Category Archives: Norfolk VA

Daffodils / mixed media

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I’m not crazy about the yellows I got with my oil paint sticks for this one. I hoped it would look yellower on a violet background. They’re still too green. I might try again with pastels next time it doesn’t rain. But I saw some other plants blooming that I also want to sketch so I’m not sure if I’ll continue sketching daffodils or just wait until next year and do a painting of them.

Today when I got back to my car in the parking lot at the botanical garden, I saw a squirrel sitting at my front tire with something big and white in its mouth. When I got in the car the squirrel ran over to the trees but came right back. I sat there for a few minutes getting my things together for my next stop and the squirrel came back to my car. I heard this scratching sound under my car and got out to look. The squirrel ran away but came back and started scratching again so I started the car and he only went about 15 ft. from the car then came back. I inched forward and saw him going to the trees. I wonder what he was stealing off my car. That was weird.

Orchid / mixed media

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I was alone in the greenhouse on Saturday. It rained all day but it was nice to be there sketching. Then later a photographer came in and spoke to me. I asked him if this is a slipper orchid and he told me it’s a pitcher plant, which makes sense because the bottom center petal is pitcher shaped, but it doesn’t look like the other pitcher plants I sketched in the past.

I used oil paint sticks and watercolor.

The sun finally came out! YEA! I’m going back to work on my sketch of the daffodils later when it warms up a little.

I saw a bad art movie on Netflix, Velvet Buzzsaw. It’s about bad art first fascinating then KILLING art world elitists. Does the really bad art kill ordinary people too? I watched the whole movie, like you have to look at a car wreck.

Navy Ships Anchored on the Elizabeth River / charcoal and chalk

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Ships and boats are all around us here. I should get some practice drawing them. Yesterday I went over to Fort Norfolk to check it out and it was closed for Presidents’ Day, which I forgot about, but the guard at the gate told me I could park in their field on the outside of the fort to sketch.  It was great. The ships are close because the river isn’t too wide there. It was sunny and not too cold and I had the place to myself.   A lot of people could see me from the tall buildings all around but it was safe because the guard was probably watching me too. Since you have to show a photo ID to get into the fort it might be the safest place on the waterfront to sketch. I’ll get back over there again soon. It’s the oldest fort and they have guided tours.

The ships weren’t easy to draw. My sketch kept getting bigger as I was working on it which means it was out of my control. Control, sometimes you want it, sometimes you don’t. If I was always in control of my sketch that means I’ve mastered drawing. So, there’s still room for improvement. My ships aren’t in exact proportion either, maybe that’s not noticeable.

Orchids / mixed media

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February’s not so bad around here, if you love orchids. The growers are showing off their finest ones in your nearest greenhouse. I spent a few peaceful hours sketching them at Norfolk Botanical Garden. It was nice to get out to draw on those rainy cloudy days.

I used my oil paint sticks for the flowers and watercolor for the background. That’s why my orchids have a sketchy look. It’s not easy to draw a sharp line with the oil paint sticks. And I was drawing on white watercolor paper with a white oil paint stick, so it was hard to see what it would look like with the background colored in. For the shadows on the orchids, I used a silver oil paint stick because it’s the only gray I have and I thought it would look too dark for shadows on white orchids. I went over the silver with white. I scraped it off with my palette knife and went over it with white again.  After I put in the dark watercolors I thought the silver/gray looked ok.IMG_2199

First, I did a detailed sketch with charcoal. If you draw a line with an oil paint stick and it’s in the wrong place, you can’t erase it. This helped me to get the shapes and sizes of the orchid petals so that when I used the oil paint sticks There would be a better chance of my flowers fitting on the paper and coming out graceful like the orchids.

As I was going over this sketch with the oil paint sticks, I was erasing my charcoal. I could see enough to draw with my white and silver oil paint sticks, but I didn’t want my charcoal line to show through the paint stick lines. So, this sketch got erased during the process, and replaced with the looser sketchier version of the orchids shown above.

That was fun. I think I’ll go back and draw another type of orchid.

A Portrait of the Poser as a Young Tree / mixed media

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Not to disrespect the tree, but why am I calling it a poser? The true identity of the tree is below.

This is another try at sketching  with oil paint sticks. They’re like big oily crayons, so it’s impossible to draw a skinny line or a small texture with them. They force me to draw fast and loose. One good thing about taking my oil paint sticks out to sketch in Plein air is that I don’t need to take my pallet, turpentine and brushes along. The bad thing is that I have to make do with the colors I have and can’t mix the colors as well on the paper as I would like to.

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This is an older tree of the same family. They’re called, Hitoki Falsecypress. The one I sketched is about 4 feet tall. So I’d tell the small tree,” There’s no need to feel bad about not being a real cypress tree, little poser. Some day you will be as big and respectable as your beautiful neighbor.”

Deciduous Holly / unfinished sketch charcoal and chalk

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This bush is a bright spot in the garden with clouds of red berries floating over twisted bare branches. The sun was out yesterday and today but it’s a little too cold both days to stand outside sketching for long. I could go back this afternoon if it warms up a little, or I could try to fake it at home with a larger piece of paper since I have this much visual information. Yesterday this bush had me confused with trying to see how the branches overlap and how they continue across the paper. I had my small sketchbook and couldn’t draw small enough to have room on the paper for the red berries, since they are hanging away from the main stems.

Today might be my last chance to sketch outside for a few days because winter precipitation is coming our way. I’d go to the arboretum and work on my painting of the Chinese Paperbush, except last winter when it was in the 35* F. range, like today, the glass on my pallet cracked in the cold. So, my two choices for today are either bundle up and take my charcoal to the botanical garden like yesterday, or stay in and sketch a model horse.

