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.
Today, an ink study of orange slices on a bit of peel.
I am / was trying to do a bit of watercolor painting every day, but I find that such commitments, while good, can be stifling. Drawing is integral to painting, and it is a pleasure to do in and of itself.
I’ve been working on the exercises in Alphonso Dunn’s Book Pen & Ink Drawing Workbook, so an ink drawing after exercises seems like a good thing to do! I know I certainly enjoy drawing after the practice. It’s also relaxing and, I find, a good way to loosen up for a painting session.
In addition to using Dunn’s book, I am also working through Tom Hoffmann’s Watercolor Painting: A Comprehensive Approach to Mastering the Medium. Right now I am working on simplifying forms and determining the 5 shades of grey – the lights and the darks – in pictures. I am not very good at that, so combining his exercises along with ink drawing, I think it may sink in. Then, let’s see if it can be applied to paint.
Thus, a dose of vitamin C for painting health!
This is a rather eclectic picture as far as technique. Pencil drawing, ink, watercolor, more ink, more water, and so on. Paper is Arches cold press 140#, 9×12 inches. I thought I would use a better quality paper this morning because I knew I would be using a lot of water. It paid off. A picture of a Japanese temple was the inspiration for this mish-mash, as well as the fact I felt like drawing more than anything else.