Category Archives: flowers

another pastel study of ruby spider lilies and some advice on mental health for artists

IMG_2068

Art. It can be sublime. It can be transcendental. This sketch might not show it, but to me this is an example of my attempts to rise above the things in life that had me whipped. It’s not about the finished artwork. It’s about keeping at it and going through a process.IMG_2069

I’m not an expert on mental health. I can only talk about my own life and I try not to focus on the negative. I can’t talk specifically about how bad it was for me. You’ll have to take my word for it when I say I slogged through that black tunnel with no light in sight for years. I don’t trust doctors so I didn’t take drugs for it which only mask the symptoms but don’t solve the problem. That’s not to say I didn’t self medicate, because I did. These days I feel ok. I still get bummed some days but not as bad and not as often which makes me feel like it might be over and now I might be immune to anymore depression.

Why are so many artists depressed? We can blame it on hormones, genetics, modern life, I don’t know. But if you’re a girl and your Dad was depressed then hormones isn’t the reason. I’m one of the younger baby boomers. Now I’m retired and it’s good. I think about the talented people who commit suicide and it’s a shame that those people don’t get to enjoy life’s rewards because they killed themselves. If you knew in advance that your depression would last fifty years and in all those years happiness would be fleeting but depression would last, would you hang in there for peace of mind in your old age? Don’t you deserve peace of mind even if you have to wait so long for it?

It’s possible that depression is part of the human experience for the reason that if we were all happy and satisfied with our lives we wouldn’t be motivated to improve our situation. The world today is better than it was throughout history. We live longer than out ancestors. Why? Because they were unhappy about disease and did something about it. We need to carry on for the next generation because, as I see it, there is no purpose to life except to continue. Yes. Life’s only purpose is to continue. There is no meaning.

There’s something we can do as artists that non artists can’t do. We can leave the world with our best artwork when we die. Making art will cause your brain to temporarily click over to a different frequency from your depressed state. You can get into the art zone every day for a few hours which is a relief, and then later look at the progress you made. If you do that over the course of years you see an improvement and that can be encouraging even though in the real world you’re still a loser. You can be a lonely social outcast and you can give beauty to the world. If an artist has an easy life their work is just so much fluff. If you suffered you don’t have to continue to suffer for your work to show your soul. you’re work will always have that because it was a part of your life and it will come through.

If I can do it you can too. Stay alive. Do the best you can. Stop being so hard on yourself. Distract your sad brain with art, music, literature, travel, games, anything you like, until you feel better. You’re not the problem. It’s the world. It’s not you, it’s those people. Living better without them is the best revenge. When you get older and have time to examine your life you might find it easier to understand and accept.

And when you do find something that gives your mind a break, savor it like fine chocolate. Go back to the good thing every day for a little while. Take your time there.

That’s all for now.

Ruby Spider and Yellow Day Lilies / pastel studies

IMG_2065

I think I’m getting the hang of drawing these flowers. This piece of paper didn’t even get smudged with suntan lotion or sweat. Hell, I didn’t even bend the paper! It must be getting easier for me. 😉

It is getting hot and humid out there today. In fact I broke a sweat standing still but I was in the sun. These are some of the problems of your plain air artist. Nice life, huh? Yes it is if that’s the kind of problems I’m facing.IMG_2063

The thing about pastels is that no matter how many you have you’ll never have the exact color you need so you have to blend a couple  colors together and just try to get the right value if you can’t get the exact color you want. The first few times I take my pastels out to sketch I want to take all of them. I load up my beach cart because if I leave any at home, those will be the ones I need. Then after I’ve sketched it a couple times I can narrow the colors down to fifteen or twenty and I put them in a baggie in my backpack with my water bottle instead of lugging the whole heavy box of pastels, but the beach cart makes it possible for me to take them all out if I want to. I like to spread them out on the grass to pick the ones I need comparing the colors to the real flowers.

I’m not happy with these colors for the yellow flowers and I won’t be able to use this sketch for my painting but I don’t mind showing you my not so great sketches. It’s another step to planning my painting. If any step of the process doesn’t look good, scrap it and try something else.

Mistakes help me find my way. Being lost on the roads in my newly adopted city helps me learn my way around without using the GPS in my car. I don’t want the car telling me what to do. I don’t like a talking car. The same thing is going on in my head when I’m working on sketches. Some work and some don’t. When I’m drawing I’m making a file in my mind of what works. When I’m ready to paint I’ll have already made the hard decisions. Eventually I’ll be able to find anything I’m looking for in the Virginia Beach / Norfolk area without a map and won’t need the GPS. When you depend on technology to remember things for you your brain gets lazy and you forget. If you burn a path in your brain for drawing or driving you never need the technology to answer questions for you. But, I’m PA Dutch, so, I’m kind of old fashioned anyway. Hey, I have a car and a computer, air conditioning etc. Just so you know I’m not living in the dark ages, I just prefer the old natural ways.

