mercredi 27 mai 2009

SKETCHING AT SALLE PIERRE-MERCURE, MONTREAL – Tips on drawing at live performances

I always bring a sketch book to a concert or a play. Sometimes I am lucky but other times I come back with empty pages. If I am unable to draw it is either because I am sitting too far away from the stage or the available light is inadequate.

Première of Ochus Bochus by Paul Frehner performed by ECM+ & OCM

A few weeks ago I arrived late for a concert. Unfortunately the orchestras had already played my son-in-law’s composition. However, I was fortunate because the usherette led me to a seat near the front. There was sufficient light and I was able to sketch.

Arrive either very early or reserve your tickets

If you wish to draw at a concert where the seats are not reserved, I would suggest you arrive early in order to take a seat up front. From that vantage you will be able to sketch the musicians, actors or dancers. If the hall is not quite full and you arrive late you may find a seat near the front at the intermission. The ideal is to purchase tickets far in advance in order to be able to choose where you sit.

Choice of sketch book

The sketch book I used for the illustrated drawings measures approximately 4 in. by 6 in. which, when opened permits you to draw on a 6 in. by 8 in. surface. I would not recommend sketching in a larger format since you will draw attention to your activity. Also, drawing in a larger book means you will be uncomfortable in the usually tight theatre seats. Drawing in a sewn binding sketch book rather than in a spiral bound book is my recommendation mainly because it is awkward to draw across the spiral.

Choosing an appropriate “quiet” drawing tool

I sometimes draw with a pencil but any repeated hatching especially on coarse paper can be noisy in a quiet environment. Therefore, I draw either with a fountain pen or with a felt tip pen as often as possible at concerts. If the sketching paper is rather smooth that also will cut down on the noise.

Rendering value masses

The disadvantage of pen and ink sketching is that you might end up solely with contour drawings. If you wish to shade you will have to do hatch, scribble or use a thicker pointed tool to add values. This takes up valuable time and effort. My preferred choice is a fountain pen filled with water soluble ink. Then I use my water filled paint brush to spread the inked lines to render the masses. I also use non permanent ink disposable pens with similar results. All the drawings of musicians illustrated here were rendered a fountain pen and a water filled synthetic paint brush.

Remember to be discrete

Although you may be absorbed in the act of drawing, remember that not everyone around you will share your drawing enthusiasm especially if you cause a distraction. Therefore, try to be as unobtrusive, quiet and motionless as possible when sketching at concerts.

Draw the figure often and you'll see marked improvement

I draw at concerts for pleasure and practice. If you seize the opportunity to draw the figure often whenever the occasion arises, your drawing skills for all subjects will improve rapidly. So, my advice is to be prepared at all times by carrying with you a small sketch book and a few drawing tools.

Raynald Murphy sca
Come paint with me: June 13-14 - Outdoor Watercolour: Cityscapes - Two Day Workshop : Info or 514-488-9558

mercredi 20 mai 2009

MOTOS, CAMIONS, TRACTEURS, MACHINERIE … Le dessin de « choses complexes »

Dessins aux aires de repos

Hier, lors d’un voyage en auto nous nous sommes arrêtés à une aire de repos. J’ai croqué une moto en quelques minutes tout en prenant ma collation. Ce petit dessin a été fait avec un stylo feutre et quelques couleurs d’aquarelle dans un carnet 5 po par 7 po.

Que je sois satisfait ou non de ce dessin n’est pas important. Il restera avec d’autres du même genre probablement toujours caché dans ce cahier. Il ne servira peut-être jamais à rien d’autre. C’était une « pratique ».

Je dessine ce qui est devant moi, même un camion!

Lors d’un dessin de ce genre je ne cherche pas à me déplacer afin de découvrir une meilleure composition. Je dessine ce qui est devant moi. Mon but est seulement de dessiner quelque chose en quelques minutes – dix à vingt - pour le pur plaisir de pratiquer mon art.

Lors de ces arrêts, je me retrouve devant des voitures, camions, motos ou tout autre genre de véhicule plutôt complexe. Je choisis souvent ces motifs au lieu de dessiner quelque chose de « plus facile ». Pourquoi? Je me dis que si je dessine toujours les choses habituelles je ne développerai pas autant mes habiletés.

Une pratique ciblée et attentive

Plusieurs chercheurs sont arrivés à la même conclusion. Dans un livre intitulé « Talent is Overrated », l’auteur, Geoff Colvin dit qu’une pratique ciblée et attentive sera beaucoup plus profitable qu’une répétition mécanique et inattentive. La preuve est souvent évidente lorsqu’on aperçoit les exploits d’athlètes. Ils « pratiquent » habituellement des exercices spécifiques. Pourquoi ne pas faire pareil lors de la « pratique » du dessin.

