Monday, February 29, 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.

Sunday, February 28, 2016


This weekend I attended Doug Purdon's workshop. He is a very knowledgeable and talented guy. I really love the way he teaches us, very organised and interesting! Glad that I was there.

He paints in oil, acrylic and watercolour! Not everyone can manage 3 media at the same time. He did both watercolour and oil painting demos! Amazing! The way to work on watercolour is totally different from the oil's. The workshop is for colour mixing. He explained it step-by-step, did the demonstration. We did the same thing to experience the "double-primary" palette.

I chose a picture I painted before for the exercise and see how it looked after I learnt from this workshop. He has many tricks for different effects.

The figures are bigger. More colours are applied. I feel more confident in painting the reflection and the ripples.

Original photo

Monday, February 22, 2016

Carcross Day Trip

Feb 12, 2016

All the activities in the afternoon were fully booked. We decided to rent a car and took a road trip. The travel agency recommended that we could take a route to Carcross in the south. The car rental company is awesome. They delivered the car at our inn and the car's condition is so good. 
It took about an hour from Whitehorse to Carcross. 
On the way we stopped by Emerald Lake. In summer, the lake has different types of green. Now, it was frozen and all in white.

Finally we arrived at Carcross. It was called Caribou Crossing by the miners. This is the junction of the Tagish and Bennett lakes en route to the Klondike gold fields at Dawson.

Large herds of caribou migrated twice a year across Nares Lake shallows east of the townsite. It was then developed for the Klondike miners and this junction became an important stopping point for the White Pass & Yukon Railway in September 1898.

The Caribou Hotel also opened in the same year and still in operation, Matthew Watson’s General Store is the Yukon’s oldest operating store.

About 2km before the town is the world smallest desert called "Carcross Desert" with 642 acres (260 hectares). 10,000 years ago this was the bottom of a large glacial lake. Its adjacent sand dunes, which run to the shore of Bennett Lake, host several unusual plants. Bennett Lake is known for its beautiful beach covered in fine, white sand. The area gets only about 11 inches of precipitation a year (including snow).  We took many pictures in this location!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Wildlife Preserve

We visited Wildlife Preserve. It is like a northern version of African Safari in Toronto with some more northern animals like Artic Fox and Snow Owl. Atsushi San, our tour guide, has extensive knowledge of these animal. He shared with us with their interesting facts and stories.
If the Artic Fox cannot find the food in wild, they will follow the Polar Bear for the food. If there is no food left, they will eat the feces of Polor Bears.
The female moose, Jaby, is very friendly. She followed us wherever we went. However, his partner, the male moose, was very depressed because he just dropped his antler! He kept his face away from us all the time.
Snow Owl

Artic Fox

Moose couple
After the trip, we were supposed to join the hot spring activity. However, we decided to go to the cafe instead. This is a small friendly place for hanging around. Bean North Coffee Roasting Co. Ltd. is located few minutes drive away the hotsping. They also produce their own coffee with the Fair Trade.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Yukon River

The Yukon River is a major river of northwestern North America. The source of the river is located in British Columbia. The total length is 3,187 km, started from Atlin Lake and exits at Bering Sea.

Since all the activities were almost fully booked and we didn't want to join in the early morning only few hours after viewing the light at previous night. We walked around and took some pictures. Finally we reached the river bank where only about 10 minutes walk from the inn.

The ship is S.S. Klondike National Historic Site of Canada which is a large sternwheeler dry-docked on the bank of the Yukon River beside the Robert Campbell Bridge in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. It was closed and we couldn't visit.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Freezing Toes

During viewing the light on site, our toes were freezing even we wore double socks (not double shots). They were still soaked and cold. The temperature was mild but we did stand and walk around outdoor for quite a long time.

Feb 10, 2016
At night we went to a Japanese Restaurant called Sakura Sushi Japanese Restaurant. The food was deliclious. We did think about to have such a nice Japanese food in the northern part of Canada. We spoke to a staff. She loves to chase the aurora too and alsway  drives to see the lights when the weather is good. She shared some tips with us and told us to buy the toe warmers for the freezing toes. These pads really saved our toes!
These were what we had in Golden Sakura Japanese Restaurant

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Gold Pan Saloon Restaurant

Feb 11, 2016
We had a couple meals here. Staff are very friendly. The top shelf in the bar is decorated by all the husky dog toys. The food was nice and we tried the local beer, Yukon Light, first time here.
Feb 12th, 2016
The last night in Yukon we had dinner in the inn's restaurant. We order a pizza, wings and drinks. There was a live band playing music, feel like Scottish style. Nice food and atmosphere.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Friendly and Funny Tour Guides

Feb 10, 2016
We had a breakfast this morning then joined the local tour. We arrived at the Visitor Information Centre. The tour guide, Frank, is also a local watercolourist, told us many facts about Whitehorse and Yukon.

Then we visited Yukon hydroelectric dam in Whitehorse. The site is on a hill slop. There is the longest wooden fish ladder in the world. The Spot Chinook Salmon will come every year for spawning. The staff will count the number of the fishes through the glass windows in a viewing area where you can also see salmon, grayling and trout.

