Category Archives: pastel

Magnolia in the Wind / with some thoughts about inspiration

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This flower is too sexy for my blog. Too sexy for my blog.  Too sexy OMG.

Oh well, I draws em like I sees em.

Inspiration. Where does it come from? I can only talk from my own experience here, so feel free to opine, as always.

I think it comes from outside myself. It’s nature or other art, or a good teacher, or music, literature, everywhere you see something that grabs you. When I was young and worked full time and exercised every day and had a house, husband and kid, I wasn’t into drawing and painting. I still had a lot of ideas but when you’re young and you have a lot of obligations and distractions it’s easy to put art on a back burner. I always knew if I lived long enough a time would come when I could concentrate on art. To me art and craft are the same thing. Back then I was inspired to take a pottery class or two. I was inspired to make gingerbread houses and carve pumpkins among other things. Is the inspiration to sew or cook something special less than the inspiration to paint? I say it’s all the same. If I don’t feel like painting it’s because I’m on something else.

I had a lot of stress back in those days but I don’t think stress kills inspiration in my case. It’s that there’s only 24 hours in a day and I like to sleep too. There were a few years when my mind was in a turmoil. Art gave me the chance to” live in the moment”. It’s a good break for your mind if you’re under stress. I think all that advise you read about living in the moment and giving up the past, whatever is eating you, is too idealistic. It’s not like you have switches in your brain where you can just turn off thinking about that bad thing. When you can spend a lot of time alone you have to go back over it again and again until you figure it out. Then you can get some peace of mind. There’s a lesson to be learned from whatever your mind is fixated on. You have to face it. Masking the problem with pills won’t stop it from coming back. Plus the meds could suck the spirit out of your work, if you’re an artist, by numbing your brain.

The main thing about inspiration is that it requires time alone to work for me. It helps to eliminate some things from your life if you’re a very busy person.

About this drawing: It was so windy that flower was blowing all over the place. I drew a moving target. It was real good practice because after drawing so many magnolias I had to work faster and observe then sketch and observe again when the flower blew back. I had to work faster and it wasn’t too bad because charcoal doesn’t show up on this paper anyway, so, just skip it. With flowers, if you get it wrong no one knows.

 

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Magnolias getting floppy / pastel and chalk

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These flowers are huge. I’m sketching them life size on 9 x 12″ paper and they’re running off the edges. When I do a painting of this next year I’ll have to paint them smaller but drawing large is easier than painting small. These are for practice.

Vine charcoal doesn’t work well on this dark paper so I have to skip that step and block in the general shapes with pastel and chalk. The more flowers I draw the easier it’s getting but these sketches still took around two hours each.  For my painting I need about three times the number of magnolia studies I have. Then I can eliminate the ones I don’t like. The tree has some buds so I might be able to get a couple more sketches in before they all turn brown and fall off. I’ll have to go back next year and do more. IMG_2232

Spring has sprung around here.

Magnolias wide open / pastel and chalk

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Last time I saw this tree all the flowers turned yellow overnight. It still had a lot of buds. Now all the second buds are open and it looks like the cold didn’t damage them. The tree is more beautiful than before. I hope I can get more sketches before they wilt. But it’s pretty even when they get yellow.IMG_2227

My next apartment is on the other side of town from the botanical garden so I want to get flowers sketched until I move. Then I’ll be hanging around at the ocean front more. I’ll still go to the garden but not as often.

 

Magnolias in the rain / happy accident

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When I got to the tree today I was surprised to see that a lot of the flowers are turning brown before they open but it’s a nice yellow ochre. I think the one on the left is a bud I sketched a couple days ago. I was glad I brought a yellow ochre pastel along.

Before I left home I checked the weather and there was a 5% chance of rain with the chance going way up in a few hours so I thought I could get a little sketching in. Guess what 5% I was under.

It started as a few drops and I continued to sketch. Then it was a pretty good shower and I took shelter under a tent for a few minutes hoping it would stop raining. It messed up my sketch and I thought about giving up for today. Then it eased up some so I finished the sketch.

I couldn’t blend or do any erasing on that flower on the left. The rain made my pastels run and smear. I thought WOW! This rain is giving my sketch that fast loose happy accident look so prized in the art world these days! Maybe I should draw in the rain more often! Crazy though it seems.

Magnolias till they drop

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My goal this month, besides moving, is to sketch as many magnolias as I can. Next year I’ll do a painting but the more flower sketches I get in advance, the better.

It was cold out there yesterday and even colder today, so I might get back to the tree this afternoon, but I’m not sure if I will.IMG_2220

This is one reason why my paintings aren’t marketable, they take a long time in the planning stage. People seem to want art to be spontaneous and fast. They don’t want to pay for the time it takes for me to finish a painting but if I could ever sell a painting I expect it to pay the rent. I’d rather throw my  old paintings away when I move or give them to my friends than sell them cheap.

