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.
This tree is so twisted, when I stopped drawing it I thought it looked a little crazy. Does it look crazy to you too, or is it just me? (anthropomorphizing trees again) When I got home and taped it to the wall, I said to myself, this looks like a neural network. OH NO! This is the INSIDE OF MY BRAIN!! No wonder I thought it looked a little crazy. hahahahah (insane laughter)
This is my interpretation of the tree, close, but not exactly what it looks like. A bunch of them were clumped together so I tried to draw only one. A lady stopped and talked with me for a while. I asked her if this is a live oak and she told me it’s a live sea oak. I’ll look for photos later to verify that. Or tell me if you know for sure about the name of the tree.
There’s some real pretty views from the boardwalk overlooks on the dunes. You can see a long gray blur of these trees all blending together stretching down the beach behind the dunes. I’ll draw the long view another time. They look soft from far away.
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.
Life isn’t easy if you’re a pine tree on a sand dune. If a sensitive person saw this tree from far away, they might think it was dying, it looks so sad. It doesn’t have a lot of needles and the ones on top are an orange brown.
But when you get closer, you see how it’s filling in the leeward dip in the dunes with greener branches. It looks like the branches came back down to the dune and rerooted, which I heard some trees can do on sand. I didn’t test it for roots because I didn’t want to mess with it.
Then you notice it’s kind of graceful in the way it leans and twists. Is that how it is in the life of a human too? Can a hard life give a soul some kind of stark graceful beauty not seen in the lives of those that had it easy?
That’s my zen question for today. The beach makes me feel all zen. Can you feel the refreshingly cool breeze coming off the bay in my sketch?
I found this sad and slightly gross thing on the beach. I went there hoping to sketch waves but the tide was out and the waves were very small so I gave up on that idea for today.
The seaweed caught my eye and it seemed appropriate for a gray day like today. I arranged it on the sand and sat on the side of a sand dune with less wind to sketch it.
I just wanted to be on the beach a little while.
This is a sketch I did yesterday. The waves were small then too, but today it’s practically calm. I need to sketch waves again before I start the painting I’m planning of the beach in fog. If it’s foggy the waves will be small, especially if the tide’s going out. I can give up on painting large breaking waves with sunlight showing through the curl here. I get the feeling this spot never gets waves like that. If it’s stormy the waves could be bigger but the sun wouldn’t shine through. I’ll find large waves another time.
I’m excited about my plan for this painting because I want to tape my paintbrushes onto yard sticks and stand back from my canvas to paint, like Matisse. And also, it will be a challenge because I want to try to represent fog. With less waves and less contrast, it’ll be mostly gray. I want to use warm and cool glazes close to the same value to make my grays brighter, and I also hope I can get a foggy atmosphere into the painting. It could take a few tries. The better I work out my plan before I start, the better my chances the painting will work.
I’ve been hanging around on the beach sketching. Here’s the plan for my next big project. I’m going to use a technique of Matisse. I’ve always loved his work and recently read an article that reminded me of a fun project I tried in high school.
A few days ago when I went to the beach it was so foggy I could hardly see the waves 50 ft. away. Looking in this direction I could see the fence all blurry in the fog. Looking the other direction down the beach nothing was visible except gray mist. It was eerie. It was soft and muted. That atmosphere was inspiring. So now I want to try to represent fog. I want to make a real smooth painting using glazes. That last painting I finished of the Port Authority was fun working on a larger canvas and trying to get a panoramic view. So, I’m going to try to do the beach in the fog next, and do it big. It will be mostly gray, but I enjoy mixing my grays. I think they look pearly.
The thing about Matisse is that he sometimes put his paint brushes on a long stick so he could stand way back from his canvas. I did that long ago and it was fun. Also it’s good to stand back from your canvas so you can see it better. Now, I don’t know if I’ll be able to make a smooth painting if I tape my paintbrushes to yardsticks but I’ll try. It will eliminate the detail from the painting, so it will look more Impressionistic, but I’ll still use my glazes since getting the values right will help get the illusion of fog. I know I won’t get it right on the first try. Impressionists don’t use glazes, so I don’t know how they would represent fog. My painting won’t look anything like a Matisse either.
I can’t start a project like this without a solid plan for the waves, even though they will be covered with fog. I still need more practice drawing waves. I can’t go by a photo because of a teacher I had in art school. ( I’ll update my about page soon and tell that story since it had a big influence on me. ) That means, I’ll be going to the beach a few more times to sketch. And I’ll need to do a smaller paint rough before I start on a big canvas. This could take months because I’ll have to wait for foggy weather. We should have more fog soon, but not all the time, so I’ll also start on another painting and have two in progress, the fog and the swamp.
When I was on the beach today a couple people stopped to talk to me. They saw me sketching this yesterday. I asked them if they knew what type of plant it is and they said it’s a cherry. It’s branches go back down to the sand and reroot farther away from the main trunk of the plant. I’ll go back and find a Live Oak to sketch another time. I think the Live Oaks must be the trees with the layers of lichens along the path, and smaller ones on the dunes. The plants on the dunes have a bleak look.
The sun came out in my neighborhood and I wanted to go out and sketch so I went to the beach hoping to draw some waves. I want to practice drawing and painting moving water. I could hear the waves but not see them until I was down on the wet sand because it was so foggy. I stood in the fog for a while and looked down the beach. It was definitely spooky. The waves were small. The sky and sea blended together. So soft, I thought. I wondered if I could paint fog and it looks like fog. I might go back and try to paint real real smooth glazes till I get it. That might be my minimalist painting, a foggy beach. But it might not qualify as minimalist if it takes me a few layers of paint to do it. I’m not sure, since I’m not really up on defining different styles of painting. The fog was just an inspiration.
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.
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.
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!