Everyday Sketches

Mission Accomplished!

We have a new home in the Pacific Northwest! Last week, about ten days into my Washington state odyssey, just when I was feeling a touch of despair at soon being “homeless”, we found an Olympia property that we fell in love with. When I say “we” I mean me, and my husband Bob (at home here in Sebastopol and with me on Facetime), and my dear friend Janet who was with me every step of the way, driving me around, helping me with sanity checks, while we explored the area with walks in the woods and on the beaches. And then there was our tireless realtor Connie, whose energy in this thoroughly nerve wracking endeavor never flagged. Our offer was accepted and we move in June!

My best estimate is that moving takes up 95% of ones mental real estate for weeks/months, and possibly a larger percentage of physical energy! For three days after our offer was accepted I took an average of two naps a day. So in between naps and phone calls to arrange details, I would pick up my brush and paint a bit. One day I even walked to a park across the street to sketch a “living table” for a half hour!

watercolor and pen in Stillman and Birn Beta sketchbook

And then a couple more portraits. . .

watercolor on beige toned paper

My weariness shows here! I couldn’t bring myself to finish the clothing!

watercolor and white gouache on beige paper

(Both portraits from pictures posted on the Sktchy app)

And now I’m home in Sebastopol again, enjoying the spring garden explosion, looking forward to seeing friends, and little by little packing and clearing. Will it never end? Ah, but yes!  Now I can see the end and am breathing deep again.

Thanks for hanging in there with me! The blog isn’t going anywhere and I hope you’ll stay with me.

Kortum Trail

From my house, heading east, this week you’ll need sunglasses, not just because of the sunny days but because nature is yelling  Yellow! at the top of its lungs. Yellow against the black vines; yellow against the violet mountain backdrop, yellow yellow yellow! Mustard, oxalis, acacia, daffodils. . .like it’s been saving up for this season’s festival of yellows.

And if you travel instead west from here you run into the beach. That’s where Andrew and I were last week for a rare break from. . .well, I’ll get to that in a minute. We walked along the bluff above Shell beach and found this lovely spot which we had to ourselves for an hour of sketching and picnicking. There was less yellow and more blue!

Andrew on his perch above the ocean!

We were taking a break from the gardening and house painting and clearing out of things for the important project of getting our house ready to put on the market this spring. The plan is to move north to the Puget Sound area in Washington. Leaving our beautiful home and art studios and nature refuge after 21 years is a big deal, as you can imagine.

Through this pandemic I have realized that distance is not an insurmountable obstacle to friendship. It is no obstacle to reading a blog, and I plan to continue art-ing and blogging indefinitely. There may be longer gaps in my posting frequency at times when I’m actually “on the move”, but not for long. So I plan to take you with me, through the excitement and uncertainty, and the impossible goodbyes to a place I have come to love passionately for its people, nature and (for the most part!) climate.   I hope you’ll hang in there with me!

Landscapes of near and far

. . .just to get the sketchbook and watercolors outside in nature,

to set up the three legged stool and have it sink into the soft forest bed,

to use the lap as a table and the eyes as a sponge to soak up the shapes and colors of the trees and plants,

to forget that it’s just a bit too cold in the shade,

to remember to include what is of greatest interest before you,

to know that you will not forget it when it goes into the sketchbook

where it will always be there to fire off distinct sensory memories of those moments along a trail on a winter afternoon. . .

The sketchbook rarely comes along on nature walks these days. The walks are more about exercise and contemplation. But for a change, last week, a stop along a trail. . .at a complex forest scene, as seen looking down into a ravine from a distance . . .

watercolor, Gray Fox ink, white gel pen in field watercolor journal 8 x 8″

While on an earlier page of the sketchbook, a precious memory from a trip to Ireland four years ago:

Painted from one of my photos taken on the trip. It made me remember how much I loved being there, in a way that will never leave me, and surely bring me back one day.

 

Pomegranates and Hummingbirds

I had just picked the miniature pomegranates and found a place in the sun to arrange them, a concrete bench in front of the house, where I could also sit to sketch them. The wee red fruits and even my paints and brush were just an excuse to sit there in the winter sun, next to all the bird feeding activity – mostly goldfinches and chickadees.

