By Marc Taro Holmes in Quebec, QC
The other day we finally made it to Quebec City. We’ve been living in Montreal for about five years now, but for whatever reason, it took us this long to visit.
For our first trip, I wanted to hit the obvious highlights - the old town around the Château Frontenac. A lot of people feel they should go out of their way to find unique, undiscovered views in any town. Me, I tend to go right for the postcard view. I feel that given a limited amount of time, I want to start with the most recognizable spot, and move outward from there. I don’t know I’m that committed to this as a strategy, but it’s how I’m doing it for now.
We had arranged to meet up with a friend of ours - inveterate sketcher, Larry D. Marshall who knows the city from the pages of his own sketchbooks. He walked us over to this perfect view of the cupola on the old post office. Larry’s a loyal reader of my blog, so I think he knows I’ll sketch any dome I can lay my eyes on :)
This is actually a double-page spread – here’s the sketch combined with its other half making the panorama across the square.
These drawings are in a big 15x20” pad of Canson Montval. I made sure to bring large format paper, as I wanted to play with a 3/8” size Steel Brush. Which, as you can probably tell from the sketch, is a big huge nib. I mean - this drawing looks normal in proportion – but it’s 30” across.
The steel brush is a rectangular sandwich of thin sheets of metal, each layer with a pattern of slots. When dipped, ink clings between the sheets of flexible metal, making a juicy reservoir of color.
I’ve had a few of these nibs in the back of a drawer for 20 years. I think I inherited them from an uncle. Unless I picked them up when I worked in an art supply store back in college. In any case – I’ve had them for a long, long time, and never had the nerve to draw with them. I had a 3/4” with me as well, but amusingly, it was too wide to fit down the neck of the 5ml ink bottles I carry.
So – these are only my first few drawings with this nib – I have to say – I really like it! The nib holds a lot of ink and can make broad and juicy strokes - as if you’re working with a watercolor flat – but somehow it’s a scratchy, springy, metallic flat. And, just like a watercolor flat, you can draw with the corners and the front edge, instead of the broad width. You get these weird wedgy cuneiform shapes, as well as some jagged slender-line work.
Occasionally the leaves of the nib will catch on the paper and fling a spray of ink drops. I like this. I’m a huge fan of tools that put you on the edge of control. It’s more fun to draw with them. I get bored if my materials are too predictable. The drawing should be an interaction between you and the media.
This last one from Place Royale – a scenic little square in the heart of the old town – has some fun effects. I wonder if anyone can guess how I got these effects?
I know we'll be back to Quebec city sometime. There's plenty more to draw. And I'm sure i'll be playing with this pen some more - I'll have to keep you updated. It might be interesting to try it with watercolor for instance. I'll see what kind of fun and games I can get up to next time I have a day off to play with it.