Tag Archives: charcoal

beach sketch / charcoal

The weather has been great lately and I finally got back out to sketch at First Landing. It was crowded and I sat behind the people on the edge of a dune. They didn’t know I was sketching them. Since I was slightly uphill from them the tops of the umbrellas were below the horizon and their heads were close to the water line. This isn’t the view I need for my painting but I might be able to use it somehow for my big beach painting which is on hold until I decide how to paint people in the scene.

A cargo ship went out to sea and I hurried to sketch it. The ships look so huge right there you think they will run aground because they are so big and close up but I think that might be an optical illusion caused by the sea. I’m not sure. The way the sand juts out right there might add to an illusion. Next to First Landing State Park we have Fort Story at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, and they would let me go in to see the lighthouse. I might go in some day and see if the ships look too close but if I do go in they will check me at the guard house and do I really want to go on a military base? I saw the lighthouse long ago.

recent sketches

This might be too complicated and difficult and too big. I bought a 36 x 36 canvas because I draw large and I want to fit both the pitcher and batter in the scene.

I had to tape pieces of paper together to make the 36 x 36 and the canvas is too big for the little space on the back stairway landing so I used my drawing board and kept moving the paper around to draw different areas and folding the excess paper behind the drawing board while it was on my easel. The paper is a few inches larger than 36 widthwise here, but it will be ok. The pitcher and batter will both fit in if I take the excess off the left.


This little bit of architecture is giving me a problem. I can’t even tell you how many times I drew and erased on my first paper and still didn’t get it right. I decided to try again and came out with these and they are better but to my naked eye when I’m comparing to life they look too large and I drew them this size before. I don’t know if I’ll try one more time or if this will do. I’ll decide later.

Long ago I took a class on linear perspective and vanishing points were taught and other architectural things which were complicated. A lot of times the vanishing point is off the edge of the paper. I decided long ago that I’d probably have to eyeball the angles. I can’t just enlarge a photo because the camera distorts linear perspective. So it’s not easy. I keep trying again until it doesn’t bug me anymore.

I need to paint the background before I start adding players and spectators so this could take a long time. Plus I was thinking of trying to paint a night game which, omg, I don’t know if I can do this.

I have all summer to sketch people at the games.

ship coming in on the bay
tiny person far away walking their dog on the beach

Great Blue Heron sketches / charcoal

about 4″

This is the easiest kind of heron to sketch, the kind made of bronze. It’s a sculpture at Norfolk Botanical Garden called “Hunter’s Herons” that they donated to the garden in memory of someone named Hunter. The plaque doesn’t tell the name of the artist that made the sculpture.

around 2.5″

I sketched it from different sides. It’s not easy to see their legs because the sculpture has some sticks as part of the design.

That’s the only problem with herons, they’re camouflaged. I’d like to use these sketches in a painting some day. I’ll tape this to the wall so it doesn’t get lost or smeared. If I paint them small, which is how I see them in a scene because I can’t get close, they won’t show up in a large painting. I could paint them white and make them into egrets then they would be noticeable.

around 2″

I stood on the other side of the canal to draw these first so they are farther away. Then I went over the bridge to get the other sketches. A lady hollered across the canal to me, “Can you sketch me?” I yelled back, “How long can you stand still?” She yells back that she could take a nap and I yelled back to her, “All right!”

It was nice out but we have rain moving in so I’m glad I got out today. The daffodils are blooming big time over there. I might try to do a watercolor.

In unrelated bird news, the ospreys are nesting on the light pole out back again. YEA!

sketch of a lotus pod / the last time this painting will ever be seen

I scouted a little park on Sandbridge Rd. where a little bridge goes over some backwater and there’s only a few places to park, which are always used when the flowers bloom. These pods were all around in the mud.

I like to look at dry sticks, pods, trees without leaves, wilted leaves and flowers, etc. Decay is beautiful. Long ago I liked to make stick arrangements. hahaha I guess a flower painting would be more marketable than a still life of sticks and pods but I’d really like to paint a stick and dead plant still life. I could take my time with that too, where with live flowers they die before I finish the painting and I have to buy more, or hurry up and paint the ones in the garden as soon as they start to bloom.

This is the painting I did a few years ago at First Landing State Park of the Chesapeake Bay and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in the background. I was going to redo the waves on the bottom of the canvas but I just decided to throw it away and start again. Next time I’ll do better and maybe put a ship way out there or a wind surfer.

This is one of the paintings that I almost lost. Someone was planning to steal it from an art supply store that had paintings in the windows including this one. I just happened to go to the store and noticed the painting wasn’t in the window and the store manager searched and searched for it and finally found it hidden behind carts so I took it home. It was right at the door.

