Friday, 24 April 2015

Painting Trip to Val-David, Part II

Blog 16

This is part 2 of the travelogue of the trip to Val-David with the Plein Air Ensemble.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Today was a gorgeous day. The sun was shining, the sky blue. It seemed like everyone had awoken from their hibernation. The streets in Val David were full of people walking and biking.

Park des Amoureux, 8" x 10"

Janis and I spent most of the day across from the hotel at the Campeau Street where we painted the creek off Lac Campeau.

In the early afternoon, we went to the Parc des Amoureux where it was so busy we could not find a parking spot. We took some photos along the river where we met one of the other artists, then returned to the park where we found a single parking space. The park was very busy although the path was still very icy. We walked around for a while, then set up our gear at opposite ends of the park.

 I pick the view towards an old bridge. It did not take too long before Janis came visiting me because she was surrounded by a people smoking pot. I had smelled something funny but did not think about drugs but was rather worried about meeting a skunk. Well, at least I was safe. I finished right in time to be able to prepare the cottage for Happy Hour. This time, we enjoyed a real treat by Mary, Bob, Louis, and Charlie who played rock, country, jazz, and blues songs for us. What a talented group of artists!

After dinner, it was time for our Trivial Pursuit - Art Edition. Our friend Helene spent hours preparing the game with art related questions. We had lots of fun even though the winning team was so dominant the other two teams did not have the slightest chance to threaten their win.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Janis and I are on our way home. We had another terrific day yesterday. The sun was shining the whole day. Janis and I went to Ste.-Agathe-des-Monts to paint the lake but the Lac des Sables was still completely covered in snow and ice and did not inspire us - at least not from the areas that were accessible to us. 

The Little Chapel at Lac Beauchamp, 8" x 10"
We continued our way towards Saint-Adolphe-D’Howard where we found the Lac Beauchamp. We had lunch first the set up our gear. As always, Janis was done with her first painting by the time I had blocked in my colours. Well she used a 5” x 7” board while I worked on an 8” x 10” board.

She moved down the road at some point and I only saw her again when she informed they were coming up with big machinery to grate the road. Fortunately, I was basically ready to pack in but still had to hurry to stow everything back in the car before they reached me.

As it was still early in the afternoon, Janis and I decided to look for another spot. We drove back towards Ste.-Agathe then took Montée Alouette towards Lac à la Truite which was also very unimpressive at this time of the year. The Lac de la Vielle Ménard on the other hand offered some very interesting view but unfortunately no spot where we could safely park and set up our easels. We continued to Val-Morin but did not see anything that caught our attention. By mistake we turned south to Sainte-Adèle where we took a photo of a nice spot of the Rivièce aux Mulets with rushing water and remnants of snow. Again there was no safe area to stay so we drove back to the hotel.

Promise of Spring, 7" x 5"
We went around the little lake behind the hotel where we found a little fall. Janis wanted to paint there while I wanted to go back to the side closest to the hotel. Unfortunately, Janis slipped with her equipment in the snow. That was her clue to pack it in for the day. I continued to paint my little 5” x 7”, then went happily back to our cottage.

During Happy Hour we had the pleasure of being entertained again by our talented musicians. The special treat of the day was, however, the show and tell after dinner. Everyone put at least some of their paintings up. I really enjoy seeing what everyone worked on during the stay. It is just very interesting to see everyone’s personal interpretation of what they saw. I especially enjoyed comparing the works of artists who worked at the same location.

While we were admiring our works, a big raccoon walked past the window. I don’t think I have ever seen such a big one. Unfortunately, no one was fast enough to take a photo of this big fellow.

It was just a great trip. The first trip I was on where we had two sunny and mild days. The group of artists was just a pleasure to be around and I am looking forward to our fall trip. For now, I hope it is time to finally put away all the winter clothes. The landscape looks very different from just a couple of days ago. Most of the snow is gone. It seems that spring is finally here. Let’s enjoy it and take the time to observe the fast awakening of nature.

If you enjoyed this blog, I invite you to visit my website to see my latest works, find out about new exhibitions, my spring painting classes and workshops. If you would like to get all this information and more insights into my business sent to you by email, you can subscribe to my monthly newsletter at the same time.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Painting Trip to Val-David

Post 15 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Janis and I are on our way to Val-David in Quebec where we will stay at the Auberge du Vieux Foyer. We want to be ready for the arrival of the other artists tomorrow. Unfortunately, our friend and co-organizer Helene will not be able to join us due to illness. As we are driving through the countryside, I really hope for sunshine and good weather because on this grey and grey day everything just looks really muddy and uninspiring.

