Tag Archives: Norfolk Botanical Garden

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.

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A Portrait of the Poser as a Young Tree / mixed media

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Not to disrespect the tree, but why am I calling it a poser? The true identity of the tree is below.

This is another try at sketching  with oil paint sticks. They’re like big oily crayons, so it’s impossible to draw a skinny line or a small texture with them. They force me to draw fast and loose. One good thing about taking my oil paint sticks out to sketch in Plein air is that I don’t need to take my pallet, turpentine and brushes along. The bad thing is that I have to make do with the colors I have and can’t mix the colors as well on the paper as I would like to.

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This is an older tree of the same family. They’re called, Hitoki Falsecypress. The one I sketched is about 4 feet tall. So I’d tell the small tree,” There’s no need to feel bad about not being a real cypress tree, little poser. Some day you will be as big and respectable as your beautiful neighbor.”

Holly Receptors In The Brain Of Your Plein Air Artist / mixed media

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I could have titled this, “Deciduous Holly” but then the art viewer would dismiss it as just another drawing of a twisted bush. Allow me to interpret it for you.

A few years ago my daughter lived in Atlanta GA. and when I visited her one time we saw a show called “Bodies” at the Atlantic Center. These Chinese mad scientists had taken some John Doe bodies in China and dissected them in unique ways. They injected bright dye into the nervous system then eliminated all the rest of the body’s tissues so all that was left was the neon nervous system in 3D body shaped plexiglass.  They did the same thing to the blood veins. Imagine a clear body where the whole nervous system is visible. I found it a little disturbing. One display had an arm sliced across sections and spread out so you could see the bones, muscles and other guts of the arm going down the extended length of it. I thought if I had a few of those arm cross sections I could use them as coasters since they were in plexiglass and colored so nicely with no smell of death.

Coincidentally, they were running ads on TV for a pill that supposedly stopped the “nicotine receptors” in a smoker’s brain from working. If you wanted to quit smoking, you could take the pill and quit the habit / addiction of smoking. I wondered what the nicotine receptors looked like. I doubt there are really nicotine receptors in the brain at all. I guess if an artist challenged a mad scientist to show the nicotine receptors the scientist would slap a brain out of a jar of formaldehyde onto a plate and make some cuts into the gray matter and say, “There are your nicotine receptors”. Then later, I heard of opium receptors or some other bad kind of receptors in your brain. It seems like there are receptors for all kinds of things in your brain. Everyone started jumping on the brain receptor band wagon. Then there must be receptors for other things that give the brain pleasure, like eating hard shell crabs, or looking at a pretty bush in the winter.

These days, a lot of times I draw trees with bare twisted branches and it reminds me of the neural network of the brain. And when I stood in front of this bush to draw it, those holly receptors went off in my brain giving me a feeling of pleasure. The red dots on my sketch are the holly receptors. The art viewer might see the red dots as merely berries and be bored with the sketch, because that person wants to see not only a tree, but the suffering of the artist depicted in the sketch, or some story illustrated through the art. They would never know this is an illustration of the holly receptors in my brain if I didn’t tell them. This is where you, my WordPress friends, have an advantage over the other art viewers out there. Because now you know some of the things that went through my mind when I worked on this drawing, but if I frame it or use this sketch to do a painting, others won’t see the receptors.

Deciduous Holly / unfinished sketch charcoal and chalk

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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.

Torch Lilies / mixed media

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Look what’s blooming like crazy in Jan! It’s so bright I used my florescent oil paint sticks. They have a big clump of these Torch Lilies at Norfolk Botanical Garden. A gardener told me they started to show buds a month ago then last week they really opened up!

It’s so nice to stand there sketching and take in the colors on a gray day like today, and tomorrow it’s supposed to rain, so I’m glad I got this sketch today. I did the watercolor background when I got home.

Bald Eagle after William Turner / charcoal and chalk

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This is my second try on a larger piece of sanded pastel paper. I think it looks better than the first one which I tried to draw on a smaller sketchbook. This time I took my easel and drawing board with the large paper  instead of holding a sketchbook in my hand like I did on the first try. It’s easier for me to work larger. Compare this sketch to my previous post and tell me if he looks better this time. I’m not sure if the proportions are exactly right, but not too far off.

I thought the sculpture was by David Turner but it was done by his dad, William. I can’t tell their work apart. They both make the most beautiful wildlife sculptures out there.

It’s great to draw the Turner guys’ sculptures. I think I see some kind of attitude in my bird’s face, but that could be my imagination because I was only trying to copy the bronze, not put my own personality into the drawing. With all that beauty out there for me to copy it takes the pressure off an artist to be “original” all the time. And copying some other artist’s masterpieces is improving my drawing skill slowly but surely.

Even if an artist tries to copy as closely as possible, they still put information about themselves into the drawing. I can’t avoid it. The savvy art viewer will see it. Know what I mean?

Bald Eagle charcoal sketch

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My model is made of bronze. This is just a start. I couldn’t draw small enough to fit the whole bird on the page so I want to transfer it to a larger paper and go back tomorrow if the nice weather holds out. When I go back I’ll make some corrections. I’ll finish the feathers more and draw white feathers on him. I should look up eagles to be sure because the sculpture doesn’t have the white feathers colored white.

There are so many beautiful bronze animals around here. This one is at Norfolk Botanical. I bet they’re all made by David Turner. I love that guy’s work. At Seashore State Park they have a beautiful red fox in bronze which I also want to draw.

I’m one of those artists who think there’s nothing more beautiful than nature and it should be represented in art as closely as possible to reality.

 

Japanese Maple / charcoal and chalk

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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.

pastel studies of lotus flowers

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The weather was so nice this morning. I stayed in the garden for a couple hours and wasn’t even hot!

I want to do one more sketch in plein air then I can paint at home. I’m getting set up to try again painting with my brush taped to a yardstick like Matisse. First I need to do charcoal sketches of my flowers and leaves larger with my charcoal on a stick. After I get some larger looser sketches I’ll be able to plan a composition of flowers, buds and leaves.IMG_2088

This lotus is wilting. They move a lot in the wind and sun. They’re never the same from one day to the next.

Lotus flower / pastel

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This is the tall kind of lotus with the big leaves. I should make this leaf twice this size if I do it in oil paint. I didn’t take the right color pastels. It’s a narrow path and I took some pastels in a baggie instead of my whole pastel collection.

It’s getting too hot for me to enjoy standing around outside to draw. I have to get to the botanical garden when they open at 9 or forget about it because I’m not going out to draw when it’s over 85. At least I can get the zen vibe of drawing in for an hour or so in the morning if I get out early enough. Today the heat didn’t get to me until I was ready to do the leaf. It becomes impossible to concentrate when you get too hot.

I’d like to do more lotus studies and try to paint like Matisse again with the paintbrush on a yardstick. That was fun.