Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Amaryllis, Narcissus... The Beginning

 I bought these at Canadian Tire on sale... which is a good thing because I do not have a green thumb. But I find them interesting as "objects". As such, I thought I'd record them before planting them in pots with my daughter tomorrow.

The top are Narcissus bulbs, kind of like shallots in size.
The bottom ones are Amaryllis... like Onion's ugly cousin.

Hoping to update these as they grow... if they grow.  

Monday, December 27, 2010

Burger Baron

The drive-through burger restaurant... the epitome of car-centred building design...

Unlike the big national chains, all the Burger Baron restaurants, seen only in and around Edmonton, are housed in a wide variety of buildings as they typically renovated and moved right into existing fast-food restaurant structures. In Edmonton, they range from A-frames, former drive-ins, to old Kentucky Fried Chicken (pre "KFC") outlets, like this Burger Baron on 99th Street. It's a pleasantly humble approach to branding and theming that I appreciate, and a contrast to the strategy employed by Dairy Queen, seen in the background.

Having said that, and as popular and famous as they are in Edmonton, I've never been to one. A quick Wikipedia search yielded this photo, which as it turned out, is what I found that I drew today (including the pole in the background).


Friday, December 24, 2010

room in my heart for Thee...

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem's home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

Emily E.S. Elliot, 1864 

Many thanks to all for visiting this little blog through the past few months!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

From the Archives #006: Price Low's, 376 Yonge St. (April, 1998)

With a deadline tomorrow, it's another long workday... no sketching today. So I've dug out another one from my past, this time from 1998 in Toronto... over 12 years ago. I lived close to Yonge and Gerrard St. (where this was drawn) for a few months, and spent a whole spring exploring Toronto's diverse neighbourhoods.

Once again, I was curious what became of these buildings... so here they are now:

All the tenants have changed. I still remember when Starbucks moved into the building, originally a bank, on the right; it's now a pub. Price Low's is now a clothing store, while the gift shop and the used bookstore have changed into little eateries... but I'm surprised how little exterior modification has actually occurred; even the lights around the bookstore signage is still there.  There is only some new flashing on the dormers and party wall to address some moisture issues.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

3 years 3 months

a quick sketch while my daughter watches her favourite Disney DVD...  sometimes, sketching the kids is almost like a process of predicting what they might look like in 2 or 3 or 4 years... this is just inaccuracy on my part, but we'll find out in due course...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

From the Archives #005: Houses in the Vancouver eastside (April, 1999)

It's been over 10 years since spending a few weeks during the spring of 1999, sketching in the Vancouver downtown and downtown eastside areas... I was curious to see if this house still existed; fortunately I had captured the street sign, and so I found it here:


 It's all still intact, but apparently under new ownership...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

waiting for the party...

I had to both kill some time and warm up between work and a Christmas party, so I stepped into a cafe... unfortunately, I didn't have a sketchbook with me (embarrassing!) so I had to use a large Post-It note instead.

Hard to believe Christmas Day is only a week away...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

bus ride

It's a longer bus ride home the past few days, with the dump of snow in the city...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

sleeping like a baby...?

We are still dealing with the stress and fatigue of a 6 month-old waking up crying 3 to 5 times in the night... so in recent weeks I've not risked disturbing his slumber by the presence of a sketcher...

Somehow, I did manage to squeeze in a window of time today, but the sketches became a series of little unfinished vignettes as my son kept moving in his sleep every few minutes... and I had to adjust my line character accordingly. 

As we head deeper into Advent, I am increasingly intrigued by the thought of the baby Jesus, the Son of God, beginning His life as an infant among us just like my own son sleeping in front of me. (And unlike what all the paintings show us, I am certain that He too kept his parents up through the night; with the kind of faith that Mary and Joseph had, I'm sure God would have had it no other way! Somewhat comforting I suppose...)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

From the Archives #004: Matsumi-ike, Tsukuba, Japan (October, 1996)

I have not posted anything with colour for some time now, so I thought back to a sketch from 1996 when I experimented with some colour ball point pens... one of the earliest colour, on-site sketches I can remember. 

This was a grove of trees gradually turning to their fall colours, seen across a pond on a university campus.

I still find the expression of trees to be a difficult thing...

Friday, December 10, 2010

winter scenes

Two wintry thumbnail views along 118 Avenue...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

at the local library...