When I got home I noticed someone had priced it with a red marker then scribbled out the first price and wrote $40. I never priced it but I would have asked more than that for it even if the waves aren’t finished.

I’d throw it away or give it away before I’d sell it for $40. I had it behind some stuff but sometimes I thought about reworking the waves. Now it’s going in the dumpster because every once in a while I throw away art and try again.

I’m pretty sure it almost got stolen and I was happy to have it back but I can do better on another canvas.I need to buy another big canvas and get it primed and tinted.

post update / I stood the painting in front of the dumpster with a sign taped on it that said, free. I was gone for a few hours and someone took it. It was unsigned but they will know who did it. I hope it spreads good vibes to a neighbor.

my granddaughter / charcoal and chalk

I had a fun little baby sitting job this morning. I strolled her down to the park and she took a nap in the stroller. We stopped at a pavilion and I kept the stroller moving with one foot while sitting at a picnic table and sketching.

I feel out of practice drawing a face but this isn’t too bad for the first one. If I get another opportunity I’ll try again.

She’s 5 months old.

sketch for a pastel / charcoal

It was great to get out and draw this today after so many days of bad weather. It’s still cloudy and cool but that’s a big improvement over sunny but too cold and windy or rain and wind. It seems like I’ve been walking past this spot for months thinking of sketching it. The real pretty dead tree got knocked down so it’s not in the picture but it’s right across the path there and I sat on it to take a break. I didn’t draw it because it’s down and the drawing doesn’t need the dead tree laying down. Standing up would be nice, oh well, next time I find a pretty dead tree I’ll work faster.

The path is flooded , the creek is in the middle. They can both reflect the sky a little and there’s lighter ochre colored sedge and some darker reeds which will overlap the water. Some stick bushes with a few leaves, bare trees. The cedar trees are pretty because some orange is showing in the foliage along with green.

I want to do my underpainting in the complimentary colors like my last marsh pastel project. This looks complicated to me.

Now I have to take inventory of my pastel colors because last time I didn’t have the colors I needed. You can buy a big set of pastels and not have what you need. You can buy another set and have a couple hundred pastels but still not have what you need. You keep using the same colors over and over again because those are your favorites and those wear down so you have to replace individual colors from time to time. I still need to do color roughs on a scrap paper to try a few different layers and see if I can mix the color I need. There’s so many variables that no two artists pick the same colors for a scene. You’re making a lot of fast decisions.

I think I can color this at home instead of lugging the pastels out on the path. I tried to make mental notes of the colors when I was sketching but this will be another slightly abstract pastel with the complimentary colors in the first layer. It won’t matter if the colors don’t match nature.

scenic driving and sketches

Pungo Ferry

Yesterday I wanted to sketch the broken canoe I saw a while back. I looked it up on Google maps but still got lost. I couldn’t find the right road and I drove down a few country roads but had to turn around. I was lost on the same roads that I was lost on last year.

It’s nice to get lost in the country around here. It’s beautiful! Huge fields on flat ground so you have a long view over these big farms. Some had horses. They’re building a lot down there in Pungo. (I love that name). There wasn’t a lot of traffic but most of it was trucks and they’re working on the road and doing utility work too. Pungo is big!

When I gave up on finding the broken canoe and turned around to go home I saw a sign for Pungo Ferry boat launch and they have a park there and a nice overlook of this bridge over a huge marsh with a creek that a few big boats went under the bridge heading out. There’s an abandoned boat but it’s not as picturesque as the canoe was. I might go back there.

It was nice out again today so I tried to find the broken canoe again and I found the right spot but the canoe was gone. I guess others don’t see the stark beauty in broken boats that I see. The same goes for dead trees. They have so much personality, if you know what I mean. But a real pretty dead tree that I sketched last year and never got around to painting got knocked down. The canoe was visible from the road.

I walked a few yards down the road and there are a couple pretty places I could sketch. It’s a country road with not too much traffic. I stepped about 10 feet off the road and past some no trespassing signs to get this sketch. Rules don’t apply to me. I sat down to sketch and had my brown coat on. No one noticed me. I think if I only stay an hour or so and sit down to draw I can get away with it. But this isn’t really the view I wanted. I don’t know.

