This bush is a bright spot in the garden with clouds of red berries floating over twisted bare branches. The sun was out yesterday and today but it’s a little too cold both days to stand outside sketching for long. I could go back this afternoon if it warms up a little, or I could try to fake it at home with a larger piece of paper since I have this much visual information. Yesterday this bush had me confused with trying to see how the branches overlap and how they continue across the paper. I had my small sketchbook and couldn’t draw small enough to have room on the paper for the red berries, since they are hanging away from the main stems.
Today might be my last chance to sketch outside for a few days because winter precipitation is coming our way. I’d go to the arboretum and work on my painting of the Chinese Paperbush, except last winter when it was in the 35* F. range, like today, the glass on my pallet cracked in the cold. So, my two choices for today are either bundle up and take my charcoal to the botanical garden like yesterday, or stay in and sketch a model horse.
Funny thing about a woman that goes out alone to sketch, am I in danger or am I the danger? As an old white girl, I’m not usually looked at as a suspect, but security is watching me.
Fort Monroe. It looks safe to me. Every time I’m there I see so many security cars go past me. It might be the same car again and again, I don’t know because I don’t pay it any mind. I’m just standing out there trying to sketch. Or I’m sitting in my car taking a break. Yesterday the security car pulled in behind my car and sat there for a few minutes. I thought he was running my plates. Then he left. Did he look me up? Did he find me on google? A couple times I saw a cop stop on the other side of the street and take a photo. I ignored him. I don’t know if he took my picture or not.
I chalk it up to people not seeing an artist sketch in public alone, so they don’t know what to think. Yesterday a guy (civilian) drove into the same empty parking lot I was parked in close to the battery and got out of his car. He asked me if it was ok to park there and I said,” I guess so.” He told me he wanted to take pictures and he walked over to the battery. I got in my car and took a little break.
A few times in my years of sketching in plein air alone, I thought perps were checking me out. I didn’t get robbed. Sometimes these characters talk to me but I’m not afraid of bad guys, so I’ll talk. Once I thought a perp was planning on robbing me but changed his mind when I saw him and didn’t act afraid. Then he saw I’m left handed. A lot of criminals are superstitious. Maybe my being left handed saved me that time, but I don’t like to push my luck and I didn’t go back to that spot in Richmond overlooking the James.
I wish one of those security guards at Fort Monroe would talk to me so I could better assess the situation. Should I finish this sketch? I kind of wanted to try to paint the battery. I wonder if they think I’ll try to go into the battery, which is off limits. I’m not interested in going in there. It looks spooky, but I’m not superstitious.
It might take some time for me to become a fixture there like I do at other places I hang around drawing. Maybe in the whole 400 year history of the fort no one has ever just hung around drawing. but a lot of people take photos. why don’t I just take a photo like everyone else? Taking a photo won’t help me improve my drawing skill like trying to draw the battery freehand will.
I can draw outside if it’s 40*F, like today, but the wind coming off the water stopped me from getting out of my car. It’s too blustery.
I went back to Fort Monroe to work on my sketch of the Battery De Russy and then changed my mind and drew these trees while sitting in my car. The battery is so long, I was planning to extend my sketch from before onto another paper and continue drawing the architecture. It would have been awkward to hold my sketchbook in the wind. Forget about standing up my easel. The wind would blow my drawing board away.
These trees were on my list of things I want to sketch there, so I got into drawing them today. The battery will take a long time. I’ll get back to it another day.
I kind of like these trees. Think I’ll prime a canvas for it. This could be a painting I can do at home on rainy days.
I found another great place to draw or paint close to home. It’s Fort Monroe. They have 400 years worth of history and some spooky places to explore. I wonder if the paranormal investigating team has been there yet. I only found it a few weeks ago.
This is about 1/3 of the battery. I want to do the rest and connect my sketches so I can do a panorama later. They have 3 batteries all different from each other but all spooky. They also have a great old oak tree over 400 years old. I need to draw that while it’s still alive, but it looks mostly dead now.
Fort Monroe was decommissioned in 2011 and made into a national park. It’s free and has plenty of parking. You can go around the outside of the fort / castle, or go around on the inside of the stone walls. You can even walk all the way around on the turrets. It has a mote and a lighthouse. And they have a great free museum, the Casemate Museum, if you like history.
This is a photo of the De Russy battery on the side facing the water.
This spot is good because I can get off the road without stepping in the tall grass which is home to ticks chiggers and snakes. They have benches and overlooks where you can be safe out of the grass. The marsh is on both sides of the road for miles and it’s beautiful all the way, especially with the Fall colors. This is the best time of year to see it but they close the road for 6 months so the humans don’t scare the migrating birds.
I’m getting better at riding my bike on the gravel road. I can avoid the bumpy parts. But I’m trying to think of a way to take paint in there on my bike so I can do it in color next year. I might fill up a book with charcoal sketches before I decide what to paint. I could take my plein air gear and paint at the Back Bay visitor center when the roads are closed because it’s real pretty right there at the parking lot too.
