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.
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.
It’s called a Kylin. It’s part of a large display in Lanterns Asia at Norfolk Botanical Garden. Doesn’t the black paper make it look dramatic?
I went to the botanical garden to draw this during the day and wondered what it looked like lit up at night. When I went back at night I didn’t take my pastels because I thought it would look totally different than my pastel drawing, so instead I took my camera. It was a difference like night and day.
This is called “Kylin in Delight”. This is what the plaque says, “Kylin is a traditional beast with a calm temperament in ancient Chinese tales. The legend of the Han people said that the beast has a life span of 2000 years. Ancient people believed where there is Kylin there is favorable omen. Sometimes talented people are compared to Kylin.”
Here’s a photo of the head of the Kylin at night.
This photo of the rump of the Kylin shows how it’s body was made of little glass bottles filled with colored water. Pretty neat idea for a lantern, huh?
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.