This bush is a bright spot in the garden with clouds of red berries floating over twisted bare branches. The sun was out yesterday and today but it’s a little too cold both days to stand outside sketching for long. I could go back this afternoon if it warms up a little, or I could try to fake it at home with a larger piece of paper since I have this much visual information. Yesterday this bush had me confused with trying to see how the branches overlap and how they continue across the paper. I had my small sketchbook and couldn’t draw small enough to have room on the paper for the red berries, since they are hanging away from the main stems.
Today might be my last chance to sketch outside for a few days because winter precipitation is coming our way. I’d go to the arboretum and work on my painting of the Chinese Paperbush, except last winter when it was in the 35* F. range, like today, the glass on my pallet cracked in the cold. So, my two choices for today are either bundle up and take my charcoal to the botanical garden like yesterday, or stay in and sketch a model horse.
I found another great place to draw or paint close to home. It’s Fort Monroe. They have 400 years worth of history and some spooky places to explore. I wonder if the paranormal investigating team has been there yet. I only found it a few weeks ago.
This is about 1/3 of the battery. I want to do the rest and connect my sketches so I can do a panorama later. They have 3 batteries all different from each other but all spooky. They also have a great old oak tree over 400 years old. I need to draw that while it’s still alive, but it looks mostly dead now.
Fort Monroe was decommissioned in 2011 and made into a national park. It’s free and has plenty of parking. You can go around the outside of the fort / castle, or go around on the inside of the stone walls. You can even walk all the way around on the turrets. It has a mote and a lighthouse. And they have a great free museum, the Casemate Museum, if you like history.
This is a photo of the De Russy battery on the side facing the water.
Twice when I was riding my bike down the east dike road, a flock of small birds with light colored bellies, maybe finches, I don’t know for sure, was flying back and forth over the road and marsh back and forth swooping and dipping or kind of zipping all around me. It was CRAZY! Almost like the Birds movie! I couldn’t see whatever bugs they were after, if they were going for bugs.
I think the road closes in Nov. so I want to go back this week.
Can you see those two pelicans flying away? I had my Bob Ross moment there, drawing those happy little birds.
I think that guy knew I was sketching him. He kept turning in my direction. I was almost finished with my sketch and he left. Then some foreigners came out with a giant arch shaped kite. The guy had a harness strapped on his body holding the kite strings. It looked like the girl was doing most of the work trying to lift the kite up to catch the wind then going after it every time it came down. He was yelling instructions at her in Russian or something.
The kite was coming down a little too close for comfort to me so I packed up and left. That happens sometimes when you go out sketching in plein air, you gotta move for some reason.
I drove to PA because they had the cone for the hurricane hitting Virginia Beach. They told people in sections A to evacuate. I live in section C but I decided to leave to avoid power outages and so I wouldn’t have to worry about my car getting flooded. As soon as I got to PA I heard the hurricane was going to hit farther South than previously thought, so I came back to the beach and the lights are still on. It’s windy but not scary here. It looks like we got lucky this time. And I enjoyed the drive to PA and back. The scenery is beautiful and traffic was light and fast.
The place I love most in my home county, (Lancaster) is Middle Creek so I went up there and got this sketch. After I got my sketch and was ready to drive out I saw a huge pheasant in the tall grass by the side of the road. He was just poking around in there and didn’t fly off when I drove past him. I saw him close up. He was a beauty with big red spots around his eyes.
Middle Creek is great for seeing wildlife. In the Spring you can see 100,000 snow geese if you go at the right time and get through a traffic jam on that little country road.
Can you see the little mountain foothill in my sketch is hidden by fog?
I’m anxiously awaiting fall because I bet this little tree gets bright red. It’s my new favorite tree at Norfolk Botanical and I want to do a big painting of it this fall. My sketch book is too small. The tree is much wider and I can’t draw small enough to fit it on this paper.
I’ll go back with a full sized piece of pastel paper and my easel and try to draw it the size I want for my painting. Even though I’ll have to wait a couple months for the colors, I can start planning the painting and do a practice pastel. The tree is pretty and graceful all year round.
I was standing on the shady side so most of the leaves are in shadow, but you can see bright leaves on the other side of the tree showing through. That’s why the branches look so dark, because they’re shaded. When I paint it I’ll check the light at different times of day and decide what time it looks best. The path is small. If I take my easel and drawing board I can get it out of the way if a lot of visitors walk through easier than I’d be able to move my little oil painting set up. Maybe I can do my pastel in plein air and later mix my paint colors there too, but I’ll paint it at home so I can use a large canvas and tape my paintbrushes to a yard stick again. That made me feel as if I can paint loose like an Impressionist.
It’s a throwback to the age of the dinosaurs isn’t it?
My model is a bronze sculpture.
Yesterday I got a start on my sketch but after working on it for a half hour or so I saw that I drew it too far to the left on my paper. I didn’t want his beak to crowd the edge so I decided to transfer my sketch to the other side of the paper and try again.
I worked on it for another hour or so and was starting to get hungry and lose my concentration. I took a break and went back to work on it a little more. Then a lady spoke to me and I jumped. She was very apologetic for startling me but I told her no prob. I was in the zone but I can go back. That happens sometimes when you draw in plain air. If it would annoy you too much to have your concentration broken, then plain air isn’t for you. I kind of enjoy talking to people who are interested, so no big deal if they scare me. I’m not on any schedule for finishing the sketch.
Drawing this pelican made me see the beak has an extra section down the center. And from far away the head looks like a squid to me. Can you see that shape in the head? I’ve seen live ones before but I can’t remember where. If I find a good spot with a nice background for this bird I might do a painting and enter it in the Audubon contest. (some day)
My model is made of bronze. He’s at Norfolk Botanical Garden where I found a whole bunch of bronze birds and animals.
It was nice out this morning, not too hot and humid. I found a great place to stand and draw under a magnolia that is starting to bloom. When the weather gets warm I look for a shady place to sketch. There was a little breeze and the otter was in the sun.
It’s only drawing practice. I might never use this sketch in a painting, but if I ever want an otter for a painting I have one.
Here’s a strappy young redbud for you, appropriately planted in the childrens garden. It looks like it had a growth spurt last year but didn’t fill in yet.
I filled in the background with pastel on this study because I had some smears that wouldn’t erase all the way, and also to make the light on the tree show up more on the light paper.
It’s fun to spot these redbuds when you’re driving. They’re out there by the side of the road all wild and crazy. They don’t get very big but they’re bright and cheery when they bloom. Then when the flowers are down they blend back into the underbrush and you can’t see them again until next spring.
Some other trees of interest are in the photos below.
This tree has roots that have been formed into a circular bench all the way around for people to sit on or kids to climb on. I wonder how they got the roots to take that shape.
Can you see in this photo how they criss-crossed the stems of these crepe myrtles to make xs? I like the window pane effect of it. And some of the trees look like they merged together into one at the places where the stems cross. Isn’t that a cool thing to do with crepe myrtles?
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.