Finally! I have a sketch I’d like to work into a painting from Back Bay. I’ll take my watercolor pencils and give them a try. I have very little experience with watercolors but they’re less bulky to take to a popular overlook than my oil paint supplies.
I want to explore and sketch more places there. This could take some time. Years.
The water isn’t finished in this sketch. Before I left home that day I checked the weather report and it said the wind was coming from the southwest but it would change to the northeast. When I got there the bay had nice ripple waves. First I started planning where the water would show and where the reeds would be, and the horizon. It seemed like that went fast, but when I looked at the water again it was CALM! The water looked like glass. I hate when it’s calm so I quit working on the sketch.
The weather is very important to your Plein air artist. It’s funny how fast it changes around here too. Good thing I can go back any time.
A couple days ago when it stopped raining I went down to Back Bay just to check it out and as soon as I started walking it rained again. I got soaked. I said I’d go back when it stopped raining. Then yesterday it was sunny and warm and dry but the wind was whipping. I took a bike ride anyway. I did good with the wind and even on a gravel road but the wind definitely made it more difficult. There were gusts that made me walk it a few times. And riding into the wind coming back made me too tired to sketch the beauty by the road.
I’d like to do a painting of the dark water with the almost white sedge. I stopped a few times to look at it and found a some places I could sketch on less windy days.
The water is almost black. It’s the mud on the bottom. I thought to myself, mud is beautiful. I could see layers of violet, brown red and blue to make it. Then with the contrast of the delicate grass growing in the mud and shining so brightly in the sun, it’s bleak and beautiful. Then in the background you might see trees far away or more water.
When I got back to the parking lot I sat in the car to sketch this view over the bay. Darn it, I got a little too much sun. I’ll have to stay in today which is disappointing because I want to practice drawing and painting water.
These flowers are huge. I’m sketching them life size on 9 x 12″ paper and they’re running off the edges. When I do a painting of this next year I’ll have to paint them smaller but drawing large is easier than painting small. These are for practice.
Vine charcoal doesn’t work well on this dark paper so I have to skip that step and block in the general shapes with pastel and chalk. The more flowers I draw the easier it’s getting but these sketches still took around two hours each. For my painting I need about three times the number of magnolia studies I have. Then I can eliminate the ones I don’t like. The tree has some buds so I might be able to get a couple more sketches in before they all turn brown and fall off. I’ll have to go back next year and do more.
Spring has sprung around here.
Last time I saw this tree all the flowers turned yellow overnight. It still had a lot of buds. Now all the second buds are open and it looks like the cold didn’t damage them. The tree is more beautiful than before. I hope I can get more sketches before they wilt. But it’s pretty even when they get yellow.
My next apartment is on the other side of town from the botanical garden so I want to get flowers sketched until I move. Then I’ll be hanging around at the ocean front more. I’ll still go to the garden but not as often.
Sketching is more important to me than painting at this point in time. In a few weeks I’ll be moved into my new apartment, then I’ll have time to start on a landscape painting. I have a lot of my things packed but if I keep making a little progress every day on that job it’ll be under control on moving day. I’ve moved so many times in the past 15 years that it’s no big deal anymore. In fact it makes me feel free to know if anything bugs me about the place I can leave. I don’t have too much stuff.
It’s great to get out to sketch even if it’s cloudy. And sketching regularly will make me a better painter, if what our teachers at YAA told us is true. It will take years, but you just have to keep at it even if you only have a couple hours to sketch some flowers.
These flowers change fast. I sat down for a few minutes and when I looked at my sketch again the petals had moved. At first they have a pale pink line and as soon as they open they start to yellow.
Next time it doesn’t rain I’ll try to sketch some purple magnolias.
Ships and boats are all around us here. I should get some practice drawing them. Yesterday I went over to Fort Norfolk to check it out and it was closed for Presidents’ Day, which I forgot about, but the guard at the gate told me I could park in their field on the outside of the fort to sketch. It was great. The ships are close because the river isn’t too wide there. It was sunny and not too cold and I had the place to myself. A lot of people could see me from the tall buildings all around but it was safe because the guard was probably watching me too. Since you have to show a photo ID to get into the fort it might be the safest place on the waterfront to sketch. I’ll get back over there again soon. It’s the oldest fort and they have guided tours.
The ships weren’t easy to draw. My sketch kept getting bigger as I was working on it which means it was out of my control. Control, sometimes you want it, sometimes you don’t. If I was always in control of my sketch that means I’ve mastered drawing. So, there’s still room for improvement. My ships aren’t in exact proportion either, maybe that’s not noticeable.
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.