Watercolors of Montreal from Photos

Here is another handful of paintings from this summer and fall. Unlike the images in the last post, a significant portion of these images were finished based on a photograph later. I don’t usually do this with paintings I start on location, maybe add a few missing details here and there from a photo, however the weather has been quite oppressive for outdoor painting and I either couldn’t be out there at all or I had to stop an hour or so into the image. I’ve also been more interested in doing detailed line work recently, as opposed to gestural colour sketches.

In the summer time, I looked for more ways to spend time outdoors in my area, and Verdun has a great, well-kept waterfront park. So a few times, I went there to just sit in the grass and read. At one moment, I looked at the sky and the clouds grouped together this way…the sunset was exceptionally beautiful with soft pastels while this heavy cloud hung there. I actually brought my painting stuff but I realized quickly the scene would change before I got a fraction of it down. This is painted from the photo I snapped. I wanted to paint wet-on-wet and not get sucked into perfecting shapes or detail, but the texture and sense of direction some clouds had. One thing that was frustrating was that I didn’t quite have the perfect blue or orange.

clouds in sky sunset verdun watercolour painting
18″x12″. Watercolour on 140lbs watercolour rag paper. A cluster of clouds during a sunset on the waterfront of Verdun, painted from photo. reference taken at exact date and time. ~2017

This one I started while I was talking to one of my friends. We were really trying to enjoy the day, but it was pretty impossible. I think this was during a record high September heatwave in Montreal… despite the reporting, there were temperatures reaching 40C in my area and in my house. It’s very disorienting and seasons to just not matter here, just lots of extreme weather. I feel really sick in hot weather as I’m not designed for that, so it was a week of suffering. Anyway, we found a spot at a park with a fountain (cool mist bonus) in the shade after giving up on everything we planned, and I began sketching the lines for this. I took a photo, later completing what was left of the sketch, and then actually painting it. The sun that day left the building glowing yellow with harsh shadows, and the sky was clear.

yellow glowing old building in old montreal watercolour painting
9″x12″. Watercolour on 140lbs watercolour rag paper. A building on an extremely hot dog day in September in Old Montreal, drawn on-location and painted from photo reference. ~2017

Come November, all patios had pretty much been put away and the perpetual rain and darkness began. The Darkness is something special to such a northern city as Montreal (I’m sure it’s worse in Quebec City). Here’s the recipe: think of a dark, cloudy rain day, multiply it by 2, extend it to be at all times of day for several weeks, then add a sunset that starts at around 3:30pm-4pm. It’s dark enough to leave lights on at all hours, and disorienting enough to seriously aggravate SAD. It’s my least favourite time of year because it makes me feel terrible, so I really look forward to anything that lifts my mood.

My old film professor stopped in town and was nice enough to make time to meet up for coffee, which turned into a dinner, which turned into a 3 hour conversation at the very cozy and rustic cafe-lounge Cafe Santropol. While walking there, I caught this sight…literally a cloud on Mont Royal encircling the mountain after a quick rain. I’m walking there and trying my hardest to burn this image into memory, remember the atmosphere, that cloud. When I got home, I went on Google Maps and found the exact perspective I needed, and used my memory to add/remove details to make it current, and then to capture the mood. So you can say this image is a picture of a memory, and not created on-location though I painted it the way I would if I were there in person. There is really nowhere to sit, the cloud would’ve vanished, it would’ve been dark in about 30 minutes — essentially, this image wouldn’t happen otherwise.

cloudy rainy day cafe santropol montreal watercolour painting
9″x12″. Watercolour on 140lb watercolour rag paper. A memory of a cloud encircling Mont Royal on a rainy day near Cafe Santropol. Drawing based on Google Maps photo and memory, atmosphere based on memory. ~2017

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