I painted this of Mandu, from life, the Wednesday before she died. She was laying on our patio in the back yard, enjoying the warmth of the cement that had been heated by the sun during the day. We kept putting her on a big thick sofa pillow to cushion her bones, but repeatedly she’d walk off of it and lay on the radiant stones. Perhaps it felt good on her arthritic joints. From the angle where I was sitting, I could only see her two hindlegs – her forelegs were tucked underneath her. This last month, every evening after work, we had a ritual. We would take her outside for supervised fresh air and a little walk, which she seemed to enjoy, even though she appeared to be nearly blind. I tried to draw her on most of those occasions.
Last night, just before morning, I dreamed that I saw her sitting in a big flat bowl of butter and cream. She was practically wallowing in it, but lapping in a very ladylike way. I like to think of her being that contented, wherever she may be.
At the Wild Animal Park in San Diego we road a tram around a wide open savannah styled area, and at one point passed by the elephant territory where this baby was tossing hay into his mouth. Due to a tram breakdown in front of us we paused for a little while there, but not long enough to get a detailed drawing, so this was drawn later from a photo my husband took for me. I prefer to draw animals from life if they hold still, but that’s just not always possible. Still, I learned something from this experience that will help me the next time I encounter a live elephant and am not passing by at 10 miles an hour.
More often than not these days I’m trying to match the paper and art tool to the subject matter rather than drawing in one journal consistently. That’s why I have so many different books going, I suppose. For example, yesterday’s Hollywood and Highland jazz concert was drawn in a very smooth paper Moleskine with a brush pen. Using a brush pen on coarse recycled paper would have made it difficult to get fine detail. Trying to draw an elephant with charcoal on the “toothless” Moleskine would have been equally challenging. The native palms I posted a few days ago was done in a journal with white paper that accepts wet media. So I always have to remember to date the drawings to provide some sort of chronology. I don’t have one journal, I have a journal group or cluster that move forward like a mooing herd . It’s an odd system, but it works. And the variety of paper and media keeps me challenged and experimenting. And what’s more fun than that?
At the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Avenue, there’s a big shopping complex where jazz concerts are held on warm summer evenings. You can buy a glass of wine and listen to great music, and then stroll around the shops. I didn’t draw it in this view, but the whole center court has a Babylonian motif. No, I’m not kidding …. take a look at: Hollywood and Highland. I think my favorite “faux sculptures” are the two bas-relief Mesopotamian winged creatures that flank the facade of the Victoria’s Secret store. They both have purses or shopping bags in their hands. Gotta love it.
Anyway, while others were facing the musicians, I listened with delight and found a seat behind a potted “kangaroo’s paw” plant and drew the crowd.
At the end of a great weekend, with everyone safely back home, or en route, I took a few minutes to paint these koi from a photo reference. In real life, they don’t hold still very well. This study will help me draw them when I encounter them again in the gardens.
These koi are from Mulberry Pond at Descanso, where they swim lazily all day in an idyllic setting. The pond got a total makeover this year, complete with a waterfall and other deluxe features like a special ledge that the koi can hide under if herons or raccoons come around. One of the days we were there we saw many small koi, less than an inch long, swimming in the water, proving that the koi are reproducing. Sadly, they will be eaten by the larger fish. If not, the pond would probably become overrun. I would have liked to have saved one of the small fry but I’d probably get caught for poaching. And I’ve never poached anything but a salmon.
This quick sketch is watercolor and colored pencil in my large size Moleskine cachet journal. Now, back to work for me.
We went to the LA County Museum of Art yesterday, saw some exhibits (not Hockney, we didn’t have enough time for that) but the one on art glass was wonderful. At one point we took a break in the courtyard. Here are some of the people that were sitting close enough to see, but far enough away that I wasn’t caught drawing them. My objective was to see just how few marks I could make to suggest the person and their attitude.
Following this we went to the beach for dinner, then came back home and caught a 10 o clock showing of Disney’s “Cars.” In In spite of the fact that it’s marketed to a family audience (which all too often means witless and watered down) this was one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in quite a while. There are so many sight gags that only people of a certain age would “get” that it was clearly intended as entertainment for all ages. Without giving away the plot, there’s a part of the story that involves a section of Route 66 … a road that I drove with my parents as a child. We will get this on DVD, no doubt, just to be able to see all the jokes we missed. A great movie with a Randy Newman score and CG as only Pixar can do it.
Yesterday we went to San Diego Wild Animal Park, and these are some quick sketches I did of some gibbons. Because they were in motion most of the time, there was not much opportunity for detail. A suggestion of posture and behavior was about all I got.
I’ll write more later when I scan some other sketches, but overall the place was a disappointment. A realistic habitat is fantastic for the animals and important for conservation, but when many of the animals are so far away that you can’t see them, it leaves a little bit to be desired. These gibbons were among the few that were close enough to a viewing area to be seen. If you wanted to get see the giraffes closer than the distance of a few football fields from a moving tram, you had to purchase a special pricey photo safari on top of your park admission. If you’d like to see a cheetah run (or see the cheetah at all, in fact) sorry, that’s another special event.
