Discover Lifebook 2022

I just started this year long mixed-media course mixed with elements of well-being and mental health. It is well designed and organized by which has become one of my favorite on-line learning provider in the past year. was developped by Tamara Laporte and has been providing online learning on mixed media and creativity for several year. To get to know Tam, check this out:

I also did Kaleidoscope 2021 which was about the use of colour, which was also quite good, if a bit intense.

Where to find Lifebook 2022:

The mixed media art that is done in the course is figurative, fantastic and quirky, which makes for very colourful results, but may not be everyone’s cup of tea. For those of you who are familiar with my hyper-realistic urban sketching production, you may be surprised… but I have been having a lot of fun.

Winter Urban Sketching

When the temperature is not too far below freezing, it is possible to do some sketching in a parked car, which is what I did last Saturday. It was an overcast day, no strong light and inexistent shadows.

I drew a white house, across a snow bank and a pale overcast sky. A festival of very subtle nuances.

The line work was done in the cas, in about 30 minutes. The watercolour washes were applied at home, another 30 minute affair. I used a Fabriano A4 sketchbook.

Do you personalize your sketchbooks?

What do your sketchbooks look like? Did you buy them? Did you make them? Did you change anything to their appearance? Did you try to make them works of art in and of themselves? Or are they just scuffed and scratched vessels for your sketches and anything else you choose to make in them?

I buy mine; I have not ventured into making my own sketchbooks and learning how to bind them properly. And my sketchbooks used to be the scuffed and scratched variety until a an art teacher suggested “decorating” the cover, or having the cover reflect our own personality. Then I went crazy. I have now four very personalized sketchbooks and I have enjoyed every minute of the process.

This first one is a 7×17″ Derwent dry media sketchbook with a dark black cover. I gessoed a large rectangle and did a rough depiction in acrylic of St. Helen’s Island (Montreal) from the South Shore, based on a sketch from 2019. I then applied a thin coat of satin varnish.

The following 3 sketchbooks were done as following:

  • An A4 HP sketchbook from etchr, which had a white canvas cover, became an abstact bouquet on a purple background (with a base coat of venetian red gesso)
  • An A5 Clairefontaine travel sketchbook with a off-white thin fabric had become rather dirty and scuffed. I covered it with a sketch of a local church on the front cover, done in Sharpie markers. The same Sharpie markers were used for the stripes on the back. It was covered in semi-gloss medium and some gloss varnish.
  • The flower pot on the fourth sketchbook (yes, it is sideways!) is acrylic paints and markers on transparent gessor on the cover of a Strathmore visual journal (9×12″).

We’ll have to see how these covers survive usage.

Artists’ Journals, and other documents

I admire artists who have extensive notebooks where they record thoughts, ideas, in text or drawings/sketches/diagrams. I rely a lot more on my wandering mind, but I frequently get lost in it, or lose the ideas and intuitions as I move along.

My own efforts at keeping notebooks and journals have been sporadic. I have not had the werewithal to keep at it diligently. In any case, my upstairs office does have a notebook for journal, I have a studio journal in my basement workshop, as well as a carnet to use for visual journaling.

My inspiration for visual journaling has been Samantha Dion Baker, whose pretty well constructed commentary on daily life are described in her book Draw Your Day.

Today, I was just puttering around the Web, and stumbled upon this wonderful one hour lecture by Charles Ritchie, artist and retired associate curator at the National Gallery. He talks about notebooks, journals, ledgers and manuscripts of artists, chief among them visual artists. Not only is the lecture well delivered, it is also supported by an abondance of relevant visuals. I highly recommend it!

Here are some of my recently “daily life” visual journal entries:

Travel Sketching: Back from Cuba

Even what could be a run-of-the-mill beach vacation can turn into a fun sketching vacation. I never was a beach gal. In fact, I avoid the sun as much as I can and I usually spend a lot of time reading in the shade. Since I started sketching, I added that activity to activities I do mostly in the shade. So I left for my vacation with a minimal sketching kit and a folding seat and a hat. I got a lot of use out of these tools…

IMG_3135 (Edited)

All drawings can be found in the Travel Sketching section, on this page.

Experiments with acrylic paints and mediums

I have been experimenting with a number of things in the studio, acrylics and mediums, as well as mixed media. Sometimes, the results are very good, and sometimes… let’s say I’d better take notes on what NOT to do!

But I also follow suggestions from some of the books I bought. The one I am relying on the most at this time is Jodi Ohl’s Abstracts in Acrylic & Ink from North Light Press. While I don’t rush out and buy all the same products she is using, I am attempting to use some of the processes she suggests to create pieces that are similar in result.

Here is the first piece I did based on this book (real size is 8″x10″):

IMG_3042 (Edited)

This piece involved the use of a heat gun, which I felt very uncomfortable with… but I still gave it a try, although quite gingerly. I also discovered that spray varnish did not prevent water soluble ink from bleeding on application of another medium. However, I do love that bleeding effect and reused it in the pieces below (this time, on purpose!).

The book shows how to work on projects step by step, with good illustrations.

