autumn

Autumn Foliage

When we moved to “wine country” in California 21 years ago I became obsessed with painting the vineyard landscapes. My paintings always fell short of capturing the awe I felt gazing at the tapestry of winter’s yellow mustard accented with bare black vines with a backdrop of lavender hills. Now I’m repeating the experience here, once again failing in attempts at finding the right pigment and techniques for these outrageous autumn foliage displays. But the enjoyment of observation grows ever stronger with each attempt!

Starting here with some of the trees in the backyard that I can see from my upstairs window, where I can paint in warm comfort on cold days. I thought I’d just start with trying to mix the colors. The yellow leafed tree is now bare and the ground beneath, a thick carpet of gold. Weeks later red and orange now prevail in the garden.

pen and w/c in beige toned sketchbook

When we first moved in I thought this short tree was rather hideous and Troll-like, with a thick mop of foliage all the way down to the ground. We gave it a haircut and discovered in intriguing patterned trunk, but the color was muddy. Now it’s red hair can only be approximated with a mixture of opera and vermillion and quin rose paint!

One day I went out on an exploratory mission to find autumn trees to paint and pulled over to the side of the road when these beauties caught the sunlight and made my hair stand on end! I did a quick sketch on my lap in the car, not wanting to expose myself to the damp cold of the air outside.

More drama needed, I thought. So I painted another one at home and liked it a bit better, though a third try might have been the best.

And that got me ready for this last one from a walk on the Chehalis Trail during the Bomb-Cyclone! The big leaf maples were getting undressed by the cyclonic winds and the air was electric with the golden rain of leaves 8-12 inches across. The gray path was carpeted with leaves. As we walked along suddenly a leaf wrapped itself around my face, held there for a moment by the force of the wind as if to say, “Look at me! Pay attention!” And I still am.

Ashley Creek Farm

What is it about pumpkins and autumn? Is it the pie? or the color orange which we experience as sun saturation that warms the belly and the soul? Is it orange’s tendency to make a blue sky electric?

I think I’ve probably painted pumpkins every year since my beginning in watercolor in 1992 and possibly even longer. So when the local sketchers got permission for a private access to what I’m guessing is the primo pumpkin harvest farm in the county, Ashley Creek Farm, I couldn’t wait!

The farm was getting ready for the hoards of pumpkin-loving families to arrive for their season opener, when their field fills up with carloads and they sell pumpkins so fast that they are constantly replenishing them from the fields nearby. It’s not just the pumpkins that draw folks, but the idyllic and beautifully cultivated farm by a creek with hundred year old trees and house.

I was drawn to the contrast of blue-green to orange and red pumpkins and orange tractor! and anxious to practice with my new bamboo pen and India ink, followed by the Derwent Line and Wash palette.

And while I was sitting there painting I kept glancing over to the farmer who was feeding the cows and driving the tractor. He was a much older gentleman who walked with a cane and moved through his farm chores slowly and with great care. I was delighted when he came over to see the art makers and show interest and gratitude for our efforts. 

And so I got to hear Robert Sand’s story of moving in the 1950’s to Tumwater, Washington  from eastern Nebraska where he grew up on a farm. He raised 6 (or 7) children on this farm, teaching them the work ethic of farming.

He wanted to join us for our “critique” time after sketching and shared specific appreciation for each of our sketches, charming us all!

But Robert was not the only art lover. His black kitty stole the show by making a big deal of the art, particularly Ineke’s lovely sketch of the house!