Arrival of Spring, version 2.0

A year ago, when we entered our first lockdown, I read an article about David Hockney documenting the arrival of Spring in Normandy, where he was in lockdown. He proclaimed at the time “They can’t cancel Spring” (now the title of his latest book featuring his work from that period). I took inspiration from that and started sketching almost daily, documenting the slow arrival of Spring here in Eastern Ontario. (You can see those sketches starting here.)

Here we are a year later, and another lockdown. I started my Arrival of Spring 2.0 sketchbook, but got side-tracked with the Sketch Across Canada nature sketching. Meanwhile Spring arrived with a bang. Early warm days signalled slumbering bulbs that it was time to wake up. Daffodils came into bloom at least 3 weeks earlier than last year. I know this because I looked at last year’s sketchbook! And the tulips are now blooming too.

Several weeks ago, tulips pushing through leaves left from last fall. As I was sketching the setting sun filled the sky with gold — I had to include a hint of it.
Daffodils pushing through mulch, part of the shade garden.
This year, these botanical tulips finally produced flowers.
A short and showy variety that, on sunny days, opens up like a waterlily.

Daffodils & Snow

The lovely display of daffodils in my garden was dealt a nasty blow yesterday by a Spring snowfall. It was chilly and miserable outside and I had no desire to leave the comfort of the house. But, I was inspired by Shari Blaukopf who sketched her hyacinths under snow (see her post here), and by one particular daffodil that was determined to stay upright. I proclaimed to myself, I’ve got to sketch this!

Even as I sat there, the sun was trying to shine and the snow was melting and I felt reassured that these daffodils would recover. But overnight it was below freezing and today it is snowing again. Poor daffodils.

Pencil and watercolour in A5 Seawhite of Brighton watercolour sketchbook.
After an hour I was chilled and finished up the sketch indoors.
The snow-defying daffodil!

Bateman Booklet Filled!

Soon after getting my “Sketch Across Canada” booklet (see this post for more info) I watched the Sketchbook Revival session with John Muir Laws. He is well known and respected in the nature journaling world and his website is a wealth of information and instruction on sketching nature. In his Sketchbook Revival session he suggested a different approach to the sketchbook whereby it becomes a place to get your brain on paper. He spoke of using the triad of pictures, words, numbers to describe what we observe. Add to that a triad of queries: I notice … I wonder … It reminds me of …. Interlocking these triads creates what he calls Creative Thinking which he defines as “the brain making useful connections between seemingly unrelated things.” This approach gets our brain to stretch. He proclaimed that “dancing with your brain is crazy fun.”

Turns out, he’s right! I took this approach as I set out to fill the last 3 pages of my Bateman sketch booklet. When I had finished I spontaneously exclaimed “Well, that was really fun!”

Back indoors, I went on to research a few things, add more notes to the sketch and a few touches of colour pencil.

I will continue to use this approach because it really was very enjoyable! A much-needed positive experience in this very difficult time.

Bateman Birthday booklet… more

A short heat wave brought the early arrival of Spring flowers that I couldn’t resist sketching. I drew them in my Sketch Across Canada booklet (just a few pages left to fill. (See this post for more info)

Pasqueflower, a Spring favourite of mine. This one is an unusual colour that is hard to convey in coloured pencil, or in words.

Bateman birthday booklet, continued

A few more recent pencil sketches in my “Sketch Across Canada” booklet. With additional inspiration from John Muir Laws.

The first is a few tapped maple trees up the road from my place. While sitting there I was joined by some small birds (nut hatch) and tried to get at least their shape down on paper. They are not ones to sit still. The only green that day was clumps of an enthusiastic “weed” coming up.

The second is the Shoulder height stump of a huge Manitoba Maple (aka Box Elder) that came down last summer. I miss that tree. So do the Box Elder bugs that lived in it. I started noticing them inside and outside. A very elegant bug! I’ve been trying to take a mental snapshot when I see one. Then, the other day, one of them posed nicely for me. It’s so interesting to really look!

Bateman’s Birthday

Robert Bateman, the revered Canadian wildlife painter, turns 90 this year. To mark this milestone his foundation created Sketch Across Canada and distributed thousands of small sketchbooks across Canada to encourage people of all ages and abilities to get out and sketch nature.

Part of the motivation was also to help people alleviate anxiety and stress. To this end, the foundation has partnered with On the foundation’s website are many resources for all ages:

On an unusually warm day at the end of March, I sat with a friend on her sunny deck, overlooking the snow-covered garden, and started drawing in my wee sketch booklet. I began with her bird feeder, which was a very busy spot that day.

I’ve been adding to it from time to time since then. Only 11 pages to go.

Morning melon

I confess, I’m amazed—and relieved—that plenty of fruit still appears on our grocery shelves, in spite of the current global situation. I would be interested to know the path and the people involved in getting this Canary Melon from field to my cutting board.


Emerging from a dry spell … drawing and playing a bit with gouache in these two sketches, both on Stillman & Birn Nova gray paper. The first is my grandmother’s old sugar shaker that I’ve filled with cocoa for cappuccino sprinkles. The second is the last two heads of garlic bought in the fall, beautifully bundled and packaged by neighbour Sonia.