Category Archives: sketch

studies of wave anatomy / charcoal and chalk


I’m still getting the hang of drawing waves. That’s my excuse for hanging around on the beach when it’s cloudy and a little windy in the mid 40s. I stood between 2 sand dunes and didn’t feel cold. The tide was high when I was there yesterday and today with bigger breakers and some curl in the waves. A beautiful mist was blowing off the top of the waves.

I spend a few minutes observing the waves. How many are breaking, building up or going back out. Can I remember the shapes they take in those steps? Then I start scribbling. I took a little break from sketching and observed again before I could continue and I thought, I’m studying wave anatomy. I have to be there. I’ll never understand it from a photo.


These studies are for the big plan I have to paint fog on the beach. My canvas is 19×38, too big to take out on the beach, so I’ll have to paint it at home. Especially since I’m planning on taping my paintbrushes onto yard sticks so I can stand back from the canvas like Matisse did. The size of the canvas, the wind on the beach, the yard sticks, make it seem like it might get messed up on the sand. I have my color rough from the beach in plein air, so my colors and values will be close to life if I mix them again at home. I’m almost finished with a full size sketch for my painting. If I can do another wave study or two, maybe I can combine the best parts of all my wave sketches into one scene. I really need to have my plan worked out in advance because this is a difficult challenge for me.

Do you remember the story about how Turner lashed himself to a mast on a boat in a storm and painted? Sketching on the beach in this weather is tame compared to Turner. He must have been a real thrill seeker. But if an artist is really there on the scene painting I get the feeling of the atmosphere or spirit or something intangible from it, like Turner had in his paintings. do you know what I mean? That’s what I want. It might take the rest of my life to achieve it.


Orchid / charcoal and chalk


Good news. friends! I got in a plein air group! Another artist forwarded the meet up email to me from The Artists’ Gallery in Virginia Beach to meet at McDonalds Garden Center this morning. They’re organizing the plein air group and it will be called PAL (plein air league). I was so happy to join!

McDonalds Garden Center was great to draw in. I took my charcoal and chalk to draw white orchids. I knew they have some nice ones. In fact, the whole place is like Spring, so very cheerful and sweet smelling.

Then some of the artists went to an Italian restaurant for lunch. I enjoyed talking to the artists and getting to know a few people who I’ll see again next month.

It was good for your plein air artist ( with limited social skills) to find acceptance! YEA on VA Beach!

Chinese Paperbush / charcoal and chalk


A few days ago I was out on my balcony looking down at the arboretum and I thought I saw a bush with white flowers. I said, “Holy cow! something’s blooming down there in the beginning of Feb.!” Then I couldn’t spot it the next day because it was raining. This morning I saw it again, so I took my sketchbook down there and found the bush. I saw the plaque saying it’s a Chinese Paperbush and remembered seeing one once before at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. When I went back to Lewis Ginter the next time looking for the bush I couldn’t find it. Now I’m so happy that they have one right downstairs! I don’t even have to drive anywhere if I paint it.

It’s so pretty, when the sun shines on it the bark is gold in the light, and the flowers are bright white with dark green evergreens behind it. I have a lot of plans for paintings and one almost finished, so should I start another?

omg! There is so much inspiration when you move to the beach! I can’t keep up with it!

the mouth of the Chesapeake / charcoal and chalk


It was so beautiful over there today, sunny, around 45 and not too windy. I thought it was very refreshing. And I had this overlook all to myself.

The Army helicopters were a distraction, as they’re loud, and I kept stopping to watch them fly over. I was reminded that this is a strategic spot, with military bases on the side of the Bay. Well, I think we’re pretty safe from invasion through this place, so, I’m not complaining about the helicopters.

I have a plan. / Port Authority Norfolk



A couple days ago I bought some supplies at Jerry’s Artarama. They had a sign about putting your art in the store window, so I asked about it. They want to hide the back of the display racks facing out the windows, so they are making canvases in the sizes to fit the windows. You buy an odd size canvas from them, but they will put the painting in the window and not ask any commission if someone wants to buy it. I decided to give it a try. An artist has to take advantage of free space. I’m glad Jerry’s Artarama is doing it.

So I got this 19 x 38 canvas, and thought it might be fun to use it for a panoramic scene. The place that came to mind was the view from the Hermitage Museum in Norfolk. It’s the Port Authority all the way across the Elizabeth River.

Imagine the canvas covered by sky and river with a thin strip of land breaking it up far away. The strip of land has rigs they use to load and unload ships. They’re moving giant  ships in and out every day and they have huge stacks of cargo containers too. I’ll have to paint the rigs small because they’re far away, but they’re quite large constructions.  I might use my secret masking fluid on oil paint technique for this.

