Orchid / mixed media

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I was alone in the greenhouse on Saturday. It rained all day but it was nice to be there sketching. Then later a photographer came in and spoke to me. I asked him if this is a slipper orchid and he told me it’s a pitcher plant, which makes sense because the bottom center petal is pitcher shaped, but it doesn’t look like the other pitcher plants I sketched in the past.

I used oil paint sticks and watercolor.

The sun finally came out! YEA! I’m going back to work on my sketch of the daffodils later when it warms up a little.

I saw a bad art movie on Netflix, Velvet Buzzsaw. It’s about bad art first fascinating then KILLING art world elitists. Does the really bad art kill ordinary people too? I watched the whole movie, like you have to look at a car wreck.

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Vine charcoal makes sketching easier for me.

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This sketch of daffodils isn’t finished. You can see the smudges from erasing. That’s ok, the smudges won’t show when it’s finished.

To start a sketch I use the side of a small piece of charcoal to blob in the general size and shape of the flower, then go back and erase to get the shape of the petals. I spend as much time erasing as drawing to refine the shapes then I outline the petals, then erase again so the charcoal doesn’t show through when I use my semi transparent oil paint sticks on top.

I did this a few days ago and it’s been raining ever since. When I go back the flowers won’t be the same. I’ll either start again or totally erase these and draw on top of this.  I feel like I get a better finished piece if I get a good drawing to start with. Even if it’s only a sketch and will never get framed or seen anywhere except WordPress, I want to make it a strong sketch. There is a chance I could use it for a painting. If I never do, I’ll still have burned a file for daffodils in my brain which will make it easier to remember in the future. Those brain files are better than looking it up on google. Know what I mean?IMG_2211

This sketch of a slipper orchid is almost ready to go over with oil paint sticks. I need to erase more but I will be able to see it. Then my lines of paint stick will look free. Durn, there’s a smudge on the paper. Maybe I can erase it, or I could try to hide it somehow if it won’t erase. Stay tuned.

Navy Ships Anchored on the Elizabeth River / charcoal and chalk

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Ships and boats are all around us here. I should get some practice drawing them. Yesterday I went over to Fort Norfolk to check it out and it was closed for Presidents’ Day, which I forgot about, but the guard at the gate told me I could park in their field on the outside of the fort to sketch.  It was great. The ships are close because the river isn’t too wide there. It was sunny and not too cold and I had the place to myself.   A lot of people could see me from the tall buildings all around but it was safe because the guard was probably watching me too. Since you have to show a photo ID to get into the fort it might be the safest place on the waterfront to sketch. I’ll get back over there again soon. It’s the oldest fort and they have guided tours.

The ships weren’t easy to draw. My sketch kept getting bigger as I was working on it which means it was out of my control. Control, sometimes you want it, sometimes you don’t. If I was always in control of my sketch that means I’ve mastered drawing. So, there’s still room for improvement. My ships aren’t in exact proportion either, maybe that’s not noticeable.

my next big adventure

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This sounds like fun. I signed up.

A few years ago I wanted to take a vacation out west then I canceled my plans because I moved to the beach and I’ve been on permanent vacation since I got here.

I bought a 6 cylinder Ford in 2016 because I wanted a car strong enough to go up a Rocky Mountain without overheating, which is what happened on my last road trip when I drove the old Buick. Every time I drove uphill it ran hot then when I went downhill it ran cold. I wondered if the car would make it back home. It did. Also, the Ford has the most comfortable seats of all the cars I test drove.

I’ve been looking at the Plein air magazine once in a while for a workshop to join but couldn’t decide on any of them until I saw this ad. I was hoping to find a Plein air event at The Dalles in Oregon because in all my cross country driving, The Dalles was one of my favorite places, but I think this one at the Ghost Ranch will be great. I like the part about no competition, no show, no drama. So, I guess it will be painting and partying.

I’ll drive my big ass Ford to New Mexico because I enjoy driving but I don’t enjoy flying. YEA! Now I have another thing to look forward to! The first thing is moving in March which I think will be a good move for me too.

Orchid with buds / mixed media

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I drew this much larger than life so I could do the detail of the red veins in the petals but it’s showing up on my computer screen close to the actual size of the orchid.

The flowers are oil paint sticks and the background and the yellow inside the petals is watercolor. I also used my yellow paint stick in the petals.IMG_2202

This is my charcoal sketch from the day before. The bud opened up a lot in one day. I erased this sketch when I went over it with the paint sticks, so I redrew the flower on the left using the paint sticks. I didn’t need to do it again with charcoal because it’s easier the second time.

There are a few more orchids I’d like to draw. I’m not sure if I’ll do it this year or wait till next year because one lady working in there said, “Oh, you’re back.” She didn’t sound happy about it and I ignored her, but now I feel like I should try to find times when she’s not there if I draw in the greenhouse again.

I love gardeners despite that important lady. Gardeners grow my inspiration.

