everyday sketching

A Simple Cure for What Ails you

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.

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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.

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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.

A True Tree Friend

There are those trees that end up being old friends. I have lunch with this well-worn apple tree each day lately. I’m watching for birds in its boughs as I munch my salad, but it’s the tree memories that are revealed.

It remembers the day after we moved in over 19 years ago and a neighbor boy arrived to play with our boys of the same age. The boy climbed the little tree and landed on the ground as one of the major limbs broke off. The little tree kept growing and giving shade and shelter to animals in its hollow core ,and fed many generations of goldfinches and Jays and doves and even some flashy Orioles. The occasional squirrel noisily raided its stash. The cats climbed into its arms to see why the birds were getting fed before them! And then there was the time when an errant rooster, that was terrorizing the neighborhood with its untimely crowing, could be found returning to the tree each day.

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So after lunch I responded to the tree’s need to have it’s story told. It wasn’t the first sketch I’d done over the years. There’s somehow more feeling in it each time though – a kind of bitter-sweetness as we age together.

Yesterday we went around propping up the leaning towers of hollow apple tree trunks. It would be too sad to lose my old friend and the others which are bending under the weight of Gravenstein apples right now.

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My friend, twisted and bent, a bit like I feel sometimes – I study the beauty of your curves and knots. It’s my way to pay homage to your grit and endurance. . .I’m always listening for your complaints, but hearing none but my own. Stay with me a while longer dear friend.

Sketching at home

When it’s not the season for travel or time for local event sketching, there’s always what is close at hand. I no longer sketch my food and drink, which is recommended by some of my favorite luminaries such as Danny Gregory and Liz Steel. But I’ve had my eye on the rusty mailbox next door, and then there’s always the goats at the bottom of the hill.

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Lamy Joy fountain pen and watercolor in soft cover Beta Stillman + Birn sketchbook

And then there’s the town I live (outside of), Sebastopol, where I’ll be teaching two workshops this spring. The first is “Introduction of Sketching in Public” on March 25th. So I’ve been wandering around town with the eyes of a tourist sketcher to find what one could capture quickly in a workshop setting.

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A lovely water fountain in the plaza and an exercise in connecting it with the background while leaving out most of the rest of what was there! That’s the hard part.

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I found a bench in the sun and had a few minutes left to doodle some people. I often end up liking these “doodles” better than the more finished ones. You’d think I’d learn.

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But another day I had more time, and a good spot to sit with a friend and kept sketching awhile after my subject had left. Of course they always leave before you’re done!

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fountain pen and watercolor in Toned Tan Strathmore Art Journal

And then there’s always the selfie. This one done while on an hour-long phone call in front of my computer (one looks for time where it is to be found), which might account for having lost a bit of the top of her head. Oh well.

I’ve had people tell me I should paint more attractive self portraits of myself, but this is so much more amusing. I think I feel a series coming on. After all, you don’t have to pay this subject to sit and she’s always available to sketch live!

Resident Minstrel

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We live out in the country where the ears are more likely to pick up birdsong than traffic noise. But in the house it’s generally soft music, finger picking guitar riffs that emanate from various rooms where Ben perches, drifting in his own world of sound.I think it must relax him even more than it does me.  To jump on the vibe, sometimes I sketch him.

Thanksgiving

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fountain pen and watercolor in 8X8″ Handbook sketchbook

The pie was made, the salad ready to go.  I was not on turkey duty and the guests had not yet arrived.  I arranged the table centerpiece and sat down to sketch it.  Little figurines from when the kids were little, some made with Sculpey clay, and only gotten out this one day each year.  Candles and persimmons.

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No time to sketch again til after the feast when we’d settled into a lovely post turkey lethargy. The candlelight made it difficult to see the sketchbook and I’d had my share of wine, but gave it a go anyway. I had signed up for the “Urban Sketchers Virtual Meetup: sketch your Thanksgiving meal or the aftermath” and promised I would sketch!

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The aftermath was also some relaxed time hanging out with the family, here the son and his girlfriend, both architects.

It’s quiet again now and my stomach is recovering from too much wonderful, but oh so rich, food. Hope your Thanksgiving was a sweet and bountiful one!

Pocket sketching

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Tombow pen and watercolor in Pentalic Nature Sketch journal 7 X 5″

These days sketching the figure in public almost always involves an electronic device.  Good thing actually, because it renders the figure (the human being) into at least a temporarily frozen state.  While waiting for my car to be serviced I discovered that this was true even for a very squirmy child.. . at least for a minute or two!

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The woman next to me, of a different generation was frozen in position by the archaic form of entertainment, the printed page, making her an excellent subject for a slow pen drawing.

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Pitt Artist pen and watercolor in Moleskin pocket sketchbook

Another day recently I was at a photography opening for the work of my husband and other photographers. I sat down with my glass of wine to wait for him. Four preteen boys blew in with their skateboards and iPhones and plopped down right opposite me.  Of course I am somewhat invisible to people that age, so I brazenly whipped out my pen and book.  I did eventually “get caught” by the youngest one, but he was friendly and appreciative and thoroughly charming.

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I have been listening to the news of course and feel a little sheepish showing this sketch when my east coast friends are in the deep freeze!  I am very empathetic and wish I could send a bit of sunshine your way.

Everyday

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Japanese brush pen, fountain pen and watercolor in Strathmore w/c journal, 5.5 X 8″

With no trips planned for a while now, everyday sketches must suffice.  It’s an art to live ones life as if on vacation, and sketching makes that possible for me.  I was trying out my newly purchased Lamy Safari fountain pen, which I love, not so much for the quick sketching.  For that my preference is the brush pen. The fountain pen works better for me as a more deliberate mark, definitely good for writing words.

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Oh, the joys of people watching and making the stories unfold as you sketch – not the “real” ones but the imagined ones that are suggested by posture and gesture.

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Ben has become a master of coffee matters.  Did you know there is a world championship of coffee making, at least the Aeropress style?!!  After this meal and sketch I was treated to a lesson in how to make Aeropress coffee in the inverted style, which I also sketched.  The morning was half gone and lots left yet to accomplish, but such a great way to start it off!