Dessiner ce qu’on voit et non de ce qu’on pense voir

Le dessin de machinerie complexe présente à l’artiste ou au novice un objet inhabituel. Donc, le dessinateur doit vraiment être très attentif à reproduire correctement ce qui est devant lui et non ce que son cerveau « pense » apercevoir. On doit dessiner ce qu’on voit et non ce qu’on pense voir. Ceci est souvent le cas lorsque nous dessinons un paysage. Les formes du paysage peuvent facilement être modifiées sans crainte. On est moins attentif, on répète souvent des formes connues, donc on ne s’améliore guère.

Par ou commencer?

Les dessins illustrés ici sont d’autres exemples de ce type de croquis de machinerie. En général je commence mon dessin au centre de la feuille sans déterminer à l’avance une composition ou la limite du dessin. Une forme, par exemple, une roue, une fenêtre ou un rétroviseur me servira de référence tout au long du dessin. Je comparerai la proportion de cet objet et sa position sur la page avec la dimension et la position des autres formes.

Recherchez des choses complexes à dessiner

Je ne me limite pas à dessiner ces machines lors de voyages en auto, mais parfois je pars avec un but précis de croquer de tels véhicules complexes. Je trouve des véhicules lourds souvent sur un chantier de construction. Parfois il y a des vieux tracteurs le long de la route ou dans des « cimetières de tracteurs ». Cet été, les rues de Montréal nous en offrent en quantité!

Donc, si vous voulez améliorer votre dessin, je suggère fortement de ne pas toujours dessiner des choses faciles. Partez à l’aventure et dessinez bulldozers, excavatrices, marteaux piqueurs et « tutti quanti ». Vous verrez, ça va faire « marcher » votre cerveau!

Raynald Murphy sca

mardi 5 mai 2009


Some people I meet wonder why I love to draw and paint cityscapes. “Would it not be easier and more bucolic to paint country scenes instead?” they say.

I find drawing and painting city scenes both a challenge and fascinating although I draw almost anything. Rather than being distracted by the crowds around me, I am nourished and motivated by the hustle and bustle of the people surrounding me in the city as I draw or paint.

There is no correct moment in one’s life to try one’s hand at drawing. In fact, drawing is expression, a language of sorts put down on paper instead of verbalized through words. I fell in love with drawing early in life and developed a passion for art more seriously in my late twenties. Some discover a passion for drawing later in life. Sean Murphy is an example.

I came upon a charming and refreshing book titled: Dare to Draw –La passion du dessin. The author, Sean Murphy, turned to drawing upon retirement after a career in ophthalmology. Now an octogenarian, Dr. Murphy draws everywhere he goes. Pencil and paper in hand and often with a small painting kit, Sean records what he sees much like I do. In his introduction he says: “I have learned to see, to really see. For an eye surgeon, that is no small disclosure.”

Dr. Murphy’s closing remarks, I feel, are worth quoting in the hope that others discover the passion that both he and I share. He says: “I decided to write this book in the first place (because) I wanted to inspire you to draw, because of the joy drawing has given me.” I decided to write the blog ART PLEIN AIR for similar reasons.

Returning yesterday from teaching a workshop on watercolor and drawing I am more convinced than ever that what is lacking in many who decide to take up painting is a foundation in drawing. And that can only be developed by what both Sean and I promote – draw, and draw often and from life.

Here are some tips which might motive you if you feel you don’t draw often enough. Many of these are reiterated in Sean Murphy’s book:

1. Draw small when drawing on site and in small sketch books. Other than being more discrete it is easier to draw small.
2. Take a drawing course if you are hesitant to venture on your own.
3. Draw with a felt tip pen often. Probably because one knows one cannot erase an ink line, concentration is accentuated and learning accelerated.
4. Draw always for yourself. Process counts, not product.
5. Draw everyday if possible, draw everywhere, draw anything and everything.
6. Push yourself to draw more difficult subjects once you gain confidence.
7. Leave sketch books around, in you car, in your purse or pocket, in various rooms around the house. This will incite you to draw more often.
8. Never leave home without a pencil or sketch book.
9. Form a little group of friends who like to draw and paint and set up a weekly time to meet together.
10.Use only good drawing and painting materials. Experiment with various tools and papers. This will motive you when drawing becomes routine.

Raynald Murphy sca

Cityscapes workshop: I will be teaching a two day outdoor watercolor workshop on June 13th and 14th. Information: or 514.488.7075

Dare to Draw – La passion du dessin by Sean Murphy is available through the Visual Arts Cantre, 35 Victoria Ave, Montreal, at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts boutique and other book stores.