charcoal and chalk
There are so many nice places to get off the main trail and sketch. The fishermen have beaten little paths all around. If you’re concerned about social distancing you can step back easily when a group of people walk past you.
I enjoyed being there so much this morning. It was sunny and windy. I had to take my hat off because I was afraid I’d lose it.
When I left there today I decided to run by Jerry’s Artarama and see if I could buy a piece of watercolor paper. The store is open but you can’t go in. People are calling in their orders or ordering online, then you can pick it up at the door or they will deliver it to you. So, I didn’t have to wait very long and the sales lady brought the paper out to me.
Modern problems require modern solutions, right?
I’d like to try to paint this scene in watercolor as my next project.
This is a sketch I can use for a pastel on this nice rough sanded paper. I’ll go over it again later and even up my lines. That’s all freehand, no ruler either, so, it’s still a little rough, but an improvement over my first try.
To me architecture is as hard to draw as the figure.
I’m planning a nocturn. Tonight I’ll mark in the lights with chalk and pastel then make my sky dark. There’s too much light from the city to see stars but the moon was big and bright before sun up the past few days. I’m undecided if I should put the moon in the picture or not.
This is my first rough. I worked on it for a couple hours and stopped. At first I wanted to draw the whole bridge but when I got this far I could see it wasn’t working out. This rough helped me decide to start on the left so I could draw the narrow inlet where boats go through. I had these lines so I transferred this to the bigger better pastel paper and it was easier to draw the second time making corrections as I went.
This is what it looks like to my camera during the daytime with clouds rolling in.
Tomorrow I can get the keys to my new apartment and put some thing in it. Then Sat some moving guys are coming to unload my mini storage and put my stuff in the new place. I don’t know if I’ll finish this pastel nocturn. I’m tempted to stay at this hotel until I do but on the other hand, I want to sew masks for nurses. As soon as I get my sewing machine plugged in I’m going to get with the mask sewers group and sew for the hospital for free. A lady told me Joanne Fabrics is donating the materials to the group. I think it would do me some good to make myself useful in the emergency.
Also, I bought a nice souvenir of my week at the oceanfront, a mermaid statue, on sale. She can hold a small potted plant. So she’s my model when I move away from the beach inland a few miles if the state park is closed and I have to pay to park at the beach.
I’ll miss walking on the beach. (sigh) I won’t be bored though.
This is a classical theme explored by a lot of great artists. It tells the story of the Greek myth that lead to the Trojan war. Paris got roped into judging a beauty contest between the goddesses. I forget all the details, but one goddess offered him wealth if he named her the most beautiful. Then another goddess offered him wisdom. Then Venus offered him the love of the most beautiful woman in the world and he gave her the apple which was the prize. It happened that the most beautiful woman, Helen, was married to a king and she ran off with Paris. They made war over it. The gods and goddesses were all playing around with the mortals and taking sides in the war which made it much worse.
I’d also like to illustrate this story some day. If I could paint it I’d like to have three little girls having a tea party under a weeping cherry tree. They’re playing dress up and all wearing sheets wrapped like togas with wreaths of flowers in their hair. One girl could have her favorite books on the table with her hand on them. Another girl could have her jewelry box open and holding up some sparkly gems. The girl playing Venus would be holding her toga up which is falling down and reaching out for the apple. Paris could be leaning against the tree.
I had Chinese food the other day and my fortune cookie said “Your best work is yet to come.” This judgement of Paris inspiration has been in the back of my mind for so many years. I think I can do it. I just need some young models.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep practicing with other drawing and painting projects. I’m still healthy, there’s no hurry. I’ll do it before I die.
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.
This is my previous sketch of a cypress knee transferred onto an 18 x 24 piece of charcoal paper with more knees and trees sketched in around it. It’s rough. I’m not sure you can make it out. The darker vertical lines are trees. The faint sketchy vertical lines are Spanish moss and the squiggles and shaded areas closer to the top are different types of foliage. I want some sky in the painting but it will be patchy.
I bought a 30 x 30 canvas for it. It’s easier for me to draw larger than smaller. There is room on a 30 x 30 for me to show more swamp water on the bottom, which is dark. The water isn’t actually black. You can see through it and peat is forming on the bottom because the water doesn’t have much oxygen in it so the fallen leaves decay into peat. I’ll also have room on the canvas to extend the view on the sides showing more swamp.
The foliage was bright orange when I was there a couple days ago. I don’t know how long that color will hang in there. We’re getting some rain and wind this weekend, a nor’easter. The storm is coming from the south but the wind wrapping around it is the nor’easter. That’s ok. I need to sand and gesso my canvas a couple times before I tint it gray then wait a day or two for the tint to dry before I redraw this on it and finish drawing more trees on either side of what I have here. So I don’t mind hanging around at home if it rains.
This is one of those paintings that could take a long time to finish because of the weather. Like a month or more. After I redraw it on the tinted canvas I want to do a thin underpainting. Then the plan is to paint on top of my underpainting when it’s dry like Matisse did by taping my paintbrushes onto yard sticks so I can stand way back from the canvas to work on it. That’s a fun way to paint but the paint goes on thick so if I need to build up layers or make corrections I’ll have to wait longer for the paint to dry before I go over it again. When I paint thin glazes I only have to wait overnight for it to be dry enough for the next coat of paint.
