watercolor sketch

Geese at the old brewery

I’d come to sketch the historic brewery across the water at Tumwater Historical Park, but first the Canadian geese were putting on such a show of preening, with feathers and beaks going in all directions while also holding stiller than usual. . . so how could I resist?

fountain pen and watercolor on 9 X 12″ Canson Mixed Media paper

Of course that meant putting my stool down in, well you know what happens around flocks of geese. The two standing characters in the show actually held their posture for a good 20-30 minutes, leading me to think they must be the sentries, watching over the preeners.

I sort of remembered getting waylayed by the geese (or ducks) last summer when I was intending to focus on the brewery. See that sketch here. So, determined to have another go, I got a drawing and photo done and worked on that at home.

fountain pen, black brush pen and watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

And I’ll happily give it another go another time. Maybe it will be an annual thing, a way to show my fealty to my new home town.

Papaver Orientale

Papaver Orientale with a bee visitor in my garden

I was shocked! Double shocked. I’d forgotten how blue the sky is, for one. And three monster poppies emerged in our garden. Since we didn’t plant any of the flowers, bushes, and trees on our property, having just moved here a year ago and having lots of other things to keep us busy, we have been in a constant state of discovery this spring as colorful plants emerge from bare soil. The red poppies were like an anniversary present to celebrate our first year here. 

So I got busy studying the unfolding of petals. 

The first bloom popped before the others opened, and the sheer weight of it, combined with a steady drizzle that toppled it, made it an early casualty. The seed pod on the bottom here was the “final” stage in the cycle. I was ready to stake the other two so they would live a bit longer, and the rains finally stopped, giving a few more days to study the full expansion of beauty.

And then this morning, of all things! another casualty after a combination of direct water spray from the irrigation and sudden scorching sun.

But can’t you just imagine the most ravishing outfit on a Flamenco dancer? It put my sketches to shame as nature always does, and rightly so!

watercolor, white gel pen, brown ink fountain pen in beige toned Nova sketchbook

Squirrel Acrobatics

watercolor, fountain pen and white gel pen in beige toned Nova sketchbook

Ever since I took away the squirrel and bunny picnic table feeder (it was attracting raccoons) my squirrel friends have become even more adept at bird feeder acrobatics. So I thought I’d try to capture the action. Not easy! but lots of fun to try. Can you imagine going through all that leaping and swinging and eating while hanging upside down, just to get a few seeds? It makes me dizzy to watch.

The bunny action here is ramping up too with lots of cottontails bouncing around the garden. I caught one getting through an opening in the fence around the vegetable garden and chased him around the beds til he stopped and took a nibble while looking me boldly in the eye. I felt as foolish as the Mr McGregor character in the Beatrix Potter books.

Birding and sketching: Scatter Creek Wildlife Rec. Area

watercolor, gouache and gel pen in beige toned sketchbook

Memorial Day didn’t look like it was going to be a good barbeque day with rain forecast as it is every day here in the northwest, but it was great for birding! The choruses of birdsong were particularly symphonic in this open prairie land carpeted with wildflowers, grasses and gorgeous invasive Scotch Broom bushes. While the experienced birders identified the birds by their unique songs and often found them with binoculars, sharing them with us all, I also stumbled along the trail with eyes on the wildflowers and ears enjoying the songs in happy ignorance.

Our leader Kathleen bore the high powered scope and tripod on her back and seemed to know when to set it up. So we got to see Cowbirds copulating in a tree some distance away! The Tanager above was so striking in color that we could follow its movements in and out of the foliage, rarely seeing the whole bird at once. But that much was surprisingly satisfying.

So yesterday I returned with sketchers Jane and Ineke to enjoy the walk, the colors, the rapidly changing skies and to plant ourselves among the grasses, now grown about 2 feet in one week’s time, to sketch.

direct watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

Plunging right in with watercolor

I’ve discovered that this new sketchbook (hand.book journal co. 90# w/c paper), a lighter version of the last one I was using (also hand.book with 140# w/c paper) This lighter one handles wet watercolor very poorly, probably not the best for direct watercolor painting. So, I’ll be going back to 140# 100% cotton paper when I want to paint skies like these!

Same problem here resulting in sky, tree and puddle muddle. Blame it on the paper, haha! But while I was painting I was thinking, “I should come out here every day to paint in this place!”

So I’ll end on this note. Just get out and do it, and enjoy the process. Don’t you just love the feeling of paint coming off your brush!?

Direct Watercolor

watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

Day One of the #30X30DirectWatercolor challenge. No other theme here. But I gave myself time limitations of 30-40 min. Pulled up a picture of last week’s cabin on Goss Lake I’d been meaning to sketch. Drew in the big shapes with a light value Quin Gold. A good way to warm up is always to paint fast and not think too hard. It shows, but this challenge is not about results. We’re going for the kind of transformation that happens over time when you do a lot of it!

The main frustration was that i wanted to go in with a pen to delineate, correct, enhance. And the big quandry was how dark to go, a tricky thing with watercolor because it’s so easy to end up being wishy washy, muddy wuddy.

