Is This Thing On?

I’m hoping this blog is finally working again.  I think my blog got COVID or something because several things broke all at once.  People could access what was there (I think), but I couldn’t post.  I think I’ve gotten things straightened out.

Our “spring” took about two days and we went from frost warnings and wearing coats to a heat wave.  We’re now wearing shorts and sweating a lot.  Go figure.  We’ve been doing work outside, trying to fix things that broke during winter, and encouraging trees and other plants to produce some leaves.  It’s sort of weird to be hitting the mid-80s and not have the trees in full leaf yet.

Mostly, though, this is a test of my blog with fingers crossed that it’s working again.  I’ll post a few pages from my “try this” sketchbook just to give you something to look at.  Hope you can see it (grin)

Living With Adjusted Family Sizes Because Of COVID

For many one result of COVID isolation has been housing reorganization and behavioral adjustment.  Some households have seniors who have been moved home by the kids while others have adjusted their family situation by having kids move home with us seniors.  Pro and con, adjustment is the best descriptor of what we all must do in such situations.

When the virus hit Quebec and we shut down our activities, the first thing we did was a rapid drive to Montreal to pick up of our daughter. Given that Montreal is the hot spot in Canada for COVID right now, we’re feeling pretty smug about our decision.

The result has been a social adjustment to having a 22-year old living with us.  Truthfully, it’s mostly positive but it means spending more time talking, cooking, baking, and generally doing family stuff… and fewer alone activities like art.

My daughter wasn’t the only thing we brought back from Montreal though.  We crammed the car full of her plants and together with our plants they turned our house into a jungle.  Every flat surface is covered with plants and we rarely eat dinner at our dining table because it’s just too darn much trouble moving all the plants (grin).

I see this as a good thing because I have new sketching subjects.  One of her plants was a sad little Fiddle Leaf Fig.  It only had two leaves, hanging onto a single short stem.  But, we’ve been in isolation now for nearly forever and so it’s grown.  It now has four leaves and a fifth is beginning to sprout.  I decided I should draw it.  I probably did it too quickly but heck, it only has four leaves.  Here she is, in all her youthful glory.

Aside from isolation, how has your family life changed?  We don’t talk about that enough.  Has it affected your art in any way?

Doodling My Way Through Isolation

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been doing a lot of doodling, trying ideas and approaches.  I’ve also mentioned that most of these “great works” have found their way to the garbage can, mostly because I’ve been grabbing any old piece of paper on which to doodle.

In explaining my process I started to feel silly about it.  Why not centralize the paper choosing, setting up a sketchbook for that purpose.  I did just that.  I have a SM-LT “watercolor #authenticbook” which is a very nice, softcover sketchbook with a dozen sheets of 10×7 paper.  I like it a lot and I’d like to get another one if I ever get to go back to Montreal where I got this one.

All that is to say here are some doodles from the past 3-4 days.

I’m still doing my daily walk sketches but it’s still not warm enough here for extended drawing sessions.  Weather says it “feels like” 1C right now and I believe it.  I did notice that the trees are showing bud break, though, so maybe they know something the weatherman doesn’t.  Hope so.

A Dog’s Life In A COVID world

I had an interesting conversation the other day.  I sat down with my brother’s dog to paint him and he opened up to me about how a dog’s life has been during the COVID pandemic.  Here’s what he had to day.

“Humans are right when they talk about a “dog’s life.”  It is pretty good.  Most of the time my brother and his wife keep my house clean and maintained so I don’t have to worry about that.  They drive my car when I need to get stuff at that store and they pay for everything.  They feed me often and are always giving me the treats I demand.  Yep, a dog’s life is normally pretty good.

With all this social distancing stuff, however, it’s different.  They spend more time watching the news, time they’d normally spend with me.  And when they take me for a walk they avoid other humans and never stand around talking to them.  So, I never get to rub noses with dogs kept by other humans.  I don’t get to meet up with my friends and I never get to run around off my leash anymore.  I’m more isolated than humans because at least they have that thing they call the internet where they sit and talk to computer screens, laugh while watching videos, and stuff like that.  I just lay on the floor hoping for a better tomorrow.”

His name is Opie and when he was done talking, I had a new appreciation for what dogs are going through right now.   We need to show them more empathy, maybe showing them a dog video or three.

I painted Opie in gouache, a medium I’m trying to learn.  The notion of “painting” anything is new to me.  Opie liked the result and said I made him look regal.  I call the painting “A dog’s life.”

Winsor & Newton gouache

 

Urban Sketching In Isolation

Many of us have lamented that our urban sketching lifestyles have been disrupted by COVID-19.  We sit in houses thinking of better days when we sat in public places drawing the scenes before us.  And some of us have reported our “solutions” to this.  Tina Koyama talks about standing in a street circle and drawing what’s around her.  I’ve mentioned my 2-min sketches while on walks. Others have succumbed to looking out their windows for subjects.

I may have found a way to up my game as an isolated urban sketcher.  Maybe you’ll think I’m not urban sketching at all, but it feels like urban sketching to me.  Here’s what I did.

1) I went for my daily walk and found a scene worthy of sketching (are there any that aren’t)?
2) I stood, leaning against a tree, while I studied the scene, thinking about drawing it.  I noted the relative locations of all the major objects and ‘saw’ the major angles and proportions that related the objects to one another.  I thought about what I’d eliminate from the scene, where the center of focus would be.  I even mentally traced around one of the cars and some of the major tree branches just to etch them into my mind a bit.  I probably spent 5-min doing this, just as though I was actually going to sketch the scene.
3) Then I took a couple photos and rushed home.
4) I cropped a photo to reflect what I’d been thinking while on the street and drew some organizational lines and blobs to organize the paper and then started sketching from my laptop screen.  This is what it looked like when I finished the ink.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document Black ink, gouache

5) I’m still experimenting with gouache and still stumbling over myself with it.  Nevertheless, I decided to use gouache on this sketch and had some fun trying to move back and forth between transparent and opaque approaches.  Very confusing but lots of promise.  I got James Gurney’s new course yesterday and, shazaam, that’s exactly what he starts the course talking about.  Can’t wait to try some of the things he talks about.

BUT, excepting that I was sitting at a table rather than on my stool, it felt like urban sketching because of the immediate translation of a scene I’d just looked at and the one I was putting on paper.

I won’t split hairs whether this is “real” urban sketching or not as I don’t much care.  But if I can repeat this process during my isolation, I’m going to be a happy camper.  The only thing I miss is meeting up with friends after the sketching session.  I have to settle with bugging my wife and daughter with “Hey, look at this.”  Give it a try.  You just might like it.