Category Archives: charcoal

azalea sketches and wildlife report

This will be a busy week at the botanical garden because of the holiday and the weather is improving. Norfolk was on the edge of a freeze warning so I wondered if it would affect the azaleas which are starting to bloom but they look fine today.

I’m undecided how to paint them but I’ll get more sketches and paint at home. I have a good spot to sketch off the main path. I just don’t want to hang around if it gets crowded so I’m going when they open in the morning.

These are close to life size on my 11 x 14 paper which is the size I can stand and hold in one hand to sketch without using my easel.

I took my numbered color swatches that correspond with my Inkense pencils to make color notes. That’s my little color notes on the sketch. I might use my Inktense pencils for this or maybe oils with my brushes on a yardstick, which is fun.

The variegated ones are my favorites. oops, I smeared my charcoal. That’s ok, I need a lot more sketches but I can start planning my painting by starting to arrange them on a larger paper.

In wildlife news:

Crows, A crow was harassing me at the botanical garden when I painted the redbud last week, caw caw cawing over my head for a long time. Finally I thought he wants to steal something shiny from me and I covered my paintbrushes and everything else with any shine and he went away.

Canada geese. I pulled into a shopping center to get lunch and saw a goose sleeping in the parking lot. I wondered if he was sick, hoped he didn’t get hit by a car. Then I got my Kentucky fried chicken and parked to eat it. I saw the other goose sitting on a nest under a tree on one of the cement islands with mulch in the parking lot. 4 crows were constantly harassing the goose on the nest. The goose didn’t seem concerned about the cars but that would be bad with the crows harassing the geese all day. And they will have to walk a long way when the eggs hatch because there’s no pond anywhere near there. The babies will have to cross busy streets if the crows don’t manage to steal the eggs first. what a bad spot for a nest! I noticed some human had left a plastic bowl near the nest, probably with food or water.

Ospreys. I was happy to see the nesting pair back on top of the light pole out back. It’s over a little league field. The teams are back to playing their regular schedule. Sometimes it gets loud out there but it’s mostly quiet.

trees about to bloom soon

not a redbud

I’m not sure but it might be a dogwood.

a redbud for sure

Both trees are showing signs of life with tiny buds except the buds aren’t the same on both trees.

I only sketched the main branches for these trees but there are a lot of tiny branches with buds. First I need to paint the background and I’m not crazy about the background that’s there in real life. It’s part of the children’s garden with more trees, a pond, paths, mulch, some grass and then some big magnolias which are green, and brown trees that have no leaves yet. That’s too complicated for this painting.

We have had some nice weather and it might not be bad tomorrow either but cooler. Then clouds and rain are coming in this week. I can get started on these two tree paintings at home. I don’t know if it will take 1 or 2 or 3 weeks for them to bloom. Things change fast at this time of year. I’ll have to keep checking up on them.

returning to my roots with this project

haha I don’t have any roots. I’m a tumbleweed.

Once I drove Rt. 66 from Springfield MO. to Santa Monica CA. I was in OK. and I saw these dead looking shrubberies by the side of the road, which had no traffic. I thought they fell off a truck and wondered why they didn’t pick them up since they were on the road. Then I saw so many of them I thought, these have to be tumbleweeds.

This is my plan for the next painting, the second time I sketched it, this time larger. The chalk is sand and the chalk dots are sea oats.

That’s how you start a painting in the traditional process, do a detailed drawing on the paper or canvas. When I was sketching a few people walked across the path at the top of the meadow to the right of center and I decided to try to paint a figure in to give it scale. I had already sketched in some sea oats that rise up over the path from this view. I decided to erase them when I paint and put my person walking in that spot on the path. This step is the time to plan and change plans. If I started in a rush to slap down some paint without doing the sketch then the painting wouldn’t work out as I hoped. Where would I put my person in?

That’s the only roots I have, the traditional ways of painting that I learned long ago. Some times I tumble along in the breeze trying to paint like a modern artist. This time I’m going to use paint brushes and take my time on it, not skipping any steps.

tidal pool with ship coming in / charcoal and chalk

The weather has been dismal here. We did get a little snow but mostly rain and it looks like more rain and cloudy weather for another week. I was glad to get another sketch of the tidal pool when the sun came out. It was cool with a little breeze.

It would be nice to see more snow than rain but the people around here don’t drive in snow very well.

I might try to paint this at home or I might do a sewing project but I needed another sketch first. This helped me visualize the bottom of the pool where the water runs back out to the bay and I made some mental notes of the colors I’ll need. It can be a limited palette. The vertical format isn’t going to work for a painting. I need larger paper. Some times I have to keep sketching before I can decide even simple things like horizontal or vertical. The pool looks too narrow here but I think I can use both of my sketches and fake it for the painting.

The ship had a lot of red on it. It was pretty on the gray blue water.

tidal pool / charcoal and chalk

This is what I decided on for my next plein air painting. I hope that pool doesn’t dry up. It looks like it will be easy to paint.

