A Hint of Autumn

Independence, CA

Well . . . I got tired of pen, ink, watercolor. Watercolor just wasn’t in my head, so I dug out my gouache paints. They were rather fuzzy from mold – typical of gouache if you don’t use them often enough – so, I rinsed them off, and went to work. I really like the photo I took of these trees but did not like my earlier efforts.

I started out so klutzy – like, how do I use my colors? order or painting? All the usual stuff that goes with not doing something for awhile. The result is far better than I thought it would be!

Sky Above the Owens Valley

Sky Above the Owens Valley – Watercolor and Ink

Another sketch from a photo I took, this one snapped out of the rear car window! Having a camera can get some great stuff when you don’t have time to stop every 5 minutes.

Sky Above the Owens Valley – Quill Pen and Iron Gall Ink

This was my initial sketch, done with a quill cut with a finer nib as well as done with more attention to detail. After the sketch dried for a few hours, I laid in the watercolor. Some ink was still damp even after a couple of hours drying outdoors and blotting. Below is the original photo.

A Few Trees

A Few Trees – Dehy Park – Independence, CA

I am rather enjoying sketching as part of my morning routine. Today’s sketch is still in Independence, California. There is a trail that connects the native plant garden to a small park, Dehy Park, and I think I took this picture along the pathway. I found the repeated curved rhythm of the trees to be utterly charming – I expect the wind has a lot to do with the way the trees are bent.

Anyway, I decided to not use my Micron pens, as I have for the past three days, but to use a quill I cut myself from a turkey or goose feather and my homemade iron gall ink. First, I sketched the grove.

A Few Trees – Iron Gall Ink & Quill Pen

Then, I let the ink dry – or thought I did! – before adding the watercolor. Areas of ink were still wet. One of the drawbacks of iron gall ink is that it does take a bit of time to dry. The wet ink messed up some of the paints by blending in with the colors, muddying them.

Once I noticed that I decided to use dots and such with the watercolor, especially for the foliage toward the top of the trees. I dabbed the paint on, in between the black, inky branches.

I mixed colors with a water brush, stronger than the paler colors I have been using, and just applied them. The effect wasn’t too bad. In between the leaves I used blue, again, tapping the paint in, avoiding the dark of the ink.

After the paint dried, I went through a second time with the iron gall ink, both with the quill and then a defunct water brush. I think it helped out, but overall, the sketch is still quite messy, and certainly not what I intended. What I do like is the sense of dappled sunlight in the leafy canopy.

A Few Trees – Iron Gall Ink, Quill Pen, Watercolor

Takeaway points: First, the ink needs to dry before applying the watercolor paint. My quill has a wider tip on it than your standard dip pen, and thus makes bold lines. However, a bit more care could create a better combination of lines, and perhaps render the sketch more interesting. Adding brushwork and stronger lines after the first ink and paint applications helped to strengthen some areas. After I did that, I went about the morning chores while the sketchbook dried outdoors in the morning sun. I had to wait an hour at least – and then, the scan of the final sketch!

Dry Wash

Dry Wash at Independence, CA, Botanical / Native Plant Garden

One of the nicest things about spending 2-3 nights at a place is that you get to explore. Independence, CA, is along Hwy 395 and is a town you would zip right by if your weren’t staying there. However, you really can miss a few things!

We stayed at the Winnedumah Hotel, in a room at the back. Out the door and down the road a few blocks is the local museum, and although it was closed the days we were there, we plan to go back. Outside the museum is a rather wonderful native plant garden. It faces west, so it is in the shadow of the Eastern Sierras. There is a creek running through it, complete with trickling water. Winter rains swell it and it obviously flows over its banks.

The sandy shore and rocky bottom depicted here create a dry wash. In canyon country these smooth areas are tempting for campers because the smooth soil makes pitching a tent and sleeping bag comfortable and easy, but if a rain happens upstream, a flash flood creates a swirling death trap. Even locally – where I live – people are drawn to these washes in the rainy season (if there still is one . . . ) and get washed away in the event. I had a wonderful friend who died in such a flash flood because the ground he was standing on probably got abruptly eroded from underneath. Even peaceful streams need to be treated with respect.

Near Olancha

Near Olancha, CA

Even though our trip was stopped by Covid-19, I did get a number of photos along the way. Olancha, CA, is one of those little towns without a lot of amenities, but big in different ways. Here are some – and were some – nice little restaurants that provide comfort to the hungry and a much-needed break from the car. Little dirt roads catch the eye, and trees and houses break up the flat land leading to the grandeur of the Eastern Sierra Nevadas. So, even though my trip was canceled, I d intend to create sketches of what I saw along the way . . .

