Friday, April 22, 2016

Sketching at St. Jacob's Market, Waterloo

I became a member of KWUrbanSketchers group that organizes several events around Waterloo region over the year. On their recent event, at St.Jacobs Farmers' Market I was overwhelmed with beautiful weather.    It was a two hour long trip from Toronto to this wonderful rural location, where entrance of the market is ornamented with a Horse drawn wagon station. The sunny outside inspired me to do a watercolor sketch of the wagon placed beside a store. However, I was rushing at the end of this sketching, as an unexpected frozen rain pushed people to get inside the market. The interior space was packed with crowds. When you running short of time you can try a quick sketch on a toned paper. In the picture on the right, an effective technique was tried. Specially, when there are multiple sources of lighting, a toned surface helps us to set the mid-tone and local color.  I tried to capture the interior light. Overall, it was a wonderful experience with few other artists from Waterloo.

Friday, April 15, 2016

How a financial corporation supports local artists by connecting them with a wider audience

Toronto Urban Sketchers TD Gallery of Inuit Art Toronto Dominium

Do you know about the TD Gallery of Inuit Art? 

I certainly didn’t until a receptionist from the Museum of Inuit Art in the Harbourfront told me about it. Of course, I had to check it out. So I decided to organize an urban sketching session at the TD Gallery, located right in the heart of the city in the Financial District. 

Turns out this great little gallery is the result of a vision from Allen Lambert, TD's former chairman and president in the 60s, who recognized the potential for art to make a personal connection and start conversations. After working as a branch manager in Yellowknife in the late 40s, Lambert developed an interest and deep respect for natives and their artwork. He believed that displaying art in the workplace would not only enhance the corporate environment, but would also enhance the lives of the staff and customers as the art would provide a way to forge relationships. 
“I feel that the value of a Corporate Collection is not just a matter of dollars or decoration. It is the commitment by the corporation of its concern for a fuller quality to life; an extra dimension is added to the normal business day by providing a stimulating and sometimes challenging environment for our staff, customers, and visitors.”
He also hoped that this would enable Inuits to inform others about their culture and tradition. I would say that’s exactly what he did for the Toronto Urban Sketchers. By providing free public access to the gallery, the bank is helping more people better understand and connect to Inuit art. On April 9, 2016 about twenty urban sketchers made their way to the gallery to sketch some of the sculptures beautifully displayed in the mezzanine of a Mies Van Der Rohe building located at 79 Wellington St. Sketching the artwork enable them to spend some time with the artwork and develop an new appreciation and understanding if Inuit art and culture. 

It’s very encouraging and inspiring to see corporations like TD take it upon itself to purchase local artworks and to share them with the general public. Toronto is not yet at the point where museums are free like in London, UK and Washington, DC which restrict access to some members of the population. So it’s great to see some corporations taking the lead on enabling more people from the general public to connect with the artwork of local artists. In this case, they’re contributing to raising the awareness of Inuit art and its significance in the history of the country which for some reason have been lacking in the classrooms (at least at the time I was a student).

So how does TD's project support local artists? 
1. TD Bank buys local artwork
To date, the TD Bank Canadian Art Collection, comprising Contemporary Canadian and Inuit art, numbers over 5000 works. The bank originally acquired 1000 inuit artworks. While 200 of them are displayed in the gallery, the rest, including inuit prints and drawings, are located in offices throughout the bank’s global operation. Most of the larger domestic and international offices own at least one inuit sculpture.

2. TD Bank familiarizes its staff to local art
As a result of the bank's corporate art collection, many employees have been able to develop a greater appreciation of Inuit art without having to make a special trip to a museum or gallery. For some individuals, having ready access to works of art has sparked their own personal collecting activities or helped stimulate creative thinking in their day-to-day work. 

3. TD Bank showcases local artwork as part of its marketing process
Through the years, TD's marketing efforts reinforced their association with Inuit art.  An Inuit carving is often presented as a gift to important clients, visitors, retiring board members, or dignitaries. For many years, an annual corporate Christmas card was produced highlighting a sculpture from the collection.