But my back was to the hummingbird feeder where a noisy drama was taking place. It sounded like a noisy helicopter propeller, only faster and close enough to cause a breeze on my face and a shiver of danger down my spine. Could these two aggressive hummingbirds actually have in mind attacking me instead of each other? As I turned around, the feeder with its red cap was dancing and a full scale battle was raging over a spot at the feeder. My bucolic setting had turned savage and I hurried to finish up.

Riverfront

I do so love a spot in the sun on a winter day, and with a sketchbook and a view. Riverfront Park was not the busy spot it’s been lately, with scores of families and their dogs. Not midday on a weekday. So after a walk through post-rainy day mud, as well as drier places on the trail, it was time for a sit-down in the sun with a smashing view of the water.

and time to get some details of vegetation and water reflection and finish a sketch on location. Just the kind of activity to serve as an antidote to pandemic and insurrection pandemonium!

Post Christmas

Sometimes I enjoy the guilty pleasure of government sanctioned hibernation which we’ve had this December. No shopping in stores, which I mostly dislike. No events to get dressed up for. No house guests or bigger meals to plan for. 

Our Christmas was even treeless(inside the house, that is), though colorful in other ways. . .red and white cyclamens, yellow tulips, red amaryllis, a platter full of lemons and tangerines brought by a friend from her garden, and the most delicious chocolate mousse for dessert! And we spent the day with a rowdy gift exchange attended via FaceTime by Ben in Nashville, followed by a totally engrossing afternoon of jigsaw puzzle. Yeah really.

. . .and time for a bit of sketching at the dining room table.

As well as time for meditation, naps, and sending prayers and blessings to loved ones not here, as well as prayers for all the folks suffering so grievously from this pandemic.

I couldn’t help but wonder if this isn’t a bit like “the olden days” when people had time to read books and sit in the living room together without the TV going. 

FACETIME

In this shelter-in-place lifestyle one must snap up the opportunity to sketch when the occasion presents. So for some reason Andrew and I were sitting at the kitchen table, and I guess he was showing me something on his phone. Only then he called me on FACETIME. Now why we would do that, when we were literally maskless-ly sitting across from each other at the kitchen table. . .I couldn’t say. 

But I looked at my phone screen and caught this perfect moment, with the fan over his head turning him into a human helicopter, and then my laughing face in the corner, like a pesky little insect. Thank goodness for the screen save function! I mean, this is truly a reason to have a cell phone with you at all times. Wouldn’t you say?

The headphones are growing out of his ears much of the time, although also sometimes attached to the temples. Then, if he pulled his mask up over the eyes, he’d resemble one of the many insects with eyes on the sides of the head, the better to see 360 degrees.

Smoke Bush “fire”

Enough of that monochromatic business with Sumi Alone! Yesterday I indulged whole heartedly in fall color in Pat’s garden. Who can resist a smoke bush with the light shining through the foliage? The “smoke” happens in the spring with the sprays of lace-like flowers that explode in delicate halos around the leaves, but autumn is when the real firy colors are revealed.

I had no intention of putting yet more pumpkins in the sketch. I’d done enough of those already this year! But I needed something warm for balance, and they were there after all. The heat lamp is a great reminder that we must do our congregating outside now, if at all, and Pat’s family is ready to follow protocols and stay safe!

Hidden Creatures

Pat’s garden can be inhabited like a Where’s Waldo picture, where there are creatures everywhere (of the statuary sort) if one slows down enough to look. And slowing down and looking is what we’ve been doing there for the past few weeks in order to sketch.

I sat down to sketch this scene in the afternoon light, which at this time of year dwindles quite rapidly. The light and shadow shapes were what drew me, but minutes into sketching, I looked up to see the light had gone! And remembered that you must always notate the shadow shapes before they change and you lose them!  Consequently I was on my own, making it up and hoping for the best.

The little bunny nearby saved the day.

Dreaming in the Garden

There’s something about my friend Pat’s garden which sets me to dreaming. You know the kind of summer vacation on the edge of boredom but slipping softly into something more like dreamtime, fairy garden time where everything taken in by the senses is a kind of an amazement.

The thing is to find a spot out of the blistering sun and just see what’s there. And in Pat’s garden there’s always something blooming or fruiting and a creature left behind by the fairies. And in my sun drenched stupor I start drawing and painting, trying to put it all onto an 8X 8″ sketchbook page.  I think I almost did it here! At least I got the stupor on. Haha!