Orchids / mixed media

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February’s not so bad around here, if you love orchids. The growers are showing off their finest ones in your nearest greenhouse. I spent a few peaceful hours sketching them at Norfolk Botanical Garden. It was nice to get out to draw on those rainy cloudy days.

I used my oil paint sticks for the flowers and watercolor for the background. That’s why my orchids have a sketchy look. It’s not easy to draw a sharp line with the oil paint sticks. And I was drawing on white watercolor paper with a white oil paint stick, so it was hard to see what it would look like with the background colored in. For the shadows on the orchids, I used a silver oil paint stick because it’s the only gray I have and I thought it would look too dark for shadows on white orchids. I went over the silver with white. I scraped it off with my palette knife and went over it with white again.  After I put in the dark watercolors I thought the silver/gray looked ok.IMG_2199

First, I did a detailed sketch with charcoal. If you draw a line with an oil paint stick and it’s in the wrong place, you can’t erase it. This helped me to get the shapes and sizes of the orchid petals so that when I used the oil paint sticks There would be a better chance of my flowers fitting on the paper and coming out graceful like the orchids.

As I was going over this sketch with the oil paint sticks, I was erasing my charcoal. I could see enough to draw with my white and silver oil paint sticks, but I didn’t want my charcoal line to show through the paint stick lines. So, this sketch got erased during the process, and replaced with the looser sketchier version of the orchids shown above.

That was fun. I think I’ll go back and draw another type of orchid.

Chinese Paperbush / oil

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Do you ever get the feeling a painting is speaking to you? Because I think this painting has something to say, but I can’t interpret it. It’s talking too fast.

First it’s saying something about music, then it’s something about my life. Then it’s telling me something about blooming in the winter, refreshing cool air.  Something else about an altered state of consciousness that an artist gets into when they’re painting. It’s easier than you think it will be. What else?

What does it look like to you, dear reader? Is it only a representation of a pretty bush or does it have a message that you can see?

I went back to the garden 3 times since my last post to work on this in Plein air. I don’t know if you can see all the changes I made on it.

sketches and plans for my unfinished painting of the Chinese Paperbush

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Did I draw too many flowers? Or not enough? Do I even know what I’m doing? Those are the questions I’ve been asking myself as I stand outside in the arboretum sketching flowers for my painting of the Chinese Paperbush on 40*F days.

I’m dressed for the weather so 40* is ok for me to be out a couple hours on a sunny day, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to use these sketches. When I paint the flowers on my canvas they’ll be smaller. Am I wasting a lot of time in the rather nippy fresh air?

Half the time I think I can paint the flowers at home instead of taking my oil paints, easel, canvas etc over there. Then the other half of the time I think I have to take all my stuff and at least get started on it in plein air and maybe I can finish it at home, because I think painting the flowers might be time consuming.

It’s not that I’m really stuck with this difficult painting, I’m still working on it, but I’m not exactly sure how to proceed and I don’t want to mess it up since I already have a lot of time in it. When I was in art school so long ago, they told us if you don’t have a good plan worked out for your painting, do more sketches. I’m going back to my training on this one.IMG_2186

I worked on the branches at home for a few hours but I still want to go over them again after I get the flowers on the bush. The branches should be a warmer color. It’s almost a glow. I hope I can get that orange winter sunlit effect. I’ll do a glaze.

I want to go over the ground again too, maybe with a palette knife, and define the shadows more.

So, for art viewers who are interested in the process, here’s where I have to make some decisions. Some paintings don’t require as much planning.

jellyfish / mixed media

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In the aquarium they’re graceful, delicate and so beautiful but they don’t look  good when they wash up on the sand. In fact they look scary and gross on the beach and you might want to stay out of the water if you see them.img_2191

My models move, but slowly, so I thought it would be easier to sketch them with oil paint sticks since that medium forces me to draw faster and looser.

I sketched them on watercolor paper then painted the blue background with watercolor. The oil paint sticks resist the watercolor from going into the paper. It was almost like drawing blindfolded because I couldn’t see the white oil paint stick on the white paper even if I looked at the paper. I could see a little shine from the oil paint stick but it was dark in the aquarium so I moved back away from the jellies exhibit to see what I had and really couldn’t see it until I put the blue background on the paper over the white oil paint stick. I could see the pink sketch as I was drawing.

They have hair like tentacles which I couldn’t draw with my thick clunky oil paint sticks but I like the texture of the paint sticks on the watercolor paper.

The aquarium has a real laid back atmosphere and zen sound effects. They have some great marshy overlooks outside on a nice trail. It gets crowded in the summer but I can sketch more for a couple months without getting in the way of others.

I’m excited because in March I’m moving again. This time within a mile of the oceanfront and only 3 miles from the aquarium. I’ll be able to bike over to the aquarium because the road has a wide sidewalk the whole way. I’ll be able to walk to the ocean, the Neptune Festival, shopping, dining, etc. I’ll be much closer to Back Bay too, but it will take longer to drive to the botanical garden.

No Camera Needed