Toronto Urban Sketchers TD Gallery of Inuit Art Toronto Dominium
Toronto Urban Sketchers at the TD Gallery of Inuit Art
Toronto Urban Sketchers TD Gallery of Inuit Art Toronto Dominium
Toronto Urban Sketchers at the TD Gallery of Inuit Art
Toronto Urban Sketchers TD Gallery of Inuit Art Toronto Dominium
Toronto Urban Sketchers at the TD Gallery of Inuit Art

Getting acquainted with Inuit Art 
I was particularly attracted to a carving by Osuitok Ipeelee from Nunavut called Mythical Owl. The way the wings are positioned above its head and its twisted tentacle-legs were intriguing and inspired me to sketch it. I wish there was a bit more information about the actual artwork. It's great to know the name of the artist and the title of the work but I have so many questions like : Why the owl? What does it represent? Why do its legs look like tentacles? Why are the wings placed above its head? Does the position of the owl mean anything? Etc. It did however start a conversation with fellow sketchers about how the carvings are typically created and how the artists typically start by sitting with the stone to visualize what’s "hidden" in the stone before they proceed to remove the unwanted pieces of stone and reveal the hidden gem within it. What a fascinating concept! That could also explain why the figures are not an accurate replica of a particular animal or person, and can have unusual characteristics like the Mythical Owl.

Toronto Urban Sketchers TD Gallery of Inuit Art Toronto Dominium
My rendition of the Mythical Owl by Osuitok Ipeelee at the TD Gallery of Inuit Art
You can see a quick timelapse of my sketch here

Toronto Urban Sketchers TD Gallery of Inuit Art Toronto Dominium
Some of the sketches from the Toronto Urban Sketchers at the TD Gallery of Inuit Art

The sketchers created quite a nice range of artwork including sketches of the sculpture, the space and other sketchers. Everyone looked like they had a great time interacting with Inuit Art. I highly recommend you checking out the TD Gallery of Inuit Art next time you’re in the area. It is open 7 days a week and admission is free. Since the gallery opened to the public in 1986, the bank has maintain it’s commitment to do the collection justice and share it with the community. I hope this inspired other corporation to do the same as it’s a great example of how large corporation an artists can work together to enhance the lives of the community as a whole. Artwork should be shared with everyone. While not everyone can afford to own an original artwork, they should be able to see and appreciate them in public spaces like this and it's great to see companies doing something about it. 

friends with

Spent a lovely Friday afternoon enjoying a tea and drawing a few people. Cafe culture is up and running now that Spring is in the air. : )
close up -
I drew this with a 6B pencil then added some watercolour from my Winsor & Newton travel kit. The painting is 6x8", so pretty discreet at a cafe.
close up -
It's nice to see people talking to each other, rather than staring at their computers and iPhones. ; ) 
If you haven't tried sketching at a cafe, I highly recommend it. No one has ever minded that I am drawing them, in fact the few people that notice over the years, have been thrilled! Happy Urban Sketching Everyone.
See more at my Etsy Shop.

Monday, April 11, 2016

My last Toronto sketches

The latest Toronto sketches I've done last summer. Since then we were getting prepared for relocation and all my sketching attempts were postponed.  
However it Toronto it was well known that I'm able to sketch only during lunch break.

Somewhere in August I rushed to Spadina Staircase to catch the summer sun and this majestic view. In my lunch break of course :) The next sketches were done already this winter at the new place.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Toronto Urban Sketchers Celebrate Toronto

A couple months ago I got a chance to meet Micayla who's the founder of Celebrate Toronto : A growing event celebrating the birthday of the city. Toronto's turning 182 years old this year and for the past 3 years she's been honouring the official birth of the city by throwing it a party. As part of the festivities, artists are invited to submit their artwork to showcase and sell the night of the show and throughout the entire month of March. This year, 10 Toronto Urban Sketchers, including myself, will be participating to the artshow. On the left are the three artworks that I submitted for the show, two of which are also in our recent publication : Urban Sketching Disappearing Landmarks in Toronto

The celebrations will take place tomorrow, Saturday March 6, 2016. Here's a sneak peek of the installations :

You can still get you tickets for the show on the main site or at the door. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

My Sketching Buddies

I bought a box of Rembrandt watercolour metal basic set pans when I first started my plein air sketching. I love it very much. Then I bought a larger one after I finished some colours.

After a while, I wanted to make my own one which can carry more colours. I bought a cosmetic box and stuck more colours. I love this box very much, very light. For cleaning water, I use the bill plastic bottle. It won't leak.

Later, I used more and more colours so I bought a larger watercolour palette and put those pans in it.

