2012 Sketching School

Professors: David Covo and Robert Mellin

Place: Saint John, New Brunswick

Dates: Thursday, August 23 to Friday, August 31, 2012

ARCH 325, Sketching School:
Eight days of supervised field sketching outside Montreal in the late summer, followed by coursework and fieldwork in Montreal examining architectural sketching as a process that develops an intellectual and physical framework for encounters with the urban environment. (Students are required to include Sketching School (ARCH 325) in the B.Sc.(Arch.) program.)

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).

Sketching School in Saint John, August 2012 - David Covo


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

A printed information package from the Saint John, New Brunswick tourist website will be available, for viewing only, on the front counter, Room 201.



Students are also expected to arrange their own transportation to Saint John.  A variety of travel choices are available.  Travel by bus, train, and airplane may be very busy at the end of August, so please book early.

Health Insurance

Please remember to bring with you the Quebec Medicare Card, and proof of any other supplementary health insurance you have.  You must 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, sketchbooks (including the standard 13 x 21cm Moleskine with heavy-weight paper) and drawing paper of varying size and type. Sketch pads, sheet material and watercolour blocks should range from 9" x 12" to 18" x 24".

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 are also essential; a small and medium round, and a medium to large (1/2 inch or ¾ inch) flat are always useful.

If  you 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): Winsor Yellow or Cadmium Yellow Pale, Yellow Ochre
  • Greens: Hooker’s Green, 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.

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 - 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 6:30 p.m., Thursday, August 23, at the Saint John Arts Centre, 20 Hazen Avenue.  We will meet outside the Arts Centre and then walk down to the North Market Wharf at the west end of Market Square, site of the Friday (August 24) morning meeting.

Four other meetings – these are discussions of the work being produced – will take place between 6:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., at the Saint John Arts Centre, on the following days:

  • Meeting 1: Friday, August 24
  • Meeting 2: Sunday, August 26
  • Meeting 3: Tuesday, August 28
  • Meeting 4: Thursday, August 30

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 days’ 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.

Most people will leave Saint John Friday morning, August 31.

Please visit this page of the School website for any changes to the schedule and meeting places.

Morning Workshops

There will be three morning workshops for all students.  The first workshop will take place at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, August 24, on the North Market Wharf at the west end of Market Square.


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.  Detailed requirements for portfolio hand-in will be discussed in Saint John.


Students currently registered in the B.Sc.(Arch.) program are required to attend ARCH 325 Sketching School.  Students who began the B.Sc.(Arch.) program as of September 2010 will register for ARCH 325 with the remaining Fall 2012 courses.  Early Registration is open.

B.Sc.(Arch.) students who began the program prior to September 2010 (i.e. 2009, 2008, etc.), will register for ARCH 324, as a summer 2012 course.  Registration is restricted, and students are asked to contact Mary Lanni-Campoli, before July 15, to enable your registration. 

Newly admitted students to the M.Arch. (Prof.) program, will register for ARCH 680 Field Sketching with the remaining courses required in the Fall 2012 term.  Attendance is mandatory for students admitted to the M.Arch. (Professional)-Design Studio program.

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