Torch Lilies / mixed media

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Look what’s blooming like crazy in Jan! It’s so bright I used my florescent oil paint sticks. They have a big clump of these Torch Lilies at Norfolk Botanical Garden. A gardener told me they started to show buds a month ago then last week they really opened up!

It’s so nice to stand there sketching and take in the colors on a gray day like today, and tomorrow it’s supposed to rain, so I’m glad I got this sketch today. I did the watercolor background when I got home.

lotus flower and pelican on piling / charcoal sketches

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What luck! I just happened to walk through the Japanese garden and saw lotuses are blooming! Sometimes I’m too late to see them. This one was especially nice because there’s a reflection in the water. I’ll go back with my pastels.IMG_2085

A few months ago I started a painting of the beach. My underpainting wasn’t working so I painted over it with gray. I want to try again with a beach painting. In this sketch you can see the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in the background. Left is heading South through the first tunnel.. This might be part of my beach painting if I can get a good plan worked out but the waves there are small and the beach is narrower than the ocean front so I might not paint sand or breakers. I could use my sketch of the wind surfer in the painting.

A lot of birds were on the pilings but I only drew the pelican. I need more sketches before I can make up my mind how to go about the painting.

Norfolk Port Authority / oil / feat oysters

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Does this look convincing to you? I can’t tell. I’ve looked at it too long, and I had a devil of a time trying to figure out how to paint this.  I was never there when it looked like this. I winged it on the sky, by observing bright sunsets from my balcony and mixing colors. I went over my sky again and again until I thought it was ok. Then I had no idea how to paint the water. I can’t even remember how many layers of paint I totally wiped off because later I thought,” meh. that’s not good.” I sometimes waited for my paint to dry and started over. In all, I figure this took me about 2 months to paint, so considering how much paint and time is in it, if it doesn’t look good, it’s an epic failure. (no halfass failures for me)  But if it worked out, I finally did 2 things I’ve wanted to do for years, a panoramic view and a bright winter sky.

This painting is going to the window of Jerry’s Artarama when it dries. I love Jerry’s for giving the free space to me and other artists, and not taking a commission if there’s a sale. Thanks for supporting artists, Jerry.IMG_1976

When I mixed my colors I sat on this bulkhead at the Hermitage, where you can see this beautiful view of the Port Authority. All along it are tons of oysters. My daughter, Sarah told me the Chesapeake Bay Foundation gives baby oysters to people who live next to the water. They come on a clump in a mesh bag. You drop it in the water and they grow up. They are natures little water filters. Sarah doubted they would be good to eat, but she told me the water is much less polluted than it was 20 years ago, so maybe. But, I’ll buy my oysters at the store, because they look real sharp. If I wanted to climb down there and get some, it wouldn’t be easy, and probably verboten anyway.

Norfolk Port Authority / unfinished masking fluid on oil paint experiment

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This would be easy if I knew what I was doing.  But it’s driving me insane!! The weather isn’t cooperating either, so it’s taking weeks just to make a little progress.

I thought about how to paint a big bright winter sky. Winter skies have the brightest colors of the year, I think, with the orange sunlight coming through the atmosphere on a long slant.  From this view, the sun would set close to the center of my painting, which isn’t good. When I was in art school one of our teachers said, “Never paint a blazing sunset.”  I’m not sure if he said that because a bright red sun is what they called “the red circle trick” at the Academy. It’s bad for a composition because the eye goes to the red circle and stops there. It makes  a static composition. The eye doesn’t go around the painting to any other focal points.  That’s how the stores get you to go to the sale items, by placing a red circle over them. Or maybe his objection to painting a blazing sunset was that it’s impossible to duplicate the beauty of the colors. Or maybe he thought it was a cliché, because I remember he said never paint a barn. He said barns are a cliche and it’s true. A lot of jurors will reject a barn painting no matter how beautiful the painting is, just because they’re tired of barns. I’ve painted barns anyway.

So, an afternoon sky is what I’m shooting for here, and I glazed over it on 3 or 4 different days, trying to make a good blend from orange to blue. Then if I see the kind of clouds I like, I’ll have a background of sky ready.

Meanwhile, one day when I had a glaze down on my sky, I sketched in the Port Authority with gray paint. It’s just a skinny strip of land going way out there with rigs far away and some closer. My paint lines weren’t straight or even enough since I did them freehand outside, but I planned to use masking fluid on this painting. When my gray paint was dry I went over the rigs with the masking fluid and sharpened up my lines. Then continued to do sky glazes on top of the masked off rigs. IMG_1964

This close up shows my layers of sky glazes on top of the masked off rigs and strip of land. I’d really like to take the masking fluid off it today because it’s raining and snowing here again. The paint is dry and I’m tired of waiting for nice clouds to add. After I take the masking fluid off, I’ll go over the rigs again. This masking fluid step, if it does work out, was to sharpen up my drawing a little, since it seems easier to paint a straight skinny line with masking fluid than with oil paint. I hope you can see what I’m trying to get with this experiment.

And I have another experiment started, which will be dry in a few days. I could call this sky finished. Forget about winter clouds. It would be great to finally finish it after looking at it unfinished for weeks and waiting for good weather, or for my paint to dry.

If you think you have the patience to try this technique, I’ll post instructions for masking fluid on oil paint soon. I’d like to see what another artist would do with it. But, waiting for oil paint to dry does take patience sometimes.