My daughter and I took a short trip to the local public library -- a weekly routine-- where we like to get on the kids' computer. She's gradually grasping the idea that the mouse controls the movement of what is on the screen... something I must have learned much later in life.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

108 Street to the Legislature

It's a sunny but hazy day... lots of glare, especially in this view directly south towards the Legislature building, along 108 Street.

This might be the only street around here where monuments terminate an axis, reminiscent of Baroque urban planning, but unfortunately it was never really taken advantage of here.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Alberta Plywood

A quick sketch of some mechanical equipment and ductwork at a fairly large industrial building just west of 99th Street... I was rather rushed as my son started to cry in his carseat, and my daughter was finishing up on the Timbits that I bought her to buy myself some time.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Royal Alexandra Hospital

Another grey, wintry day...
A view towards the Royal Alexandra Hospital, with its new Lois Hole Hospital addition.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Eastwards... part 2

Finished up with the right hand side of this view at lunch today (left side is from yesterday.) It was much sunnier, so more pronounced shadows...not that it really shows. Hmmm... maybe this warrants going further southwards...
(If the building on the right edge looks distorted, that's because it is... it's a parking structure with sloped slabs!)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


A view eastwards along 104 Avenue on a cold, grey winter day...
The Epcor Tower, the CN Tower, the downtown casino, and the pyramidal roofline of City Hall frame the view towards the horizon, dotted with the smoke stacks at the the oil refineries all the way out in Strathcona County. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lunch Break

The nearby college/university is packed with students at lunch time... the relatively new MacEwan nursing school building, which I've only been in twice now, has a very generous and varied series of spaces for informal student gathering, interaction, and studying. Although the interior finishes are quite bare, the space planning of public interior areas more than makes up for this, and there is much to admire.

Monday, November 22, 2010

From the Archives #003: Lane in Nagasaki (December, 1999)

I dug up an old sketch from almost 11 years ago, drawn at almost the same spot as that of November 14 this year (http://sketching-along.blogspot.com/2010/11/nagasaki-finally.html)...that's the same electrical post. This older one's much closer to the shop on the right (still there and operating), but boy was I young, persistent, and patient to get into this much detail! As I seem to recall, I talked with an elderly man from the neighbourhood who said he used to work for Kenzo Tange (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenzo_Tange). He seemed indeed about his age.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Corrugated siding house in Nagayo

More sketches from the day (Nov. 18) here: 

This house which includes a small shopfront is adjacent a narrow but busy hillside road on one side, and the Nagayo co-op supermarket parking lot on the other. It is like a hands-on living museum of weathered and new corrugated metal (and translucent plastic) siding... there's something incredibly powerful about this scene as it expresses how its site has stood up to so many constraints and challenges over the decades: economic, geographic, temporal, climactic, and development pressures.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A panoramic view of the Town of Nagayo

I don`t think I`ve ever drawn this many buildings at once...

I was pleasantly interrupted half way through by a large group of local elementary school kids on a day hike to the park, greeting me as they climbed up the endless set of stairs leading to the top of this hill.

I sketched part of this panoramic view from Nakao-jo Park last year, but this time I took on the challenge of taking in a much wider view to include pretty much all of the central areas of the town... the civic building, the agricultural coop, the commercial strip, the river, the railway tracks.
Nagasaki is located left of this view, the rest of Nagayo to the right, while beyond the hills at the centre lies Omura Bay and then another land mass (Nishi-Sonogi Peninsula) shown far away in this sketch.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Across the tracks

Only one sketch today...

I took a 15 minute walk to get to this street, which branches off the main road into Nagasaki and crosses the train line. It winds its way uphill into what probably used to be a small rural hamlet on the hillside. Some shuttered structures suggest there were some small shops at the entry to this community at some point, but the little shrine seen in this scene is still there.

Monday, November 15, 2010

By the train station, Nagasaki

 I rarely spend more than 30 minutes on a sketch these days... I used to be able to spend up to 2 hours, but I no longer have the patience or the time.
With the amount of "stuff" happening in front of the main station, where taxis, buses, trams, and trains all converge, I couldn`t stop... and was late meeting my appointment.

More sketches from the day here:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nagasaki... finally

Finally, a trip into Nagasaki today. There`s some time for a few sketches before the church service, which starts at exactly 11:02 am with the sound of a bell in the sanctuary and a moment of silence, to remember the atomic bomb that struck the city at 11:02 am on August 9, 65 years ago. This event remains a powerful piece of history that continues to shape the spirit and psyche of its residents in a most admirable way.