Ruby Spider Lilies / pastel study

IMG_2061

Today I went back to the garden thinking I’d do more sketches of Chicks Dig It, but when I saw these spider lilies I was no longer in love with Chicks Dig It. I’m fickle like that.

That means I’ll have to sketch these a couple more times for my painting because each variety of lily has different shaped petals. Good thing I didn’t start transferring my sketch of Chicks Dig It to the canvas. I like to take my sweet time doing a painting, actually. Sometimes I wish I could just go there and go home with a painting but I never learned exactly how to go about painting in the fast way. Then sometimes I’m glad I’m slow to decide simple things like which variety of lilies to paint because I’d rather have a dozen sketches that I can throw into a flat file and one finished painting, even if it takes me weeks to do it. There’s not enough room in my small apartment for hundreds of canvases but I could find a place for hundreds of sketches. And every time I move, which has been frequently in the past fifteen years or so, I throw away a lot of paintings and give them away.

It seems like in the art world oil paintings are looked at with more respect than other media, but to me the sketching and drawing that leads up to an oil painting is necessary and just as important. And drawings or dry media of any type should be valued equally to an oil painting. But that will never happen.

Chicks Dig It / pastel study

IMG_2060

The name of this variety of lilies is Chicks Dig It. Isn’t that a fun name?! I scouted the garden for lilies budding a couple weeks ago and saw the plaque with this name on it and thought it would be real pretty. Every day or so I’d check on it to see if it was blooming and today it is! My sketch has a few smears, it doesn’t matter. These flowers are only my reference for a painting.

I had to stand in the sun to sketch but that’s ok, I got there earlier and took breaks to sit in the shade. This is the lily I want to do in my painting. Now I have to sketch leaves and buds and a few more flowers but I’m almost ready to plan my flower layout. Finally making a decision on the type of lily is a big step in the project. I can fit maybe 7 or 9 flowers on the canvas that I have tinted and I want to put in a lot of buds too.

I like the wilted flowers they call “deadheads”. Gardeners are so quick to pull off deadheads. They probably don’t like me to paint them but I like the shapes they make so if there’s any for me to sketch I’ll try to get them in my painting too. I feel like if I’m going to paint flowers, leaves and buds why not paint the deadheads too?

orange lilies / pastel

IMG_2058

I love my kneeded erasers. I have one in my hand all the time when I’m sketching with charcoal or pastel. It makes blending less tiring on my hand than a blending stump. To start with, I blob in a color in the general place and size I want my flower to be. Then I use my eraser to push that first layer of color into the paper. As I’m working on the general shape of the flower I’m erasing the extra pastel to define the edges of the petals and adding more color where the petals need to be larger, continuing to blend it down with my eraser. Then I go over the flower with a darker color to put in some shading. Then go back with a lighter color to add the light sides of the petals.

Yesterday it wasn’t supposed to rain until afternoon and I went over to the garden to draw. The sun came out for a little while and I thought I had enough time to finish a sketch before it rained. I didn’t get this sketch finished because it started raining before 11.

That’s ok. This is only flower drawing practice, like a color rough. When I do a finished piece I’ll have to do my background first and put the flowers on top of leaves. Since these flowers don’t look the same two days in a row I might have to work on the painting at home. If I do a painting at home the more sketches of flowers I have the better.

I still haven’t decided which variety of lilies I want to use for my painting so I need to do more sketches first. The more the better so I can get a plan worked out and arrange them for a good composition.

pink lilies / pastel

IMG_2056

I don’t know the name of these lilies, I didn’t see a plaque. It was nice standing in the shade of the magnolia tree to sketch them. It’s getting hot and muggy out there this afternoon but I got started at 9:30 and it wasn’t bad standing still to draw.

I worked on this for 2. I/2 hours and took a few breaks to sit down on a shaded bench. I’m more comfortable standing up to draw because I can concentrate better on my feet and sitting down to draw makes my back tired. It’s harder to hold my sketchbook comfortably sitting down, since I don’t take my easel when I’m using my small sketchbooks.

I spotted two more places in the shade where I can draw yellow day lilies and some reddish ruffly oriental lilies. After I get those two varieties sketched I’ll pick the one that looks best and do a painting.

