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...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Two Avenue views

 Couldn't decide which to post today, so here's both.

Jasper Avenue at lunch time...
... and a re-visit to the road construction site on 118 Avenue. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

urban monsters

There's road construction on my route home... I jumped at the opportunity and hopped off the bus blocks before my stop, to capture this piece of machinery.

I have no idea what I drew, except that I speculate it dispenses asphalt concrete from the moveable, split bucket on one end. A road roller is parked behind. It's a good thing I left home with my dark felts, because a lot of the vehicle was covered in tar... obviously the colours still weren't dark enough.

...  waiting (again) for my bus...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


 The final few floors of the EPCOR tower are being worked on... From the rather large floor plate that was being replicated a few months ago, it seemed the building would look squat and bulky, but as it reaches higher, it is making a lot more sense, with some subtle gestures that can now be appreciated.

The old CN Tower sits close by... a building I'd like to visit some time, as it seems of such Modernist vintage!

Another quick loose sketch on my way home...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Audreys Books on election day

There's no relationship between the subject of the sketch and the fact it's the municipal election today, except that as I drew I was urged to vote by a canvasser on behalf of the incumbent, and we had a brief conversation.

Audreys is in a great looking old brick building on a corner that likely experiences enormous redevelopment pressure. Hopefully, both building and store are here to stay...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

all pink...

Not much sketching today... just a play date with my daughter, who is in her pink abstract expressionism phase.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The High Level Bridge

Arguably Edmonton's most prominent and familiar urban landmark, the (almost) century old High Level Bridge is one dignified and muscular artifact! But a casual observation from the underside gives us a peak of even more layers and intricacies that make me marvel at what engineers and steelworkers did 100 years ago. It's a beautiful structure...

Thankfully, my daughter was preoccupied with her bottle of chocolate milk, allowing me the time to do this on another fine autumn day...

Our backyard columnar aspens... again.

Compared to the post a week ago, their colours are much subtler, with less leaves...

Now that I think of it, these trees strike me this season especially because last year, it became cold so suddenly that the trees had no time to prepare, shedding their leaves while still green.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Railtown Park

It's sunny but breezy, with a biting north wind.

It's a struggle now to find a reasonable place to sit out in the sun yet out of the wind. As I sat down to sketch, my hat blew away and rolled in the gust... a young woman picked it up... we exchanged smiles; a sort of mutual acknowledgment that the long bitter winter is near, and that we are all in it together.

This linear park used to be a railway line a decade ago, and is one of those places where there's a layer of history that can be read on an urban scale... kind of rare in a young city like Edmonton.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Quintuplets Revisited

So, I became curious what happens at the lane...

and discovered as I suspected, a more liberal adaptation over the years, with various decks, garages, roofs, and other additions, in various stages and states. Interesting stuff.

It would be a really interesting exercise to draw the plans of each of these five houses and compare how they have evolved through the decades...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Old Quintuplets

I came across a row of five houses that must have been, at some point, entirely identical... surprisingly still here all in a row in an area that developed into older apartments and light industrial uses.

It's a neat little place to experience "how buildings learn(ed)"... but actually, I'm surprised how much the original forms have remained intact (at least at the fronts), suggesting perhaps that the prototype (archetype?) was quite adequate and even potent -- a nice image of what good design can be... nothing flashy, just striving for strong archetypes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

... guess where...!

Some of you out there might know where this is...
(hint: Singapore Chicken)
No prizes for guessing correctly, however...

But I thought I'd give the original to the owner of the place next time we go.

There's a bottle depot behind me... interesting and curious thing how it "fronts" the lane.

hanging in there...

I snuck out of the house while the kids slept to capture this scene that I had been eyeing for the past two weeks... it's too beautiful an afternoon to miss.

The colours are now turning into a fuzzy brown, but there are some patches of bright yellow still remaining in the river valley. Although this is the "back" side of the city skyline from Ada Boulevard, it's a great view of the vastness and richness of the green space we can enjoy right in the middle of this city...

