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!
It’s a throwback to the age of the dinosaurs isn’t it?
My model is a bronze sculpture.
Yesterday I got a start on my sketch but after working on it for a half hour or so I saw that I drew it too far to the left on my paper. I didn’t want his beak to crowd the edge so I decided to transfer my sketch to the other side of the paper and try again.
I worked on it for another hour or so and was starting to get hungry and lose my concentration. I took a break and went back to work on it a little more. Then a lady spoke to me and I jumped. She was very apologetic for startling me but I told her no prob. I was in the zone but I can go back. That happens sometimes when you draw in plain air. If it would annoy you too much to have your concentration broken, then plain air isn’t for you. I kind of enjoy talking to people who are interested, so no big deal if they scare me. I’m not on any schedule for finishing the sketch.
Drawing this pelican made me see the beak has an extra section down the center. And from far away the head looks like a squid to me. Can you see that shape in the head? I’ve seen live ones before but I can’t remember where. If I find a good spot with a nice background for this bird I might do a painting and enter it in the Audubon contest. (some day)
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.
I’ll give you a hint, Spanish, Baroque. I had to look him up. This one might not be easy to guess.
A photo of one of this artist’s masterpieces
It got too hot and humid after the sun came out of the clouds this morning. Your plain air artist had to go back into the air conditioning.
Previously on “Who’s the dead guy?”
I’ll give you a hint. He liked to paint curvy women. No teenage nymphs for this guy.
When I was working on this study I thought this hat is too much. did he really wear a hat that partially blocked his vision and then have to tilt his head back to see? Or is that only how he looks in this statue. I thought he seems kind of snobby. In the future, whenever I see one of his paintings, I’ll always wonder if he was really all about that hat.
This is my second try. If I transfer this to another paper and try again I could make some corrections and it would come out better, but I don’t want to. This is only a practice sketch so that my portrait drawing can improve.
Previously on “Who’s the Dead Guy?”
I’ll give you a hint. He did a lot of self portraits.
I need practice on portraits. At Norfolk Botanical they have a sculpture garden with 11 statues of artists. I’ll try to get a likeness of some of the other artists, then do a finished drawing of my best one.
Next time I post I’ll include a photo of this statue.
One day a couple weeks ago I was walking in the garden carrying my 12 x 16 sketchbook when I came across this beautiful tree in the last stage of blooming. A few pink flowers were still hanging on and I wished I could paint real fast so I could capture it like that with some flowers and new leaves coming out. It’s a big crabapple tree and famous because it’s in a book of VA’s 100 most beautiful trees.
I knew I couldn’t sketch it on my 12 x 16 paper because it’s easier for me to draw large if I’m drawing a large subject. That’s one reason why I know my drawing needs improvement. Why can’t I draw small? I can usually draw a figure with a 1.5″ head. A one inch head is too small for me most of the time, but I try to sketch small figures sometimes.
I decided to use a piece of paper out of my 18 x 24 sketchbook and give it a try. 12 x 16 is the largest size sketchbook I can hold in one hand to draw and don’t need my easel. When I tried to sketch the tree on the big paper it seemed like it kept getting bigger and bigger as I was sketching. ( a sign that my drawing is out of control ) I wasn’t going to show this sketch because the tree looks crowded on this big piece of paper but I wanted to paint it and I thought if I had a larger canvas I might be able to do it. I bought a 30 x 40 canvas.
I did a detailed underpainting of the tree and it looked ok on the 30 x 40 canvas. It’s not squished to fit. It was a little easier to sketch the second time. There’s another five feet of tree off to the right which I couldn’t get, though. The branches come back down to the ground and form a thick bush next to the tree. Now I’m over half way finished but it might still take another week at this rate. The background trees, sky and grass are finished but the tree and leaves are still mostly in the underpainting stage. The new leaves have a red orange tint and are shiny. It’s too soon for me to tell if my painting will work out. It could be an epic failure, or it might be ok when it’s finished. I missed the time to paint the tree with flowers but I think it’s beautiful without flowers. If the painting is ok I’ll post it when I’m finished. If it’s not ok, I’ll try again next year.
Life isn’t easy if you’re a pine tree on a sand dune. If a sensitive person saw this tree from far away, they might think it was dying, it looks so sad. It doesn’t have a lot of needles and the ones on top are an orange brown.
But when you get closer, you see how it’s filling in the leeward dip in the dunes with greener branches. It looks like the branches came back down to the dune and rerooted, which I heard some trees can do on sand. I didn’t test it for roots because I didn’t want to mess with it.
Then you notice it’s kind of graceful in the way it leans and twists. Is that how it is in the life of a human too? Can a hard life give a soul some kind of stark graceful beauty not seen in the lives of those that had it easy?
That’s my zen question for today. The beach makes me feel all zen. Can you feel the refreshingly cool breeze coming off the bay in my sketch?
It’s real name is Roaring Dog. It’s in the Asia Lanterns show at Norfolk Botanical Garden. This thing is big enough to ride into battle. I did this sketch in daylight but I bet it’s real scary at night. I’m going to transfer this sketch to black pastel paper and go back at night when the lanterns are lit and add color. I’ll post more info on it when I get my pastel finished.
Does this make you want to armor your little hell hound?
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.