Then instead of going straight home I found my way back to Pungo Ferry and drove across the bridge in the first sketch. It was freakin beautiful on top of the bridge. You could see a long way up the marsh and creek. And traffic was slow because of construction so I got a good look but there’s no place to park and sketch. Then I was waaaay out in the country somewhere and found my way home guessing which roads to turn on. I looked at the map yesterday but didn’t write down the directions. I was lost again but still in Virginia Beach, I think. Virginia Beach is huge and has these little towns in it, as far as I know, like Sandbridge, Pungo, Creeds, Kempsville, I forget what all. People usually only think of the ocean front when they think of VA. Beach.

I might go out again tomorrow to sketch because they’re predicting rain coming in a few days.

another try at the bent tree over the marsh

This is a plan for a pastel on large sanded paper.

The spot is an overlook next to a sidewalk with a couple benches. Its next to a busy road so I wasn’t sure if its a place I want to set up my easel and paint. Cars are going by fast and when I drive past there I think the drivers won’t notice me because I’m back in the corner and some trees are next to the spot. When I was there for a while I thought it felt safe.

A soldier jogged past me wearing sweats and a guy walking stopped to look so I said hi. He said, “Don’t let me stop you.” I said, “That’s ok.” We said, how you doin? He asked me how long I’d be there and I said, long time but not today. Then he asked me if I’d be there in 30 min. I said no, why? And he said he wants to see my progress so I told him check back next week.

Its going to get cold again tomorrow then we have more winter weather coming in at the end of the week. If I can pick out some colors I might be able to work on this at home a while. I’d like to try to do an impressionistic look with short smears of different colors that blend together visually to give the colors and values I want. It could take some time depending on the weather. I’ll build up layers with the pastels.

The background is complicated with sky, trees far away, trees closer, water with reflections of background trees and reflected sky. Then there’s the sedge which should go in before the bent tree in the foreground. The tree has some leaves hanging on.

The little numbers on the bottom left are from my color charts so I can try to pick some colors at home and not take all my pastels out with me. I took the charts along today and tried to pick the colors close to nature.

a view at Stumpy Lake / charcoal and chalk

It was cool and sunny today with no big wind, so much nicer than yesterday for your plein air artist.

I tried to find a place in Portsmouth that was recommended to me but couldn’t find the right road so I came back to the beach and went on down to Stumpy. I walked off the path about 50 ft. towards the swamp and sat on a mossy root that was out of the muck a little and sketched. No one could see me. I wouldn’t go off the path except it’s been cold so I thought I’d be safer from things that bite.

The background trees were sunlit and the closer trees were mostly shaded. There was a little ice on the water. I stayed for over an hour to get this sketch. I might try to do a watercolor there some time while it’s still winter but I’d also like to go back to the bent tree and try again with pastels on a big paper.

I counted 4 great blue herons on my way out and an equal number of photographers. I bet Stumpy is popular with bird watchers.

bent tree over marsh and plein air gloves

This sketch came out real messy and I don’t care.

They said this is the coldest day in 3 years with the temp right around freezing all day and a brisk Northerly wind. It doesn’t get very cold here. I bundled up and went out to sketch and shop a little, not because I’m so dedicated to art but because the sun’s out and I’m tired of hanging around at home.

You’ll never guess what I saw, a sexy soldier jogged past me wearing shorts and a T shirt. Yes, ladies, if you appreciate seeing a strong male bod all year long the beach is the place to be! hahah I love those guys!

I sketched quick and I’m not excited about the sketch but the first one of any subject is for me to decide if I like the location for drawing or painting. Is it safe, am I in anyone’s way, do I need a larger paper etc. I need to make a lot of decisions before I start on a project. These are a few of them. Yes, I do need a larger paper. The tree is more graceful than I drew it. I always seem to cramp my trees on a too small paper at first. I find it easier to draw larger.

The gloves on the bottom of the pic are my plein air gloves that I’ve been wearing for so many years I forget how old they are. I cut off the finger tips then the seams frayed so I sewed the loose ends together by hand. The paint is dry. I might have to buy some new ones but these are so nice!

My fingers got cold today, so I switched to the blue pair but then I kept smearing the charcoal so I gave up on neatness for this sketch. Another decision I have to make every time I start a new project is how much do I really care about it. Things like sketches or even mono prints, I don’t care about as much as I care if I decide to do a finished painting. Some artists worry too much about showing a sloppy sketch and you never see a bad one, and some artists don’t care at all and just sling some paint and see what they get. I find mental balance by caring sometimes and being apathetic other times. Either extreme, worrying too much what others will think or never even really trying to do the difficult thing, is not good. Striving for perfection even if it’s impossible, I say why not shoot for the ideal sometimes. It might improve my skill. Perfectionism has its time and so does the messiness of an art project.