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!
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.
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!
I’ve had my eye on this corner of Pat’s garden for weeks now. The lichen covered swinging bench and the backdrop of colorful trees and bird sculptures. There was almost an hour to spend gazing at it and developing a strategy, so I moved things around a bit in a rough pencil sketch and then went for it with direct watercolor.
And here’s a glimpse of the scene. . .
With more time I would have put lots more detail, but my friends were there, and you know how desperate we all are to be with each other in the 3D, or “real life” as we call it, masked and all, but in flesh and blood, talking about life with Covid and with Art.
The smoke from the fires cleared out mid week, blown cross country and out to sea. Time to get out with a small group of friends and enjoy some on location sketching.
Four of us met up at Presidio Pond in San Francisco, a gorgeous landscaped garden which draws ducks, pigeons, geese and more as well as lots of tiny human ducklings with their nannies and moms. We moved over to the small bubbling brook/falls/stream and I plunged recklessly in, immediately realizing I was in over my head!
When in doubt draw a figure and when you’re with sketchers, there’s always at least one. Later I saw that Laurie had put me in her masterful sketch of the same water feature.
We adjourned over at the Warming Hut on the Marina for lunch and found it closed. No problem since we had bag lunches, and there were any number of views to sketch, from a sunlit city skyline and Presidio buildings, to the fishing dock and the bay with massive container ships and the Golden Gate Bridge shrouded as it usually is in fog.
Back at Pat’s Garden on Friday my friends and I spread out in the various gardens filled with antique farm implements and tools, sculptures and blooms.
I’d been wanting to sketch the rusty windmill, and when I saw the chairs, I decided to define the objects with negative painting and do it quickly since I always seem to overwork my sketches. It got quite complicated and messy, but at least I stopped in time!
With just a few minutes left I found this cement toad on the porch and he was just too cute to pass up. And yes, I know now that I misspelled cozy. It goes with the territory of trying to draw your letters. The right hemisphere (of the brain) rears up and invents new spellings.
I have been an art store junky for many, many years. And so I am quite well equipped to tackle new materials whenever the fancy seizes me. I recently purchased a Stillman + Birn’s Nova Series toned paper sketchbook with beige, black and gray pages.
I’ve been loving the beige paper for my portraits, after a long run of doing them on the gray, with pen, watercolor and a few touches of pastel pencil. The Sktchy app supplies me with the most wonderful subjects, which they call “muses”. Like this adorable guy Zel.
But in order to break into the black paper section of the sketchbook, I got out my gouache paints with the pastel pencils.
This may be the dawn of the up-in-your-face faces! All my fine watercolor skills flew out the window. How liberating. Gotta do more of these.
Meanwhile my in-person model is available and I’m taking advantage, in yet another, more familiar style of watercolor-what-you-can-before-it-moves.
We actually had breathable air today and a sun we could see and even a blue sky!
Before the fire season got off to a roaring start with lightning strikes and wildland fires all over California, I had been occasionally enjoying the company of the donkeys and goats that live at the bottom of our road. After my dinner I would take a bucket of apples down in the cool of the early evening. They would see me approaching and come running. Did me a world of good to suddenly be so popular.
I’ve tried many times before to sketch them at the fence where they are so adorable and engaging, but it’s impossible with all the movement. So one time I kept them waiting for their apples, while I took pictures.
The donkeys are not that much bigger than the biggest goats and I had to distract the goats who are more aggressive at the fence.
Then last week, as we were packing for a fire evacuation I noticed that the field was empty and the donkeys and goats had beat us to evacuation.
Perhaps they were taken to the county fairgrounds, or perhaps a friend’s pasture, but I hope to see them home soon. It would do my nerves a world of good to have my animal friends gobbling apples from my hands again.
It’s been an exhausting and stressful week of evacuation to three different places in the Bay Area, to friends’ homes and a hotel. But our area was saved, thanks to the tireless efforts of firefighters, police, prison inmate crews, pilots, local authorities, rescuers from far away, and so many more.
