WWM #12: Blossoming

Old country houses, castles, abandoned churches – all returning to the earth – and the abundance and destructiveness of nature, relentlessly taking over that which is not cared for, in Nature’s own fecund rabidity.

Okay, enough of that!  Rambling vines and roses, grapes, trellises – flowers cascading everywhere in profusion and fragrance.  That’s my kind of garden.  If there is a relic or two along with the plants, I think that is a pretty cool mix!

A Little Bit of Chaos

.

This afternoon was fun!  A meetup up group met at a local brewhouse, art supplies and toys in hand, to do some art journaling.  I’ve never done any.  When I think of art journaling, Frieda Kahlo comes to mind – her journals are filled with words and pictures that swirl around and create a lively chaos of their own.  Not reading Spanish, I have no idea what they say – but words are not always necessary.

What does one use in art journaling?  It seems anything you want.  It’s a self-expressive medium.  So, I took a piece of tape and put it across the bottom of the page – you can see where it is.  Houses, baloons, a Ferris wheel.  From there, I added my own.  Is there any meaning?  Mayhap – no idea!  I can tell you that the tiny buildings made me want to create some disproportionately large things . . . and for some reason, the serpent showed up with his apple, alongside a few hands, a dead chicken, a mouse, and who knows what else.

It’s just fun to play!

Kingfisher (Drawn with Iron Gall Ink)

This morning I did a quick sketch of a kingfisher using iron gall ink using a dip pen.  As you can see, there is a bit better variability in lines than when drawing is done with a quill pen (see yesterday’s post).  Both have qualities I really like – expressiveness, boldness, delicacy.  As I am used to using fountain pens, a dip pen is no problem once I learned how to control the amount of ink on nib.  What must be remembered is how to load the nib, and as nibs are all different, a bit of testing on scratch paper helps.

At present, I am deciding if I want to colorize this drawing – which is why for now, it is not!  If I do, I want to use very dilute but vibrant colors.  It is my hope that the ink will shine through the paint without my having to re-ink parts of it.

Sketching with Iron Gall Ink and Watercolor

Long before we had metal dip pens, artists drew with reed pens and with quills cut from the pinion feathers of a swan, turkey, or goose.  If you look at the ink sketches of artists such as Rembrandt or DaVinci, you will see some very common characteristics.  The ink lines vary in width – narrow, wide.  Often the ink is brown, and so those not in the know think that brown ink was a thing way back when.  In reality, it is the degradation of iron gall ink (aka oak gall ink) through time.  When initially laid down, it was black.  With time, it turns brown, and with a lot of time and depending on its degree of acidity, the iron gall ink can destroy the paper and drawing.

Over the past week, I have been playing with iron gall ink and a quill pen I cut from a turkey feather.  I have some homemade iron gall ink nearly done – come Thursday, it will be ostensibly ready to use.  Today, because I am finally at a point where I have time to play, I drew with iron gall ink and my quill, and then applied watercolors.  The ink took its sweet time drying, and I didn’t blow dry it, but let it air dry or blotted it to see what would happen.  As it is a damp day, it took awhile.  Anyway, the following three pictures were first done with the ink, dried, and then painted in with watercolor.  If you look at the pen strokes, you will see variations.  I’ve never drawn with a quill before, so it was a new experience, one quite different than with a dip pen or fountain pen.

Kumquats – Ink

Kumquats – Ink and Watercolor

The kumquats were the very first drawings I did with the quill and ink.  I had to really think about textures.  You see, when you use iron gall ink, it begins as a light grey, but as it is exposed to the air, it becomes darker and darker until it is black.  This made values a challenge!

Bamboo Forest – Ink

Bamboo Forest – Ink and Watercolor

Here, the ink in the picture was not quite dry, and some bled into the watercolors as I lay them down.

Market Melons – Ink

Market Melons – Ink and Watercolor

For the melons, the ink was taking forever to dry!  I decided to see what would happen if I blotted the ink.  The result was smudges, which you can see throughout the picture.

Fruit – Watercolor

Fruit – Watercolor and Ink

This final set was done with a sketchy watercolor.  No thought was really given to composition or to color as I wanted to use the ink to express outlines, shapes, and shadows.

Altogether, this was a lot of fun, and for me there is a potential I hadn’t really thought about in getting a sense of history by using historical tools – quills, iron gall ink – that were once the best technology had to offer.  I wonder what Rembrandt and DaVinci would think about paints in a tube, rather than the task of purchasing, grinding, and creating their own paints . . . perhaps they made their own quills and inks, too.

Life Cycle of the Pomegranate

Well, I’m back!  I’ve spent the last 2 weeks dealing with all the little sticky bits of paperwork and choices for retirement, from choosing a supplemental Medicare program to whatever.  It’s a lot of drudgery, but has to be done.  I’ve everything except one card – the prescription card – but the rest is in place.  Besides that, I have also had the time and desire to focus on conquering some software issues, now resolved but only to have another pop up.  Thus, back to painting – so much more enjoyable and fun, even when things go wrong . . .

Here, the life cycle of the pomegranate, from flower to fruit to food for birds when it bursts open.  The local botanical garden has several of these lovely trees, now in the stage of bloom and setting fruit.  Large, ripe fruits come later in the year, of course.  I don’t know why I thought of doing a life cycle, but it seemed like a fun thing to do – maybe a mirror of my own life cycle?  Done with the weekly commute and such?

Loquats for the Picking

A couple of weeks ago I took a photo of loquats, not really ready to be eaten, but certainly not too much sooner!

The loquat is a fruit tree indigenous to southeastern China. It is frequently grown in California gardens for its fruit and decorative qualities. The fruit is a pale yellow to a golden color, and the leaves are stiff and dark green. The contrast of the roundish fruit with the wide, pointy leaves makes for an interesting painting subject.

The photo from which the drawing evolved:

Painting the loquat has a bit of cross-cultural history behind it, too; ink painting tradition honors the loquat in Asia.

It would be easy enough to paint a loquat in watercolors, without ink, as well.

Lichens on Tree Branches

I have finally gotten out to the local botanic garden after a month long hiatus.  I went a couple of days ago on a bright sunny day.  Today, in the foggy gloom, I went again.  Both times, camera in hand.  The sunny day I was accompanied by a friend while this morning one of my dogs came along.

In today’s gloom, the bright green lichens on this tree caught my eye.  I’ve photographed it a number of times, in different seasons, under different lighting conditions.  There are spots of green, white, and dark grey.  Textures range from smooth to rough.  In the textures of the garden – leaves, flowers, critters, stems, branches, – it is easy to overlook the subtle beauty of a couple of branches.