It is as fine a place to sit as I can think of, to be on a high bluff overlooking the Juan de Fuca Strait with my plein air kit at hand. I have revised the kit with one major change – I removed the head from my tripod and now I screw the pochade box directly to the top of the vertical post of the tripod. I can level it with the legs and it’s much steadier than on the three way tilting head made for a camera. That piece was unnecessary for my purpose, and I saved another pound or two of useless weight. I also set up an umbrella on a walking stick, which shaded the canvas. This is also a major help, as staring at a bright white surface in full sunlight is bad for the eyes and also makes it difficult to judge colour and tone. I had 45 minutes yesterday to do this sketch, but sometimes faster is better. Had I worked it more it probably would have only gotten worse! Sketches are supposed to be rough and fresh anyhow. I may do a large painting of this scene using a photograph I took, as it was exceptionally beautiful there.
Category Archives: Sketching
Instaxography (copyright) is my latest hobby of the week, for this week, until the film pack is gone that is. I picked this baby up at a thrift shop complete with the batteries, several shots left on the pack, and a new pack of 10 pictures, for cheap – about what the film pack costs. I knew I had to have it after I took a test picture of the clerk in the store who showed it to me. They keep these under glass, like gold jewelry, and you must request a showing. They don’t wear white gloves however, which spoils the entire effect. However, it brings me back to the days of Polaroidography (copyright that too) and my old SX70. I thought the film was expensive 35 years ago! Holy crap! Today…. don’t ask! But Fuji is cheaper, and just about as bad as Polaroid was, so why not?
While out for a bike ride we stopped beneath the bridge and I also did a watercolour sketch.
Looking the other way we have a lovely barge and a lot of water and sky, but Instaxography gives it a very artistic feel, don’t you think? Ugly can be beautiful.
Anyhow, I’m not finished this experiment yet, and I have to say it is still a sort of thrill to watch and wait for the image to appear as if by magic. My Dad had a Polaroid, I had a Polaroid, and recently I sent my son in Germany – a Polaroid! I hope the film is cheaper there. If not he can get himself a Instax, or just forget the whole thing. But one day, I know his genes will express themselves and he will take up instant photography, if only now and then. It’s in our blood! Also, I took Polaroids of the babies… you gotta love that.
A harbour is a body of water deep enough for ships and sheltered from the open sea. Many of the world’s cities have harbours, or should we say the reverse – many of the world’s harbours have given rise to cities. Thus it has been everywhere I have lived. Victoria Harbour is one of two that happened to be created side by side here at the south end of Vancouver Island; the other being Esquimalt, which is used for a naval base. The most interesting things happen in the Inner Harbour however. That body of water is presided over by the Parliament Buildings of the Province of British Columbia, the Empress Hotel, the old CP Steamship Terminal, and various other buildings of note. It is also an international airport, with seaplanes coming and going constantly.
My favourite sight is the coming and going of the Coho Ferry however, which I happen to have watched so many times I couldn’t count. At one time it was a ritual of morning break to grab a cup of java from the office machine and walk a block to a viewpoint where we could see the ferry leave at 10.30. There was a blast of the air horn and then she’d ease away from the dock and back slowly across the harbour before pivoting and heading out to sea, destination Port Angeles, Washington. This ship has been doing that trip daily for over 50 years, and it’s still going strong. A few years back they put in new engines and she still runs like a charm, a simple boat with no fancy shops or lounges, and the same old hamburgers and hotdogs wrapped in foil like at a ball game. Last week a fellow came over on foot to buy 2 typewriters from me, via Coho. When the ship gets underway they play a recording of Bing Crosby singing about the Blackball Ferry Line, the owner of the ship. They’re down to this single ship now but once they were a major ferry line around Puget Sound.
My plein air of the weekend was painted on the side of the inner harbour to which the Coho backs up before departing. It looked far away when I began sketching and fortunately I knew it was about to leave so I painted the ship in first. When it backed up it came practically right up to my nose, whereupon it was several thousand times larger than it had been when I began, figuratively speaking. I didn’t even watch it go, as I was too engrossed. Subconsciously I figured it would be here later and tomorrow and probably forever, but one day it won’t be – so at least I have one more sketch of it.
Plein air: a term for sketching or painting outdoors.
