Category Archives: sketch

rhododendron sketch and azalea painting update

I’m waiting for my paint to dry on the azalea painting before I can finish it with the last color, pink. If I put the pink on before the other paint is dry, it might lift some white or gray and that would make the pink less bright. A couple weeks ago I bought a tube of fast drying white at Jerry’s Artarama because I knew Titanium white dries slowly. When I opened the tube it was dry in the tube! And I didn’t save the receipt. bummer.

While I wait for the paint to dry on the azaleas I decided to sketch the rhododendrons which are starting to bloom. This is Inktense pencils.

There’s a real pretty path through the rhododendrons. It’s covered with moss and has a bench and spotty sunlight. I’d like to do a painting of the path but that might be a project for next year because it could be complicated and I need to figure out a good plan for it and do sketches first.

After I did the underpainting and waited for that to dry I went over this a couple more times, background, leaves, stems, and flowers. The gray is the shadows on the azaleas. At first I had a warm gray for shadows but after looking at it for a couple days I decided to make the shadows slightly darker and cool, so I put a cool gray glaze over the warm gray. It looks like neutral gray in this photo. I’m not sure if you can see the layers of paint but you can see some veins in the paint which I like making. It gives the painting more variety of brush strokes and direction in the petals.

This azalea is past blooming but I have my sketches to go by and I’m pretty sure I can finish it at home. I think it will work out with the pink looking as bright as possible. I did some color roughs. I might do another one. I’ll continue with glazing pinks next. Then it will be finished.

I wasn’t going to show it at this stage because it’s almost done, but I thought if I just post a close up of this one section it won’t spoil the surprise.

new azalea sketches and painting plan

As I’m sketching the flowers, I pick up information that a photo won’t give you. It’s not always easy to see the petals as separate shapes. I’m sure a camera would blend them together. I might be the only one interested in drawing petals separately but it could help me decide which direction to drag my brush on the painting, where the edges are if I want to keep edges. I’ll probably simplify the painting but I need detailed drawings.

Another thing a photo won’t make you aware of is that the buds and flowers come in groups of three. The stems are in threes too. The stems don’t go straight vertical but have some curve. Some of the petals have smooth edges and some have zig zag edges.

Now I realize that other plein air artists don’t care about separate petals. They’d go to the garden and start right in with slapping down some paint and finish the painting in a day or maybe less. I need the sketching time to figure out a plan.

The more flowers I sketch the easier it gets. I might need more flower sketches but maybe these are enough.

The two big azalea bushes I was standing between are in a kind of U shape where I can step off the path and stand between the bushes to sketch. These are on the shady side. I looked at the sunny side of the bushes and the sun was too bright on my white paper. It was blinding! I use the white paper last because it’s not great for sketching in plein air. Also when looking at the side in the direct sun all the flowers were lit equally bright. When I sketched the shady side it was easier on the eyes. I didn’t feel like going back to the car for my sunglasses.

As I was standing there for around an hour and a half to fill each of these papers with flowers, some spotty light fell on a few flowers at a time and it was much nicer to see than the bright glare of direct light. I decided to do my painting with spotty light. I’ll have to fake it on the sunlight if I paint this at home, but that means I can put as much sunlight in as I want to, because if I go back to the garden to paint the flowers will be different and I don’t know exactly what time the sun fell on any flower to catch it at it’s best.

So, yeah, and hour and a half on each sketch paper. That means I have around six hours in it so far and haven’t started painting yet. That’s one reason I can’t get in with a plein air group. Also, I don’t want to pay to join a group, I mean $35 to get your name on an email list? But they don’t like this approach to painting. They don’t want to go back day after day and do a bunch of sketches. But it’s a whole different process and if I ever sell a painting I’ll ask a lot more for it than their fast one day paintings would go for. They want their art openings to be “cohesive” which means the artists must conform. If all the paintings for sale are asking $300 and someone enters a painting and they want $1000 for it, the juror would reject it because they don’t want an artist to think their painting is worth so much more that any of the others.

