Tag Archives: Norfolk VA

Redbud tree / pastel and charcoal

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Redbuds are native here and I love to see them in the woods when I’m driving. Suddenly you see a slash of purple by the road and the other trees aren’t leafed out yet. Then they go back into hiding and are indistinguishable from the underbrush until they bloom again.

This one is in the botanical garden and I saw a couple more over there. As soon as the weather clears up I’ll go back and get another sketch. Last year I got an ok  sketch, if I can find it. I need one more and I can start planning a painting.

I’ll need another big canvas so they’re not crowded. This paper is 11 x 14 and too small. I haven’t decided on what to use as the background or if I want to put other spring flowers in the painting. This painting might not happen until next year, I don’t know. I’m kind of distracted this week and it’s cloudy and rainy too, so, maybe in a couple weeks after I get settled in my next apartment, and some other things are settled… By then they’ll be done blooming though.

That’s one problem of this artist, life’s distractions can stop me from drawing and painting.  (temporarily) The simpler my life is, the easier it is to concentrate on art. When things get complicated it isn’t as easy to do. I can still get out and sketch for a few hours on nice days but working on a finished painting won’t happen for a few weeks.

Azaleas and Daffodils / pastel sketches

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What I’m really looking for is Redbud trees. I thought it’s too early, then I saw a couple on my way home starting to bloom. They’re hard to spot if they’re not blooming because they’re small twisty trees. I’ll keep looking for the Redbuds but if I can’t find them I’ll draw other flowers.

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This paper isn’t great for pastel. It has no tooth, meaning it’s too smooth. I can’t build up layers of pastel as well as on better pastel paper. It’s ok for sketches though, because I can save these and use them as reference sketches in a painting next spring if I get a good idea worked out by then for daffodils or azaleas. I also need to find the best view of the flowers, see what would work for a background, etc.

Meanwhile, this is drawing practice. It doesn’t matter what the subject is for practice. The more you keep at it the better your eye gets for things like color and contrast, directions of lines or shapes, sizes of subjects for a finished painting and another million things an artist decides while working on a project. You make a lot of decisions without much thought, but other things take more and more sketching to come to a good plan. The more flower studies I do in advance the better.  Or I could just put these in the file and never use them. I don’t know for sure. It could be the first step of a painting or it could be nothing more than another sketch.

Magnolias / oil

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This came out dramatic looking because I painted my flowers on a dark background. I think it’s feminine and bold.

It was hard to get a decent photo since it’s shiny from my Maroger medium but I figured out if I stand to the side a little I can get a shot without glare.IMG_2502

It was time consuming and the only thing I could do to help make it easier was to thin my paint with a few drops of terpenoid and pick up a little scoop with my palette knife. I hold the palette knife in one hand and the brush in the other when I’m standing at my easel, then I’m not reaching to my palette all the time. It saves a lot of movement over the course of the painting which makes it more efficient even if it’s still slow.IMG_2501

This shot shows a web of branches to look through. They’re making negative shapes. I like to do a finished background where my eyes can go to rest on something interesting. It gives the painting depth and keeps the interest of the viewer longer because the eye goes to the background, then to the foreground again.

I’ve been working on this at home all day for a few days. I don’t know how many hours I have in it because I started sketching for this last year. The tree doesn’t look like this very long, if ever. It blooms suddenly as soon as it warms up for a few days. Then it gets cold again and the flowers turn brown and fall off. It might do better farther South.

Now I have to get back to everything I’ve been neglecting since I’ve been working on this.

Magnolia painting update

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This shot looks a little fuzzy. It’s hard to photograph because my Maroger medium makes it shiny, so I took this shot in the dark of my dining room without a flash. The shutter was open a long time. The other photos had a glare. This painting could be a challenge to get a good photo even for a pro photographer.

The background is finished but not the Southern magnolia in the middle ground. I worked on it at home a couple days since the weather wasn’t good to paint outside, but wasn’t happy with the green leaves. I knew I had to go back to the tree and do leaf studies. Today it’s nice out so I got some leaf practice in and mixed up a few leaf colors. I think I can improve on it before I put the bright pink flowers on top of this.IMG_2478

Today’s leaf studies, oil paint on watercolor paper.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is good then 3 days of rain. This might be enough leaf studies so that I can paint at home again, but I could go over to the garden tomorrow and do a few more leaves and mix up my pink flower colors to save for next week.

The cold took a toll on the flowers. They’re turning an orange brown and drooping. A few buds still look ok. The orange brown petals are pretty too. I’m undecided if I should paint some of the fading blooms or make all  my flowers fresh and pink.

