You can find all of my cypress knee models in the photos below.
This is my latest place to hang around sketching. Look how tiny the knees are in this picture. I could never see them well enough to draw them if I had to copy a photo. Maybe if I was a better photographer…
You can see the pollen on the water but it’s not swirling so nicely any more since it rained. A slight breeze is keeping the pollen moving and changing designs all the time.
. This is the tree I drew last but it was cloudy that day. If you compare this photo to my sketch you’ll see I didn’t draw all of the sticks around the base of the tree.
I think this tree is pretty because it has Spanish moss in the branches and another kind of moss is going up the trunk.
This photo shows a knee I didn’t sketch and pollen clumping up at the water’s edge.
Next week I might go back to the botanical garden to draw. I’m missing some spring flowers. The knees will be the same all year.
This spring I have a new attitude. Every day I feel so lucky. I’m so thankful for my good health and every day I’m glad I ain’t dead yet. I used to take it all for granted. Does that mean I’m getting old or is this the new “normal”?
It seems so ironic to me that I’ve lived like a hermit for years and finally got used to it. Now, I wish I could help the society that rejected me. I can’t hurt it because there’s no one around for me to infect even if I was an unknowing carrier of a deadly virus, but I’m sure I’m not. Society rejected me. We don’t need to go into all that. That’s why I’m an artist. It’s ironic because once I took a personality test that said I’m an extrovert and here I am reclusive. I don’t see myself as an introvert or an extrovert but dead center between the two. I like people, I’m just not trying to be with them. That’s working out for me now.
ok. enough philosophizing, back to the important job of moving.
If I hadn’t told you that was pollen you might not guess. I’ll try to remember to take my camera along next time I sketch there. The pollen is making some interesting designs on top of the black water.
I think the swirly shapes on still water with the tree represents uncertain times and something not being affected. (me) And nature isn’t affected either but unlike the tree, I can easily uproot myself and getthehelloutofdodge if a situation becomes intolerable. Since the crisis started my life hasn’t changed. I’m not joining the mass hysteria. I’m not afraid to go out and last night on the news they showed some surfers and the anchor talked about how getting out and getting some exercise is a great stress buster. So that was encouraging. The state parks are open and busy. They’re not talking about martial law. It’ll never happen here. And I’m not going to catch corona. Stay tuned, you’ll see.
They make spooky moody subjects. One of my good blogging friends, Nadine, who writes on Bloomwords. WordPress, told me they represent the underworld in Greek myth, which does seem appropriate. I can picture them on the river Styx. And now streams of yellow pollen are swirling in the wind on the surface of the water making it look even weirder. It’s a good day for a photographer out there too.
I imagine if I tried to walk in the swamp the fingers would grab me and might KILL me. hahahah
It was fun to draw them with pastel. I can represent the lichens better with pastel than I can with charcoal and chalk. They’re tinted light green.
I’m so thankful they’re keeping the state parks open in spite of the current Corona apocalypse. It seems like many more people than average are there walking, running and biking. If they couldn’t go there they’d be out on the street, including me. I’m not sick. They’re not sick. Why stay home? I’m not worried someone I pass on the trail will give me the virus. Sick people are staying home.
I didn’t hoard supplies or toilet paper but as soon as this is over I think I’ll start slowly stocking up for the next apocalypse.
Is social distancing driving you crazy? I’m ok. That’s the story of my life. It’s not what I’d have chosen for myself because I enjoy the company of people who like to talk. It’s just the way it worked out and it took some time to get used to. Now I feel ok with isolation. It can be liberating. My daughter isn’t too far away and I see her some times.
I’m not worried about catching Corona. I know it could kill me but I rarely ever catch a cold. Do I live a real healthy lifestyle? Nope. The thing that keeps me immune is my lack of exposure to viruses. The main thing I’m worried about is how this panic will affect the economy. That will recover too, but meanwhile a lot of people have serious problems because of it.
If isolation is getting you down the best thing you can do for yourself is go outside. Any activity you enjoy makes social distancing tolerable if you can get out in the fresh air and sunshine.
I really enjoyed sketching in the swamp today. The weather is great! It’s a good thing I got there when I did because when I left the parking lot was slam packed and cars were lined up at the gate to get in.
About the sketch : I decided to stop working on it and I didn’t do any reflections on the water. I might be able to use this sketch in a painting eventually but the reflections are a problem I don’t have to face until I actually get into the paint.
Do they look like E.T.s to you? They do to me. They’re cypress knees.
It’s nice out today. The sun looked great on the knees but it was spotty and moved fast. I enjoyed sketching much more today than last time when it was cloudy and decided to finish today’s cypress knee study by working on the reflections and adding a background color.
Last time I sketched them they reminded me of fingers pointing up but today I thought they looked like figures. They could be human if they were abstract but they could be nonhuman, aliens. If I titled this “cypress knee study” it wouldn’t be as much fun for the viewer because they might not think of E.T.s. Now you see them like I do, otherworldly.
On the way home from the swamp I decided to do a fun spring color in the background, not green, so that it would be easier to see them as something other than cypress knees.
It’s just a study for a painting I’ll do in the future. I need a lot more knee studies.
Some thoughts about how to capture moving light:
When I got there around 8AM, the trees in the background had that nice broken light but the cypress knees in the foreground were in the shade. I had to start with the background and by the time I worked my way across the painting marking in light and shadow areas it all changed and the knees had good light, so I could continue defining light and shadows in that area. The light wasn’t good on any area very long and I work slowly so this isn’t reality but kind of idealistic.
