When I started drawing this statue I thought she looks high. She’s smiling and her eyes are half closed. Then I saw she has grape leaves in her hair. She must be drunk!
This is my model. She’s in a large formal garden at Norfolk Botanical. I’m still doing portrait practice by sketching statues because they’re free and they don’t move. My friends and family don’t want to pose long enough for me to get a finished drawing. At least if I do find a free live model some time in the future, the time I’ve spent sketching statues will help me get a likeness.
After sketching a bunch of statues of male artists, it was nice to draw a pretty girl. I’ll go back to the sculpture garden with the famous dead guys again and do more of them but I took a little break from them.
This is another pretty girl in the same formal garden. Unfortunately, her nose is broken which will make it more of a challenge to draw her. I’ll have to use the magic of art to fix her nose after I get a little better at portraiture.
About ten years ago I practiced figure drawing and portraiture in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. I got the inspiration to draw the stone angels and was working on that for about six weeks when a good friend died suddenly and I was totally shattered. I hung around in the cemetery a lot for a couple years and drew most of the angels. It was the best therapy for me. Every day I was reminded that I’m still alive because I was standing over all these dead people. Hollywood Cemetery is very special. I’m not superstitious. I never saw a ghost, but the cemetery was my refuge from the world and it made a better artist out of me. And it helped me recover in some weird way, when my life went down the tubes back then.
After spending a lot of time sketching in the cemetery I wanted to draw some angels that were broken. I figured out how to draw a missing hand on a broken angel by copying a hand of another angel to fit. I felt like I kind of fixed the broken one when I could do that, and I knew my drawing skill was improving. That’s why I want to try again by putting a nose on this broken statue’s face.
I was very happy to find all these statues at Norfolk Botanical so I can continue to what I started ten years ago.
I’ll give you a hint. He did a lot of self portraits.
I need practice on portraits. At Norfolk Botanical they have a sculpture garden with 11 statues of artists. I’ll try to get a likeness of some of the other artists, then do a finished drawing of my best one.
Next time I post I’ll include a photo of this statue.
One day a couple weeks ago I was walking in the garden carrying my 12 x 16 sketchbook when I came across this beautiful tree in the last stage of blooming. A few pink flowers were still hanging on and I wished I could paint real fast so I could capture it like that with some flowers and new leaves coming out. It’s a big crabapple tree and famous because it’s in a book of VA’s 100 most beautiful trees.
I knew I couldn’t sketch it on my 12 x 16 paper because it’s easier for me to draw large if I’m drawing a large subject. That’s one reason why I know my drawing needs improvement. Why can’t I draw small? I can usually draw a figure with a 1.5″ head. A one inch head is too small for me most of the time, but I try to sketch small figures sometimes.
I decided to use a piece of paper out of my 18 x 24 sketchbook and give it a try. 12 x 16 is the largest size sketchbook I can hold in one hand to draw and don’t need my easel. When I tried to sketch the tree on the big paper it seemed like it kept getting bigger and bigger as I was sketching. ( a sign that my drawing is out of control ) I wasn’t going to show this sketch because the tree looks crowded on this big piece of paper but I wanted to paint it and I thought if I had a larger canvas I might be able to do it. I bought a 30 x 40 canvas.
I did a detailed underpainting of the tree and it looked ok on the 30 x 40 canvas. It’s not squished to fit. It was a little easier to sketch the second time. There’s another five feet of tree off to the right which I couldn’t get, though. The branches come back down to the ground and form a thick bush next to the tree. Now I’m over half way finished but it might still take another week at this rate. The background trees, sky and grass are finished but the tree and leaves are still mostly in the underpainting stage. The new leaves have a red orange tint and are shiny. It’s too soon for me to tell if my painting will work out. It could be an epic failure, or it might be ok when it’s finished. I missed the time to paint the tree with flowers but I think it’s beautiful without flowers. If the painting is ok I’ll post it when I’m finished. If it’s not ok, I’ll try again next year.
