Sketching Ocimum basilicum

Today I drew our Ocimum basilicum plant.  Sweet Basil is a one of my favorite herbs.  Did you know that it’s related to mint?  And while it tastes just dandy, it’s those big, puffy leaves that cause sketchers to be drawn to it.

There’s not much to say about this sketch.  I sat on our deck and drew it.  Not a big drawing (about 4″x4″) but I did switch pens.  Instead of my fine nib fountain pens, I chose an old Hero fude pen just for a change.

 

The Year Of The Plant

Since my mobility is been limited by my bad knee, it seems I’ve traded in drawing architecture for drawing plants.  I can’t say that’s a bad thing exactly but it sure is different, putting me in unfamiliar territory.

I was at another Artistes dans les parcs event, this time at the Domain Maizeret Arboretum.  Lots of trees, lots of grass, and a wonderful pond and creek, though this time of year the later is mostly hidden by tall foliage that surrounds it.

Having no imagination at all, I found it difficult to find something to draw.  But where there’s a coneflower, there’s something to draw.  Better yet, two coneflowers.  A botanical artist I am not, but I really had a good time drawing these. For some reason it was very relaxing.

It had become quite hot and I wasn’t in the mood for a complex subject.  I got the idea to try to do a very quick sketch attempt of a ‘landscape’ to see if I could manage a minimal ink, mostly color sketch.  I drew some steps and then picked up a big brush and started placing blobs of color around them.  Near the end I went back to the pen to add some structure.

Mostly I think I failed at this because all my foliage lacks texture and depth.  It was an interesting experiment, though, throwing detail to the wind and just capturing the structure of the scene.  I post it here because I’m not easily embarrassed (grin).

 

The Lonely Sentry And Cheating On An Old Friend

I was wandering around a place called Domain Maizeret, a large park not far from my house.  There is a huge building in the middle of the park where most of the activity is centered and around it is forested land with walk paths so we can go in and feed the mosquitoes.

When I saw this scene I didn’t see a garbage can.  I saw a sentry, bravely holding up its “no bicycles” sign as it protected the forest entry from marauding bicyclists.  I decided to do another paint first experiment.  Some day I’ll do one that doesn’t fail, or that fails to a lesser degree.  I don’t expect progress overnight (grin).

I had fun with this one, mostly because I just couldn’t get the sentry idea out of my head.  While I was sketching, not a single bicyclist got past the sentry.  I do hope walkers appreciate its effort.

Moleskine watercolor portrait format (5×8), DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, Wing Sung 8009

A confession and apology to Stillman & Birn

I’ve been using Stillman & Birn sketchbooks almost exclusively for about eight years.  When I started with them they didn’t have all the products they have today, but I bought a pile of Alpha-series 10×7 spiral-bound landscape books and I filled them.  As they came out with other options I tried those too, though Alpha and Beta series are my favorites.  I’ve filled a bunch of their newer softcover books as well.  When they released their 3×5 books I started using those, replacing the cheap small books I’d used for quick-sketching people.

But there was a time that I used the small Moleskine (landscape) watercolor books.  I loved their covers but always felt that the larger landscape books became unwieldy when balanced on my knee.  So I joined the throngs of people asking begging Moleskine to produce portrait versions of these sketchbooks.  In spite of repeated letter-writing campaigns, they never did and since S&B was serving my needs I didn’t much care.

But Moleskine finally answered the call, with both A5 and A4 versions in portrait format.  I didn’t buy one… at first, but eventually I started feeling guilty that I’d whined so loudly ‘back then’ and yet hadn’t bought one now that they were producing them.  And so I did buy one.

The sketch above was the first sketch in my new A5 Moleskine book.  I feel like I’m cheating on S&B by using the darn thing (grin).  S&B have been there, thick and thin, relieving me of the burden of finding the right sketchbook.

I tell myself that I haven’t stopped using S&B sketchbooks and its true.  Right now I carry two of them next to this new Moleskine.  Still I feel guilty.  I also feel bad that now I have a sketchbook to fill that has paper that’s not as good as my other sketchbooks.  Serves me right for being a cheater (grin).

Why Draw A Squash?

Why would anyone draw a single squash?  Because it was there, of course.  There need be no other reason.  And so it was as the squash sat on our kitchen island and I drew it.  This one was odd-looking in that while most Sunburst squashes are round, but flattened, this one was almost as high as it was round.

If I were Charlie O’Shields (Mr. Doodlewash) I’d have a charming story to tell you about how Philippe prepares squash or how his mother forced him to eat it when he was young.  I’m not nearly as talented.  I buy squash, I cook squash, I eat squash and now I can say I’ve sketched squash.  Anyway, I had fun sketching it.

 

Sketching With Roger Van den Hende

You probably don’t know who Roger Van den Hende was but that’s ok, neither do I.  What I know is that he was rich and left a lot of money for the purposes of establishing a botanical garden in Quebec City.  It’s one of my favorite places to sketch, particularly since my bad knee has limited my ability to wander the city.