If I paint the orange leaves then they fall down, it doesn’t matter. If they fall down before I get to paint them that doesn’t matter either. The swamp is most beautiful in the winter in my opinion.
I didn’t finish this sketch because it started to rain. That’s one of the problems of your plein air painter. There was a 10% chance of rain. I don’t know if you can make this out, but it’s a path through wildflowers with a few trees. All the little dots are bright yellow and orange flowers. There will be hundreds of them in the painting.
I need to do roughs like this before starting my painting so I can work out a good composition first. This helps me to decide things like, should I use a horizontal or vertical format for my painting. How many trees can I fit into the picture, how much of the sky and background trees will be seen, what part of the painting to start on first, if I need to eliminate trees, and so on.
If I want to get a finished looking painting I need to get a good plan for how to do the background, middle ground and foreground. When you don’t do a finished background it’s a less finished and more sketchy looking painting. If you figure out in advance things like where to make different textures or focal points there’s a better chance the painting will come out like you want it to. It’s a good idea to have less complicated areas in the painting too so the viewers eye has a place to rest, and to work on shadows so they’re interesting to the viewer.
This is the old school process that I learned long ago. Take the time, follow the steps and it will work out much better. It’s not a waste of time to figure out a good plan first.
Now I have to stretch a piece of watercolor paper and draw it again. Then I can start painting the bright flowers on the white paper and block them out with masking fluid so I can paint green foliage right over top of them and when I take the masking fluid off later the yellows and oranges will still be bright spots.
It’s warm here but it will cool down soon. We might not have any frost for a few more weeks though, so I have time to try another watercolor before I get into my big plan to paint the swamp this winter. I was happy to see the wildflowers in full bloom. I’ve wanted to do a painting of them for a couple years but missed the chance because I was into painting another scene at the time they were blooming.
This is watercolor paper stapled and stretched. It’s 15 x 20, larger than the pastel sketchbook I used for the previous marsh sketch. I did a more panoramic view this time, just outlining the shapes of the trees, sky, water and grass with charcoal. It’s a little easier to draw larger and on the second try. I didn’t start painting today because it’s too hot and humid. I didn’t want to stay out long. It’s cloudy and not much breeze. We’re on the edge of the cone of doom for hurricane Dorian. I didn’t hear any evacuation orders so I’m not leaving. We’ll have a couple days of nasty weather, maybe it won’t be too bad. Keep your fingers crossed for VA Beach. I hope the lights stay on. Maybe I’ll be able to start painting this on Sat.
So, this is the first step. I think this is a better sketch than my first try. I don’t know if you can see it very well.
I almost forgot to tell you about the weird noises. I guess it’s birds in the sedge. Every once in a while a bunch of them start squawking oddly. I don’t see them.
It was so nice to be over there. The weather is great! This is a big holiday weekend so Pleasure House Point will have a lot of visitors. I’ll get back out next week with my watercolors and try to paint this. I’d like to use a bigger paper so I can show more sky and water. I think the biggest challenge will be the edges where the top of the sedge overlaps the water edge. I’ll probably do a couple practices on scrap paper.
A watercolor might be my last art project until I’m at art camp in New Mexico. I should start getting my things organized this week and pack art supplies. I’ll be off the grid and under the radar for a few weeks but when I get back I’ll tell you about my adventure. Driving across country alone is a zen thing. It’s a beauty and vast.
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.
This lotus is wilting. They move a lot in the wind and sun. They’re never the same from one day to the next.
I’m still getting the hang of drawing waves. That’s my excuse for hanging around on the beach when it’s cloudy and a little windy in the mid 40s. I stood between 2 sand dunes and didn’t feel cold. The tide was high when I was there yesterday and today with bigger breakers and some curl in the waves. A beautiful mist was blowing off the top of the waves.
I spend a few minutes observing the waves. How many are breaking, building up or going back out. Can I remember the shapes they take in those steps? Then I start scribbling. I took a little break from sketching and observed again before I could continue and I thought, I’m studying wave anatomy. I have to be there. I’ll never understand it from a photo.
These studies are for the big plan I have to paint fog on the beach. My canvas is 19×38, too big to take out on the beach, so I’ll have to paint it at home. Especially since I’m planning on taping my paintbrushes onto yard sticks so I can stand back from the canvas like Matisse did. The size of the canvas, the wind on the beach, the yard sticks, make it seem like it might get messed up on the sand. I have my color rough from the beach in plein air, so my colors and values will be close to life if I mix them again at home. I’m almost finished with a full size sketch for my painting. If I can do another wave study or two, maybe I can combine the best parts of all my wave sketches into one scene. I really need to have my plan worked out in advance because this is a difficult challenge for me.
Do you remember the story about how Turner lashed himself to a mast on a boat in a storm and painted? Sketching on the beach in this weather is tame compared to Turner. He must have been a real thrill seeker. But if an artist is really there on the scene painting I get the feeling of the atmosphere or spirit or something intangible from it, like Turner had in his paintings. do you know what I mean? That’s what I want. It might take the rest of my life to achieve it.