I know that the costs of admission go toward caring for the animals, but I felt that the park overpromised and under delivered. The commercial that showed how close you could get to see the lions only applied if the lions deigned to go up next to the plexiglass window. There were only two lions on display, perched on a hillside quite a distance away. I’ll try some drawing from photo references we took.
I’ll have more to say about the good parts later.
As well as doing portraits, I’ve been doing a series of sketches of Mandu’s features – her tail, her paws, her eyes. More will be posted later. I’m exploring using different media to see which represents the texture the best. The graphite pencil seemed best for the smooth fuzzy tail as well as her scruffy flank. A few additional strokes attempt to describe a corduroy cushion on an old pressed wood oak chair. Northern noonday light was coming in the window to the right.
Yes, I am seriously addicted to sketching. These are the sketchbooks I’ve used since March 03, when I returned to art after a 20 year hiatus and essentially started over from sketch, I mean, scratch.
The stack on the left is completed books. The stack on the right is books that are partially full – a little bit or a lot. Every one of these is precious to me for one reason or another. Like any place where practice is done, they are full of false starts, errors, bad perspective, wobbly lines, strange anatomy, half-baked ideas and more. But that’s what my creative journey is all about. The way I figure, the more mistakes I make the better chance I have of doing something right. So I try to make a lot of mistakes every day. The more the better, really.
I’ll be posting new Mandu drawings later today if you want to check back. She’s drinking her half and half with enthusiasm again, and that’s a good sign. Yesterday I did a whole series of “cat part” drawings – ears, eyes, tail, etc. But I need time to scan them and it’s midnight now.
Thank you everyone for your supportive comments during this emotionally stressful time. Some people might say “get over it, it’s just a cat,” but animal lovers know it’s not that simple at all and that relationships come in all shapes, sizes and species. Feeling your kindness helps ease the impending loss, whether it comes in days, weeks or longer. My husband reads your comments, too, and I know that it means a lot to him as well.
I painted this epidendrum orchid in my back yard recently. The frilled, fringed flowers are commonly orange, yellow, red or cream colored and are borne on long spikes like this (I’ve only shown a part of it – the spike is probably 2 feet tall.) This painting was done in my 9 x 12 sketchbook as a study. I will likely do one on ‘real’ watercolor paper next. I added a little colored pencil for the accent parts.
This morning I’m off to paint at Descanso with my friend Robin and I’ve been looking forward to it all week.
Mandu is now living in the kitchen, on the floor, where she has a towel and all of her “things” close by. I see her moving from one to another, delicately touching them with her muzzle, to orient herself. We’re thinking that she may have some sense of light and darkness, but it is too soon to tell. At any rate, she does not appear distressed and is eating, drinking and washing her face as usual, although she’s not eating as much as usual and needs to be ‘reminded’ to eat, since she no longer gets the visual stimulus.
Today we drove up into the Angeles Crest National Forest to hear some music at Newcomb’s Ranch Inn … the only restaurant/road house in the vast national forest. Specifically, we drove the 45 minutes or so from our home to hear bluesman Barry “Big B” Brenner. We met Barry several years ago when he played at a restaurant in our town, and since that time we’ve enjoyed his music at sites all over Los Angeles – from a barbecue joint in Monrovia to a cajun restaurant in Toluca Lake to an outdoor concert at a golf course. His rare appearances at Newcomb’s Ranch Inn are worth the drive. Barry has said on numerous occasions that his mission is to introduce people to traditional blues and the blues legends that are the foundation of so much treasured American music. With his 6 string, 12 string and National Resonator guitars, he serves up a rich mixture of delta slides, Piedmont rags and Texas stomps – including numerous original songs. My favorite songs in Barry’s repertoire include “Deep River Blues,” “San Francisco Bay Blues,” and “Step it up and Go,” – but everything he sings is excellent. If you like blues, visit his site at the link above and give a listen … And if you’re in LA, get on his mailing list to find out where he’s appearing.
Barry was taking a set break when we arrived, but when he returned to play, I pulled out my sketchbook and did a painting of some of the pines and chapparal that grow on a hill behind the inn. This time, I didn’t make any attempt at composition, I just painted it like it was … a brilliant cerulean sky with fair weather cumulus, constantly changing light, pine trees clinging to a bare granite cliff, thickets of manzanita and mesquite and clouds of blooming ceanothus. More paintings of spring in our local wilderness will be posted this week.
Blues, sunshine, fresh air, a new watermedia sketchbook recommended by Roz Stendahl, my waterbrush and paints … and my dear husband to take me there and enjoy it with me. I can’t imagine a better start to a 3-day weekend.
Edited to add: I thought you might be interested in seeing what the scene actually looked like. This was a snapshot I took of that hillside. You can barely see the corner of the roof of the building in the foreground. The trees were about 30 yards or so away.
What I found interesting was my perception (above) that I just painted it like it was. I see now that I must have been improvising quite a bit, but I wasn’t really aware that I was.