That’a my charcoal sketch taped to the canvas. Since I sketched it in plein air and it wasn’t too difficult to get my drawing close to natural visual perspective, I’m pretty sure I can make it work when I paint it.

We’ve had a few cloudy rainy days which is boring for your plein air artist because there’s no shadows. I have 2 other paintings planned, but it’s good for me to go out and sketch even if it is cloudy and chilly. They are predicting more of the same dreary weather for a couple days. As soon as the sun comes out I’m going to work on my painting at Pleasure House Point. I don’t care how cold it is or if it’s windy. I’m going out to paint.

When I was at the Hermitage doing this sketch it was kind of gray blue over there in the sky and water. It makes me feel like tinting this canvas with a peachy color because that’s the complimentary color of the cold steel gray I saw out there today. Won’t that be funny to paint this scene on a peach tinted canvas? Wouldn’t it be great if I could get the bright winter sunset colors in the sky and water? Maybe I could let some of the peach tint show through. I don’t know, it’s just an idea at this point.

It might take me a few weeks to finish this, because I’m going to wait for a real pretty winter sky after I get my land and rigs roughed in on the peach color.

Mirror Lake with Water Lilies charcoal

IMG_1925This is my 2nd try. It was so nice to get out and sketch this morning after months of not sketching because I moved. My art supplies are some of the last things I’m unpacking.

I went over to Norfolk Botanical Garden thinking I wanted to draw the beautiful bronze figure, but I had a look at the lake first and it was so bright and beautiful in the sun. I said to myself, that statue will be the same all year, let me sketch this before  frost  wipes out the water lilies.

Now I have to unpack a box of canvases because tomorrow I’m going back to start a painting.

Daylilies / charcoal


This is my 2nd try sketching daylilies. I think it came out better than the drawing from last week, so next time I’m going to take my pastels and do them in color. They say the heat and humidity will ease up in a couple days. That will make it easier for me to concentrate longer.

These flowers are a bright peachy pink! So bright! So pretty!

They change every day and even in a couple hours are moving to follow the sun, so I won’t be able to use this sketch. Some of the flowers I drew today will be wilted and some new buds will be opening.

I got a mosquito bite. I’m their favorite flavor, O+

canna and coleus / charcoal


The canna is yellow (the tall stalk like plants) and the coleus is dark blackish red (the shorter plants in the fore ground).

I had a look at the lotuses standing in the sun and decided to find some flowers where I could sit in the shade to draw. It’s not as hot as yesterday, but sweat was still dripping off my hair after walking slowly around the garden. After cooling off on a shaded bench for a while I was ok to draw. And there was a little breeze that was nice. I haven’t been out to draw for a while and I enjoyed it very much.

A lady I know liked this sketch and asked me if I was going to do something with it. I told her I’ll just put it on my blog. Sometimes I do a lot of charcoal sketches before I get something that I want to paint.

The thing I enjoy about drawing and painting in plein air is not in knocking out a painting in a few hours, it’s hanging around in a beautiful place for as many days as I feel like being there. In fact, the painting is secondary in my mind. I’m so thankful I’m not on some kind of art treadmill where I’m under pressure to do fast unfinished paintings for some arbitrary time limit rule some person made up. That would destroy the zen like experience of it. And one of my main reasons for not fitting into the art scene. I don’t care if fast unfinished paintings are in style. I don’t care if all the other plein air painters out there take hundreds of photos then trace their best one onto a canvas and go back and hurry fill it in like it was a coloring book. I don’t have to do that.

I’m not interested in taking a class to see if I can paint fast. I’m not interested in taking a drug to make me keep painting all day either, because a drug is the only way I could ever get that kind of energy. So, there you have it friends, apathy to the art world in a nutshell. hahahahahahhaha

American Wisteria

oil pastel and oil paint on paper
oil pastel and oil paint on paper

I love to see the wisteria blooming wild by the side of the road when I’m driving in the country. Sometimes it gets so thick it can choke out trees. This is an old vine at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden on a stone wall.

First I drew it with charcoal on the paper, then used oil pastel for the wall and as an underdrawing for the Wisteria.  The oil pastel alone looked a little weak for the flowers, so I used oil paint and put a second layer on to bring the flowers off the wall visually, by using the contrast of the more solid paint against the more sketchy pastel.

I’m glad I finally got a sketch of the Wisteria, because I’ve been wanting to draw it for years.