My tree needs a lot more leaves before I paint the branch with the pink flowers. And I need to make my leaves better defined, more like this study.

I think my pink flowers will show up real bright on top of this dark background but I might have to go over them 3 times, the first time as a gray underpainting on top of this then 2 coats of pink and white.

magnolia study and plan

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It’s called a Todd Gresham Magnolia. This is my last study, time to start painting.IMG_2456

This is the whole plan taped to the wall. The magnolia pastels on the navy blue paper are life sized from last year. The pastel buds on the green paper are from yesterday and a few days ago. The big tree in charcoal on light blue paper is the background tree, a Southern magnolia. And the branch drawn in charcoal on tan paper is the branch of the Todd Gresham magnolia which is the main subject of the painting.

I can’t say for sure if it’s possible for art to be spontaneous or from the subconscious or accidental, all I know is that if I’m going to try to paint  something I like to have a plan worked out down to the details.

Now I feel like I’ve done the preliminary part. If I need more flowers I can turn these on their sides or upside down. But this might be enough sketches. It’s crazy how fast the flowers change. They move in every breeze and by the hour they open up more.  If I tried to start a flower one day and finish it the next with another coat of paint I’d never be able to find the same flower. This is why I couldn’t avoid doing the sketches. They’ll need two glazes on two different days.

I can work on this painting at home but I’ll probably take my canvas over to the garden and make corrections at some point. And I’ll have to mix my flower colors in Plein air because I didn’t have the right pastel colors. Even if you have a couple hundred pastels you still don’t have the exact color you want.

My computer was acting weird for a day or so. Flashing horizontal line were freaking me out, then it seemed to go away, but if I close my laptop they come back. If I let it open they’re not there. If I have to take this thing over to Best Buy and can’t look at WordPress, don’t worry. But maybe it’ll be ok now.

Magnolia buds opening / pastel studies

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The weather can change suddenly and dramatically around here this time of year. I have to adapt my Plein air painting plans to be prepared for anything. Last week we had some nice days, then rain, then torrential rain, then gale force wind on Fri. When it stopped raining I wanted to make some progress on my plan for the Magnolia painting but I couldn’t take my canvas out there, (it’s like trying to wrestle a sail in the wind) so I put my palette and paints and palette knife in my rolling Ikea cart and went to the garden to mix some colors for the underpainting for my background Southern Magnolia tree. The cart was no problem in the wind.

I was glad to get out and mix colors but didn’t start painting yet. I saw the buds are opening and thought, “Yikes! This could happen early this year!” What if the tree blooms and I haven’t finished the background?! The wind knocked down a lot of pink petals and unopened buds. You never know in Feb. We could get more freezing weather, or it could be like spring. The flowers could last weeks or only one week. Now I see more buds starting, so if the weather is good the tree could be in bloom for a whole month.

Either way, I decided to do some flower sketches to be on the safe side. I have a bunch of sketches from last year. Maybe tomorrow I can do a few more sketches of buds opening. Then if they’re gone before I get my background finished I can use my sketches to paint the flowers at home instead of in plein air.IMG_2453

This is how I arranged my palette. The colors at the top of the photo are for the southern Magnolia tree, trunk, branches and leaves. The colors on the left are for the other side of the tree, dark greenish black for leaves in the shade and lighter tan and light green for the spaces where you can see all the way through to the distant background. The light warm brown and dark brown lower in the photo are for the mulch under the tree, dark in the shadows and light where the sun shines. I put little pieces of plastic wrap over the paint to keep it workable in case it’s a few days till I get around to starting the painting.  Oil paint can stay good for weeks with plastic over it. Mixing my colors in advance is a necessary step in this process.

I like this large palette. It was meant for water soluble medium but I replaced the sponge that came in it with a piece of glass. I put duct tape on the back of the glass because it’s easier to see the colors and values I’m mixing on gray than it is to see colors on white background.  It has plenty of room for me to mix a lot of colors, then when I get them arranged around the sides I still have enough space in the center to thin the paint. This big palette fits nicely in my Ikea cart.

When I was in New Mexico at art camp the organizer talked about limiting the amount of supplies, colors of paint, etc. that he takes out to paint. I don’t take all my tubes of paint, but I can take much more out there because I’m not carrying it on my back like a regular plein air pochade box. The palette, brushes, easel, turpentine, paper towels, water bottle, etc, all fit in my Ikea cart.  I can go farther from my car with more gear and not get as tired. Plus, another thing I like about my get up is, my easel has spikes on the legs and the pochade boxes don’t have spikes which makes them more likely to blow down in the wind.  Pochade boxes have small palettes but most Plein air painters don’t mix up their colors in advance. They squirt out blobs of color and dip their brush in, mixing colors with their brushes instead of a palette knife. Mixing colors with a brush is a no no if you want to avoid muddy colors. Yeah, I don’t care if I’m not stylish with a pochade box. My Ikea cart and paint clothes make me look like a homeless woman.  hahaha I don’t think anyone else cares either.