It’s going to rain again tomorrow, Mon. sunny and cold. I don’t mind cold but if it’s windy I can’t paint on the beach. Then more rain and maybe snow is coming for a few days.

The weather is keeping me at home too much. I started a flower painting and worked on it a few times at home when it was yucky out, maybe I can finish it tomorrow.

Today was beautiful outside for a change. Sunny and cool with a little breeze. A lot of people were enjoying the beach.

lichens / charcoal and chalk

slightly larger than life on my 11 x 14 sketchbook

They’re light green, and layered like tiny leaves or scales. I’m not sure but I think this is a live oak. I’ll ask later at the visitor’s center to be sure. The trees are sprawling with limbs going back down to the sand and all covered with lichens.

I was glad to get over there today after staying home for a couple days because of windy and rainy weather. Today it’s still a little cold and cloudy but not much wind. Tomorrow, winter weather is coming in.

I’d like to paint the whole tree. There’s a lot of them around the empty campsites, so, good time of year for that project.

It would be fun to paint lichens super close up too. I might be able to wing it at home since I have this sketch.

dunes, bay, ship heading out / charcoal and chalk

In defense of perfectionism:

I wonder why perfectionism is so unpopular these days.

Sometimes I see a piece of art, any type of art, and I think that is just sublime. I couldn’t do better. I can’t find any fault with that. That looks like perfection to me. It’s a treat for your eyes. That was no accident. If the artist didn’t work on that particular piece for a long time then they are showing you the end result of years of practice.

Art experts don’t like to see evidence of hard work. They call it “labored over” like labor isn’t part of life. It’s to be avoided. There is no such thing as a labor of love to those people.

If an artist is insecure maybe the person saying, ” don’t continue to work on this painting, stop now before you overwork it.” The expert is trying to make the artist feel better about themself. If the artist is saying, “I’m not good enough,” that isn’t relevant in the art world. You can be a real jerk, it doesn’t matter. You can still do art that is uplifting and people might love your art. I’m not good enough also doesn’t make sense to me because imperfection is accepted, even prized. The artists I’m talking about only need more practice till they feel good enough.

You don’t get there by giving up if you think you can fix a painting and make it better by continuing to work on it. If you don’t want to do that right now, it’s ok to put it off till next week, next year or any other time when you think you can do better.

I’ll agree no one is perfect. Perfection is an ideal. Why not shoot for the ideal? Even if you never get there trying is better than copping out. Art might be the only chance we have to get close to perfection.

If you want to keep going over it again and again don’t let anyone stop you. If you get on a good path and want to keep doing the same thing in different variations until you have had enough then you have to do that and don’t let anyone say, “you’re not done with that yet?”

Ignore anyone that tells you what not to do.

As always, feel free to opine.

the way to the bay / sketch

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel on the horizon

Oh man, there are so many places and things I want to draw and paint. I went over there thinking it would be fun to sketch lichens. I had lichens in the back of my mind since last winter. Then I saw some strange thorn trees. I continued walking a little further looking at lichens and trying to decide, lichens or thorns, and I walked out on this overlook and thought I’ll do this scene.

It was great weather, sunny, cool, light breeze. I only saw two people coming back from the beach.

The water was dark gray.

I need a bigger piece of paper. I could get into painting this freely if I tape my brushes onto yardsticks again and stand back. That might help my perspective a little too.

They’re calling for sunny but cold weather this weekend. I should go back. I’ll have it all to myself. It’s a real nice overlook with a bench.

sketch from Back Bay / charcoal and chalk

My sketchbook has assorted colors, blueish, greenish, tan, gray and white. The white is too bright to enjoy drawing on in plein air. Sometimes I tint white paper with pastel, blend it down and spray it with fixative. It’s easier to draw on. The white has so much glare in the sun. That’s what I did for this sketch, tinted it gray first.

Darn it, the waves look a little weak. I need more practice drawing and painting water. It’s always a challenge and it changes every day. I’d like to paint this scene. This is a good time of year to do it. The weather was sunny, cool and windy today. It felt refreshing and I had the overlook all to myself

Except for the water, which might be difficult to paint, this scene looks easy to do. I’m trying to decide, it might not be a good idea to take my easel because I can’t anchor it with the spikes on the wooden overlook. I might be able to paint on paper and lean my drawing board on the railing. I’d have to keep a hand on my easel all the time since it’s windy there.

egret in dead tree / charcoal and chalk

The thing I like about this tree is that a lot of the bark has fallen off and it makes an interesting change in texture between the bare places and the places with bark.

The egret wasn’t there. I looked at photos and tried to fake it.

I still need to sketch more before I can come up with a good plan for a painting. I’d like to use this tree and not have it in the center of the painting. I was glad it fit on the paper because it was windy and I took my 11 x 14 sketchbook instead of a larger paper on my drawing board and easel. I can hold that size sketchbook in one hand and it’s ok in wind. Anything larger and I need my easel. Then I have more to carry and wind makes it difficult.