I hear so many Plein air painters talk about capturing a moment and I can’t do it. Instead, I like to think I’m stopping time. It’s not really magic but an illusion. It seems like if I had to capture a moment I’d have to paint fast. The way that works for me is to slow waaaay down. Keep going back to the same place at the same time of day and the light will be the same. You can have 50 hours of 9AM to 10AM over the course of weeks, or, in my case months. Imagine that! If I’m there for 50 hours off and on, I’ve collected 50 hours of me not moving much or working fast, but standing in that beautiful spot. It’s mine boggling. It’s like breaking the laws of time and art and getting away with it.
I say I’m breaking the laws of art because it’s obvious I spent the time on this painting and the overlords in the art world don’t like to see a painting “labored” over. They think art should be fast and fun not hard to do and time consuming. They don’t understand a labor of love. They don’t understand that it’s good for your self esteem to work hard on something and finish it.
Also, I’m using my small brushes. oh no.
This cypress knee is the star of the show. the other parts are back up singers and musicians. Darn, this photo looks a little blurry.
This clump is working as a secondary focal point. It’s good to have something happening in the shadows because the viewer’s eye likes to rest in a shadow then go back around to the brighter contrasts in the light.
There’s another great view in the swamp I’d like to try to paint. The cypress knees are half green because they’re covered with lichens.
A lady walking on the trail behind me stopped to take this photo and emailed it to me. I think it’s better than my photos. My painting kind of blends in with the scene.
I’m so excited! It was nice out this morning and I made some good progress on it! I’m almost done! Just another week or so, after all this time! I think it was in Nov. I started drawing for the painting. And for so many years I wanted to capture the scene.
I swear I will finish this. I have excuses for the delay. Holidays, weather, lethargy, etc. Plus, this is the hard part and I tend to slow down even more when faced with it.
I painted some Spanish moss then put the painting aside for a week or more. I went to the swamp to walk and observe the reflections but didn’t take the canvas. I’ll have to paint the reflections at home so I can make them look like a dim mirror of the trees. There’s no need to take all my gear out there. It took me weeks to think this through.
I decided to make the reflections exactly mirror the trees because the water is flat, no movement. They should have fuzzy edges and not be as bright as the trees. The reflections should be the trees upside down and in the right places directly under the trees. I tried to flip them using tracing paper and charcoal. The charcoal didn’t show up so I tried chalk and that worked. Now I can visualize the reflections on the canvas! It took hours.
The next big step that’s slowing me down is mixing the colors again. That could take hours. Then, painting the reflections will be slow because I want to go over the edges with my fan brush and slightly blend them.
After I get the reflections painted I’ll do another coat of glazes on the foreground and make it brighter. I can go back to the swamp to finish the painting. Painting at home is boring compared to painting in Plein air. There’s too many distractions here too.
Now I’m really going to finish this. For sure. I promise.
It’s real nice painting outside when it’s in the 40s F. (cool for my Celsius reading friends) Not too many people walk across the overlook distracting me. My attention span seems to last around 2 hours. When I can see I’ve made some progress I start to feel the cold. I’m wearing layers, but standing still, except to sit on a cold bench sometimes for a break.
I went there twice this week and stayed 2 hours each time and got the background under control and started on the trees on the right. Tomorrow they’re calling for cloudy weather. That’s ok, I’d like to wait a day or so for this paint to dry before I go over it again. Giving a layer of paint time to dry helps eliminate the problem of “muddy colors” because you can put a warmer glaze over a cooler one, cooler to warmer, lighter or darker, any direction you want it to go without mixing the paint on the canvas. Instead the viewers eye mixes the colors and sees a brighter gray, green, brown, orange, whatever. That’s one trick to avoid muddy colors.
Another trick to remember is not to mix the colors with your paintbrush. Mix the colors with a palette knife on the palette. Keeping the colors clean, even if they’re gray. For this you need a brush for each color. Mixing colors with a brush on the canvas causes muddy colors, though I think artists worry too much about mud. (mud is part of nature) Those two things make a difference to the eye of a trained art viewer.
We might get some rain next week. Hopefully, I can get back out there on Sat. or Sun. to work on this. If we get a few days of rain I’ll have to put this aside and find another project to amuse myself.
This is a 30 x 30 canvas. I need to do a detailed underpainting because this is a complicated plan. So far, I have my sunlight and shadows blocked in. The underpainting is an important step because this is when I make the most decisions. I can tell that it’s close to correct perspective because I can fit the trees in with spacing that’s close to what I see there. And I decided how much Spanish moss will be in the painting, how much water, where I want the most contrast in order to make focal points, etc.
Now I have to go over the whole painting again, maybe twice, starting with the sky and the background trees at the top and working my way down the canvas into the foreground with layers of glazes. I’ll brighten it up a lot and give it some depth. I want the grays in the trees to look pearly so I’ll use warm and cool grays together and try to keep the values from light to dark with the same contrast as I see in nature.
I think the water will be the hardest part and it’s the last thing to finish. I don’t have that figured out yet.
This is a start. I have over 10 hours in it so far, and 6 trips to the swamp. including the times I sketched. It could still take weeks to finish because of the weather. I want to get there early in the morning and leave around 10 when the light is different and the park gets crowded. I didn’t expect to make this much progress this fast on the painting, so I think I can finish it in Dec.