Category Archives: chalk

cypress knee / good news in the art world

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I’m on the Plein air email list put out by Eric Rhodes and I’m getting the info for plein air camps and contests, figure drawing seminars and practice etc. It’s all related to the Plein Air magazine founded by Eric Rhodes. This guy is a genius. I know the email gets sent to hundreds of people, but it seems like he’s talking to me.  Once I got an email headed “Chris, your paintings are good enough.” It was to enter the Plein air mag contest.

I don’t feel like entering. I entered a bunch of times over the years. I saw the winners in the magazine and knew I didn’t stand a chance because all the paintings were fuzzy and mine are sharp.

The first time the plein air week happened in Richmond I entered but didn’t get accepted. I was doing figure drawings back then from the sad stone angels in Hollywood Cemetery. I didn’t know why I didn’t get in. I could only guess.

Those are just a few of the hundreds of reasons why I gave up on spending money on the art world. I go alone to draw in plein air any time. My apathy gives me a feeling of freedom from the art world which I think is corrupt. This is all beside the point.

The money I spent was worth it for plein air camp at the Ghost Ranch. So I’m glad I’m getting the emails because I might go to another event like that. No teachers to follow, no contest, no drama.

Today I was happy to read the email from Streamline. It was addressed to plein air event planners. It talked about how the plein air movement has grown and needs to adapt. The seminar they’re organizing is to plan better  plein air events in the future. Eric said we shouldn’t sacrifice quality for speed. I was happy to read that because I’ve been complaining for years how plein air painters rush rush rush and I don’t want to paint like they do.  He also said that’s one reason why some good artists don’t go to the events.  Did he mean me?

I hope this is a sign of a change in the art world for the better. I could never make it happen. Eric Rhodes could do it.

I wonder if Eric or someone on his staff read my blog. I told my daughter I’m an influencer now. That’s funny because I don’t want anything to do with the real art world. Sarah said that’s the best kind of influencer, the apathetic kind. hahaha She would know, she’s the social media guru.

Yeah, I’m famous. I’ll be dead before the art world figures it out.

The sketch is my plan for a swamp painting. It’s real nice out today and cool. The fall colors look good over there. I might start the painting now instead of waiting for the freeze.  This is my favorite cypress knee from when I was in the swamp last year. I need to transfer this to a larger paper and draw the background trees with Spanish moss on both sides of this knee. I need a big canvas. This sketch will help me figure out what size canvas to buy.

That’s my composition method, find something beautiful, draw it, draw what’s around it.

 

cypress knees / charcoal and chalk

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When I was a young girl I fell in love with a beautiful swamp. I wished I could capture it and take it home. I took photos but they didn’t do it justice. Eventually I went through my boxes of photos and threw away the ones that didn’t have people in them. Over the years, I visited the swamp when I had a vacation at Virginia Beach.

When I started drawing in Plein air I thought about the swamp but it’s kind of a haul from Richmond, so I drew at other beautiful places. I never planned to retire to the beach until my daughter moved to Norfolk and told me she’s settling down. I’ve been here two years now and I often go to First Landing State Park to walk on the trails. I sketched there a few times and once tried to do a painting of the swamp but it didn’t work. I need a big canvas then I’m sure I can get it.

The swamp looks best in the dead of winter. Those tiny branches get a bright red glow in the winter sun. After a good frost the water looks clearer. It’s more reflective then. The black water will be a challenge to paint. I’m starting  to work out my plan now.  I’d like to get a big canvas and tape my brushes to a yard stick and stand back to paint it, like Matisse, because that’s fun, so I should probably do that at home. People would think I was really nuts if I took a big canvas out there and taped my brushes to a yardstick, when I am actually quite sane, hahahahaha. Not that I care what people think…..

a view from the Sky Line Rd. Canon City CO.

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This morning I was talking to a guy and when I told him I’m an artist he gave me some great info on the most beautiful places. Canon City is around 40 miles west of Pueblo on 50, my favorite road. I was looking at it on the map last night. I drove through it going east long ago but I didn’t know about the Sky Line Rd. I was glad the young dude told me to check it out.

Pueblo is at 4600 ft. and it seems fine to me. Canon city is at 5500 ft and the Sky Line Rd. runs on top of one of the ridges up higher. When I pulled off 50 to the Sky Line Rd. at first I thought I was driving on a paved foot path, it’s that narrow. The guy asked me if I was afraid of heights. I’m not. But screw up and you could go down like Grace Kelly.  The road is one lane, one way and when I got back down I was on the other side of the hill from where I started and I got kind of lost in Canon City. After a mile or so of driving next to the ridge in a residential neighborhood I saw some guys working and asked how to get back to 50. I was going the wrong way on the right road. After that I was confused which way was east for a few minutes.

Then I got a sandwich in Canon City and went back up to sketch. I got too much sun. Darn, I bet there’s not much shade at the Ghost Ranch either. Maybe I should get some sun tan lotion. I didn’t pack it.

I might go back tomorrow morning. I bet the light will be better. Then I’m thinking of leaving Pueblo and moving to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Pretty sure I’ll be able to find a room.

When I’m traveling I think it’s good luck to give the spirits what they ask for. I’m not really superstitious, but if someone who looks like a bum asks me for money I give them a buck, if they ask for food or tobacco I give it to them. Tobacco especially, spirits love that stuff. Yesterday I a guy who was sitting outside my motel said excuse me ma’am, then started telling me his misfortunes. I gave him a couple bucks and a banana. Tonight a girl told me she’s homeless and hitchhiking with her boyfriend. She wanted a cigarette so I gave her one. She didn’t ask for money. Then she wanted food so I gave her a couple muffins and a yogurt. I hope this keeps me and my car safe.

Marsh at Pleasure House Point / charcoal and chalk

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It was so nice to be over there. The weather is great! This is a big holiday weekend  so Pleasure House Point will have a lot of visitors. I’ll get back out next week with my watercolors and try to paint this. I’d like to use a bigger paper so I can show more sky and water. I think the biggest challenge will be the edges where the top of the sedge overlaps the water edge. I’ll probably do a couple practices on scrap paper.

A watercolor might be my last art project until I’m at art camp in New Mexico. I should start getting my things organized this week and pack art supplies. I’ll be off the grid and under the radar for a few weeks but when I get back I’ll tell you about my adventure. Driving across country alone is a zen thing. It’s a beauty and vast.

Beach in charcoal and chalk

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It was hot but cloudy with wind, so that made it tolerable for sketching the view from the overlook on the boardwalk going over the sand dunes. The bench was too hot to sit on, though. That’s ok, I like to stand up to sketch. I didn’t stay long.

I’d like to try to paint this with watercolors at home. I took my color swatch charts and picked some colors to work with. It’s almost a monochromatic color scheme, especially since it got cloudy. I’ll keep it kind of monochromatic with some faint tints of color when I paint it and see if I can get the values close to reality. The horizon line was fuzzy from the distance and straight so I’m going to try on a scrap of paper first to get the look I remember. If I use gray in the sky, I should probably use gray in the water and avoid the bright blues which I’d rather use.

That’s the plan. Keep your fingers crossed.

The Beautiful Back Bay / charcoal and chalk

IMG_2246Finally! 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.

Back Bay / charcoal and chalk

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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.

 

Magnolias getting floppy / pastel and chalk

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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. IMG_2232

Spring has sprung around here.

Magnolias wide open / pastel and chalk

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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.IMG_2227

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.

 

Star Magnolia / charcoal, chalk and pastel

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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.