Tag Archives: Norfolk Botanical Garden

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.

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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.

lotus flower and pelican on piling / charcoal sketches

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What luck! I just happened to walk through the Japanese garden and saw lotuses are blooming! Sometimes I’m too late to see them. This one was especially nice because there’s a reflection in the water. I’ll go back with my pastels.IMG_2085

A few months ago I started a painting of the beach. My underpainting wasn’t working so I painted over it with gray. I want to try again with a beach painting. In this sketch you can see the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in the background. Left is heading South through the first tunnel.. This might be part of my beach painting if I can get a good plan worked out but the waves there are small and the beach is narrower than the ocean front so I might not paint sand or breakers. I could use my sketch of the wind surfer in the painting.

A lot of birds were on the pilings but I only drew the pelican. I need more sketches before I can make up my mind how to go about the painting.

Ruby Spider Lilies / pastel study

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Today I went back to the garden thinking I’d do more sketches of Chicks Dig It, but when I saw these spider lilies I was no longer in love with Chicks Dig It. I’m fickle like that.

That means I’ll have to sketch these a couple more times for my painting because each variety of lily has different shaped petals. Good thing I didn’t start transferring my sketch of Chicks Dig It to the canvas. I like to take my sweet time doing a painting, actually. Sometimes I wish I could just go there and go home with a painting but I never learned exactly how to go about painting in the fast way. Then sometimes I’m glad I’m slow to decide simple things like which variety of lilies to paint because I’d rather have a dozen sketches that I can throw into a flat file and one finished painting, even if it takes me weeks to do it. There’s not enough room in my small apartment for hundreds of canvases but I could find a place for hundreds of sketches. And every time I move, which has been frequently in the past fifteen years or so, I throw away a lot of paintings and give them away.

It seems like in the art world oil paintings are looked at with more respect than other media, but to me the sketching and drawing that leads up to an oil painting is necessary and just as important. And drawings or dry media of any type should be valued equally to an oil painting. But that will never happen.

Chicks Dig It / pastel study

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The name of this variety of lilies is Chicks Dig It. Isn’t that a fun name?! I scouted the garden for lilies budding a couple weeks ago and saw the plaque with this name on it and thought it would be real pretty. Every day or so I’d check on it to see if it was blooming and today it is! My sketch has a few smears, it doesn’t matter. These flowers are only my reference for a painting.

I had to stand in the sun to sketch but that’s ok, I got there earlier and took breaks to sit in the shade. This is the lily I want to do in my painting. Now I have to sketch leaves and buds and a few more flowers but I’m almost ready to plan my flower layout. Finally making a decision on the type of lily is a big step in the project. I can fit maybe 7 or 9 flowers on the canvas that I have tinted and I want to put in a lot of buds too.

I like the wilted flowers they call “deadheads”. Gardeners are so quick to pull off deadheads. They probably don’t like me to paint them but I like the shapes they make so if there’s any for me to sketch I’ll try to get them in my painting too. I feel like if I’m going to paint flowers, leaves and buds why not paint the deadheads too?

orange lilies / pastel

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I love my kneeded erasers. I have one in my hand all the time when I’m sketching with charcoal or pastel. It makes blending less tiring on my hand than a blending stump. To start with, I blob in a color in the general place and size I want my flower to be. Then I use my eraser to push that first layer of color into the paper. As I’m working on the general shape of the flower I’m erasing the extra pastel to define the edges of the petals and adding more color where the petals need to be larger, continuing to blend it down with my eraser. Then I go over the flower with a darker color to put in some shading. Then go back with a lighter color to add the light sides of the petals.

Yesterday it wasn’t supposed to rain until afternoon and I went over to the garden to draw. The sun came out for a little while and I thought I had enough time to finish a sketch before it rained. I didn’t get this sketch finished because it started raining before 11.

That’s ok. This is only flower drawing practice, like a color rough. When I do a finished piece I’ll have to do my background first and put the flowers on top of leaves. Since these flowers don’t look the same two days in a row I might have to work on the painting at home. If I do a painting at home the more sketches of flowers I have the better.