Stopped by the Plague

Winnedumah Hotel, Independence, CA

We had a 2 week vacation trip planned. And it ended on Day 3. I had thought my sinuses were acting up, but to be careful I decided to have a Covid-19 test. It was a 1-hour quickie. Negative. Okay! Let’s go!

Our first stop was in Independence, CA, along the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains, traveling on Hwy. 395. My husband had a cold, mild, some sniffles and a cough. On Day 3, we left Independence, and continued north. Next stop was to be Virginia City, NV. Well, as we moved further north, the air became cloudy and sooty. The smoke from the fires in NoCal was moving east, and I could smell it. So could Tom and Judy, Josh’s parents. Josh couldn’t. We had mints. We could all taste them – except Josh.

And so the decision was made: return home and have tests. It was the ethical thing to do. Josh’s test came back positive; mine was “presumed positive”, and the antigen tests Tom and Judy had came back negative. Ethical decision made, people and places were called, and now we are self-isolating until our next test on 9/13. Test results will be around 9/15.

So, stopped by the plague . . . and ethics. Neither Josh nor I felt sick other than a tad under the weather. Josh has is sense of taste and smell back about 95%.

We have plenty to do, despite being stuck at home. I have a sketchbook, planned to document the vacation, and so the first drawing is the Winnedumah Hotel, built in 1927 for the film industry back in the days when westerns were shot in the Owens Valley.

Late Summer in the Olive Grove

I started this painting a couple of months ago at least, but because of life and cataract surgery, I didn’t finish it until today. There have been several iterations of it. The subject itself was inspired by van Gogh, and I had thought to try to copy his style of painting, but found that it was far more difficult than I anticipated.

The painting itself is done on an 11×14 canvas panel by Arteza I gessoed over its primed surface, in part because I like the process of preparing a surface for a painting, in part because I never like something already prepared by someone else. From there, the surface was neutralized with a pale underpainting of yellow ochre and burnt sienna, very thinly applied.

One of my primary issues in painting of ay type is depth of field. Easy to do in photography, but not in painting! Thus, this was a goal in this painting. In general, I think I made it, but had to work and re-work the surface of the painting. This is the pleasure of acrylic – once dried, I can paint over what I don’t like.

I used a variety of techniques, one being glazing to dull own areas by using a cool glaze, and to bring others forward using a warm glaze. It worked, but I realized I needed to go further by using a dullish grey-green for the tree on the left, and a brighter, warmer green for the olive tree in the foreground.

This is the first painting – artwork of any kind – I have done since I had my cataract surgeries in July and August. With new lenses, in my eyes and in my glasses, my sight is much better. However, I may still need a newer prescription in a month or so as it was hard to see what I was painting with my new glasses. Time will tell with this.

Altogether, I am pleased with this attempt. First, I like the painting. I am going to let it stew a bit before I apply any varnishes. So, letting it sit is “second” – already I can see areas which are a bit illogical. Finally, the entire process was fun to do. Acrylic, as with all media, has its good and bad qualities or frustrations, or whatever, but the simple doing it is delight. Painting just removes the outside world and transports me into another dimension which is pure bliss.

Storm Across the Water

I painted this shortly after doing the “Quiet River” watercolor yesterday. Still in a patient mood, which was good, as this painting, though small, needed a bit of thought and a bit of patience to complete. The effect of rain meant laying in heavy washes on damp paper and letting them run. In other areas, damp color had to dry only so far before a dryer brush could apply color. As you can see, I rather messed up with a second round of wet paint because of the bloom (aka cauliflower) in the middle right. Still, it works, catching the breakthrough of the sun and the scudding quality of a storm on a windy day.

This one pleases me quite a bit!

The Quiet River

This is a week for meeting up with old friends! After working in acrylic for several weeks, having eye surgery, and not doing much artwork of any kind, it felt great to do gouache yesterday, and this morning, watercolor.

It is interesting how some days just push me to the limit in frustration and dissatisfaction with what I do, and other days just move along in a calm and serene way. Why is this? My mood was patient and willing to wait today, whereas on other days, freneticism is the dominant emotion. I think watercolor especially requires a serene approach, more meditative than other media, simply because once the mark is made, it is there. With gouache and acrylic you can hide your messes a bit more easily!