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.
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.
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’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.
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!
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.