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.
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.
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.
Yesterday I went out for a bit of a hike, through one of my favorite trails, the Chumash Trail. Last year we had massive fires, and what I saw was the remnants of that fire. Burnt mountainsides, devoid of brush and the usual cover (like poison oak!). Bare and burnt oak trees, rocks. So many things were revealed by the fire as plants were burnt away.
Sounds pretty awful, doesn’t it? Here in California, much of our landscape and plants are fire-dependent, meaning that fire is a normal part of the season. With the drought and firefighting measures – like not letting entire neighborhoods burn down – brush becomes overgrown. With a drought, you have kindling.
Now, with everything burnt away, new growth is beginning to emerge. Flowers, weeds, leaves on the oak trees. I was able to hike into an area that I normally avoid – too much poison oak and a lot of rattle snakes. It is along a creek into a narrowing canyon. And, sitting on a rock, listening to birds and the sound of water, I looked around. That is when I found the first-ever Miner’s Lettuce I have seen in this area. I took a picture, and this is what I painted.
A perfect spring morning!
Hummingbird sage – salvia spathacea – is a member of the salvia famnily, and is found throughout the woodland environment of California. It’s smallish – about a foot tall – and has dark green leaves and the most complex little flowers with the strangest shapes. Spring is always around the corner when they appear, In a drought-ridden environment, such as ours, salvia plants add a lot to your garden. This particular sage may or may not appeal to the gardener on a practical level – propagation is not only by seeds, but underground rhizomes, which could become a bit overwhelming.
Yesterday was another run-around-and-get-things-done day. Whew! Taxes, appointments, scheduling, ya-da-ya-da. It’s boring stuff, believe me.
Anyway, today was drawing day. Eating lunch between all the craziness, I clicked on Alphonso Dunn (my hero!) on YouTube, and his tutorial of a rose popped up. Very simple way to look at a rather complicated subject. Essentially, a rose is a cylinder with layers peeling back. Voila, there it is.
I did use a pencil to create the shape, and erased it multiple times. If you enlarge the picture, you will see the paper is pretty dirty after 3 and 4 erasures. However, the paper held up (Bee), the ink went down (Micron 0.3), and so did the paint. I’ve never really done a rose well before, so Dunn’s tutorial has, yet again, explained things I never thought about. Go watch him!
I haven’t had time to do any artwork for the past four or five days, and I can feel it. Colors, ink, brushes all feel like aliens. To counter this, I watched a Peter Sheeler video – his pen work is phenomenal – delicate, spare, assured. The same may be said with his usage of color. With this in mind, I went ahead and did this. The inking is okay; I didn’t do any drawing in pencil, but went straight ahead with a Micron pen. From there, I applied color and tried to keep it simple, but my usual messy style took over.