garden sketch

Autumnal Equinox

pen and watercolor in Etchr w/c sketchbook

Years ago a garden master taught me to appreciate the spring and autumn equinoxes for their way of marking the changing of seasons by giving us a day of paradoxes. Warm and cool, breezy and calm, blooming flowers and dried up husks. By tuning in and noticing our garden on the equinox we begin to get it that summer is over and feel a sense of nostalgia about it while getting excited about what comes next.

This year I spent a good part of the day in the garden, and especially in the vegetable garden, which is a riot of vegetable and flower plants in all stages of growth and home to an impressive population of bugs and insects. The air was warm/cool enough to sit in the sun/light-clouds for hours and watch all the activity. Coming fresh from the Wild Wonder Conference I was ready and armed with ways to put down as much as possible of the drama, both plant and creature, as well as to watch my most curious human mind!

As I was talking to the kale, imploring it to be less bitter so that I can perhaps like it a bit more this fall, I realized that it might have some thoughts to give back. . . which led to adding the showy zinnia and sunflower that towered over it and getting all the attention. As it told me how it feels I realized that I had been overlooking it and unfairly giving more interest to the flowers.

And then the cabbage whites were flitting everywhere in the garden, and I noticed that they didn’t overlook, but landed on the the kale (though I wonder what they were doing there for that split second when I tried to sketch one). As I finished my nature journal page, I was very pleased with myself for having gotten my own garden story down. Can you think what yours might be?

And I couldn’t wait to come back the next day and find another story!

And so i did. It was not hard to pick the subject. After all I’ve been quite perplexed about the strange shapes of my carrots, which remind me of those weird characters in Harry Potter books. . .which led to a fun few minutes refreshing my Hogwarts studies!

And this morning I decided to try pulling up some more carrots. Along with the forked ones I found some big fat 4-5 inch long fat beauties, along with all the rest shown here. Honestly is there anything more aesthetically and gastronomically and emotionally satisfying than garden successes?! (of course there is! but this was mine today.)

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Wild Wonder out in my garden

I was sitting in my studio, glued to the screen, watching and sketching along with the many live streamed teachers at the Wild Wonder Nature Journal Conference, and finally broke away to explore the wild right outside my studio door. Usually when I spend time in the garden it is to harvest vegetables or dead head flowers or discover garden chores that are overdue. So, strangely, it took some very clear intention to head out to the garden with my sketchbook!

fineliner pen and watercolor in 9 X 12″ Canson Mixed Media sketchbook

I started with my most recent discovery of wasps swarming Grandma Marie’s paper birch tree in the Ancestor Grove. It was so named because we found two side by side birch trees in our new home garden and planted ashes from our two mothers’ urns under those trees. Grandma Marie’s was chosen by a colorful Yellow Bellied Sapsucker as a place for his preferred meals of sap, opening the way for others to dine as well. At the moment it is hosting swarms of what look like wasps. One could say that the tree does not look happy, being blackened and sticky, but that would surely be from the standpoint of our very own species and not that of a tree, which gives generously to the cycle of living things, throughout its life and decomposition. In any case it was a story to tell in my nature journal, recently fortified by ideas and tools of other nature lovers in the conference. I started drawing while standing and gazing at the swarm on the spot close by, then started feeling uneasiness when I realized I was in the flight path!

Next I was drawn to my favorite small corner garden, no more than a yard long and a foot deep. It is filled with seeds, which I must remember to distribute to other areas of the garden, and blooms steadily from spring through early fall with wildflower tenacity. The Calendula and Love in a Mist are the stars of the show.

And on then to the end, you might say, of the blooming season for the Bee Balm flowers. I am so struck by the beauty of these going-to-seed plants whose seed vehicles are golden chariots in shape and tone and texture, and rival their spring beauty.

The late summer sunset was then upon me, so I brought the Bee Balm inside to have better light to view it. Also at that point I was wondering how all these drawing/paintings would sit in a balanced way on the page. Text, boxes, descriptions and personal feelings were easy ways to fill the empty spaces and put down more of the late summer afternoon experience in a way that I can never forget.

Oh how I love you, Love in a Mist!

A Garden Journal Day

watercolor in 8 x 8″Travelogue sketchbook

I was banished from my studio for a day to make room for the installation of my sink cabinets by son Andrew. The buddleia bushes are in bloom next to the patio table, and while I meditated on the intricate details of this bloomer, I got my first sighting of a monarch butterfly, along with the tiger swallowtails that have been fluttering around for weeks now. (and yes I know I mispelled sighting on the sketch. always happens when I’ve been drawing!)

Been scratching my head a bit about how to nature journal plants like these without doing a whole landscape treatment. This was one of my first tries at a hybrid-type sketch. The thing I noticed immediately about this plant is that it grows simultaneously in every direction, a rebellious cultivar. Not like your sunflowers that move their heads in unison to face the sun. With the 4th of July just two days away, and my neighborhood already testing out their rockets, these flower spires reminded of what was to come.

As Andrew labored on in the studio I moved onto some more of my summer favorites that are already blooming and going to seed, which they repeat continuously throughout summer. My plant app gives me more than the one name, usually very descriptive or at least imaginative. But I’ve never heard a plant named “Ruggles” before, have you?

Andrew finished installing the cabinets (which he had designed and built in his shop in Seattle) just after dinner. Bob remarked that I now have the finest piece of furniture in our house, and I must agree. Thank you Andrew!

Are you finding time to “just”sit in a garden? I mean without the socializing, reading, eating, or weed pulling? If not, adding paper and pen and brush to the garden time could be just the thing!

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!

Rest, Retirement, Gardens

Sometimes I have to remind myself that we have gardens for more than weeding. In other words, it’s OK to simply sit outside and enjoy.

rest

inks, gesso, collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

Time for rest, on a cushion in the garden, draped with ferns and fragrant blooms, a pair of cooing doves and a lap full of purring cat. The weeds can wait another day. The plans for tomorrow, the latest world news, the emails, all of it can wait.

For now there’s those cushions. If you don’t try them out a bit each day, the cats soon will and your throne of rest will be usurped. Then how will all those lovely garden idles find their way into the art? So take a rest – it needn’t be for long.

This piece was actually a demo I did for a private art party/workshop held in my studio a couple weekends ago, something I offer from time to time with great delight! We had lunch under the trees on the patio and I didn’t pull a single weed!

retirement

Actually I was contemplating my husband who just retired June 2 and is learning to occupy a lounge chair outside while reading. At least he tried it for a couple days before getting all busy with his art again.

matilija

My own strategy for sitting still in the garden is to do a quick sketch. For me that counts as rest, even though I find it quite energizing.  But then I’m not retired, exactly. . .