You have two ways to get into False Cape from Virginia Beach. First, is the road through Back Bay which is closing Nov.1, then there’s the beach. You can get there by boat, but a 3 mile walk on sand then the 3 mile walk back out would be too much beach walking for me to enjoy. Plus, the cape is around 10 miles long, so I’ll never get to the end of it on foot. I’ll go back down the East Dike Rd. on my bike in the spring. Then the West Dike Rd. will be open too. I’ve only lived at the beach for one year, so I haven’t finished scouting the whole area. There might be roads I can find leading in from North Carolina. It’s not very far.
And this isn’t the only beautiful marsh here. I’ll ride my bike down the Cape Charles trail as long as the weather stays mild. First Landing State Park with the Cape Charles trail is closer to home than Back Bay and False Cape, and open all year. There’s a pretty marsh at the end of that trail at 84th St. It goes on for a mile or so. I’ll never get tired of looking at the wetlands.
Twice when I was riding my bike down the east dike road, a flock of small birds with light colored bellies, maybe finches, I don’t know for sure, was flying back and forth over the road and marsh back and forth swooping and dipping or kind of zipping all around me. It was CRAZY! Almost like the Birds movie! I couldn’t see whatever bugs they were after, if they were going for bugs.
I think the road closes in Nov. so I want to go back this week.
This is my second try on a larger piece of sanded pastel paper. I think it looks better than the first one which I tried to draw on a smaller sketchbook. This time I took my easel and drawing board with the large paper instead of holding a sketchbook in my hand like I did on the first try. It’s easier for me to work larger. Compare this sketch to my previous post and tell me if he looks better this time. I’m not sure if the proportions are exactly right, but not too far off.
I thought the sculpture was by David Turner but it was done by his dad, William. I can’t tell their work apart. They both make the most beautiful wildlife sculptures out there.
It’s great to draw the Turner guys’ sculptures. I think I see some kind of attitude in my bird’s face, but that could be my imagination because I was only trying to copy the bronze, not put my own personality into the drawing. With all that beauty out there for me to copy it takes the pressure off an artist to be “original” all the time. And copying some other artist’s masterpieces is improving my drawing skill slowly but surely.
Even if an artist tries to copy as closely as possible, they still put information about themselves into the drawing. I can’t avoid it. The savvy art viewer will see it. Know what I mean?
Can you see those two pelicans flying away? I had my Bob Ross moment there, drawing those happy little birds.
I think that guy knew I was sketching him. He kept turning in my direction. I was almost finished with my sketch and he left. Then some foreigners came out with a giant arch shaped kite. The guy had a harness strapped on his body holding the kite strings. It looked like the girl was doing most of the work trying to lift the kite up to catch the wind then going after it every time it came down. He was yelling instructions at her in Russian or something.
The kite was coming down a little too close for comfort to me so I packed up and left. That happens sometimes when you go out sketching in plein air, you gotta move for some reason.
I drove to PA because they had the cone for the hurricane hitting Virginia Beach. They told people in sections A to evacuate. I live in section C but I decided to leave to avoid power outages and so I wouldn’t have to worry about my car getting flooded. As soon as I got to PA I heard the hurricane was going to hit farther South than previously thought, so I came back to the beach and the lights are still on. It’s windy but not scary here. It looks like we got lucky this time. And I enjoyed the drive to PA and back. The scenery is beautiful and traffic was light and fast.
The place I love most in my home county, (Lancaster) is Middle Creek so I went up there and got this sketch. After I got my sketch and was ready to drive out I saw a huge pheasant in the tall grass by the side of the road. He was just poking around in there and didn’t fly off when I drove past him. I saw him close up. He was a beauty with big red spots around his eyes.
Middle Creek is great for seeing wildlife. In the Spring you can see 100,000 snow geese if you go at the right time and get through a traffic jam on that little country road.
Can you see the little mountain foothill in my sketch is hidden by fog?
I’m anxiously awaiting fall because I bet this little tree gets bright red. It’s my new favorite tree at Norfolk Botanical and I want to do a big painting of it this fall. My sketch book is too small. The tree is much wider and I can’t draw small enough to fit it on this paper.
I’ll go back with a full sized piece of pastel paper and my easel and try to draw it the size I want for my painting. Even though I’ll have to wait a couple months for the colors, I can start planning the painting and do a practice pastel. The tree is pretty and graceful all year round.
I was standing on the shady side so most of the leaves are in shadow, but you can see bright leaves on the other side of the tree showing through. That’s why the branches look so dark, because they’re shaded. When I paint it I’ll check the light at different times of day and decide what time it looks best. The path is small. If I take my easel and drawing board I can get it out of the way if a lot of visitors walk through easier than I’d be able to move my little oil painting set up. Maybe I can do my pastel in plein air and later mix my paint colors there too, but I’ll paint it at home so I can use a large canvas and tape my paintbrushes to a yard stick again. That made me feel as if I can paint loose like an Impressionist.