After some years, I went back to a smaller size. I put some pans into a pill box which I bought from the drug store. You can put a short brush or more colours in another size.

For the easel, I made my own one with a camera tripod. These things are very light-weighted. The stool was available from an outdoor camping equipment store.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Sketching the Roy Thomson Hall

Roy Thomson Hall Toronto Urban Sketchers Watercolor Sketch

I've been fascinated by the Roy Thomson Hall for a while. Located on the corner of King St. W and Simcoe St, it is hard to miss this unique building in the shape of a cone with its top cut off : a conical frustum (I just learned that word). Mostly composed of glass windows arranged in a beautiful geometrical pattern, the hall opened its doors in 1982, thanks to the Roy Thomson's family who generously donated $4.5 million to help with the the fundraising efforts to complete its construction.

Roy Thomson Hall is connected to the Toronto PATH, which is an underground pedestrian walkway connecting several buildings and subway stations in the downtown core. This feature is particularly useful in the winter months when it's too cold to sketch outside. Along the PATH, there's a nice view of the Hall from across a pond. The pond is drained in the winter. Apparently, the original plan of the architect Arthur Erickson, was for the pond to be an ice skating rink in the winter. But I don't think it's ever been used for that, which is a shame and a missed opportunity. Having people skating there would bring the space to life and make better use of it. Instead, it lies empty for a couple months every year. Still it's a great sight for sketchers in the winter and most of us set up camp in the hall facing the ponds to sketch the view from indoors. I will have to come back there in the summer as suggested by a passerby who told me that"it's much nicer in the summer."   

Roy Thomson Hall Toronto Urban Sketchers Watercolor Sketch
Roy Thomson Hall Toronto Urban Sketchers Watercolor Sketch

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Royal Bank Building

I kept thinking about sketching the old building on Yonge ang King Streets when I came to Starbucks nearby. I love the huge scaled Corinthian columns and the details above the windows of the building. Today was my chance! I picked a spot near a big window facing the old building across the street.

The Royal Bank Building on the northeast corner of Yonge and King Streets was built in 1915. It is one of the heritage buildings in downtown Toronto.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Union Station Under Construction

Toronto Urban Sketchers at Union Station art and construction

Earlier this month a couple of us went to sketch in the Great Hall at Union Station, which is said to be the busiest transportation facility in Canada. Fortunately, it wasn't too busy over the weekend and we had plenty of space to sit and sketch.  I was surprised to see the large windows covered up behind a matrix of scaffolding and giant orange tarp covering half of the both  along one side of the space. The tarp is what gave the orange glow on the photos above. 

The station is currently undergoing a major revitalization but most of us didn't expect the Great Hall to be part of it. One of the sketchers joked that she can't remember a time when there wasn't any kind of construction at Union Station. That's the reality of a growing city : lots of constructions everywhere! We still managed to find great subjects to sketch. Since the obvious features of the space were hidden, we had to look for the less obvious features and pay attention to some of the details like the columns marking the entrance to the train waiting area, the views from the window a little further and the people passing by. 

Toronto Urban Sketchers Union Station Pilot coffee watercolor art

What caught my attention was a new coffee shop booth called pilot, right in the middle of the space. The booth has a unique shape is reminiscent of a paper airplane. I wonder if the name was the inspiration behind the design of the booth. Not that coffee has much to do with a plane, other than perhaps the fact that it's imported and may have travelled by plane. I couldn't find any information about the story behind the name on their website. Maybe the concept of the plane was the idea of the architect, Williamson Chong, or maybe it's pure coincidence. But the shape of the booth definitely got my attention. There is not a lot of space for the baristas. There were 1-2 at a time on rotation while we were sketching. Speaking of baristas, I've been wondering why this "new" term is being used for the staff working behind the counter in coffee shops. Turns out it's an Italian word for bartender. Now you know :) 

Friday, February 5, 2016

TOUSK Meetup #53 Union Station - Perspective 101

Our next meetup will take place at the Union Station. This time our talented sketcher and correspondent, Hasibush, will run a small workshop in parallel, on perspective for beginners. Space for the workshop is limited to 10 people and it's already full. If you didn't get a chance to reserve your spot for the workshop, don't worry. We'll probably do another one in the near future.  In the mean time, you can join the rest of the group to sketch the various areas of the train station, which is full of interesting subjects to draw. For more details on the schedule for the day, please see out our meetup page.