Road Trip

“Napa Purple House – sketchbook entry – 4″ x 6″ – watercolor and felt tip pen – orig. not for sale – print available

This weekend we made the trek to the SF Bay area to visit with our daughter before she heads back to business school in the fall. We had a great time brunching in the Marina district, visiting Mt. Tamalpais and hiking in the woods, dining on tapas, seeing some Shakespeare, more brunching in Napa and visiting a winery. I sketched and painted along the way, so here’s a quick page from my sketchbook, done at brunch on Sunday. Yes, this house really was painted bright purple with blue accents. It was across the street from a charming cafe, and I was fortunate to get a window seat to sketch this souvenir while chatting and munching.

Seed Fields

Seed Fields – sketchbook page – SOLD

There was no time to paint today, so before I head off to bed I did this quick watercolor sketch of one of the seed growers field that we pass by on our way up the coast to Santa Maria. The agricultural economy is changing and many of the growers now grow for seed (I think these are marigolds) instead of growing cut flowers.

This is another of those abstraction experiments, just playing around with color and shape – and pushing the intensity as far as I could. It’s in my Raffine sketchbook, but is not a full page. I managed to get in some time today for spring cleanup in our yard, so I’m really tuckered out – there was a lot of digging, clipping, ivy removal and weed pulling to do. I’m going to get some sunflower seeds strewn tomorrow so I’ll have material for cutting and painting later in the season.

­ Minerva Getty

Minerva – 9 x 12 graphite drawing on pastel paper – after Nollekens

Yesterday I had the opportunity to return to the Hillside Getty in Sepulveda Pass for a little drawing practice. I just had time for two drawings this time – This first was this Minerva, the Roman equivalent of Athena, goddess of war. Unlike the Malibu Getty where there are numerous seats for viewing the sculptures, at the Hillside Getty they want you to keep moving so drawing means standing and balancing the sketchbook on your arm which is what I needed to do here. I much prefer the stability of working on my lap, but sometimes you just need to make do.

There were throngs of people, as usual. I started drawing this from one angle which was completely unsatisfactory and I turned the page over to begin again. A group of women walked by and asked if they could look. Rarely, I say no, but this time I did. “Is it bad luck?” one asked. “Yes, I said, it’s bad luck.” Gotta remember that one. Later another woman asked to see and I was far enough along that I was happy to show her the drawing in progress and we chatted for awhile about both Gettys and their Friday evening drawing class which happens twice a month. The gallery guard stopped by periodically to see my progress, too. He was a really nice guy and seemed to enjoy seeing the drawing take form. He said that an artist occasionally draws upstairs in the painting gallery but he scowls at anyone who attempts to speak to him so that says to me that people generally don’t know what kind of reaction they’ll get from someone who’s drawing. If I’m drawing indoors with plenty of time, I don’t mind stopping and chatting. But if I’m chasing the light with a watercolor outdoors, whoa, that’s a different story and I’m guessing my body language communicates that, too.

Octavia at the Getty

Today was a not so terrific day. I’m still getting over the tonsillitis/flu or whatever is camping in my throat and making me miserable – and I’m probably going to have to go see the doc about it tomorrow. It’s been almost a week and I’m just plain tired of it and going around whispering. Add to that a problem sending email and I’ve been crankier than usual. Thankfully Steve the Eudora genius solved it quickly – apparently a corrupt email was stuck in the queue and wouldn’t let the others go out. Kudos to Steve at Qualcomm for solving it. Qualcomm, if you’ve got a Google alert on blogs and you’re reading this, give Steve in Mac tech support a raise, he’s good!

Anyway, I didn’t get around to painting anything new today, so I decided to scan a sketch of Octavia, sister of the triumvirate consul Octavian, as captured in marble. This sculpture is upstairs in one of the galleries at the Getty Villa, which I visited a week or so ago. If you’re watching Rome on HBO, you know that poor Octavia hasn’t been lucky in love. Apparently her bust wasn’t too lucky either, because somewhere along the line she lost her noble Roman nose. I’ve heard that Rome is only going to last two more episodes, which is a real shame, because it’s an excellent series and I was really looking forward to seeing Nero, Caligula and all their pals.

Asparagus – Watercolor painting

Asparagus 9 x 12 – 100 lb. paper

From my sketchbook …. When asparagus shows up in stores it’s a sure sign of spring, even if it comes from Chile or who knows where. My dear husband knows how much I love the vegetable and when it appears for a good price at Trader Joe’s or one of our other local markets, he brings it home when he’s out doing errands. I like it simply prepared, like most of the fresh vegetables we enjoy around here. Steamed or microwaved briefly, with a little butter and salt.

This was painted directly with ink and brush and watercolor. Simple and quick, just like asparagus should be prepared.

Bronze Nude – Getty

Torso after Maillol – 9 x 12 charcoal on toned paper

In the sculpture garden of the West Pavilion are several Maillol bronze nudes, two of which I had time to draw. In many ways this was more challenging than the interior marble sculptures because of the dazzling bright sunlight and the dark reflectivity of the of the form. For this surface I switched to a vine charcoal to suggest the contrast.

Recently on the everyday matters list a question was asked “what do YOU do to really get yourself going when you feel
stalled?”