I am working on another piece, an abstract cityscape. The book suggest using Ampersand Clayboard, which is what I used for the piece above. While it was a nice product to work with, I find it very expensive, so I am using bargain price canvas board for the new piece.

I did another project inspired by Jodi Ohl’s approach but without following any specific instructions in the book. I worked on three 5″ x 7″ canvas boards which I prepped with black gesso. The first layer is very similar for all three. Then I tried different media in combinations.

Here is the result. The picture are not very good given the glossiness (or I am not a good photographer, or both).


Here are some of my discoveries: Sometimes, when you use crackle medium, things don’t crackle much. And then, the layers on top won’t stop cracking! Soft pastel flakes can make nice patterns if you don’t work on the medium that you put on top too much. Artist’s Loft Watercolor Crayons (cheap stuff from Micheal’s, very creamy) is useful for mark making and does not bleed into medium like water soluble ink does. And of course, water soluble ink makes nice colourful clouds in the medium that’s on top.

These three pieces are called Red Planet, and I would like to frame them together, but I will have to see how to do this myself due to cost consideration. I am most definitely not a master framer, but that is another skill I will develop over time.

Cool Book: Draw Your Day

As I usually think of sketching as an activity tied to going some place and sketching what I see in this place, I am little bit at a loss for sketching topics when I have not gone intentionally somewhere to sketch and I feel the itch to put pen, pencil or brush to paper.

Draw Your Day provides a neat approach to doing daily sketches based on the little events or things that pop up in a  day, nothing extraordinary and anything that can be sketched or briefly written about in decorative lettering. The author’s examples are just fascinating. You can see full-page examples by clicking on Look Inside in Amazon (here).

There is a list of possible things to journal about on pages 68-69 and a list of items that can be used for collages on page 87.

The author also talks about the media she uses and how she goes about developing a journal page, providing good guidance for the beginning sketcher.

Finally, the book is very pretty as the pages are not crowded and make it possible to enjoy every illustration.


Dion Baker, Samantha. Draw Your Day: An Inspiring Guide to Keeping a Sketch Journal. California, Watson-Guptill, 2018.

Author’s website:


An afternoon at the MBAM

I had booked a spot on a guided tour of the sculpture permanent collection at the Musée des beaux arts de Montréal this afternoon. It was a very intimate tour, with only  5 of us following the enthusiastic explanations of Grace, our docent.

After the tour, I returned to the last room we were in and after looking around, I became quite fascinated by a small Rodin sculpture that featured a cramped hand. And the sketching started…

Because the museum only allows pencil drawing, I did quite sketches on site, and reworked them at home, with some ink and watercolour, or with water to go over the watercolour pencils I had used.

Sortie USK Montréal: La Grande bibliothèque

La rencontre d’USK Montréal du dimanche 27 janvier se tenait la Grande Bibliothèque, la bibliothèque montréalaise de la BAnQ (Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec). C’est un bâtiment magnifique avec des vues en hauteur et en longueur et de vue en plongée sur les alentours (le part Émilie-Gamelin, la ruelle d’en arrière). C’est accessible de la station de métro Berri-UQÀM sans sortir dehors, un bon point quand les trottoirs du centre-ville sont enneigés et glissant.

Il y avait un bon groupe pour cette rencontre avec beaucoup de styles différents. Nous ne pouvions pas utiliser d’aquarelle sur place donc il a fallu compléter par la suite. J’ai fait 4 croquis sur place et un autre au métro Longueuil en revenant à la maison.

The page with the dark background, I had gessoed the day before. I had another page done in red gesso but I did not use it on this outing.

All sketches were done in an A4 Moleskine sketchbook. Basic ink lines with 0.8 Sharpie pen (my go-to pen these days). Some grays in Pitt brush pens. The sketch on the black Gesso background has some watercolour pencil (white, red, purple), white Posca, white JellyRoll, beige Pebeo paint marker, and green gold JellyRoll.

Around Complexe Desjardins and Place des Arts

I met a friend for lunch at Complexe Desjardins and decided to stay on for a little sketching. I had a tiny Rhodia sketchbook with me, with lovely creamy Clairefontaine velum paper that is perfect for ink drawing and Pitt brush pens. It seems to be from the line of Rhodiarama hard cover books (here). In any case, I have not seen anything similar in stores in Canada. I got mine in the bag of goodies at the USK symposium in Porto last summer. I just love this little book, perfect to carry in handbag.

First stop was the central fountain at Complexe Desjardins. This week, it was decorated with large gold fish, fabric flowers and twisted tree branches painted in white. Very pretty. A lot of people were taking picture and children were utterly fascinated.

After walking around the Complexe, I headed back to the Place des Arts metro station, and make a cookie stop at the Van Houtte coffee in the hallway leading to the metro station. It is an underground coffee shop, not a smidgen of daylight gets to it, but there were a surprising number of people reading, studying or just handing out. I got a few quick sketches done there.

So, this was a not a day for sweeping panoramas… just quick, focused sketches, and trying to catch people in action.