Yesterday I worked on this sketch for about an hour and a half and got this far. First I blocked in the general size and shape of the flowers with the side of a small piece of charcoal then erased the excess and drew some lines. Then I erased the lines that were in the wrong place and redrew my lines. Then I erased again when I started in with pastels. Now you may say,” Chris, Why don’t you learn to draw faster?”  I’d say, “If I liked to rush I wouldn’t have moved to Virginia in the first place, I’d have gone to New York. Also, why rush if you have the time and you enjoy what you do?”

Sometimes I think I can give in to peer pressure and paint fast, but why should I? I like my  nonprofessional, “amateur” status and can’t conform to art society rules for very long, when I do try.

Between these sketches and the ones I do next year for the painting I’m planning, I could have 20 hours or more in the sketching phase. My painting won’t come out like I want it to if I skip this step.

Magnolias / pastel

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These flowers are so big when they open that only one will fit on this size sketchbook paper. If the weather holds up I’ll go back with more paper next time.

If I do a painting of this tree I’ll only do a few branches not the whole tree. Maybe next year. I’ll put a piece of glassine paper over this sketch to save it. Most of the time I just put the sketch back in my sketchbook and they get smeared.

There’s also some lichens I want to sketch before it gets crowded at Seashore St. Park. I love their texture.

And I have a great plan to produce a video of a conceptual art piece on the beach. It’s still too cold for that but I’m excited about this movie I want to make. It’s a secret. You will freak out. My daughter said she’ll help me with it.

Star Magnolia / charcoal, chalk and pastel

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Sketching is more important to me than painting at this point in time. In a few weeks I’ll be moved into my new apartment, then I’ll have time to start on a landscape painting. I have a lot of my things packed but if I keep making a little progress every day on that job it’ll be under control on moving day. I’ve moved so many times in the past 15 years that it’s no big deal anymore. In fact it makes me feel free to know if anything bugs me about the place I can leave. I don’t have too much stuff.

It’s great to get out to sketch even if it’s cloudy. And sketching regularly will make me a better painter, if what our teachers at YAA told us is true. It will take years, but you just have to keep at it even if you only have a couple hours to sketch some flowers.

These flowers change fast. I sat down for a few minutes and when I looked at my sketch again the petals had moved. At first they have a pale pink line and as soon as they open they start to yellow.

Next time it doesn’t rain I’ll try to sketch some purple magnolias.

Chinese Paperbush blooming / pastel study

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For some odd reason, dirt was falling out of the tree behind me. I was glad I had my hat on but I couldn’t keep my paper clean. That’s Mother Nature for you, dropping mud on your head. How does she do it? 😉

Finally, I can finish my painting of the Paperbush. I’ve waited all year for it to bloom. A few years ago in the winter I followed a sweet smell to a Paperbush in Richmond. At the time I was working on a painting and didn’t want to start on the Paperbush. I thought I could do it the next year, but the next year I searched for the bush and it was gone, sacrificed for a big landscaping project. I was sad. Then I moved to the beach and was so happy to see another Paperbush in the arboretum next door, but once again, I had another big project in the works. So, this year I planned to paint the bush and it feels like a long time in the planning and now it’s going to get done.

I’ll practice sketching the flowers again tomorrow if the weather holds out, then I can finish the painting. Today I sketched the flowers close to life size but I’ll have to paint them smaller and won’t be able to get in much detail. That’s ok, if I practice drawing them life size it will be easier to paint the basic shapes later.

pastel studies of lotus flowers

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The weather was so nice this morning. I stayed in the garden for a couple hours and wasn’t even hot!

I want to do one more sketch in plein air then I can paint at home. I’m getting set up to try again painting with my brush taped to a yardstick like Matisse. First I need to do charcoal sketches of my flowers and leaves larger with my charcoal on a stick. After I get some larger looser sketches I’ll be able to plan a composition of flowers, buds and leaves.IMG_2088

This lotus is wilting. They move a lot in the wind and sun. They’re never the same from one day to the next.

Lotus flower / pastel

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This is the tall kind of lotus with the big leaves. I should make this leaf twice this size if I do it in oil paint. I didn’t take the right color pastels. It’s a narrow path and I took some pastels in a baggie instead of my whole pastel collection.

It’s getting too hot for me to enjoy standing around outside to draw. I have to get to the botanical garden when they open at 9 or forget about it because I’m not going out to draw when it’s over 85. At least I can get the zen vibe of drawing in for an hour or so in the morning if I get out early enough. Today the heat didn’t get to me until I was ready to do the leaf. It becomes impossible to concentrate when you get too hot.

I’d like to do more lotus studies and try to paint like Matisse again with the paintbrush on a yardstick. That was fun.