Monday, October 11, 2010

...snacking before bedtime

A good friend brought some Disney movies over for our daughter last night... once she started watching, we couldn't stop the video, so her bedtime was delayed by 90 minutes or so... even kids get to enjoy the long weekend.

On this Thanksgiving weekend, we are reminded of so much to be grateful for, and pray that we live that way every day.

Thanks be to God.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

quivers of colour...

I've been posting once per day but couldn't resist;
some columnar aspens in our back yard...

last one standing...

About a year ago, a huge dilapidated grain elevator near our neighbourhood was severely damaged in a windstorm and was subsequently torn down... too bad I never photographed it. This smaller (but still tall) cousin is all that remains in the area, and I doubt it is even in use.

Grain elevators have been disappearing throughout Alberta... a bit ironic that Le Corbusier, observing the massive concrete elevators of the Great Lakes, heroically described them as manifesting "the New Age". But I am struck by the humble details and unpretentiousness of these simpler prairie structures that are reminiscent of familiar and simple residential construction... the local vernacular... very endearing indeed.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday, 6:00pm

Finding sketch subjects means taking unfamiliar routes on my way home... like this lane north of MacEwan (its towers lurk in the background) by a very multicultural 107 Ave.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

in transit

I take the LRT south of the river only two or three times a year. Today was the first time to Southgate since that station opened. I was pleasantly surprised by the care taken in integrating some sensible landscaping south from the university, and from the new ways I can experience the familiar roads I usually take by car.

Unfortunately, the whole experience was tarnished by the bad bus connection to my final destination... it took close to 2 hours to get there. I have a theory, that one major measure of a city's greatness is its quality of public transit infrastructure...

Nice station though... with some lessons applicable to a current project at the office.

... and a very productive worship meeting, so all is good.

... the bus ride.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

autumn light

Surprisingly, the beautiful autumn days are lingering, allowing me to take time outside to sketch on my way home... a bar on 109 Street with a full west-facing patio is a great place to be.

My daughter reads a book on the floor at home...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

under construction

Down the street, a parkade rooftop is being turned into office space.

The most exciting time in the life of a building, for me, is when it first gets translated from idea onto paper, and then undergoes a total evolution as it starts to take on a character and life of its own (but that's probably because of what I do)... the second most exciting time is when it is under construction...

A little help from Photoshop after a quick lunchtime sketch today.

Monday, October 4, 2010

... a rainy day

I nestle myself in a second floor lounge area at MacEwan University amongst students much younger than me, to sketch this view northwards on 108 Street... by doing so, I get a rather intimate glimpse of college life as I eavesdrop on animated group conversations about course requirements, part-time jobs, sales at clothing stores, recent Youtube hits, and Hallowe'en party costume preparations... how my life has changed since those days.

There are a few places in this city where an interior space straddles a street, allowing some unique vistas. It's too bad the view southwards on this street doesn't take fuller advantage of the legislature's dome that terminates that view. That's another drawing for another day, perhaps when school is out...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

hooked on youtube...

My three-year-old is hooked on Youtube; playing Loonie Tunes is my computer's sole purpose. In a few years' time, she will be the one advocating new technology and teaching me how to keep up with the digital world... "Blogging dad? That's so 2010!"

Yet every time I draw my children, I am reminded of the inescapable responsibility that will last throughout our lives, to model who we desire her to be. This is an awesome responsibility, and I can only rely on that wonderful thing called Grace.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

a walk in the River Valley...

It's another beautiful fall day with clear blue skies that make the yellow leaves glow.

We rediscovered a portion of the river valley today with a nice walk... taking in this scene under the Capilano Bridge. We drive across this all the time, but I was delighted at the majesty and heroic quality of the space underneath, including the sounds of cars driving across... something I've failed to notice until today.

It could also be a great public urban space...

A photo of the plaque... infrastructure as monument...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Waiting for my date...

Having procured some very willing babysitters for the evening, I wait for my "date" to show up... at the same coffee shop that I used to wait before we got married...