Here’s a strappy young redbud for you, appropriately planted in the childrens garden. It looks like it had a growth spurt last year but didn’t fill in yet.
I filled in the background with pastel on this study because I had some smears that wouldn’t erase all the way, and also to make the light on the tree show up more on the light paper.
It’s fun to spot these redbuds when you’re driving. They’re out there by the side of the road all wild and crazy. They don’t get very big but they’re bright and cheery when they bloom. Then when the flowers are down they blend back into the underbrush and you can’t see them again until next spring.
Some other trees of interest are in the photos below.
This tree has roots that have been formed into a circular bench all the way around for people to sit on or kids to climb on. I wonder how they got the roots to take that shape.
Can you see in this photo how they criss-crossed the stems of these crepe myrtles to make xs? I like the window pane effect of it. And some of the trees look like they merged together into one at the places where the stems cross. Isn’t that a cool thing to do with crepe myrtles?
Loving a rhododendron. This week it’s the rhododendron. Next week it will be a red bud tree. I’m fickle like that.
It caught my eye because the flowers seemed to float over these graceful stems. The flowers were so bright with the dark green evergreens behind them. And the branches crossed to make odd shaped window frames with lines of sunlight and shadows.
The day I found it I tried to sketch the branches in my sketchbook. My sketch didn’t work but I wanted to try to draw it larger, because I find it more difficult to draw small. When I went back with this larger piece of sanded pastel paper the next day I sketched the branches with charcoal again and it looked better. I blobbed in violet to save places for my flowers and picked some colors for my background.
I simplified the background a lot. There’s more of these bushes, more trees of different kinds, more plants on the ground, a path, etc. All I wanted to see was the dark green behind my flowers and dried leaves on the ground with shadows, and a line of lighter green grass behind my rhododendron. Even though I simplified the background, it was still time consuming because I like to build up layers of pastel until the paper won’t hold any more color. I do an underdrawing and blend it down into the paper. Then I can put heavy coats of pastel on top of that. It takes a lot of time but a pastel can have a solid look if you fill in the tooth of the paper.
I was in the garden working on this 4 times for and hour or 2 each time, but then I worked on it for hours at home on 3 or 4 different days. So, over 20 hours in it, I guess.My hand was getting tired by the end.
The reason I’m excited about this drawing is because I didn’t know if it was working till the end when I drew the branches. To me, it looks feminine and strong. ( and I didn’t have to draw a vagina! ) hahahah ( sorry for mocking feminist art )
I hope you get the feeling of fresh spring air blowing through the branches and moving the flowers.
Let me tell you about a very strange encounter I had with dogs on the beach.
Dogs really love me. I don’t know why. I like dogs but I’m not trying to find dog friends. I can’t even count all the times dogs have run hundreds of yards ahead of their masters just to meet me. I always ignore them and continue walking. I don’t look at them or talk to them or pet them. They put their wet noses on my hand and go back to their owners. I guess dogs can tell I’m not afraid of them, but I think it’s bad manners of the owners to let their dogs run up to strangers on the beach, or anywhere.
The other day I pulled into a parking spot for the beach and saw a bunch of people with big breed dogs at the entrance to the beach. They were just milling around. There were a couple kids no taller than the dogs and the dogs weren’t barking or jumping. I thought it must be a meeting of the big dog club. A couple of the dogs were big enough for the kids to ride. If I had a dog that big I’d make him a harness and train him to lug my stuff.
I decided to walk through the dogs and people to get to the beach. As I went down the cement steps two of the dogs went with me. One x large black dog and another brown dog of retriever size followed me onto the sand. It was real windy so I put down my water bottle to zip up my coat. The dogs stood beside me on the sand and a man was calling the black dog named Zeus, but Zeus didn’t go to his owner. I still didn’t look at the dogs and I called up to the man, “He’s mine now!” The man said, “You can have him!” So, I turned toward the beach not looking at these two dogs who were walking beside me. The people stayed at the top of the stairs and yelled for their dogs and for me to wait. This is funny because I ignored the dogs and the people yelling and walked down to the water with the dogs following me. When I got to the water I turned around and sent the dogs back to their owners. I walked on alone for a little while, but it was too windy. I guess that’s why the other people didn’t go down on the beach after their dogs.