Southern Magnolia / charcoal study

IMG_2053

A story of a turtle and a dragonfly:

I was over at the botanical garden working on this study three different days in the morning before it rained each day. I was there about two hours at a time. So, roughly six hours in this little sketch.

The second day when I got there I saw a turtle on the ground in front of the bench I sat on to take a break the day before. It had dug a little trough in the wet dirt with it’s back feet and was half sitting in this little ditch it made. I wondered if it was going to lay eggs in the hole but I thought it wasn’t a very good spot for a nest right in front of the bench where they might get stepped on. I sat on the bench and the turtle didn’t move. I watched it for a few minutes to see if it would do something but it looked like it was asleep. I hoped no kids would find it and walked around the magnolia to a place I could sketch some flowers. When I got tired of sketching I went back to the bench and saw the turtle had walked about ten feet away. Then later I couldn’t see where it went.

Today I noticed a similar small excavation in the dirt close to the same bench. I wondered if it was made by that same turtle but I didn’t see it so I went to work on my sketch. I was working on it for an hour or so and a little blue dragonfly hovered over my sketchbook which I was holding in one hand to draw on. I couldn’t not see the dragonfly. Then it landed on the sleeve of my tie dye t shirt which is the same bright blue as the dragonfly. Nice little art nouveau ornament, I thought. It stayed on my sleeve for a few minutes and I continued to sketch. Later I looked and it was gone. I wondered why it landed on me.

So, that’s today’s plain air report.

I’d like to do a painting based on this sketch but it might have to wait until next year. I have more inspiration than time this year and the day lilies are opening up so I HAVE TO DRAW THEM!

Orchid / charcoal and chalk

IMG_1989

Good news. friends! I got in a plein air group! Another artist forwarded the meet up email to me from The Artists’ Gallery in Virginia Beach to meet at McDonalds Garden Center this morning. They’re organizing the plein air group and it will be called PAL (plein air league). I was so happy to join!

McDonalds Garden Center was great to draw in. I took my charcoal and chalk to draw white orchids. I knew they have some nice ones. In fact, the whole place is like Spring, so very cheerful and sweet smelling.

Then some of the artists went to an Italian restaurant for lunch. I enjoyed talking to the artists and getting to know a few people who I’ll see again next month.

It was good for your plein air artist ( with limited social skills) to find acceptance! YEA on VA Beach!

Day lilies / pastel

IMG_1920

I sketched them with charcoal 4 times on 4 different days. Every time I got home and looked at my sketch I thought I could do better.  It seemed like each sketch did come out a little better than the previous one, and all that sketching helped me plan my pastel. Each time the flowers looked all different from the day before so I decided to use pastels because I can build up layers of color in one day, as opposed to oil paint, when I have to wait overnight for a layer of glazes to dry before going over it again.

One day when I was sketching with charcoal a visitor to the garden came over to this beautiful bunch of flowers and said to me, “I can’t resist.”

When I’m in the zone drawing I can still talk to people but sometimes it takes me a second to see what they’re talking about. The lady was pulling off something from the flowers. She told me they’re “dead heads”. She has day lilies too and told me they bloom better if you take the dead heads off. We talked for a couple minutes about the day lilies.  I asked her to look for the plaque, but she didn’t see anything saying what particular variety this is. She continued to pull off the dead heads, but I told her to leave some for me to draw with pastels the next day. She said, “Oh, you’ll have a lot of new ones tomorrow.” She told me they only bloom one day, that’s why they call them day lilies.”  I thought they got that name because they closed up at night. So you learn something new  if you hang around and draw.

Next time I draw them I might do an experiment to find out for myself if they really only bloom for one day. I could tie a thread around the stem of a big bud and check it for 3 days in a row as I’m hanging around there working on a pastel every day for a couple hours. I’m always kind of a skeptic, and like to verify  some things if I can.

We had some real nice weather this week. It’s going to get hot and humid again soon, but I want to do another pastel of day lilies in another color. I’ll go back next week and try to find a place in the shade.

Daylilies / charcoal

IMG_1916

This is my 2nd try sketching daylilies. I think it came out better than the drawing from last week, so next time I’m going to take my pastels and do them in color. They say the heat and humidity will ease up in a couple days. That will make it easier for me to concentrate longer.

These flowers are a bright peachy pink! So bright! So pretty!

They change every day and even in a couple hours are moving to follow the sun, so I won’t be able to use this sketch. Some of the flowers I drew today will be wilted and some new buds will be opening.

I got a mosquito bite. I’m their favorite flavor, O+