And then today my sketch friends were not available and the weather was finally warm and balmy, so off I went to scout out some nearby scenes. This one is 5 minutes from my house and I liked the train as a counterpoint to the trees, which we have in such abundance here in Olympia. While I was sitting close to the track an Amtrak train barreled by on the nearest track, rattling me a bit. So we’ll blame that on the fact that my train sketch looks more like a hungry caterpillar.

Two days down and 28 to go. We’ll see. . .Are any of you going for it?

North Carolina cont.

Fine liner pen, watercolor and gouache “spray”

As I said in my last post, I think another time I’d like to try white water rafting, with a solid guide and good crew of strong paddlers at least! The White Water Center in Charlotte would be my first choice. You could tell who the beginners were. Their rafts went wild in the rapids, tossing them shrieking into the air and occasionally, and very inconveniently into the swirling waters. Gulp. No one got hurt that I could see, making for a great show.

One morning Ben had to work, and I had time on my hands to venture into the city to explore. Asheville is well endowed with colorful, quirky cafes, so I ordered breakfast at one called All Day Darling, and got out my sketchbook.

pencil and watercolor in mixed media sketchbook

Opposite from me was the perfect subject, an old guy (I later discovered exactly my age!) with a computer and lots of food and refills of coffee to work his way through. . . with a long wispy white beard and character-filled face. He chatted with everyone who walked by, none of whom were previous acquaintances, sometimes reading their palms and giving rather interesting, friendly advise.They all seemed to enjoy it. So when there was a break in the activity I joined him to show him my drawing and engage in conversation.

He was delighted, and with very little preamble, asked to read my palm, rather insightfully I must say. I introduced myself with the usual, and he introduced himself as a psychosocial cultural forensic anthropologist named Owl Bob or Sensei Owl Bob or Shaman and spent the next two hours adding onto that designation, at times detailing a roller coaster ride of a life that would make a riveting novel with science fiction overtones.

fountain pen and watercolor in mixed media sketchbook

Turns out his history with Asheville and the Arts District goes back to the 1970’s. I took him up on his offer to give me a tour of downtown, wondering how that would be, since he is partially blind (note the magnifying devise he uses to read his computer!) and walks with a cane. But off we went exploring block after block, where he interacted with storekeepers and foreign tourists, cathedral hosts, chocolate shop staff and hotel concierges, reading palms and relating the historical underpinnings of this cultural magnet of a city, once known as the Paris of the South.

The highlight of this short but eventful N.C. trip was spending time with Ben, getting to see some of the places I’ve only heard about from him, and discovering new ones together with him. An unanticipated delight was the experience of deja vous I had repeatedly as we drove around the countryside. I spent the first years of my life, up to 13 years old on the east coast, living in Virginia, Maryland and Connecticut, and again in my 20s and 30s for 11 years before returning to California. So there was a kind of “I’m home!” experience that was a constant echo.

And now back to Olympia! Coming next. . .

Sittin on the dock on the bay

watercolor and blue ink fountain pen in Travelogue sketchbook

Out at the West Bay Marina last week with Jan, warming ourselves in comfortable spring temperatures with mostly sun and those show-off-y clouds. We were almost at water level on the dock, and with Tugboat Annies and the kayaks behind us. I loved the shape of these mostly white buildings, the reflections and the sky and forest backdrop. There was so much more of both sky and water I wanted to get in, but ran out of space after getting the building geometry in. Always better to leave more space for these exciting skies! Next time.

Fickle weather!

watercolor in 8 X 8″Travelogue sketchbook

This is the kind of weather one might encounter suddenly on a gloriously sunny day lately, or at least a week ago. I’ve now accumulated a closet full of different weight coats and hats and shoes to try to meet the changeable weather with a modicum of equanimity. It means changing clothes frequently throughout the day at times to stay comfortable. 

This scene occurred on a lovely walk at the point where the South Puget Sound waters enter the town of Olympia. While we were strolling and talking, the sky behind us darkened suddenly, and we knew our walk was over, unless we were ready for a drenching. Such sky drama, though inconvenient, is never boring and sometimes downright thrilling!

Yellow’s the Color!

watercolor and white gouache on beige toned Nova paper.

Yellow was the color of the lovely little birds I spotted on Monday at McLane Creek Nature Trail, with significant help from the veteran bird watchers in the Gals Go Birding monthly meet up. You can imagine how effectively these tiny birds are camouflaged now in the spring green forests. The Common Yellowthroat is not the least bit common with his black mask and neon yellow breast! And the Wilson’s Warbler has that adorable black toupe setting off the vibrant yellow body. So sketchable. But don’t go imagining I sketched these from life!

There are so many glorious distractions to draw ones attention away from the spring bird spotting – like the wildflowers in the forest floor, and the newts swimming in the shallows of the pond and making their way across the path.. . in search of mates? We walked, and then stopped and listened, when the group heard a familiar birdsong, and stood quietly til we saw movement in the tall trees. (The trees here are very tall!) Then whipped up the binoculars. I’m finally beginning to get the hang of focusing with my binoculars a bit quicker, but am still often the last to see the bird. But can you tell? I enjoy every minute!

Oh, but perhaps the biggest treat was the Mallard mother with her 13 baby ducks parading right by us at the pond. They scrambled to keep up, clumsy in their rush to follow, running across the lilly pond leaves and plunging in and out of the water. Ahhhhh!