More sketches from the day in Nagasaki here: 

I`ve sketched this lane three times now, and not much has changed in the 10 or 11 years since the first one... not even the advertisement on the street post. I`ll have to revisit the other two...

Sketching in this city gives me a rush I rarely get to experience!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Old Apartment and New Motorcycle

 More sketches from the day are here:


I`ve been eyeing this old apartment building since last week. While my mother does some shopping at the local grocery, I step out to spend some time by the busy road with a finer pen to get into more detail.

These apartments, probably built right after the war, are a dying breed... perhaps for good reason. I am reminded of the similar post-war apartments that killed so many people during the Kobe earthquake in 1995. But I must admit they have character, and tug at our nostalgic heartstrings, reminding us of those much poorer bygone decades. The shiny motorcycle unwittingly presents some social commentary, telling us how much things have changed since...

Friday, November 12, 2010

in and out all day... 

I`ve been out sketching about four times today, all in short spurts. So all the sketches are very close to the apartment... I managed quite a few though, and they are all uploaded here:
 This one is at a water channel, typical to this area... they manage storm/runoff and flow into the river, but this one is deep enough that there are some large carp swimming elegantly in the murky water. There are perhaps hundreds of them in the Nagayo River, mostly 12 inches or more in length, and they add dignified dashes of bright yellow, red, and orange to the otherwise brutal concrete waterway.

Some colour remains at the dilapidated shopfronts of the main market street... but I was delighted to see it alive in the late afternoon before dinner preparations.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A short walk in Nagayo...

 We still haven`t had the opportunity to go into Nagasaki yet (15 minutes away by train), so I took a brief walk around Nagayo again... this time along the main road in a direction I`ve not ever walked, past the local train station. This sketch is from the steps of the Catholic church, towards Nakao-jo Park, which is at the top of this hill. It`s a great public amenity, with spectacular views and interesting outdoor recreational amenities (like grass skiing and a long tubular slide that you can see from miles away... not shown here).
I turn from the main road and walk uphill towards the newer residential areas... and look back towards the hills on the other side of the river - a very nondescript, typical view here along the winding street. It`s still interesting enough for me, but in a few days these will become more insignificant as the initial excitement of being back home fades away.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My niece takes a nap...

Over the past five days or so I`ve been spending time with my 11 month-old niece, who I`ve seen for the first time, and today she`s finally warmed up to me enough that I can hold her without her whining. It`s a significant day!

More "typical"sketches from the day here:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nestled between the hills...

Much of Nagayo lies along the Nagayo river, and sprawls tightly towards the surrounding hills that form a background to the long vistas... a typical scenario as far as the landscape goes around here. This means there`s lots to draw, whether here or in the neighbouring larger city of Nagasaki - a real treasure trove of sketchable opportunities.

More sketches from the day are here:

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Town of Nagayo, Nagasaki Prefecure

The town of Nagayo is a few train stations north of Nagasaki. Its main commercial street, a once lively strip of small stores and a market closely associated with everyday life in the community, has been in steady decline. Now, there are a significant number of empty shopfronts with their shutters a permanent face towards the sidewalk. It`s a common phenomenon in Japan, and perhaps throughout the world. Malls and big boxes are now everywhere. 

At the centre of town is a large industrial-looking complex... it is the Nagayo agricultural coop, and it will be bustling with activity in the next few weeks as the mandarine oranges throughout the area are harvested and brought here. The orchards on the hilly landscape are quite a view around here...


Edmonton International Airport

Narita Airport

and Haneda Airport

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Kwiki Mart Convenience Store

A sketch from several days ago, this time at 107 Avenue and 110 Street. I don`t think I`ve ever walked along this area, but the quaint, run down Kwiki Mart sign caught my eye. Unfortunately, not much of it made it into the picture plane. These little corner stores really define and reinforce the notion of community and neighbourhood. This one even has a bit of a plaza out front.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

CN Railyards

 Two sketches off Yellowhead Trail, at the CN Railyards facilities... I don't think I would have ever thought to park my car in this lot if it weren't for this blog.

I'm not sure why I'm drawn to the railyards and industrial areas around town, but the late afternoon sun really drew out the glowing redness of all the rusting steel everywhere, which I suppose brings out some primal, emotional response, like campfires...