I still haven’t decided which variety of lilies I want to use for my painting so I need to do more sketches first. The more the better so I can get a plan worked out and arrange them for a good composition.

pink lilies / pastel

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I don’t know the name of these lilies, I didn’t see a plaque. It was nice standing in the shade of the magnolia tree to sketch them. It’s getting hot and muggy out there this afternoon but I got started at 9:30 and it wasn’t bad standing still to draw.

I worked on this for 2. I/2 hours and took a few breaks to sit down on a shaded bench. I’m more comfortable standing up to draw because I can concentrate better on my feet and sitting down to draw makes my back tired. It’s harder to hold my sketchbook comfortably sitting down, since I don’t take my easel when I’m using my small sketchbooks.

I spotted two more places in the shade where I can draw yellow day lilies and some reddish ruffly oriental lilies. After I get those two varieties sketched I’ll pick the one that looks best and do a painting.

Southern Magnolia / charcoal study

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A story of a turtle and a dragonfly:

I was over at the botanical garden working on this study three different days in the morning before it rained each day. I was there about two hours at a time. So, roughly six hours in this little sketch.

The second day when I got there I saw a turtle on the ground in front of the bench I sat on to take a break the day before. It had dug a little trough in the wet dirt with it’s back feet and was half sitting in this little ditch it made. I wondered if it was going to lay eggs in the hole but I thought it wasn’t a very good spot for a nest right in front of the bench where they might get stepped on. I sat on the bench and the turtle didn’t move. I watched it for a few minutes to see if it would do something but it looked like it was asleep. I hoped no kids would find it and walked around the magnolia to a place I could sketch some flowers. When I got tired of sketching I went back to the bench and saw the turtle had walked about ten feet away. Then later I couldn’t see where it went.

Today I noticed a similar small excavation in the dirt close to the same bench. I wondered if it was made by that same turtle but I didn’t see it so I went to work on my sketch. I was working on it for an hour or so and a little blue dragonfly hovered over my sketchbook which I was holding in one hand to draw on. I couldn’t not see the dragonfly. Then it landed on the sleeve of my tie dye t shirt which is the same bright blue as the dragonfly. Nice little art nouveau ornament, I thought. It stayed on my sleeve for a few minutes and I continued to sketch. Later I looked and it was gone. I wondered why it landed on me.

So, that’s today’s plain air report.

I’d like to do a painting based on this sketch but it might have to wait until next year. I have more inspiration than time this year and the day lilies are opening up so I HAVE TO DRAW THEM!

otter / charcoal and chalk

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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.

Wine makes her happy

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When I started drawing this statue I thought she looks high. She’s smiling and her eyes are half closed. Then I saw she has grape leaves in her hair. She must be drunk!

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This is my model. She’s in a large formal garden at Norfolk Botanical. I’m still doing portrait practice by sketching statues because they’re free and they don’t move. My friends and family don’t want to pose long enough for me to get a finished drawing. At least if I do find a free live model some time in the future, the time I’ve spent sketching statues will help me get a likeness.

After sketching a bunch of statues of male artists, it was nice to draw a pretty girl. I’ll go back to the sculpture garden with the famous dead guys again and do more of them but I took a little break from them.IMG_2049

This is another pretty girl in the same formal garden. Unfortunately, her nose is broken which will make it more of a challenge to draw her. I’ll have to use the magic of art to fix her nose after I get a little better at portraiture.

About ten years ago I practiced figure drawing and portraiture in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. I got the inspiration to draw the stone angels and was working on that for about six weeks when a good friend died suddenly and I was totally shattered. I hung around in the cemetery a lot for a couple years and drew most of the angels. It was the best therapy for me. Every day I was reminded that I’m still alive because I was standing over all these dead people. Hollywood Cemetery is very special. I’m not superstitious. I never saw a ghost, but the cemetery was my refuge from the world and it made a better artist out of me. And it helped me recover in some weird way, when my life went down the tubes back then.

After spending a lot of time sketching in the cemetery I wanted to draw some angels that were broken. I figured out how to draw a missing hand on a broken angel by copying a hand of another angel to fit. I felt like I kind of fixed the broken one when I could do that, and I knew my drawing skill was improving. That’s why I want to try again by putting a nose on this broken statue’s face.

I was very happy to find all these statues at Norfolk Botanical so I can continue to what I started ten years ago.