I guess I’d say I take a preventive approach to that question. I don’t usually get to the stalled point because I’m constantly changing gears in what I hope is a spiral path of growth. Here’s what I wrote in response to that very good question:

When tired of drawing in a sketchboook, draw on some big sheets of paper
If you usually paint big, paint small.
When you’re tired of using watercolor, try pastel or acrylic.
Always work in color? Try black and white.
If you’re getting bored painting landscapes, paint people.
If you usually paint people, try a still life.
Always draw with pencil? Try charcoal.
If you always draw with a dip pen and ink, use a brush pen instead.
When you get weary of doing finished works, do a series of quick studies.
If you always paint tight, loosen up.
If you always draw on white paper, try drawing on toned paper.
Always gravitate to bright colors? Try a subdued palette.
Too weighed down with reality? Try a fantasy scene from your imagination.
Tired of realistic representation? Have a little fun with abstraction.
Everything feel like same old, same old? Go to a museum or some
galleries and get fresh inspiration.
Try an old subject in a new technique.
Try a new subject in a familiar medium or technique.

This ‘shake things up’ approach may not work for everyone, but it keeps me from ever feeling bored. Give it a try!

Something winged this way comes

I am frustrated today because my Yahoo email is bouncing and every reactivation request I’ve put in is not working. I get error messages back that reassure me that Yahoo is working hard to upgrade its sites to serve me better and if I don’t hear anything after 4 hrs to get updates here (and then it shuttles me to a generic FAQ page. Updates? Hah! Nada.) I don’t know what else I can do now but wait. I’ve followed all the steps including trying to reactivate myself from a group I moderate.

So this lack of results has put me in a rather peevish mood, but since it’s Halloween and the time for the thinning of the veils and such, I’ll tell you a story of synchronicity.

Many years ago, oh best beloved, my dh and I were on an expedition in Egypt searching for ancient artifacts using remote viewing. It was tiring and hot but we loved nearly every minute of it, and cherished the moments that we could see other parts of that beautiful and fascinating country. One early evening, our drivers took us out to Saqqara where we watched sunset near the bent pyramid of Zoser. We sat on a hillside covered with loose rocks and rubble. I put my hand down and picked up one rock, turned it over, and there was a hieroglyphic of an ibis, headless. But the body clearly told me what kind of bird it was. That was a rare moment, holding a piece of history in my hand, rescued from what looked like a landfill.

Flash forward ten years or more, to another turbulent time. We were working on a show that had to do with native americans and the settling of the west, and I was looking for some props to use in filming a sequence. A chance visit to a garage sale (unrelated) turned up a bead loom with a bead weaving half completed. There was the ibis-like wading bird, again … but this time, without a tail. It felt like a visitation from an old friend.

Ibises in art seem to speak to me in some way. A benign, good way, even if they are headless. So, today when my dh had a meeting in Beverly Hills and offered the opportunity to ride along and go to the LA county art museum, I jumped at the chance. I had HAD it up to here with bouncing emails, thankfully a rare occurrence. On Halloween the museum was empty. I had the place to myself and I reveled in it. You can imagine my smile rounding the corner into the Egyptian gallery and coming across this beautiful bronze of an ibis which may have once been on a royal standard. I just had to stop and draw it, head, wings, tail and all.

When I got home tonight, I did a little research on the ibis and its symbolism. The bird is sacred to the Egyptian deity Thoth, the civilizer of men, who taught music, medicine, writing and magic and was associated with speech, literature, the arts and learning. And most appropriate today, on all hallows eve, Thoth was the author of the Book of the Dead, and he who helped or punished the departed as they made their trek to the underworld.

On these days when some believe the veil between worlds may thin, who knows what power ancient symbols may still hold – even if only to grant a smile and a moment of relaxing drawing pleasure.

Geranium way (sketch)

Another fast and rough sketch in the 9 x 12″ Raffine… in preparation for doing another painting in watercolor or oils. This one was painted with a half inch flat and a #12 round. Late afternoon on a tropical California side street.

In fact, it’s right next door to this house Capistrano Fence which I painted about a month ago.

The 20th anniversary issue of Watercolor magazine came in the mail the other day … oh, my the inspiration. If you haven’t seen it, go get it at the newsstand. The work is just outstanding … it makes you want to vow not to let a day go by without painting.

Sycamore Grove

Yesterday I got my first Raffine sketchbook by Lana, recommended by Lin Frye, so I decided to give it a test drive. The 9 x 12″ paper is very thick and slightly absorbent, and I’d say it takes a wet wash pretty well without bleeding through the back side of the paper. There was only slight buckling. I used a 1″ flat brush for this sketch and a thin flexible “rigger” brush. For quick studies (this took about 15-20 minutes) and an economical price tag (12.99 for a 48 page book) this might just be my favorite so far. I even like the slightly rough texture which makes it possible to get some interesting textures.

I haven’t tried a watercolor Moleskine yet, but the large size of this sketchbook appeals in that it allows me to use a bigger brush and to concentrate on large areas of color and value. Watercolor colors used: light red, quin magenta, burnt sienna, cobalt blue, sap green, yellow green.

In the coming days I’ll also try it out with ink, colored pencil, charcoal, pencil and acrylic, if you’d like to check back to see the results of my experiments …

P.S. My first eBay watercolor painting auction concludes Sunday night …
Click to see auction

Rosarium Two

This watercolor sketch of the Descanso Gardens Rosarium was actually painted about a month ago, at the same time that I was primarily posting daily sketches of Cat Mandu. I knew that we were on borrowed time with her, and I wanted to share her drawings while she was still alive. The flowers will always be there, and so I am posting them now.

This was painted on location at Descanso Gardens at about 10 in the morning. The light is similar to that in Vista del Arroyo a few days ago and Rosarium Haze, only the sky was a bit clearer, so it’s not quite so hazy.

The page is 9 x 12, painted with tube watercolors, a dixie cup and a sable brush. If things go according to plan, I’ll also be making an oil painting from this sketch.