2011 Sketching School

Professors: David Covo and Robert Mellin

Place: Gloucester, Massachusetts

Dates: Saturday, August 20 to Saturday, August 27, 2011

ARCH 324, Sketching School:
An eight-day supervised field trip in the late summer to sketch places or things having specific visual characteristics. (Students are required to include Sketching School (ARCH 324) in the B.Sc.(Arch.).)

ARCH 680, Field Sketching:
Observation, notebook recording, sketching in a range of media in the field in Montreal and other urban sites. Eight days of supervised field sketching outside Montreal, followed by local fieldwork and coursework examining architectural sketching as a process that develops an intellectual and physical framework for encounters with the urban environment. (Students newly admitted to the M.Arch. (Prof.) Design Studio concentration are required to take Field Sketching (ARCH 680) right away. Students in the M.Arch. (Prof.)-Design Studio Directed Research may also take it as an architectural complementary. Please see further details provided at the end of the document).


A wide range of hotels, motels and inns are available and students are expected to arrange their own accommodation. Google will provide you with a full list of inns, hotels, motels, B & B, chalet rentals and campgrounds.

A printed information package from the Gloucester, Massachusetts tourist website will be available, for viewing only, on the front counter, Room 201.



A variety of travel choices are available to students. The School has looked into the best economical way to travel; it is by car or van. However, some of you may wish to travel by Amtrak or Voyageur via Boston or New York City, and local transportation will be used to connect to Gloucester.

NOTE: Train or plane travel is very popular at this time of year. Please book your tickets as quickly as possible.

Health Insurance

Please remember to bring with you the Quebec Medicare Card, and proof of any other supplementary health insurance you have. You will need to complete the McGill University Travel Registry which will require health insurance information, etc.

Required Equipment

Watercolours, watercolour paper, brushes, pencils, pen and ink, conte crayon, sketch books and drawing paper of varying sizes and types. Sketch pads, sheet material and watercolour blocks should range from 9" x 12" to 18" x 24".

If you haven’t yet covered watercolour in Freehand Drawing, and need to buy a set of watercolours, you could consider a set with "cakes," or you could purchase separate tubes of pigment. If you decide to buy the separate tubes, you will need to develop a versatile palette. Below is one suggestion for a 12-colour palette - please note that the palette does NOT include black or white, which are unnecessary and even undesirable.

  • Reds: Alizarin Crimson, Indian Red
  • Blues: French Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue
  • Yellows (difficult): Cadmium Yellow Pale, Yellow Ochre
  • Greens: Hooker’s Green Dark, Olive Green
  • Browns: Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber
  • Other: Payne’s Grey

The first experiments in watercolour will be based only on French Ultramarine and Burnt Umber, which produce a surprising range of values and colours.

As for sketchbooks and pads, we recommend, in addition to the list above, a small pocket notebook or sketchpad for thumbnail sketches and experiments with wash and watercolour. A few good sable or synthetic brushes will also be required: a small and medium round, with a medium to large (1/2 inch or 3/4 inch) flat are always useful.

Bicycles have always been valuable additions to the standard "kit" and are highly recommended. We have also found that a folding camp stool or small foam pad can make 2 to 3 hours on the cold ground much more endurable.

Schedule and Meeting Format

The emphasis is on field sketching as opposed to studio work, so students draw outside every day, working individually and in small groups, and under the supervision of the instructors for the first four mornings of the course.

Our first meeting – a short one to orient everyone and coordinate the time and place of the first workshop - will be at 6:00 p.m., on Saturday, August 20, at the North Shore Arts Association, which is located on the water at 11 Pirates’ Lane, just off East Main Street – see http://nsarts.org.

Four other meetings – these are discussions of the work being produced – will take place between 6:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., at the same location, on the following days:

  • Meeting 1: Saturday, August 20
  • Meeting 2: Sunday, August 21
  • Meeting 3: Monday, August 22
  • Meeting 4: Wednesday, August 24
  • Meeting 5: Friday, August 26

The group meets in a gymnasium, hotel meeting room, community centre or some other place large enough for the class to assemble comfortably and with enough wall space for two day’s worth of sketches. These 90-minute sessions provide a forum not only for a review of the work but also for informal discussions on the intentions of the course and on the process by which images and memories are formed.

Please visit this webpage for any changes to schedule and meeting places.

Most people will leave on Saturday morning. David will be driving, as usual, and would be happy to share his favourite routes.

Morning Workshops

There will be three morning workshops for all students. The first workshop will take place on Sunday morning, August 21, at a location to be announced at the first meeting on Saturday night.


During the course, students are expected to explore both townscape and landscape and to make sketches that describe what they find. Final evaluation is based on a portfolio of at least twenty pieces, the majority of which must be substantially worked. All portfolios must be left in the freehand drawing room, (one pile for Sketching School - ARCH 324 - and another for Field Sketching - ARCH 680) by 1000 hrs on Thursday, September 1, 2011.


Students currently registered in the B.Sc.(Arch.) program are required to attend ARCH 324 Sketching School. Registration for ARCH 324 is possible until August 1, 2011, via MINERVA – Summer 2011 term.

Newly admitted students to the M.Arch. (Prof.) Design Studio program will register for ARCH 680 Field Sketching with the remaining courses required in the Fall 2011 term.

If registration (including withdrawals) is problematic, please contact Mary Lanni-Campoli by mary.lanni [at] mcgill.ca (e-mail) or by telephone at (514) 398-6702 before the commencement of Sketching School/Field Sketching.

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