So, when Denise scheduled an event there for the Artistes dans les parcs I headed there to sketch.  This was actually a couple weeks ago and I forgot to write about it.  We had a good day but it wasn’t without some challenges.

The day started great.  Predictions were for hot and sunny so shade was at a premium.  Finding the combination of shady spot and something to sketch was challenging.  I had fun trying to follow the  growth pattern of this vine.

The ‘hot’ that was predicted came to pass and so water and rest was in order so I took a break, drank a lot of water, and then started wandering around looking for more shade to sit in.  Finding shade with something in my view became particularly hard as we were nearing mid-day but eventually I found a lily I could draw while sitting in the cast shadow from a small building.

I decided to try to sketch it “paint first”, always a mistake for me but I’m determined to learn this approach regardless of the frustration level (grin).  I began with a light wash in a lily shape and then I started adding some shadow tone… just as the clouds rolled in, killing all shadows on my flower.  If only I had better visual memory.  I persevered, sort of, doing my best to make up a shadow pattern.

At that point I had to wait for the paper to dry so I decided that I would take a break and make a trip to the restroom, which was a short hike through the garden.  I left all my stuff laying on the ground in front of my lily and headed off.  When I came out of the bathroom it was raining… on my sketchbook… only a one minute run from where I was, only I couldn’t run.  So I hobbled with a pained look on my face.

By the time I got back, my paper was now VERY wet and there was little I could do besides pack everything up, take a photo of the flower, and head for home.  I tried to salvage the sketch at home and this was the best I could manage.   DeAtramentis Document ink and Stillman &Birn Alpha paper hold up pretty well to a rain storm.

DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6)

 

Sketching More Stuffed Animal Nostalgia

I’m still having fun conjouring happy memories as I sketch my way through Jodie’s stuffed animal collection.  This time I was reminded of a time before Jodie was born.

If one could bottle, for sale, the energy of mothers preparing the nest for a baby we could stop burning fossil fuels.  But once the room was set up, Chantal was just getting started.  She began making clothes and stuffed animals.  Here’s one of them, a cat.  The ‘real’ one has a very complex pattern of flowers all over it but I didn’t have the patience to draw that.  I wanted to finish the sketch in my lifetime.

Flowers On The Deck

We were enjoying cheeses, a baguette and some wine while sitting on our deck last week.  It was a delightful evening, one of the evenings that we dream about during our long winters.

Eventually I got the urge to draw some of the many flowers we have all over the place, courtesy of Chantal’s green thumb.  I only had a small sketchbook with me and was too lazy to go get something larger so I just started drawing little flower drawings. Here’s a couple of them.

Plains Of Abraham Reservoir

Quebec City has several artificial underground reservoirs and one of is under a part of the Plains of Abraham, a huge park that overlooks the St. Lawrence River.  Originally owned by a farmer named Abraham, it’s now officially called Battlefield Park because of the famous 1759 battle when the British defeated the French.  Everyone who lives here still calls it the Plains of Abraham and the other name is relegated to the tourist brochures.  Recently the entire reservoir was uncovered to replace the top surface.  This is a sketch of that area of the park.

The building holds the support equipment for the reservoir and each of those little strips of foliage hides an air vent.  The grass is beginning to grow back but it’s still pretty sparse and a bright yellow green.  I thought it made an interesting scene.  Besides, I could sit in the shade as I drew.

Stillman & BIrn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document brn/blk, Daniel Smith watercolors

Please Use An Accessible Email Address To Ask Questions

Sigh… this is a post in response to frustration – my frustration.  Somewhat regularly I receive emails from people who follow my blog.  They’re asking questions and, I suspect, they’d like a response.

The problem is that some use work emails or otherwise protected server addresses such that when I try to answer the email bounces back at me.  I could just delete it and move on but I’m always concerned with their interpretation of not receiving a response.

The latest case came from someone named Alison, who was asking several questions.  I wrote a long response and sent it.  It bounced.  I tried several more times with no success.  Alison, if you’re reading this, I tried.  Sorry but your email server won’t accept email from me.

The Used To Be Zoo Part Two

I almost titled this blog post “Oops… I forgot.”  When I wrote my last post I got pulled away from the writing for a while.  When I returned I read the last paragraph and it seemed like an ending so I did a quick copy edit and posted it.

Later I realized that the ending was really just a stopping point and that I’d forgotten to add a second sketch I’d done at the old zoo park that day.

So, as I was saying in my last post, we were having fun at the park and I decided to do a sketch of the bridge that carries foot traffic over the small river running through the park.

This required that I get down to the river level which put me in shade, among a bunch of foliage and near water.  What could go wrong?  Mosquitoes, mosquitoes, and more mosquitoes.  What made them worse was that I was drawing.  I’m oblivious to my surroundings when I’m sketching, even the swarm of mosquitoes that were biting me.

I didn’t notice until the next day when my arms and legs started itching like crazy (shorts and t-shirt day).  I’m sure the sketch suffers from blood loss effects but here it is.  I didn’t really finish the paint stage but I hope you like it anyway; the mosquitos sure liked me.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document brn/blk