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.

Miner’s Lettuce

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!

In the Garden: Hummingbird Sage

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.

Sketch of a Rose

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!

 

Midwest Farmhouse in Early Spring

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.

Orange Slices

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!

Temple Sunrise

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.

This Morning’s Disaster

This morning I set out to do a couple of things.  First was to do another ink / pen drawing.  I used the same sketchbook as I did yesterday, one with lightweight paper that worked very well yesterday.  Second, the attempt to stretch myself a bit and do a beach scene.  I find waves incredibly difficult.

The sketch itself was okay – nothing particularly challenging in and of itself.  I rather liked the composition.  However, if you look at the sketch above, do you see those little greyish streaks in the lower left and center?  That should have clued me in then and there – the paper is very thin.  Water?  What was I thinking of?

And here we are, with washes applied with a lot of water.  Even though you cannot see it, the paper became mottled in appearance, buckled and crumpled.  Ugh!  But, what the hell, I may as well try something.  And thus, I picked up my box of Caran D’Arche’s Neocolor II crayons, and carried on . . .

Having never really used the Neocolor crayons before, I will say I liked them.  I scribbled in colors which I thought might work, and then laid other colors on top of them to blend before using water.  And then with a waterbrush – not a laden brush – I smoothed and shaded.

I am not pleased with this picture at all, but I still learned something about a medium I haven’t really explored – the watercolor crayons. On a heavier paper designed to take water, there is a lot of potential here.  I love coloring, so I can see myself moving into this area, perhaps more so than with watercolor pencils, which seem more delicate to me in their color rendering, but perhaps that is wrong as I have limited experience with them as well.

Oh, well.  The picture was a disaster, but the potential far outweighs it.

 

Daffodils

Today was just too nice of a day to stay home, so I headed out to the local botanical garden, cameras in hand, pen, and paper.  Bulbs are up and beginning to blossom; the ones in the shade are getting there – more for later visits!  Birds, butterflies, bees, cool breezes.

Since I have been playing around with the exercises in Alphonso Dunn’s fine book today, I decided to continue the adventure and draw some daffodils with pen and ink, but follow through using watercolor pencil.

I laid down the major lines in pencil, and followed through with a fine pointed Namiki pen with waterproof ink.

Next, direct application of Faber-Castell’s Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils.

And finally, using a water brush, I wet the colors, taking time to use a light touch.  A few lines of extra ink, and it was done.  Below is a gallery if you wish to cruise through the sequence from pen, pencil, and water.

Lines

Every now and then an outstanding artist and instructor shows up on the scene.  When they write books that are accessible and practical, it’s even better.  Alphonso Dunn is one such person!  He has a personal website, a YouTube channel full of information and wonderful tutorials, and two fantastic books.

The workbook was published after the simple guide, but is used in tandem with the exercises found in the workbook.  Besides using the two together, head over to YouTube for a really great set of instructions.

Today, rather than paint, I finally sat down and did some exercises from Dunn’s books.  The exercises were on lines – direction, shape, shift.  It takes a bit of patience and time to understand what may be going on.  I had to think about how I had my pad of paper, how far up or down my fingers were on the pen, whether to use my fingers, my wrist, or more of an arm movement.  In many ways, doing these exercises made me think of learning printing and cursive back when I was a sweet young thing.  Lines, repetition, thinking about how to do things, and doing them over and over.

Skill is bought with repetition – but repetition of itself is rather dull.  Rewards sure help!  Thus, a few drawings – one of a hat from Dunn’s book, and one of a Christmas cactus on my patio.  In each, I used straight lines, or slightly curved ones.  I thought about light and dark, repetition and straight or curved lines, or placing more lines over ones already laid down.  

To aid with the line studies, I ruled pencil lines onto my sketch paper.  It helped.  Sometimes I also drew vertical lines, or extra horizontal lines, either in pencil or pen.

Nothing like a pen in hand to make me happy!  Altogether a pleasant way to while away an afternoon.  I shall continue!