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

 

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?

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.