We came home yesterday to a yellow ribbon on our mailbox “crime scene” which we figured was placed there when the police made their rounds of mandatory evacuation areas. Otherwise there is a dusting of ash, a lot of fallen apples, neighbors with their own stories to tell, and Sylvester the cat who no longer lives here, but hangs out here all day.
We still have a friend who is waiting for news of whether her house will be saved. And of course there are all the families who have already lost their homes, and that rests heavily on my heart. I’d like to say I’ll get right out and do more fire story sketches as I did in 2017 and 2018, but I haven’t had the extra energy to sketch through this crisis. One spends so much time just making it through the day, calling and texting friends and family, moving possessions in and out of the car.
And now I just want to enjoy home again. After all, that is the greatest gift when you almost lose yours and then don’t.
About 15 years ago I renamed my art business IMAGINE WITH ART when I wanted to change my emphasis to be more about creative process than about product. I wrote the word Imagine in the wet concrete outside my studio door and added the name to this antique brush which has hung outside my door since then.
I recently got around to sketching the brush, when I saw the flowers in the planter below, showing off in the late afternoon sun.
And then, joy of joys, my current Muse group “sisters” were all invited to Pat and Lee Davis’ stunning home gardens (definitely plural gardens!) for a morning of sketching, which turned into a (kind of urban sketchers’ type) on location event with space for social distancing.
Oh, to have that kind of sitting-separately-but-together-serenity-in-a-garden-with-friends experience again (after all the Covid-shut-down-fear-and-alienation, and even while it’s still going on everywhere)!
It’s a simple cure for what ails us. Pick up a pen or pencil: draw what you see: put some paint on: notice how you feel now.
The agapanthas, those tall lacy clusters along our walkway, are just starting to bloom. They’ve been here for longer than our 20 years in this home. And this afternoon I sat down to try and figure out how to sketch them, and the rest of the scene. . .
As I was sketching the birds and the bees were checking me out, or so I thought. I like to think I’m accepted by the plant and animal kingdoms even though I spend the majority of my time in my house/studio with frequent and all too brief forays into the outdoors. The hummingbirds, whose feeder is to my right, did that suspension in mid air thing as if to say, what are you doing here? And Sylvester the cat, who has never let me pet him, talked to me in that soft kitty way that I wish I understood.
It ended up being more about the red geranium because, of course, it’s a scene stealer.
Yesterday I made another trip to the farmer’s market and had a different vantage point than last week. Turning my head in a 180 degree arc I found enough subjects of interest and just piled them up to make a single scene. The conversation I overheard was yet another typically local one which included the remark “I can’t believe my brother is a Trump supporter!”
My friend Ruth happened to mention that her neighbor next door has pigs, so I invited myself over to visit them . . .oh, to visit her too.
Since there will be no county fair this year, no 4H kids with their pigs ready to show, I took the opportunity to meet Goldie and Zoomzoom. They were quite busy sticking their snouts in the wet mud, snorting and carrying on as pigs are wont to do. I’m not sure where the syllables “oink oink” originated because I heard none of that. I quickly gave up trying to sketch them from the perimeter and did this later from pictures.
Can you imagine the good fortune of the small children of this household who get to ride around on the backs of these remarkable creatures? Of course I wonder how they will feel when their porcine friends become bacon.
The time to paint the sky in California is mainly in the winter and early spring when there is more than just endless blue skies. But one day last week I realized that we didn’t have many days left with those heavenly cloud formations. So I grabbed my sketchbook to try to capture the scene outside my studio door.
But then the light kept changing every five minutes and the smoke bush was glowing and changes colors and I got all excited and frenetic and lost it all! So I turned it into a kind of map of one portion of my one acre home. Some day, who knows, I’ll look back on this sketch and it will fire off the sound of rushing waters in winter and the smell of mint and the excitement of my young boys who found the mint there and transplanted it closer to the house, where we now regularly pick it for recipes and tea.