Friday, April 10, 2015

When we woke up this morning, it was raining cats and dogs. This meant we could take our time enjoying a delicious breakfast. I had pancakes, grilled potatoes, and bacon, yogurt with berry compote and fresh fruit, as well as a mini chocolate muffin.

To get our chores out of the way, we went shopping for the happy hour first, then continued to the tourist bureau which was unfortunately closed. As is was still raining heavily, we drove Ste. Agathe-des-Monts where the tourist information was open. Despite the rain, we drove around the Lac des Sables to see whether the area is worth coming back to on a brighter day. Along the huge lake are some of the biggest mansions I have ever seen. There were also some nice spots to paint although the high snow banks still make it hard to have a great view. We might come back if the temperatures rise and the snow continues melting.

We were back at the hotel shortly after 11am to move into the cottage Familial. There was a mix-up yesterday as the reservation for Janis and I was not written down. The cottage was not cleaned, so we each got a room in the main house as well as a four course dinner. I had smoked salmon on a bed of cucumbers, salmon steaks with grilled potatoes, and a cheesecake with mixed berry compote. I am glad I skipped the soup. It would have been much too much.

This morning, we moved into our new quarters. As we are the hosts of the daily Happy Hour where we also serve wine, we needed a bigger space than just a regular room. My friend Linda is also sharing the cottage with us. As the cottage is really cosy, especially while it was raining out of buckets, we set up a little still life with the oranges from our lunch box, yellow gerberas and a metal watering can and spent the afternoon painting indoors.

Shortly before 5:30pm the first artists came for the Happy Hour. We have a nice group of seventeen people participating in this trip. We all got to know each other and got tips from some of the group who already went to Val David a couple of years ago.

After a delicious dinner, Janis, Linda, our friend Bob, and I spent the evening talking about how each of us found our way into an arts career, and our experiences along the way.

Even though the rain has stopped, no one wanted to go into the hot tub that Janis and I really enjoyed last night. While I am typing this trip report, I can hear the wind howling. Hopefully, it pushes the bad weather system out and we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Who knows, maybe someone might even use the outdoor pool on a sunny day. It will definitely not be me. At 2 degrees Celsius it is absolutely outside of my tolerance zone even though it looks really beautiful.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

When I woke up today, I could not believe my eyes: It was snowing heavily. When I opened the door of my room, my friends told me that I had just slept until December. That was my first thought too.

Luckily, the snow stopped after breakfast and we made our way outside. However, the wind was so strong that we just took some photos of the lake across from our hotel and Park des Amoureux before we turned back to the hotel.

There, Janis and I set up our gear at the lake behind the hotel. Even though I wore a winter coat, winter boots, woolen socks, and snow pants I was frozen within one and a half hours. We warmed ourselves up in the cottage before I returned to the lake while Janis went inside the painting room to work on a still life of tulips. I followed later and also painted the tulips.

Shortly after 5pm the others came to our cottage for the daily happy hour. At that point the sun was shining brightly and the wind had died down. Hopefully, we will have a great time tomorrow. The forecast says 13 degrees Celsius and sunny. That would be wonderful.

After another delicious dinner, Charlie Spratt put our knowledge of Canadian art to the test by showing us slides of some of his favourite works from the National Gallery of Canada. Most of us had a hard time guessing the artist and even more of the title of the paintings. I guess we all should visit the general exhibitions of the National Gallery more often.

The rest of the evening we spent with some friends talking about our youth and the different gender specific responsibilities we had, and how the views have changed over the time of our lives. Another fascinating discussion.

If you would like to hear what happened during the rest of our trip, please return to this blog next Friday for Part 2.

Friday, 10 April 2015


Blog 14

This is the time of the year when we are all yearning for warmer temperatures and the awakening of nature. I can hardly wait for the first spring blooms to appear in our garden. Since I moved to Canada, I watch the daily progress my spring flowers are making once the snow is gone from the flower bed on the south side of our house. I do not remember doing this while I still lived in Germany but the German winter is much shorter and milder, and the spring flowers are usually already blooming in late February. The Frankfurt area that I am from is comparable in climate to Vancouver.

Crocus” is a 8” x 8” acrylic painting I just had to paint after I saw the crocus, some of the first blooming flowers of spring, defending their spot despite the masses of snow that were still on the ground. I liked the way the strong purple colour of the flowers made them really stand out against the white snow. I was also not happy with the way my photo had turned out. The colour of the blooms in the photograph was just too blue and not the nice shade of purple.

