Old Pine at Whalers’ Cove

Every now and again a place calls you, and you know that your life is changed by what you have seen and heard and smelled – a total sensory experience that nothing will ever equal.  Returning to it may destroy the memory or add to it.  Here, I think returning to the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve will only add to the experience.

We headed out to have a short 3-night vacation up in Monterey, California.  We visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium, probably for our 4th time, as well as Point Lobos for the very first time.  It is unparalleled.  Tall pines, rugged coast, water, rocks and cliffs, pines and cypress, and history all combine to create a world into which it would be so easy to stay immersed in, never to return.  The area of Monterey is stunning, with many beautiful and historical areas to be explored, such as Carmel, the city of Monterey itself, Pacific Grove.  An abundance of parks and preserves are available to all.

I brought my art supplies with me, but couldn’t sit still.  I had to keep exploring, along trails with rocks and roots and staircases, and easy paths lined with views of trees and meadows and plants not found in my neck of SoCal.  In particular, the pines and cypress caught my attention, but so did the rocks and water and cliffs.  I expect there will be a lot to draw from as I took a lot of pictures, most taken with care to composition and color.

Here is an old pine tree standing against the sky.  It’s dying as it’s old, wooden branches attest, and yet it still bears needles and reaches to the sky.  I fall in love with trees such as this – if they could just tell their tales!  I used my home made iron gall ink with a very fine pen nib on Bee watercolor paper.

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!

WWM #30: Wild Things

Today, when I was trying to figure out Wild Things for #WorldWatercolorMonth2019, I was really in a sourpuss mood.  I had to cancel a photo shoot with a friend and was not happy about it.  When you are tired and don’t feel well . . . you are absolutely crabby!  Hermity.  Crabby.  Hermit crab.  (How is that for subtle?)

I didn’t feel patient, and I didn’t feel capable of anything with a bit of subtlety.  I needed containment.  I wanted my shell.  I wanted limits and boundaries.  I wanted to feel safe.  Lines are perfect for that!  And as I have not done a line-and-wash watercolor for a month now, today I indulged.

And lets face it – hermit crabs are downright cute and fun with all their different colors and shells and homes.  Seeing them always makes me laugh – don’t know why, but they are such a delight.  And, as a result of this drawing, I, too, am in a much nicer mood!

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

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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.