 

Magnolia Branch w Buds / sketch

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One year I planned to do a painting of an early blooming Magnolia and cold weather killed the buds. The tree didn’t bloom at all. Last year in March I got a bunch of life size studies of the flowers. This year, if it works out, I’d like to either do a pastel or an oil painting. I’m not sure which. These flowers might not bloom for a few weeks but I don’t have a lot of  time to make decisions.

First decision- pastel or paint

If I do a pastel I should have my flowers planned ahead of time so I can do the background separately. If I do an oil painting I can start by  painting the background and paint the flowers on top in thicker paint and it will cover nicely. If I do a pastel I need to figure out exactly how big and where to put the flowers first because I won’t be able to cover or lift the background  pastel colors out enough for the flowers to be bright if drawn on top of the background.

If I do a pastel I can use a big sheet of the sanded paper and take less art supplies out with me after I decide on a few pastels. If I paint it I need to prime a canvas.

How many flowers will fit on a big piece of pastel paper? Should I crop this sketch or enlarge it and do them life size? Will I be able to use the sketches I got last year?

So many problems for your Plein air artist to figure out! I’ll have to prop this up where I can see it and try to decide this weekend. The stronger the plan, the stronger the finished piece.

Keeping my fingers crossed for mild weather because this could still get postponed until 2021 if it gets real cold again.

 

Lego sculptures @ Norfolk Botanical Garden

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Gardener with Grandchild – 76,840 legos, 740 hours to buildIMG_2437

Birdbath – 14,802 legos, 200 hoursIMG_2438

Peacock – 68,827 legos, 200 hoursIMG_2439

Giant Bloom of Violet Pansy – 29,314 legos, 740 hoursIMG_2440

Roseate Skimmer Dragonfly – 27,788 legos, 515 hoursIMG_2441

Bonus photo , daffodils. Looks like it might be an early spring here. I’m going back this week to sketch a Magnolia branch so I can use those studies of magnolia flowers I did last year in a finished pastel drawing.

The legos are making me want to buy a set. What a fun inspiration for kids of all ages!

Path Through Wildflowers

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This is watercolor with Inktense pencils. It seems like it took a long time to finish.  I went over to the garden 6 times including the times I sketched it, first on charcoal paper and then again on watercolor paper. Each time I stayed there for an hour or two and made some progress on it then came home and worked on it off and on for hours, so I think I have over 20 hours in the painting. I enjoyed working on it very much.

The weather was beautiful! It’s cooling down but not cold.  I didn’t turn the heat on in my apartment yet. It’s staying around 70 inside so far. I hate  turning the heat on for the first time every year because it blows dust around and I don’t want to catch a cold because of it.

The garden is still beautiful with a lot of flowers blooming. The roses are so sweet smelling and the breeze makes the scent follow you down the walk.

It looks like I have time to try another watercolor painting before we get a good freeze. I’m waiting for that refreshing arctic air from Canada. Then I’ll start on my long time in the planning winter swamp painting in oils. Until then, maybe I can try to get a watercolor done at Back Bay.

Rose / Inktense pencils practice

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It was so nice out there today. The botanical garden had a lot of visitors when I went out to sketch this morning. I smelled the roses as I was walking in and remembered one I loved last year, the Crimson Bouquet. I wanted to find the brightest red because I’m from Lancaster Co. PA. the red rose town. York, on the other side of the Susquehanna is the white rose town.

I can’t tell if the background is working or not, but I wanted to do the minimum for it.

I’m looking forward to my art adventure in New Mexico in 2 months. I want to take all my art supplies with me on the trip but it’s not practical. I don’t know what kind of drawing or painting I’ll want to do when I see the Ghost Ranch. If I take a lot of art supplies I’ll have a bigger job unloading my trunk every night when I stop at a motel. I’m definitely  taking my oil paint supplies and I’ll have to prime a couple canvases in Aug, but I’d also like to take my Inktense pencils and a watercolor sketchbook. In the meantime, if I can sketch a few flowers while standing in the shade this summer, that’s good practice. I might have better luck when I try to do a landscape with the Inktense pencils out West.