Category Archives: Norfolk Botanical Garden

red and yellow day lilies / acrylic and palette knife

I could work on this more but I think I’ll stop now.

It was much easier painting the flowers the second time at home. I did the first coat of paint in Plein air and the paint was drying too fast. At home it dries a little slower because I’m adding more water and not standing in the sun and wind to paint.

I painted a couple dead heads because I like the contrast between the spinning bright blooming flowers and the muted colors and drooping dead heads. The gardeners like to pull the dead heads right off so the plant will bloom more but I saw a couple of them and put them in the painting even if gardeners don’t like to see them.

I decided not to paint leaves in the background because my stems and buds wouldn’t show up as well. And these flowers are taller than the leaves, so the leaves would only be on the bottom of the painting. I thought the flowers are busy enough without the additional lines of leaves. I used tints of burnt umber for the background instead of green so you could see the stems and buds better. They make a kind of linear design element that contrasts to the star shaped flowers.

To paint the background I needed a lot of paint mixed up and wanted it to stay wet for a couple hours, so I mixed a few tints of burnt umber in these little plastic cups with lids. I added more paint and water mixing my colors to have close values but not exactly the same brown to make the background have a little variation in the tints. I made the paint runny and I had these 3 cups all filled about 2/3 of the way. I have a little left over which is still wet today since I added enough water and sprayed the paint with water before putting the lids on. I could use this brown to tint another paper for another acrylic painting.

It might be more practical for me to paint at home with acrylics than in Plein air. The next painting I do will be oils and brushes instead of acrylics and a palette knife.

Wings of Chance / acrylic and palette knife

Wings of Chance is the name of this day lily.

The weather is much cooler today and it was cloudy. I was glad to get to the garden and paint this flower because they’re calling for rain 4 or 5 days in a row and I don’t know how much I’ll get out this week.

It will be great next week when a whole bunch of these day lily buds all bloom at once. I might get a piece of watercolor paper stretched for a painting of 3 or 5 flowers and some buds. I’ve been looking for some red spider lilies that I painted a few years ago with oils. I’d like to try again with acrylics. But what I really wish I could find is Tiger Lilies. I’ve been looking around for a few years off and on and haven’t seen any.

That was fun to scratch through the red and yellow paint. I like glomming it on thick and scratching through it and smearing it with my palette knife.

These flowers on my little black sketchbook are just for practice. When I do my finished painting I might use my cake decorating bag and pipe the stamens in the center of the flowers. Then I’ll have a contrasting sharp line next to my smears. I’m not sure if I should do the background for a finished painting with acrylics and a palette knife or if I should do a watercolor background.

Oranges ‘n’ Lemons / acrylic and palette knife

The black sketchbook paper really warped when I did the background. Maybe after it’s good and dry I can weight it down and see if it will flatten. I accidentally ripped the paper twice! omg. So I taped it and painted over the rip.

It was real nice at the garden today and a lot of people were there. Oranges ‘n’ lemons is a variegated rose. The rose garden is huge! And it smells so nice!

A nice smear and thick clumps of paint

Wow! Acrylics dry too fast!! I sprayed my orange with water when I mixed up the color then put some yellow, white and dark red on my little palette and sprayed them too. First I started painting where I wanted the orange and dark red to be and left spaces for the whites and yellow. Before I got finished with the orange it was drying up already! I had to stop half way and spray again! So I picked up a few little clumps of dried paint before I finished the orange. Note the clumps! hahah

I was glad I came home to do the background because it was really messy! When I mixed up the background green I squirted out some yellow from an old tube of paint a friend gave me long ago and it was runny! So the background paint is thinner and made the paper buckle but I like the contrast between the thick clumpy flowers and the runny background.

Siberian irises / acrylic and palette knife

It was nice to get to the garden and paint today. They’re predicting the next 5 days to have rain and wind.

I got into the zone painting this even though a lot of people walked behind me, I was on a little side path and didn’t block anyone’s way. Then I sat on a bench in the shade to do the background.

Do acrylics dry darker than they look wet? I was experimenting with mixing colors today. Violet is a hard color to match to nature. You can buy the brightest tube of violet but when you mix it with a little blue or a little red or white you lose some chroma. (brightness) That’s how it is with a lot of paint. With oils or watercolors you can do thin glazes of unmixed colors and the viewer’s eye will mix the colors by seeing through the glazes, and you lose less chroma. A lot of artists use the paint straight out of the tube without mixing colors to avoid the loss of chroma.

When I sat in the shade and looked at my violets I thought it needs to be redder and bluer so I mixed more colors of dark violet and mixed up a reddish violet and bluish in the light violet too. I’m hoping that the viewer’s eye will pick up the contrast between the cool violet and warm violet as chroma.

oops, slightly out of focus on the bottom of the pic

When you paint like this you get unwanted blips all over the painting. I decided to cover the violet blips with the background greens. Then I had blips in both violet and green. The paint goes on thick which is fun if you like textures but it’s just as slow for me to paint as if I was using brushes, it just comes out with ragged edges. It’s a look modern art likes, “happy accidents”. At least I don’t have to sketch them with charcoal first, just slap some paint down. With flowers, no one knows if you go off in drawing.