I traced my flowers from the sketch papers and cut them out to arrange them on the paper I tinted for this painting. This step will help me decide if I need to draw more flowers or if this is enough. I want to have some flowers in the background too. If I can come up with a good arrangement then I’ll try to decide how much sunlight to put into the painting and where. I decided I want the spotty light to make the composition more than the flower shapes. If I can make a good composition with the flowers and light, I hope the viewer’s eye will move around the whole painting.

azalea sketches and wildlife report

This will be a busy week at the botanical garden because of the holiday and the weather is improving. Norfolk was on the edge of a freeze warning so I wondered if it would affect the azaleas which are starting to bloom but they look fine today.

I’m undecided how to paint them but I’ll get more sketches and paint at home. I have a good spot to sketch off the main path. I just don’t want to hang around if it gets crowded so I’m going when they open in the morning.

These are close to life size on my 11 x 14 paper which is the size I can stand and hold in one hand to sketch without using my easel.

I took my numbered color swatches that correspond with my Inkense pencils to make color notes. That’s my little color notes on the sketch. I might use my Inktense pencils for this or maybe oils with my brushes on a yardstick, which is fun.

The variegated ones are my favorites. oops, I smeared my charcoal. That’s ok, I need a lot more sketches but I can start planning my painting by starting to arrange them on a larger paper.

In wildlife news:

Crows, A crow was harassing me at the botanical garden when I painted the redbud last week, caw caw cawing over my head for a long time. Finally I thought he wants to steal something shiny from me and I covered my paintbrushes and everything else with any shine and he went away.

Canada geese. I pulled into a shopping center to get lunch and saw a goose sleeping in the parking lot. I wondered if he was sick, hoped he didn’t get hit by a car. Then I got my Kentucky fried chicken and parked to eat it. I saw the other goose sitting on a nest under a tree on one of the cement islands with mulch in the parking lot. 4 crows were constantly harassing the goose on the nest. The goose didn’t seem concerned about the cars but that would be bad with the crows harassing the geese all day. And they will have to walk a long way when the eggs hatch because there’s no pond anywhere near there. The babies will have to cross busy streets if the crows don’t manage to steal the eggs first. what a bad spot for a nest! I noticed some human had left a plastic bowl near the nest, probably with food or water.

Ospreys. I was happy to see the nesting pair back on top of the light pole out back. It’s over a little league field. The teams are back to playing their regular schedule. Sometimes it gets loud out there but it’s mostly quiet.

tidal pool with ship coming in / charcoal and chalk

The weather has been dismal here. We did get a little snow but mostly rain and it looks like more rain and cloudy weather for another week. I was glad to get another sketch of the tidal pool when the sun came out. It was cool with a little breeze.

It would be nice to see more snow than rain but the people around here don’t drive in snow very well.

I might try to paint this at home or I might do a sewing project but I needed another sketch first. This helped me visualize the bottom of the pool where the water runs back out to the bay and I made some mental notes of the colors I’ll need. It can be a limited palette. The vertical format isn’t going to work for a painting. I need larger paper. Some times I have to keep sketching before I can decide even simple things like horizontal or vertical. The pool looks too narrow here but I think I can use both of my sketches and fake it for the painting.

The ship had a lot of red on it. It was pretty on the gray blue water.

tidal pool / charcoal and chalk

This is what I decided on for my next plein air painting. I hope that pool doesn’t dry up. It looks like it will be easy to paint.

It’s going to rain again tomorrow, Mon. sunny and cold. I don’t mind cold but if it’s windy I can’t paint on the beach. Then more rain and maybe snow is coming for a few days.

The weather is keeping me at home too much. I started a flower painting and worked on it a few times at home when it was yucky out, maybe I can finish it tomorrow.

Today was beautiful outside for a change. Sunny and cool with a little breeze. A lot of people were enjoying the beach.

a quick sketch from 2006

tundra swans at Middle Creek

This sketch is about to get wasted. I’m using the back of the paper. This will get ruined so here it is to be seen for the last time.

I remember it was 06 because that was a strange time in my life. I sold the house in Chesterfield because I knew the market was in a bubble and I didn’t feel safe there alone. I put my stuff in storage and went to PA. For a couple years I bounced around between PA and VA. I was a gypsy. It was great.

I couldn’t settle down for long. I couldn’t pick another house or an apartment so I lived with this lady or that lady. Finally I got an apartment but still, I want to keep moving even up to last year.

