapes favouring the arbutus tree in magnificent colours and settings. We have an arbutus tree painting from the days that she shared a gallery with her dad in the Old City Quarters.

She also expressed her unbounded creativity by experimenting abstracts in various media. What struck me were the small greeting cards, about 3”x3” with interesting compositions that she made in series, packed in a little box.

When I visited her in the fall of 2020, she gave me a bag full of cards that she did not need anymore on the premise to put them to good use. I have been playing with these things for some time now, when I have a shift attending to the gallery averaging about two days per month.

Most of my cards are made using google earth with urban scenes of old towns and cities in Europe. Some from Nanaimo. Lately I have been using photographs of flower arrangements.

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One Hour in Twenty Minutes

Regretfully, I have been neglecting my website lately. Many excuses come to mind, but I don’t want to become too boring. So yesterday I had to go to my daughter’s place with the car to deliver and pick up christmassy stuff. Glad to be out after sitting at home for most days to reduce the risk of picking up this dreaded, mysterious covid thing.

On the way back I decided to find a building to sketch. I found an empty parking lot across the street from this building, the office of the Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce. It is only about ten years old but looks a bit like a stately residence from the 1920’s or so. What attracted me are the variety if roof shapes and set-backs of the walls of this structure.

Fountain pen with carbon ink sketch in 8”x11” sketchbook with 60 lbs paper that wrinkles when applying a wash.

I had one hour time to do this, but took only 20 minutes. I had to hurry, because it was raining, so that the windshield wipers were turned on requiring to keep the engine idling, which I consider a ‘No No’.


Globetrotting with Google.

Google Earth allows you to walk around in many other towns, almost anywhere in the world. This comes in handy during the rain season in my hometown.

I have been using this feature to visit Nevers in France, just by chance really. This town has several historic buildings and many winding narrow streets that are lined with a mixture of nice, and not so nice, often grey looking dilapidated houses in it. These are interesting subjects to sketch because of the endless variety of shapes and it gives you a feeling of being on holidays.

These are card size, 5”x5” that fit in an envelope. It takes less than half an hour to finish one of these using pen and ink and a light application of watercolour with a Pentel water-brush.


Parking Lot Views

Today, I needed the car for some grocery shopping and used it to park at Sealand and make some sketches, while keeping the engine running to stay warm. It was nice to become absorbed again by sketching after a few weeks of moving from one apartment to another.

I parked the car to have a view of some forty year old buildings, some are vacant, some are occupied permanently others just seasonally. There is kayak rental shop, a pub, a restaurant and a chandlery with a boatyard.

The chandlery with the pub and a restaurant in the background.

I moved then to the other side of the nearly empty parking area to make another sketch, this time including some yachts on stilts. I tried to sort out the jumble of light and dark shapes of the boats.

Chandlery with boatyard in the background.

The boatyard appears to be always full, as boat owners make repairs, modifications or clean the barnacles from the hull of the boat.

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Crabbing Pier

It is not often that one can sit at the oceanfront for longer than 10 minutes or so, without getting really cold from that wind that blows in from the sea. But one afternoon this week, I sat down at the end of the crabbing pier to draw this view of the Cameron Island apartments where we are still living till we move to a new place at the end of this month.

the Newcastle with the Beacon in the background.

There are always people fishing for crab, which makes this pier a popular tourist attraction. They simply put a piece of meat, usually chicken, in a trap that is swung out into the water. After 10 minutes or so the trap is pulled up with an number of crabs in it; anywhere from from one to a dozen. Most of the time these crabs are undersized and returned back into the water, however, once in a while a large specimen that meets the legal requirements is preserved in a bucket with water to be saved for dinner, I suppose.

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These are some sketches that were made and were shown in earlier blogs, but I decided to go back there and add some colour and shade, while the subjects were basking in the morning sun.

546 Prideaux Street with some fall colours.
Oaktree Manor along Robarts Street


Late Summer 2020.

Recently, we enjoyed nice fall weather, some fog, some sunshine; calm days with very little or no wind. These are productive conditions for sketching.

Going back about a week now, I made these sketches in town, all within walking distance from my place, and mostly using my current 7.5” x 11” sketchbook.

Boarding house on Prideaux Street.
A ramp structure to load railway cars onto a barge. The towers actually guide counterweights to adjust the levels of the ramp, so it can match the varying height of tides.

One day this week there were two freighters moored in the harbour to load raw logs for export. I spend a whole day watching and sketching these things. I is quite fascinating to see how people walk on floating logs to assemble them in bunches so that a crane can lift the logs into the ship. It looks like dangerous work to me.

Drawing of the first ship
Drawing of the second ship on the other side of the dock.

I made two drawings in the morning and returned after going home for lunch to add some colours to the drawings.

These ships are very large. About a dozen workers are standing on the floating logs, hardly visible, or looking like dwarfs, below the huge suspended bundle of logs.
For this picture I used a quater sheet of watercolour paper.
Many of these logs are gigantic in size. Unfortunately a lot of “old growth” from ancient forests is getting cut, inevitably leading to the near extinction of these eco-systems. Only photographs and videos will be left to look at for future generations. Approximately two to three of these ships per month are leaving from this harbour alone, one of several similar operations along the BC west coast. Isn’t that a shame?
A view of the (foot) ferry terminal that connects Nanaimo with Newcastle Island, aka Saysutshun, a provincial park. The boats are actually green, but I was in the mood to use red in this picture. This popular marine park and these ferry services are very efficiently operated by the Snuneymuxw first nations of Nanaimo.
A quick sketch of a rather complicated collection of cascading pools with a foot bridge. This is a water feature transition between a popular lagoon, with an artificial sandy beach, referred to as Swaya-lana, and the harbour.
Today’s sketch of the Lighthouse Bistro, viewed from a large concrete pier in the Nanaimo harbour.