nature journal

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!

Last Night I Dreamed. . .

Last night I dreamed of a lizard, a beautiful black and white patterned one. In the dream I was quite excited to find it among some plants in my home. Because you see, when my boys were little, they were really into lizards, and especially a leopard gecko which Ben named Samon. His preschool art was filled with colorful geckos and our house chirped loudly with crickets that had escaped while trying to get them into the cage for Samon’s dinner. Our good friend Maureen, an accomplished photographer, posed Ben with Samon for her project on children and their pets.

photo by Maureen Morrison

So my delight at having a lizard appear in my dream is not a surprise, particularly at a time when I just published a book (for the family) titled The Cornelis Boys and Other Creatures. It’s a collection of stories about my sons’ early years, when I participated in endless expeditions to acquire a managerie of lizards, frogs, toads, caterpillars, butterflies, praying mantises and more. I became as enthralled as the boys with these creatures. 

But I was also delighted with the dream, because my Muse group sisters and I decided to explore the theme of spirit animals/creatures in our art. So today I got out my ink and got started with some Ralph Steadman style splatter to get the imagination opened up to the possibility of another lizard visitation. 

When finished I got out my reference book, Animal Speak: The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small by Ted Andrews and looked up Lizard. Here’s what he wrote:

“Keynote: Subtlety of Perception. . .a symbolism associated with the psychic and the intuitive. The ability to  perceive subtle movement – physical and ethereal, waking or sleeping – is what lizard medicine teaches. To some within the Native American tradition, the lizard is associated with dreamtime. Dreams contain some of the subtlest perceptions of the mind of which we may not be conscious. . . listen to your own intuition over anyone else’s. Learning to follow your perceptions is what will enable you to succeed most frequently.”

Sounds like pretty good advise for anyone, whether you’re drawn to the reptile world or not!

I can’t resist leaving you with another lizard family picture, of my other son Andy and his brother Ben. There’s obviously some photoshop going on here, but I suspect not with the lizard! (oh yeah, and then there was the rat chapter. ..)

Amanita mia!

The Fly Agaric or Amanita mushroom is the flashiest ‘shroom in the fungi world. And I found them growing right next to my driveway this week. Not only are they gorgeous, but they are constantly morphing into a new variation each day. From round topped to flat, and brilliant scarlet to gold, from two inch to seven inches across in a couple days!

But don’t eat them! Although apparently few people die from eating them. Except maybe flies. The term fly- refers not to insects as such but rather the delirium resulting from consumption of the fungus. Now I know it’s become more popular to consume mushrooms lately, especially the psychedelic sort. And the amanita may provide a high, though I wouldn’t recommend it. Flies on the other hand may find the delirium referred to here to be quite a spiritual experience!

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!

Autumn in the garden

watercolor in 8X8″ Field Watercolor Journal, hand.book paper co.

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. 

A teaspoon of beauty

I turned over my calendar today to see a sketch I did at Preston Farms and Winery last year. Pumpkins and other harvest goodies on a country porch. And I wondered if I will have the opportunity this month to enjoy the countryside with my sketchbook in hand.

This October finds us staying home with the air purifiers going. But one can always find a teaspoon of beauty elixir to treat the doldrums, and sunflowers are particularly effective.

The flowers themselves, on the dining room table, have long since died, but I saved the sketch for this smokey day when it could provide balm.

If you’d like to see the pumpkins from last October, check out this post

Out sketching again!

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.

Garden Gargoyles

There are many rare finds in Pat’s garden. A collection of antique garden tools, a windmill, vintage gas pump, and rusty relics from the yards of her friends who lost their homes in the Tubbs fire. And then of course the flowers so bold and outsized that you feel like Alice when she took the “eat me!” pill and shrank down. But the stone gargoyles were too wonderful not to sketch. Mine copped an attitude which I had not intended. Supercilious? gargoyle

And the rudbeckia, in another garden where I found a few inches of shade to sit. . .Giant!

Patswisteria

The following week I got wooed by the wisteria, no longer in bloom of course, but providing lovely shade. I totally lost myself for a while in the winds and twists and when I woke up, I added the ladies to bring me out of my reverie.