The apt. I have now is quiet and no one is bugging me so I will probably renew my lease in April. I’m not sure. I’ll decide when I hear if the rent goes up or not.

lichens / charcoal and chalk

slightly larger than life on my 11 x 14 sketchbook

They’re light green, and layered like tiny leaves or scales. I’m not sure but I think this is a live oak. I’ll ask later at the visitor’s center to be sure. The trees are sprawling with limbs going back down to the sand and all covered with lichens.

I was glad to get over there today after staying home for a couple days because of windy and rainy weather. Today it’s still a little cold and cloudy but not much wind. Tomorrow, winter weather is coming in.

I’d like to paint the whole tree. There’s a lot of them around the empty campsites, so, good time of year for that project.

It would be fun to paint lichens super close up too. I might be able to wing it at home since I have this sketch.

dunes, bay, ship heading out / charcoal and chalk

In defense of perfectionism:

I wonder why perfectionism is so unpopular these days.

Sometimes I see a piece of art, any type of art, and I think that is just sublime. I couldn’t do better. I can’t find any fault with that. That looks like perfection to me. It’s a treat for your eyes. That was no accident. If the artist didn’t work on that particular piece for a long time then they are showing you the end result of years of practice.

Art experts don’t like to see evidence of hard work. They call it “labored over” like labor isn’t part of life. It’s to be avoided. There is no such thing as a labor of love to those people.

If an artist is insecure maybe the person saying, ” don’t continue to work on this painting, stop now before you overwork it.” The expert is trying to make the artist feel better about themself. If the artist is saying, “I’m not good enough,” that isn’t relevant in the art world. You can be a real jerk, it doesn’t matter. You can still do art that is uplifting and people might love your art. I’m not good enough also doesn’t make sense to me because imperfection is accepted, even prized. The artists I’m talking about only need more practice till they feel good enough.

You don’t get there by giving up if you think you can fix a painting and make it better by continuing to work on it. If you don’t want to do that right now, it’s ok to put it off till next week, next year or any other time when you think you can do better.

I’ll agree no one is perfect. Perfection is an ideal. Why not shoot for the ideal? Even if you never get there trying is better than copping out. Art might be the only chance we have to get close to perfection.

If you want to keep going over it again and again don’t let anyone stop you. If you get on a good path and want to keep doing the same thing in different variations until you have had enough then you have to do that and don’t let anyone say, “you’re not done with that yet?”

Ignore anyone that tells you what not to do.

As always, feel free to opine.

the way to the bay / sketch

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel on the horizon

Oh man, there are so many places and things I want to draw and paint. I went over there thinking it would be fun to sketch lichens. I had lichens in the back of my mind since last winter. Then I saw some strange thorn trees. I continued walking a little further looking at lichens and trying to decide, lichens or thorns, and I walked out on this overlook and thought I’ll do this scene.

It was great weather, sunny, cool, light breeze. I only saw two people coming back from the beach.

The water was dark gray.

I need a bigger piece of paper. I could get into painting this freely if I tape my brushes onto yardsticks again and stand back. That might help my perspective a little too.

They’re calling for sunny but cold weather this weekend. I should go back. I’ll have it all to myself. It’s a real nice overlook with a bench.

sketch from Back Bay / charcoal and chalk

My sketchbook has assorted colors, blueish, greenish, tan, gray and white. The white is too bright to enjoy drawing on in plein air. Sometimes I tint white paper with pastel, blend it down and spray it with fixative. It’s easier to draw on. The white has so much glare in the sun. That’s what I did for this sketch, tinted it gray first.

Darn it, the waves look a little weak. I need more practice drawing and painting water. It’s always a challenge and it changes every day. I’d like to paint this scene. This is a good time of year to do it. The weather was sunny, cool and windy today. It felt refreshing and I had the overlook all to myself

Except for the water, which might be difficult to paint, this scene looks easy to do. I’m trying to decide, it might not be a good idea to take my easel because I can’t anchor it with the spikes on the wooden overlook. I might be able to paint on paper and lean my drawing board on the railing. I’d have to keep a hand on my easel all the time since it’s windy there.