I could say I’m just wasting paint or I could say this is me figuring out how to do this. I could say, everything I do is a huge waste of paint. I’ve been wasting paint for so many years I can’t even remember. Or, I could say I’m creating fn masterpieces here. hahahah I will never get the answers to these questions. I’ll be dead, like Van Gogh before the jury comes in, if ever. And my paintings could be lost in time since I’m not signing most of them.

irises on green paper / acrylic and palette knife

This is more practice with acrylics and palette knife. Today I mixed some colors instead of using them straight out of the tube. A couple times I estimated the exact amount of a color I needed and a couple times I overestimated. The colors mixed nicely.

I want to keep practicing with acrylics and a palette knife because it gives a more abstract look than a brush and also I think I might ruin brushes with acrylics. I’ll try to paint more flowers. I’ll watch for day lilies, water lilies and those lilies called butterfly ginger. I’d like to try to paint all those again, this time with acrylics. Maybe by the time I go to Maine in Oct. for Plein air camp I’ll be able to try a landscape like this.

iris sketch / acrylic and palette knife

The greens don’t look the same in the photo as they do in real life but you get the idea.

It was great to go to the botanical garden today, sunny with a nice cool breeze. I was just playing around with this. I blobbed the paint straight out of the tube in a few spots on the paper and spread it around with my palette knife. That’s why it’s rough. I’m calling it abstract modern art, contemporary. even. And they thought I was a relic from some dead era with my old style of painting. hahaha. Start with the old style and you can switch to modern if you want, but start with modern art and you might never learn the traditional ways. That’s what they told me at the academy.

I might go back and take more colors next time. I needed yellow and didn’t have it.

Daffodil sketch / Inktense pencils

Welp, this didn’t come out as I hoped. I’m posting it anyway. I always post the good the bad and the ugly because it’s a blog. In fact the ugly stuff gets likes too, or maybe it’s my writing, I don’t know.

Why do I post the bad and ugly? That way you can see how much practice I go through to get something good. The ugly gets you one step closer to the beautiful, maybe next time. It’s a big part of art that people don’t usually see but artists know about all the failures they go through.

Art for me is divided up into a few different categories, the fun slap dash modern art attempts where I try to go with the flow and see if I get something, the time I spend experimenting, the time I spend doing sketches and planning and the time I spend trying to make a painting that I really like. All the aspects of art are important if you want to improve. Then as time goes by you get more good results but you still make a mess sometimes and you learn from the ones that don’t work.

The daffodils are starting to wilt but I’ll go back for tulips or day lilies or irises. They’re all on my list of flowers to paint.

Great Blue Heron sketches / charcoal

about 4″

This is the easiest kind of heron to sketch, the kind made of bronze. It’s a sculpture at Norfolk Botanical Garden called “Hunter’s Herons” that they donated to the garden in memory of someone named Hunter. The plaque doesn’t tell the name of the artist that made the sculpture.

around 2.5″

I sketched it from different sides. It’s not easy to see their legs because the sculpture has some sticks as part of the design.

That’s the only problem with herons, they’re camouflaged. I’d like to use these sketches in a painting some day. I’ll tape this to the wall so it doesn’t get lost or smeared. If I paint them small, which is how I see them in a scene because I can’t get close, they won’t show up in a large painting. I could paint them white and make them into egrets then they would be noticeable.

around 2″

I stood on the other side of the canal to draw these first so they are farther away. Then I went over the bridge to get the other sketches. A lady hollered across the canal to me, “Can you sketch me?” I yelled back, “How long can you stand still?” She yells back that she could take a nap and I yelled back to her, “All right!”

It was nice out but we have rain moving in so I’m glad I got out today. The daffodils are blooming big time over there. I might try to do a watercolor.

In unrelated bird news, the ospreys are nesting on the light pole out back again. YEA!

Easy Does It / Inktense pencils

Easy Does It is the name of this rose.

This is the nicest weather we’ve had in months! I went to Norfolk Botanical Garden today and took my Inktense pencils, didn’t have to walk far from the car into the rose garden. It smelled so sweet! It’s partly cloudy, cool and a nice breeze. It felt good standing in the sun to draw this.

I didn’t draw it with charcoal or pencil first, just went straight in with the Inktense, which you can’t erase. That’s ok, if you go off drawing a flower no one can tell.

The roses are so bright the Inktense pencils don’t do them justice. If I decide to paint these roses I might have to buy fluorescent paint. Maybe they make acrylic that’s brighter than oils.

twisted crepe myrtles / charcoal/ and wildlife report

This is real neat the way they twisted the crepe myrtles across each other then the branches join together. They fuse together into one solid branch. It’s like drawing a Celtic knot. You can get lost in it. If I had a larger paper I could have got another set in the sketch. They’re blooming now but almost over. A lot of petals are down. I like the view in-between the branches that is like looking through diamond shaped windows. The background is pretty too. I was standing on the shady side of the crepe myrtles but some sun was on the branches and the background was sunlit and also shady.

I didn’t draw leaves or flowers. The tree trunks were enough today in the heat and humidity. I might go back and use a larger paper after the weather breaks. I was standing in the shade but got sweaty anyway.

When I got back to my car I walked over to the lake and looked for a couple minutes to see if I could find a good spot to sketch and instantly around 10 turtles and a couple huge fish, I mean 18″ or so swam right up to me and looked at me like they were expecting to be fed. Just in case of society breakdown, if we have to live like Survivorman, there’s food around easy to catch. You can’t stand there and fish in the garden but people do fish there in canoes on the lake.