Plein-air pen and wash on paper

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More of the Same

The weather looked good enough this morning to use my bicycle for returning to Departure Bay where I sat down last week. I sketched the same subject again with no new ideas but different execution in my watercolour sketchbook, 8.5″ x 11.0″. It was much colder than last Monday forcing me to work more efficiently and to speed things up a bit.

Around noon, some dark clouds appeared on the horizon so I got scared enough to hurry and paddle my bike back up the hill along Departure Bay Road. It started to rain after my arrival back in a dry and warm space. Once there, I made one more sketch from a photograph using a (worthless) piece of card board that had a white paper backing, about 8″x 8″.

If you have no inhibitions, such as being concerned about wasting a good sheet of paper, you are more inclined to have some fun experimenting like this sketch shows.


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Yesterday we went to Courtenay as Gerda had to visit a dental specialist there. We were lucky with the weather conditions so we left early to make it a day trip, do some sightseeing, shopping and sketching.

In the morning, I made this sketch of the 5th Street Bridge sitting in a busy public park at a picnic table in the nice September sun. It was difficult to imagine that this area was flooded in December of 2014.

After lunch I found a walking trail that runs along the Courtenay River, which is actually a confluence of two rivers: the Puntledge and the Tsolum River that are joining just before the City. I made a sketch of this house located along the trail. I wonder if someone is still living there as the front yard is overgrown with scotch broom and blackberry bushes.

Many years ago during a lunch break on a business trip I found a parking spot at the 17th Street bridge and made a sketch of a sawmill located across the river. This facility was dismantled some years after and a desolate looking fenced-in site is still there. A fate that was dealt to several sawmills on Vancouver Island, leaving many people unemployed.


Try and Try Again.

This morning’s visit to Departure Bay was the last outing for this year of the regular Monday morning paint-out.
I could not find a shady spot with a view that interested me, so settled down on a bench in the morning sun.

I was not too happy with the first sketch, so I started again and kept going through lunch hour and well into the afternoon.
As the sun climbs higher into the sky, the shadows change dramatically and the light reflects from the paper into your eyes; does not work to good. It did not help any that I ran out of Ultramarine blue pigment and tried to use Phthalo blue as a substitute. However, I like to give it another try when I get a chance before the rain season starts.



A renowned watercolour artist from England is awarding one of his watercolour paintings to the contestant who makes the best w/c painting out of this photograph. It looks rather flat and gloomy, and it depicts the “Haystacks” fell, located near Buttermere Valley in the Lake District of England, fairly close to Scotland.

The expectation is that you change the lighting and the counterchange in the image to improve the atmosphere and the depth in this scene, and whatever else you need to make it more attractive.

As the weather condition was suggesting to stay indoors today, I started with some initial sketches to get a handle on this thing.

It needs more light and illusion of depth; anybody having any ideas, please let me know.

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Last winter I made a picture of the Nanaimo Art Gallery (NAG) at the time of year when the sun throws long and deep shadows. I used this photograph to experiment with water-soluble ink and a dip pen and have some fun.

It takes some getting used to as the ink tends to flow freely, yielding dark patches instead of varying tones when water is added with a brush.

I tried a few more adding some pigment to the water-colour brush.

These were done on various small sheets of paper (one eighth) and mostly on the back side of discarded paintings; got lots of those. Dipping a pen in an ink pot works reasonably well inside sitting at a table, but could be a bit more challenging when working outside. Particularly keeping the ink pot up straight to avoid spilling it on your clothes could be tricky. Here is where a fountain pen would come in handy.

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Nanaimo Cemetery

Thursday I returned to the cemetery along Bowen Road to make another sketch in this park-like setting. The houses shown in this view are located along Howard Avenue.


The sunlight was diffused by the smoke from the forest fires so that the lighting was somewhat grey and dimmed, which is not apparent in this picture. This was sketched on a 7.5″x22″ sheet of hot pressed W/C paper.

In the afternoon I killed some time with this quick sketch of the Lighthouse Bistro on a 8″×10″ size, hot pressed w/c paper.



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Colliery Dam Spillway

This morning I returned to the Colliery dam park. Classes at the VIU must have started again as riding around the campus on my bike I had to manoeuvre between parked cars everywhere; amazing. The campus and the neighbourhood is one huge parking lot. In my days, more years ago now than I care to remember,we went to school on bikes, bus or train.

Anyways, I settled down again in the same spot at the lake where I was about a week ago when I made a pen sketch in a 6″ x 18″ sketchbook. This time a 7.5″×22″ sheet of hot pressed watercolour paper was used to record the same view.