Life In The COVID Lane

I’ve got to say that COVID isolation is both positive and negative for me.  It’s great that both my wife and daughter are home all the time, a real bonus for a retired old guy like myself.  It also gives me some time to get a bunch of house repairs done, a long list of which has accumulated during my two years of bad health.  And COVID isolation my wife time to rebuild and work in her garden which was neglected as she ferried me to doctors for those two years.

In spite of my telling her that it’s “not my hobby,” I’ve been spending more time with garden tools than with my fountain pens.  So I apologize for the lack of blog posts, but all this stuff is just how we’re coping with the stress of life in 2020.  COVID isolation has disrupted my “daily sketch” regime in a major way.  Oops.

Here’s a sketch of our garden staging area.  By that I mean that we went to a garden center, filled our vehicle with a jungle of plants and many of them are shoved into this area as they wait for garden beds to be created for them.  I drew this the day we finished a couple raised bed vegetable gardens and moved a whole bunch of plants from this area to their new home.  Hope you like it.

It Was A Perfect Day

Weather for many of us is weird this year, but I suspect we need to get used to weird.  We’re in the middle of another heat wave, with records set in Montreal and everyone crying that their beaches are not open due to COVID.

Have you ever thought of how different a plein air artist views weather from the rest of the world?  I have a love/hate relationship with sun.  Love it for shadows.  Hate it for how it blinds me when it reflects off my sketchbook.  Gardeners, on the other hand, want every photon our stingy sun will give us.

Generally rain limits my sketching opportunities and right now we aren’t getting any (should be thunderstorm time), but farmers are in dire straits for the same reason that I’m happy.

Wind…yuck from my point of view, though a slight breeze on a hot day is welcome.  I doubt the the windsurfers being dragged across the Ste Lawrence River by brightly colored kites see it that way.

We’ve been a couple degrees luckier than Montreal and while it’s blistering hot today, we had an absolutely perfect day a couple days ago.  Jodie and I headed to the small park that’s just south of our house, her with a book and me with sketching gear.  It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve sat on my stool and let the world drift away for an hour or so.  From a nice, shady spot, I sketched this old brick residence.  I think the building complex may be part of the church that is behind it but I’m not sure.  What I do know is that I had a perfect day.  We even made milk shakes in the afternoon.

Fabriano Artistico (7×8), DeAtramentis Document Black, Platinum Plaisir

Plants, Plants, Plants

I sometimes enjoy trying to draw a plant by carefully drawing each leaf while capturing the relationships between them.  It’s a real challenge in relationships and proportions but it’s good training for my visual cortex.  This was my attempt to do just that with a basil plant.

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document Black, Wing Sung 3008

Shari Blaukopf Teaches Light, Color & Shadow

Shari Blaukopf is known to many as an excellent plein air sketcher/painter.  She’s started to produce some really good watercolor course.  This is one of the reasons why I haven’t had many sketches to post; I’m taking one of them right now.

I don’t know who is doing the videography for these courses but I’ve not seen any better.  When Shari mixes paint on the palette, you see every swirl of the brush.  You see her apply every stroke to paper.  And you hear her explain every action she takes and why she’s taking it.  Anyone who has watched online videos knows that this is not typical.

What excites me about this workshop is that instead of selecting one or two large scenes to demonstrate how to inject light into your watercolors, she chose five small vignettes and one larger scene.  The vignettes are simple enough to sketch that you can do a bunch of them, trying over and over again what Shari is teaching.  I need over and over.  I have a bunch of copies laying around my studio, none of them are as good as what Shari presents.  This would be disappointing if not for the fact that edges with paint is a new thing for me.  I’m a pen and ink kind of guy (grin).  But I’ll get it… some day.

I have a dilemma, however.  I wanted to talk about Shari’s workshop but I don’t like to post any work done in workshops for a variety of reasons.  The most important one is that I don’t want to do any of the exercises with the idea that I’m creating something to display.  Also, I don’t like posting anything where someone else has shown me the path.  It just doesn’t seem fair.  I’m going to make a single exception here, however.  This is, I think, my second attempt at the third exercise of the workshop.  It’s very much over-worked because I can’t draw a straight edge with a paintbrush so I’m always “fixing” things.

Mixed Media And Shari’s Wheelbarrow

Recently I decided to work in a different medium, in fact a couple of them.  Now that my arthritis is kinda-sorta under control we’re doing more gardening this year and it was time for me to restore and old, rusty wheelbarrow we have.  It got sidelined with a broken wheel and it was left outside our cave.

Here’s the result.  I painted with most of it with Rustoleum, but used Minwax oil-stain on the wooden parts.  Once I fashioned a new axle it was smooth sailing.  Much easier than watercolor.

Most urban sketchers know Shari Blaukopf, or at least her art and most of those people know about her wheelbarrow sketches.  Most of us really enjoy them and I was quite disappointed when she announced that her wheelbarrow had broken.  Funny how you can get attached to things you’ve never seen in person.

Anyways, now that I have a wheelbarrow it seemed only proper for me to lean it against a tree, Shari style, and draw it.  It was fun to sit in the back yard with a pen in my hand.   It’s blistering hot here right now but the breeze kept it tolerable as I drew.  Urban.. + Sketch…, yep, this is a real live urban sketch (grin).

Stillman & Birn Beta (8×10), DeAtramentis Document Black, Wing Sung 3009