Even though I did the painting in the studio and not on location, I was able to check the colour on my canvas against the real flowers which were blooming just outside our house.

To give some more interest to the painting, I added some molding paste to get a slight 3D effect for the white snow.

When my mother saw this painting just after I finished it, she fell immediately in love with it. Therefore, it hangs now in my childhood home where the crocus usually never see the snow. However, when I was in Germany during March Break two years ago, Germany had a big snow storm. They had more snow in the middle of March than they had during the whole winter. The temperatures dropped from nice high teens to just below zero. This just shows you that spring is always good for a couple of weather surprises.

When this blog is published I have already left for the Plein Air Ensemble spring painting trip. This time the trip goes to Val David in Quebec. I have never been there before but heard that the area is beautiful. While we do not expect to see any spring flowers, we hope for milder temperatures and sun. We actually want some snow patches on the ground to make the compositions more interesting. I also hope for some really nice spots with green water. The colour you only see in early spring.

However, the most important part is to be able to devote my time to some uninterrupted painting and spending time with friends. Four days without any other chores sounds good to me no matter the weather. If we will have snow, rain, or gusty winds, we still have the opportunity to paint in a room at the hotel that has been booked for this purpose.

I welcome you to come back to my blog next week to read the trip report. Until then, watch your flowers grow.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Book review: Sketch Your World by James Hobbs

Blog 13

This year, I will write a book report from time to time. Being an artist does not mean that you just have a given talent which lets you create beautiful art just by itself. Every artist wants to see progress. As with any other profession or ability you have to practice frequently and learn how to apply new techniques or materials to keep things interesting.

Last year, I decided that I wanted to draw more. I love painting but always taking your paints and boards along is not very practical. A camera is great but due to the lens distortion your photos do not necessarily give you an exact image of what you see. If you look at your photos you will also notice some colour differences between real object and photographed object.

As I am someone who is hardly ever sitting around not moving my hands, I was also looking for something to do while sitting on a bus or waiting for an appointment.

I usually take my camera when I am on a trip, or even for a walk with my dog. However, there are situations, when I would like to capture my interpretation of the people and things around me. For the longest time, I felt intimidated by the drawings of other artists who seemed so accomplished and able to draw so beautifully. Being a rather slow painter, I was afraid to just go out and try to capture the fast moving world around me.

Then I came across the book “sketch your world - essential techniques for drawing on location” by James Hobbs.

I was immediately hooked when I read in his introduction that the purpose of drawing is to “express yourself” and to “record your experiences” with “the simplest materials”. I always tell my students that even if they will never become a famous painter just by really observing the world around them, they will see things most people just overlook. Many people do not take the time to appreciate how the change in light changes the appearance of the elements of nature and creates certain moods. You can go to the same spot for many times and will produce a different painting every time. Monet and his water lilies are a great example for this experiment.

If you have ever gone on a plein air painting trip, you know that packing lightly is one of the most important rules if you want to be able to reach even areas which are off the main road. This was the big draw for me. I wanted to be able to take something with me which was light and easily transportable.

A sketch pad, pencil, eraser and sharpener are ideal. They fit in every little purse.

Hobbs’ advice that “there is no right way or wrong way to do things” and that you should find your own expression of what you see, gave me the confidence to get started. Sketching is not about what others see in your drawings but a way to express yourself in your own way, like creating your own shorthand. It is not about drawing what your camera can capture but your interpretation of what you see.

Hobbs gives a good overview of drawing tools, even mentioning digital tools before he takes the reader through the first section of “Getting Started”, discussing everything from dealing with on-lookers to locations for drawing. He talks about using what you see to put pieces together to create something new. As an artist you can always make changes to your composition, add or omit objects, join different views. Your options are endless.

Hobbs’ examples of sketches from other artists confirm that everyone has a unique style. Sketching is not like painting by numbers. It is like writing a journal: It is for keeping your very personal memories. Your sketching style will reflect your personality.

Hobbs gives lots of tips on how to draw in general as well as concentrating on certain subjects, like buildings, parks, people, and night time. I also like the information Hobbs gives with regard to social media, and joining drawing groups like the sketchcrawl.

So whether you think about getting into sketching, or want more information about ways to document the world around this is an excellent book.

To have a quick look at the book and its content please go to

Here is the information for the book again:
Sketch Your World - Essential Techniques For Drawing on Location
Author: James Hobbs
ISBN-13: 978-1-4403-3141-3.

Have you used this book as a resource? If so, what do you think? Do you have any other sketching resources you can recommend? It would be great if you would share them in a comment.