Sketching Holland

I had the good fortune to spend a few days in the Netherlands and found time to try out my new sketchbook.

Leiden is a smaller city in the Netherlands, like Amsterdam, with many canals that have shaped its history and remain actively used by pleasure craft giving many intersting  scenes for urban sketching. Each of the many bridges is unique and this one caught my eye.

The walls surrounding the old city are long gone but two of the city gates remain. Along the old wall and atop the dykes which were high points on this flat landscape, were many wind mills used for grinding grain. Now only a couple remain. In this sketch I tried to capture both.

There is sooo much historic architecture in Europe that a few days time allowed me to scratch the surface. The spires and domes are like are like architectural poetry.

I am getting a feel for this watercolour sketchbook and am more happy with this sketch of traditional Dutchhouses in Leiden, the “clock” and the “stair” styles, so I am told.


In this sketch I intended to capture the streetscape only but while sitting on the bank of the canal I was delighted by the parade of boats passing by filled with happy residents of Holland taking in the sunny weather along with wine and beer in what you could certainly call pleasure boats so I added them in.

Happy sketching everyone from Rod in the Netherlands!












Sketching Toronto


Toronto City Hall is an iconic symbol of the city and the large square in front presents a comfortable venue to sketch with plenty of food vendors and coffee.


Art galleries and museums offer many opportunities to sketch in relative comfort.

The Art Gallery of Ontario has a large and diverse collection of art including a gallery dedicated to these Henry Moore plaster casts.88A72876-FB93-4AF8-AF28-6CC7F6F4ADB2


This painting is an example of Italian baroque style feature by realism and the use of intenselight and shadow.. I tried to capture some of that.


I saw the tower of this building from a distance and thought it was a bank but it turns out this combination of art deco and gothic revival is a government office building. The progressive set backs, the strong vertical elements and the many statues ( 12 I think ) all carved in stone give it  a romantic era monumental and sculpural quality.



Toronto has a lot of historic structures and I hope tosketch more of them someday,



Inglewood Bridge

A year ago I was fascinated by the confluence of the CPR main line with the Sculpture Garden and the ironworks of the Inglewood bridge and did this sketch.


The rusted rivets and beams of the bridge evoke in me the  pre world war one era of optimistic industrialization and progress.

It is slated for demolition and replacement so I look forward to sketching and recording a piece of Calgary’s history.

Our recent sketchwalks visited other structures of that prosperous era.

The First Baptist Church in the Beltline is a 1912 Gothic revival with a rich mix of brick, sandstone and timber.93E466AB-9168-44BA-B6CC-F66033A5272E

The Colonel James Walker house was built in 1910.2B5750F7-17F8-481D-8596-FF8F69B69E00

Built in 1912/1913 St. Matthew’s Lutheran church has its own unique details of brick and stone. There is history of the structure on this link:

Looking forward to our SketchWalk at the Inglewood Bridge.

Recent Sketches

With the warm weather it has been great to get back outside with sketchbook in hand. Calgary has a wealth of highly articulated historic buildings and I get much satisfaction in capturing some of their details.

First Baptist Church on 13th Avenue and Fourth St.  S.W. has a mix of red brick and carved sandstone. I sat across the street in Central Park. Sketch Alert! There is a nice outdoor coffee shop in the park.image

When it was cold outside there was opportunity for people sketching in our weekly Calgarysketchbooker’s Meetup in Starbucks.


Something a little different!


The Dr. Carl Safran Centre is a beautiful sandstone building, built in 1908 as a high school. On the west side there is a park with lots of benches and stone topped tables which provide a comfortable place to sit and sketch.


We shall meet here on Saturday May 12 at 1:30 P.M. for our first sketch walk. 

930 13th Avenue S.W – hope to see you there!


Sketching the World 2

Hong Kong, for me, is an urban sketcher’s treasure trove. It’s intense urban density is squeezed between sea and mountains. Where centuries old traditional chinese shops sit next to 21st century skyscrapers it is a modern city in an ancient culture.

Chun Yeung Street is a daily street market with a tram running down the middle. image

My wife’s ancestral village gate, now surrounded by the city  sketched during an ancestor’s festival.image

Lei Yue Mun, some of the freshest seafood dining in Hong Kong. It is a former fishing village with a view of Hong Kong Island across the harbour.image

A shop on a slope with goods stacked to the ceiling.image


Winter Urban Sketching

Last summer I was able to take advantage of the sunny warm weather and do a series of sketches on the Stephen Avenue mall, some of which are posted below. Last November, I was fortunate enough to be in Hong Kong where the subtropical sun made outdoor daily sketching a pleasure. I shall post and describe those sketches in a another blog.

Back home in Calgary, in the cold and the dark, I wondered if it was possible not to mention practical to do the same in our northern winter. Here is what I found out!

On January 14, the forcast was plus 6 degrees, I grabbed sketchbook, pencils, pens and watercolours and headed to Olympic Plaza. Nothing says urban winter like skating.5C3E28A7-0139-4616-817D-9DD03E7E8505

On January 30, I was less brave and sought out an indoor yet mostly public and still urban in a sense. Taken from the fourth floor food court where coffee is available.image

On February the tenth, my courage returned and I headed over to the old courthouse. At minus four degrees my fingers got cold after 30 minutes and its hard to draw details with gloves on.imageDid the water-colour later, at home!

February 13, Chinook conditions, have sketchbook will travel, Stephen Avenue.image

My conclusion about winter sketching is that it is quite possible, best above plus 5 degrees. Dress warm, have a hot drink and a seat pad or stool because benches and concrete steps can sap your body heat afer a time. Looking forward to meeting everyone on a future sketchcrawl

Sketching the World

Vietnam was a pleasant surprise! I began only 2 years ago to carry my sketchbook with me when I travel so while on a rather intense tour of Vietnam last October I was ready when we had free time to make a visual record of our visit.

The first sketch is of an historic storefront in Hoi An Ancient Town across from which is a comfortable coffee shop serving that delicious thick Vietnamese coffee.image

This one was sketched from another coffee shop ( my favourite condition for sketching ) in Ho Chi Minh City.image

I started this one on the street trying to capture the vendor ladies but finished it later from my photos. The bustle of the street life, the colours and diversity were a challenge to capture.image