Once again, I'm uncertain what I drew in the first sketch, but it looks like some manual signal post, with some tractors across the tracks.

Friday, October 29, 2010

From the Archives #002: Albert's Restaurant building (March, 2003)

Perhaps this is as far as I got towards journalistic sketching...

In March 2003, a fire destroyed Albert's Restaurant, a prominent local eating establishment with a quirky and memorable presence on the busy 104 Street & Whyte Avenue intersection. This was what remained a few days after firefighters had put the flame out... with icicles forming everywhere from the water.

Now in its place: a three storey building with (the ubiquitous) Starbucks.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

106 Street on a foggy day

A view down 106 Street from MacEwan-- the corner is straddled by a downtown car dealership... almost 2 full city blocks worth of new and used cars.

A MacEwan student is snoring (loudly) on the couch behind me in this lounge while I spend my lunch break drawing...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

First Baptist Church

There's construction on a major downtown corner... temporarily allowing a straight-on view of First Baptist Church.

The last time I worshiped here was 4 or 5 years ago... the sanctuary has the most beautiful and inspired tapestry I've ever seen -- a huge triptych rich with spiritual symbolism and movement. Contemplating it brought me to tears that Sunday... culminating in "the body of Christ, broken for you..." located at the pulpit. It's a nice building too.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

the towers of Grant MacEwan University

I'm significantly underdressed for an outdoor sketch on this snow-covered day, so I trek to one of the buildings at MacEwan...

For security reasons, these institutions have fully glazed exit stairs, which is in itself an interesting governing factor as far as building design goes, but today it's what gives me opportunity to take in some views from the indoors that would otherwise not exist. The grand, glazed stairwell at the southeast corner of the nursing building, from where this sketch was drawn, might very well be the most privileged exit stair in all of Edmonton, with some pretty nice vistas down two main streets.

I'll be getting lots of use out of this stair this winter.

Monday, October 25, 2010

that dreaded day...

At home sick again... some views from our window...

That dreaded day that everyone knew would eventually come finally arrived quietly last night, as we awoke this morning to discover the snow had covered the city.

For a new blogger who relies on urban sketches, it's the beginning of a desperate search for new subject matter, and a mastery of depicting snow... something I need to work on...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

From the Archives #001: deja vu! no.1

Kids were sick, and we were feeling under the weather, so no postworthy sketches from today.

So, I decided to dig out some old sketchbooks from the basement, to see if there might be some interesting past ones to post. So here's "From the Archives #001". 

To my utter surprise, I discovered a sketch I have no recollection ever doing... and it was a bizarre, surreal moment when I saw it, as it's EXACTLY the same as my post from October 12 this year. Seven and a half years separate the sketch on the left from the right. Same view, same composition, same angle, same car parked in the same spot, same mechanical equipment on the roof, same angle on the damaged bollards, same somewhat awkward distortion on the perspective towards the left of the building... Actually, less detail on the new one (ok, it was lunch and I had to get back to work)... the only difference is that I had not become a regular at that restaurant, and hence the view held no meaning.

There's one more within the same month with a similar story... again, no memory on my part... I will post next time I have the chance.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

more grain elevators

Sometimes, observations in other places allow us to see our own "back yards" with a new and fresh set of eyes... some sketching at the Calgary CN railyards a few months ago got me interested in what the railyard areas are like in my own city, and I have been eyeing the areas parallel to the Yellowhead ever since.

Sure enough, it's a gold mine...

To start things off, a sketch of part of a concrete grain elevator structure, connected directly to the railway... the global economy's nuts and bolts...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Laneway and MacEwan College

The totemic concrete towers of MacEwan College, as seen from a nearby lane...
I used to be disappointed that, as far as I know, they are mostly hollow, housing only occasional washrooms and janitor closets below. But I'm more and more appreciative of their sensitive presence from an urban design standpoint, presenting the institution, marking the street grid, and creating interesting public spaces and nodes.

Avenue of Nations

Over ten years ago, I spent a few months in complete limbo, and used the occasion to explore, through sketching, the diverse and intimate ethnic neighbourhood streetscapes of Toronto...  I ended up with several hundred postcard sized vignettes that spring. A sketch of this part of 107 Avenue in Edmonton, now nicknamed Avenue of Nations, brings back some of those memories of my more youthful past...