Garden Sketches

Mad Hatter chili and Young Lemon Grass Leaves on Rhodia Tablet

I’ve been rather busy of late – running here and there, sewing, hanging out with friends, and so on.  As a result, I have not been able to sit down to paint for the past few days.  Today I made the determined effort to do so, and am glad I did.  Instead of working in the studio, I went outside onto my rather warm and sunny patio – 95F / 35C – and moved what I could into the shade of the canopy.  A small table, a chair, some water and paints, my home made iron gall ink and my dip pen all accompanied me.  Pandora and Donna Summer, too!

I pulled out a watercolor sketchbook, and immediately found that the paper has a sizing issue, as well as cannot handle water in any amount.  Wah!  However, for pen and a small amount of color, it will do.  I also used a Rhodia tablet, very smooth and polished, and works very well with a sharp pen nib.  The results are straight above – and captioned!  It worked out quite nicely.

Watercolor sketchbook. Iron gall ink applied first, then watercolor paint. Milkweed in bloom.The watercolor sketchbook, as I said, was disappointing for wet work.  However, for ink and color, it is not too bad.  Here, I did the ink drawing first and then applied the color.  The color rather overwhelmed the lines at time, so I went back and added more ink after the paint dried.  In 95F weather, it dries pretty quickly.

A flowerpot with a dead sunflower (left), oregano in bloom (middle), and the stalk and leaves of milkweed plant. Color applied first, dried, and then iron gall ink drawing.This last picture was an afterthought.  The first drawing found the color overwhelming the ink at times, so I decided to paint first, and then draw.  Artistic experiment!

Anyway, the art bug has been temporarily allayed.  More tomorrow I hope!

Summer Oak Tree

This morning I headed out to a local area filled with oak trees and trails, all of which surround a wonderful park.  I brought my Olympus OM-1 with me to shoot black and white film, and I also brought my cell phone to take pictures if I found something I thought I might like to paint.  Today’s painting is just that – an old oak tree in dappled light.  I don’t know what it is about trees and sparkling light, but I am certainly drawn to them.

First, here is the photo I took on my phone.  It was nearly noon, so the light was not optimal, but more than anything, I was interested in the light and shadows.

As I painted this afternoon, I decided to also record the steps I took as I painted.  My process these days is fairly straightforward.  I draw in the general shapes I want and then lay in some colors.  From there I move to values.  While I do this, I think about the order of the painting – where to apply paint first, what to over paint, and so on.  I go back and forth.  Click on one of the images below to walk through the sequence.  They are not the best pictures, but you get the idea!

I found recording the steps of my painting rather interesting – this is the first time I have done so with gouache.  It was a great way to look at what I was doing while letting the paint layers dry.  You need to pause a bit while you paint, whether it is to think, let things dry, or just walk away and clear the mind before picking the brush up again.

I’ve also started putting paint out on the palette as I paint, but before that, I consider the colors I want to use, why, and which ones will have priority.  Of course, all this is subject to change as I go along.  For instance, I had planned yellow ochre to be my only yellow, but soon added Cadmium Yellow Light as I felt I needed something more bright.

Palette included zinc and titanium white, Grey #2, lamp black, leaf green, chromium green, olive green, ultramarine blue light, yellow ochre, cadmium yellow light, and burnt sienna.  I had also pulled out some cadmium red deep, but decided I didn’t need it after all.

Two Boats

Every week I am trying to focus on a subject.  I guess for the next week it will be boats.  My drawing skills are not the best, and so focusing on how something is constructed will help.  What made me think about this is a very simple way of drawing and painting boats by an excellent watercolor YouTuber named Shibasaki.  Below is his demo on boats.

What makes this video so valuable is he shows you that a boat is a series of rectangles with a few curves.  Don’t believe me?  Check it out.  I’ve learned a lot from Shibasaki-san!

My palette here was limited to zinc white, ultramarine blue, a touch of gamboge, burnt sienna, and some left over colors on the palette from the sunset coast I painted the other day – a bit of teal and some red.

One thing I have always loved are sail boats and tug boats.  Those are on the agenda.  Stay tuned . . .

North of Gilroy

Farms in California are a bit different than what I remember as a kid in the Midwest and out on the plains.  The land along the coast is gentle and low lying.  The ocean brings in mist and fog, creating at times a dreamy, otherworldly quality that is soft and ethereal.  Fog comes and goes, scenery appears and vanishes.  Colors can be pale or deeply rich depending on light and cloud.

Coastal Dawn

Evidence of overworking is present in the white highlights . . . they just don’t seem to go with the rest of the painting insofar they are too bright.  I was thinking in terms of photography and histograms – white point, black point.  I wonder if I am criss-crossing two different art formats.  Besides that, the rocks are perhaps too orange for the distant sky, although sandstone can take on an incredibly orangish color under the right light.

Hmmmmm.

Sunshine & Shadow in the Oak Grove

I went off for a morning walk in the local botanical garden, taking pictures with my phone (and film camera) looking for contrasty bits of landscape to paint.  I took a lot, much to my surprise.  What I found was dappled sunlight more than anything as the garden is in its summer glory with trees leafed out and bright sun trying to break through the canopy.

Truthfully,  this painting is considerably more lush in color than the photo as we are in August, in hot weather, and the vegetation has dried and browned from a lack of rain.  I really worked to create a gouache painting reflective of the photo, but couldn’t hack it!  It was so dreary!

What I did like best, though, was simply the experience of a slow ramble through the garden.  There were birds, scents of pine and sage, butterflies, the buzz of bees, bird song, caws from crows.  I think, perhaps, the painting is more reflective of the richness of the experience of the garden rather than its current shades of beige, brown, and green.