Recently I read a wonderful book, Defiant Spirits by Ross King, the story behind the famous Canadian painters known as The Group of Seven. They used to journey out into the great woods with portable painting kits, and did many little oil sketches as studies for larger, more complex works that were produced later in studio. I had been toying with oil paint, hoping the magic of oil might suddenly be revealed to me, but my experiments with that medium have resulted in frustration, so for now I am sticking with acrylic, my favourite paint. Acrylic is simple and easy to clean up – that’s for me! I took my sketching kit out this afternoon with some 8×10 panels, a good size for carrying around.
I am trying to keep in mind not to overwork my sketches; to stop just before they seem finished. Usually they are truly finished at that point. I may have overworked this, but I hope not too much. It was a cool, dull afternoon on the side of the mountain looking out to the distant hills. I was lost for over an hour, as the sky spit a few random drops and the breeze caressed the hillside. Sometimes a grey day can be more beautiful than a sunny one.
I just squeaked this in so I wouldn’t miss posting for an entire calendar month. I’m torn between writing a novel for Nanowrimo or doing some other creative endeavour, such as sketching. As of Hallowe’en night I have no plot ideas, nothing, so it may be sketches. You never know about this however, because all of a sudden – blam!!! an idea comes forth like a thunderbolt (lightning bolt that is – thunder has no bolt). I may secretly be hoping that the ___bolt doesn’t arrive, so I can avoid the whole thing of hours writing (typed double spaced) and then a year of editing. It’s the aftermath that ruins the fun. If I could be content with sloppy work that would be better. Some might say I am, and who knows but they may be right, and yet I like to think that my work is honed like a Gillette Blue Blade (not the rusty ones). Well here is my creative output for the day, in preparation for a burst of creativity in November… ahem!
What a great day, and more to come later! Canoe rides, hot dogs, ice cream, music, old cars, frogs, typewriters… It all began last night at the thrift store with a rare typewriter.
This is not one that gets much publicity in my experience, but wow, what a great machine! This is seriously up there with the modern hall of famers like the SM3, SC SS5, H3K, and what have you. I don’t know what to call it, any suggestions? TGE perhaps?
I even weighed it because it felt so light: 5kg, or exactly 11 lbs. The case is made of super thin cast aluminum or something, and the machine feels featherweight for one of its size. It has carriage shift, but it’s relatively light and speedy. The tab function is amazing, as it moves rather slowly, not with the usual sudden zip-thunk of most machines, even ultra good ones.
The platen is still soft! At first I thought it looked like one of the SM3 cases, but it’s made of lightweight plastic, and has a removable base plate. There were several minor issues; the whole innards were full of tiny white correction specks, which I brushed and vacuumed up for the most part. A soft round pointy paint brush did the trick. Then there was the poor paper feeding. I couldn’t see what was the matter, so I thought I’d fiddle with the platen to see how simple it was to remove and I could look at the pinch rolls. To my delight the platen comes off in 30 seconds flat, simply by unscrewing each end knob. Stuck to the surface of the pinch roll tray was the answer – an old sticky label that fell in there and adhered itself to some rolls. I cleaned it off and reassembled things to find that all works perfectly well again. Maybe some unfortunate PO had so much trouble with this they decided to give this away, but this is pure speculation. There are no repairmen left in this town though, so it’s strictly DIY here.
More pictures below, after this poem and a frog.
Here are a few more pics of the TW. I should mention the keyboard – I think it’s Dutch. But it is QWERTY! How lucky is that?
a bike ride on the trail downtown
tall buildings and street people
coffee shops, pot shops, names like Heavenly Smoke
tattoo parlors full of posters
waiting rooms filled with customers
adorned, pierced, pre-decorated
jewels in orifices, eyebrows, nostrils
plentiful tourists consulting maps
riding pedicabs, human powered rickshaws
even a giant horse plodding
halfway there coffee with a view
extracting a pocket paint box
twelve colors in tiny squares
holes in the centres after many years
these colors have lasted long
since I gave this box to my mother
nigh on thirty years ago
she never used it but I have made many a sketch
blocks of paint with years left
at the rate I wash them down
hard to blend colors without making them dull
I use them straight, like whiskey
my sketches are so rough
a price paid for speed and simplicity
yet they improve when no longer compared to reality
for a sketch is distilled, yet murky
distinguished by what is missing