Does that seem weird to you?
I wonder why there isn’t a leash law around here. If you swear on the beach you can get fined $100, but people don’t train or leash their dogs. Some of those dogs are smarter than their masters. It would only be fair if I walked off with their dog and held it for ransom. Right? I could catch one every day.
This tree is so twisted, when I stopped drawing it I thought it looked a little crazy. Does it look crazy to you too, or is it just me? (anthropomorphizing trees again) When I got home and taped it to the wall, I said to myself, this looks like a neural network. OH NO! This is the INSIDE OF MY BRAIN!! No wonder I thought it looked a little crazy. hahahahah (insane laughter)
This is my interpretation of the tree, close, but not exactly what it looks like. A bunch of them were clumped together so I tried to draw only one. A lady stopped and talked with me for a while. I asked her if this is a live oak and she told me it’s a live sea oak. I’ll look for photos later to verify that. Or tell me if you know for sure about the name of the tree.
There’s some real pretty views from the boardwalk overlooks on the dunes. You can see a long gray blur of these trees all blending together stretching down the beach behind the dunes. I’ll draw the long view another time. They look soft from far away.
It’s a Chinese lantern in the Lanterns Asia exhibit at Norfolk Botanical Garden. This was fun to sketch at the garden between rain showers and fun to finish in bright colors on a rainy day at home. It’s good practice for your plein air artist to draw subjects other than landscapes sometimes. And it rains a lot around here.
That black sanded Mi-Teintes paper is great because it holds so many layers of pastel. And the black adds drama to your subject. If you want to convey a mood, black paper could instantly make your subject scary or sad or elegant. I like to blend my 1st layer in with a blending stump and then put 2 more thick layers of pastel on top of that.
This is Roaring Dog lit up at night.
Here’s what the plaque says, “The Roaring Dog is a Chinese legend of the Erlang god which specialized in assisting the Erlang hunting and beheading a mythical demon. It fought against Sin Wukong in the journey to the Westlands assisted the Erlang god many times in fighting against other gods in the legend of Deification.”
When I was sketching it the tram went past and I heard the tour guide tell the passengers that the Chinese like dogs to look like lions. I thought how much fun it would be to make paper mache armor for a little dog and take it to the dog park and scare the big dogs! hahahaha
This is the size dog I have in mind for custom made armor. He’s showing off his new leonine hair cut and learning to drive. wait, no, scratch the driving part.
Life isn’t easy if you’re a pine tree on a sand dune. If a sensitive person saw this tree from far away, they might think it was dying, it looks so sad. It doesn’t have a lot of needles and the ones on top are an orange brown.
But when you get closer, you see how it’s filling in the leeward dip in the dunes with greener branches. It looks like the branches came back down to the dune and rerooted, which I heard some trees can do on sand. I didn’t test it for roots because I didn’t want to mess with it.
Then you notice it’s kind of graceful in the way it leans and twists. Is that how it is in the life of a human too? Can a hard life give a soul some kind of stark graceful beauty not seen in the lives of those that had it easy?
That’s my zen question for today. The beach makes me feel all zen. Can you feel the refreshingly cool breeze coming off the bay in my sketch?
It’s real name is Roaring Dog. It’s in the Asia Lanterns show at Norfolk Botanical Garden. This thing is big enough to ride into battle. I did this sketch in daylight but I bet it’s real scary at night. I’m going to transfer this sketch to black pastel paper and go back at night when the lanterns are lit and add color. I’ll post more info on it when I get my pastel finished.
Does this make you want to armor your little hell hound?