Another warm and cozy trading post of the same farm. This trading post has the similiar settings as the one last night. However, there are 2 animal skins hanging on the wall, a bear and a wolf, very impressive! Hunting is a very popular activity here. I chatted with the staff of the tour, Grodrey, Wolf and Fernand. And of course Atsushi and Tan too. They are very friendly and funny! Love the people in Yukon, they are very nice and down to the earth, as well as multi-cultural. Most of them can speak more than one or two languages. There are 2 Japanese girl guides too, very helpful and friendly. They are all living in Whitehorse from other places in Canada or other countries, most are large cities. And they love Yukon very much because of the peaceful environment and friendly culture.

The aurora finally showed up while we were about to leave. It was more visible than last night. We took many pictures and stayed half an hour more at the site. I was very sleepy before it appeared, but felt so excited when I saw the light!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Aurora Viewing

Feb 9, 2016
About 30 minutes drive from the inn, we arrived at the viewing site on Klondike Highway few kilos away Alaska Highway. It is a hay farm in summer. We stayed in a trading post (a small house). The structure is made of wood and the walls are made of canvas. From outside, you can see the silhouettes of the furniture near the walls and the people moving around. In the middle is a drum with a chimney. Wood logs are beside the drum. It is the heating system by burning logs in the drum. They put a kettle to boil the water for the coffee. I was told the coffee is specially made by a coffee company for viewing the northern light only. Benches, snacks and non-alcholic drinks are provided. We sometimes stayed here to chat, lie down and have some warm drinks. Interesting conversations filled up the atmosphere because people here were from all over the world as well as from other provinces in Canada.

The guide toured us around the sites. Karen and Caryee were busy with setting up the camera and testing the photos. Our guides had a profession camera and knowledge as well to help everyone to set the proper settings.

We also stayed for a while outdoor. It was not very cold, only around -1C. It was quite unbeliveable. They said it was not normal. Someone has been living here for about 20 years and hasn't experienced such a warm winter. Outdoor is an open area, no high rise. The sky was dark enough for viewing the light. The camp fire was set beside the trading post. Some people stayed with the camp fire, making the smash mellows and sharing the funny stories.

We couldn't see the light and started worrying. It was a bit cloudy tonight. We saw starry sky which meant it was a better chance to see the light. The viewing time was from 10 pm to 2 am. After about an hour, we finally saw some greenish light on the sky with many stars. We took some photographs as well as with the tour's camera.

We were very excited. First aurora in our life! Even this was not the strong one, we still felt the miracle of nature! I feel thankful for viewing the light with everyone here.

The First Day in Yukon

Feb 9, 2016
We flew from Toronto to Vancouver then to Whitehorse. It took us about 8 hours. It was -5C, nice sunshine. We checked in at Gold Rush Inn where is located 10 minutes drive from Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport. Looking out the window, it was all covered by snow. In Toronto it didn't snow much this winter. In fact, it was pretty warm. We took a nap and went to a restaurant called Antoinette's, Caribbean and Yukon foods with a bit of French touch, it's very adventurous but inspiring. We ordered some dishes and wines. 

The guides from Northern Tales Travel came at 10:00 pm to pick us up for going to the viewing site to view the Northern Light. Let's see if we were lucky enough to see the aurora!

Landscape Painting

Step 1: Background
Colours: Azo Yellow Medium / Burnt Umber
  • Wet the Sky with the clean water
  • Leave the area around the peak of the highest mountain white (You can use masking fluid)
  • Apply Yellow then add Burnt Umber around the edge

Step 2: Mountains
Colours: Azo Yellow Medium / Burnt Umber / Cobalt Blue / Crimson Red
  • Paint with Yellow on those facing the light source
  • Put Cobalt Blue for other mountains
  • Apply some Crimson Red and Burnt Umber for the mountains near the right and left edges
  • Leave the bottom white or use tissue paper to lift the paints
  • Leave it for dry

Step 3: Green Trees and Reflection
Colours: Azo Yellow Medium / Sap Green / Cobalt Blue
  • Paint with Yellow 
  • When it is still damp, put Sap Green
  • For the shadow / Darker areas, put Cobalt Blue
  • Wet the lower area and paint the Yellow, Cobalt Blue and Burnt Umber accordingly

Step 4: Trees at the front and Reflection
Colours: Indigo / Crimson Red  
  • Apply Indigo, then drop Crimson Red while it's still wet
  • When it is still damp, drop some clean water with splashing on the Indigo
  • Use a clean dry brush / tissue paper to lift out some colours
  • Use a bigger brush to define the tree / plant shape at the top
  • For the reflection, put Indigo and blend with water
  • Lift a line with a flat brush

Step 5: The boat and the man
Colours: Indigo
  • Draw it with Indigo and a small brush
  • Don't forget the reflection

When it is all dry, you can refine the colour of the water accordingly to match the sky colour.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Long Line at Starbucks

We had a meeting at Yorkdale shopping mall yesterday. It's always hard to find a parking spot there. And it's also not easy to find a sketching spot because there were so many things happening in the mall.

We walked around and finally we decided to sit at Starbucks. I went to buy a coffee and it was a long line. I felt so tired after I got one and started sketching. 

I looked at Starbucks and the line was still very long. Then I have found that I forgot to bring my pen, so I used a pencil instead and painted with watercolor. Back home, I put the black lines and the wordings on the page.