Plein-air pen and wash on paper


Recent Sketches Around Town.

Same old, same old. Same subjects but with a different approach. I bought some markers with various shades of grey. Not exactly to my liking, but these were available in the local store at this time.

Heritage House on Wesley Street.

Most of these sketches were done with a fountain pen and brown ink in my cheap 6”x9” sketch book from the dollar store. Alcohol based markers were used for the rendering. It has its limits but also some advantages in that it requires less effort to carry around and makes for quick applications; no water, no brushes, no pigments or paper towels etc.

Maffeo-Sutton Park.

With the early heatwave during last week, the park was very busy as people were looking for shade and a cool breeze from the ocean. Several food venders were kept busy serving the visitors.

Another picture in the park showing people enjoying snacks. A giant totem pole is visible in the background.
Buildings on the university campus. The Vancouver Island University or VIU, formerly called the Malaspina College.

I had to do some computer work requiring better technology than my ipad can provide. The air-conditioned library provided all I needed plus a much desired diversion from the heatwave conditions. Afterwards I decided to make a sketch, as the campus is all but deserted at this time of the year.

Another quiet place close to home is the Pioneer plaza. It is two levels up from the waterfront walkway where the tourists hang out to buy ice cream and coffee or tickets for the whale watching boats.

Pioneer Plaza along the waterfront, with the lighthouse bistro on one side and the Pacifica high-rise building on the opposite end.
An elaborate system of stairs and ramps takes visitors from the plaza level to Front Street. The Dorchester Hotel is shown in the background.

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Another Season.

Another season of sketching with the same familiar Nanaimo scenery. I am always trying to find new ways of sketching. So far, mostly practicing to become comfortable again with drawing from the real world as opposed to using photographs.

Yesterday it was unbearable hot in the city between the buildings, so a spot in the park under a large cedar where one can expect a cool wind blowing in from the ocean, was my best option.

The Lighthouse Bistro and float plane terminal.

Sooner or later I will have to endeavour using a larger sketchbook and colours again.

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Behind the Scenes.

Fitzwilliam Street is part of the “Old City Quarters” where one can find a large variety of retailers and services, from specialty foods to bookstores, art galleries, restaurants and everything in between. Many buildings are old, originating from the early 1900’s and are listed listed as heritage buildings on the City’s website.

Many sketches of the facades in this area can be found on my blog. This time I found a spot in the shade with a view of the backside of some of the stores. It turned out to be a smokers corner along Richard’s street, used by occupants of nearby apartments. I had some interesting conversations with the regulars while trying to focus on my drawing. We quit the habit many years ago, but I still don’t mind the smell of tobacco smoke, when outside, that is.

From left to right, Backside of Sartorial Boutique, McLean’s, an India Restaurant and the Occidental Hotel along Fitzwilliam Street.

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Top of the Hill

At the intersection of Milton and Hecate streets is a rock outcropping with some houses on top that I have been looking at for some time. This week I decided to carry a small folding stool with me, allowing more choices in viewpoints, including this one.

Pen and ink sketch with wall-nut brown ink and a bit of Payne’s grey watercolour.

The ink used is waterproof but needs sone drying time or it will lightly wash out, as opposed to carbon black or east India ink, which dry almost immediately.


Before the Hockey Game.

Last night I went out after supper for a quick sketch in the park along the waterfront. When I started out it was quiet, and even though many people were out, nobody paid me any attention. However, once I got halfway through my sketch, a bunch of boisterous skateboarders came around to disturb the peace with loud music and “big talk”; time for me to finish, go home, and watch the hockey game.

View of the harbour with Cameron Island apartments in the background. Fishing boats are replaced by touring boats, some very large yachts.

When getting there, it turns out that I missed the first period of a play-off game between Edmonton and Los Vegas. They are one of the best teams in the league and every game is exiting to watch. Edmonton came out as the winner this time and the two teams are matched at two wins each in a best-of-seven series. Tomorrow evening I will have to watch game #5.

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Sketching Close to Home.

At this time of the year with the weather cooperating, the park along the waterfront is attracting a lot of people again, local and out of town folks. It is easy to detect the visitors as they are turning over rocks in tidal pools, collecting shells, making photographs, or selfies as it is called now, with the ocean in the background.

The centre of the park has a large open structure for gatherings, a band-stand, and washroom facilities with running water. Several food vendors are serving a variety of fast foods. It is a very popular place close to downtown. Last year a huge totem pole was installed which draws a lot of admirers.

The waterfront park, referred to as Maffeo-Sutton.

I like to find a confortable seat to relax and sketch this park from several vantage points. These seem to be repeated in my sketchbooks, sometimes more than once.

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Nob Hill

Yesterday I worked my way up to Nob Hill. This is a small park with a playground in a residential area located just outside the downtown core.

Instead of walking straight up to the top of the hill I made a detour via Fitzwilliam and Milton streets to get gradually to the top. Some of the houses around the park date back to 1900. Although looking somewhat dilapidated now in some cases, it seems to me that they belonged to the very wealthy over a hundred years ago. Two and three stories high mansions, obviously custom designed with interesting roof lines and a view of the harbour and the proximity to the park attest to this. They would be interesting to sketch if it were not for the mostly ugly fences that the current owners built during the last few years.

The park has some rocky outcroppings with magnificent Garry Oaks, some tall fir trees and open grass land, probably with Camas in the spring.

Of the few benches that are in the park, there is one that provides an unobstructed view of the houses along Shelby Street, which has a very steep grade. This is one of my favourite places to strike down and start drawing.

Houses along Selby Street at Nob Hill. Fountain pen with water soluble, walnut brown ink and a water-brush with Paynes grey in a 6”x9” sketch book. Altogether very limited equipment and light-weight to carry around.


Close to Home.

Yesterday I found an interesting row of old buildings along the backside of Fitzwilliam street, that I never sketched before. I started enthusiastically on a two page layout, when a huge SUV car filled up a parking spot right in front of me, blocking my view.

This happens sometimes, however I became frustrated and headed for home. As it was still early in the afternoon, I settled down on Dallas square, about a block away from our apartment to, once again, sketch the Dorchester Hotel, probably for the tenth time over the last few years, or so it seems.

The Dorchester on Church Street.

Today I returned to Fitzwilliam to find out that the SUV was still anchored down in the same spot. I will probably have to come back on a weekday when the owner has gone to work, so that I have at least an hour to play.

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University Village

The other day I walked to Harewood, the name for the large area that takes up about a quarter of the Nanaimo area. It is a neighbourhood on the southside of town. In the early 1900’s a mining village with many 5 acre agricultural lots that, in later years amalgamated with several other small mining communities into one city. A shopping centre originally called Harewood Mall, was renamed University Village, as it located in the general area of the Vancouver Island University.

Accros the road from this mall is an expansion with more businesses, including a Tim Hortens where I settled down with a coffee to sketch a section of the mall visible from that location.

A section of the University Village along 5th Street with The shopper’s Drug mart taking the centre stage in this picture.

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On a Roll

Two sketches today. The one before lunch is not quite finished as I got hungry and thirsty and needed to go home.

The one after lunch was along front street, a very busy road. I got a city bus in there and the roof of the bastion heritage building. A pen with non waterproof ink was used, so that I could quickly wash some shading in the drawing. The apple blossom trees shown on the right are in full bloom right now.

View along Machleary Street with the St. Peters Church in the background.
Front Street with a bus stop. The four lane road here was recently reduced to two lanes, allowing for a protected bicycle trail in both directions. They should do more of this if we want to encourage alternative means of transportation to reduce global warming.

Both sketches where done in my 6”x9” sketchbook folded open to 6”x18” size.