Today seemed like as good a day as any to switch things up and go all ink. This started with the notion to sketch random things on my desk, but the addition of the nests and a few insects from a very brief visit to the Pember Museum of Natural History rounds out the collection nicely. Art and nature…pretty much what is always on my desk.
The November garden is as stark as the rest of the world. The vibrancy of the August palette has given way to browns and grays. A touch of green and ocher and russet remain. It isn’t much, but I’ll take it. A tangle of once-scarlet runner beans is all there is for a final garden painting.
I love the way you can be drawn to something for one reason and end up some place completely different. In this case, I simply liked the detailed pattern of a friend’s blue and white porcelain teacup. I ended up not only with a painting, but transported to 18th century Germany. The “Blue Onion” pattern was introduced by Europe’s oldest porcelain manufacturer, Meissen, in 1740, and inspired by blue and white patterns from China. From there, I researched further to learn that the distinctive blue glaze used in Chinese porcelain for centuries came from cobalt ores imported from Persia. It turns out that cobalt oxide can withstand the highest firing temperatures required for porcelain. I like to think of this enduring color passing through centuries, from glaze makers to artists around the world, to a single teacup painted in cobalt from my small watercolor paint box.
Last weekend, I cut the last of the frost-wilted flowers, fed the compost pile, and left a few flower heads for the birds. I thought the garden was finished for the season, until I took a second look at the blackened seed heads. They became the perfect subject for testing my new Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen. I love the way the pen glides over the paper—smooth and fine, not scratchy, just a pleasure to use. The ink is not permanent, so I can’t add watercolor to it, but the line quality is lovely. I’m almost looking forward to sketching what’s left of the dried tangle of runner beans.
It’s hard to resist Seckel pears in the fall. I don’t mean eating them, so much as drawing and painting them. There’s something lovely about the squat shape and subtle variety of green and gold and red. My instinct was to fill an entire page with pears, but after beginning the first few, I quickly realized that I didn’t have the patience to do ten or twelve. So, four pears on a Saturday morning is all there is.
Tips and Techniques– I did these using a combination of colored pencil and watercolor. I set out to do them entirely in colored pencil, but quickly remembered why I am not a colored pencil artist—it just takes so darn long to shade forms. Although I like the control of colored pencil, I love the speed and luminosity of watercolor, and I’ve come to appreciate what watercolor can do all on its own when you learn to let it go. Still, it’s interesting to combine these two mediums and I recommend trying it just to play with the possibilities.
My yard is littered with walnuts, the driveway with acorns, the side yard with sugar maple keys. My desk, too, is nearly taken over by tree seeds of all shapes and sizes and in various states of decay. I have been collecting them for the past few weeks in order to make this painting. Collection pages are so much fun to do. Whether seeds or mushrooms or amphibians or moths, I enjoy learning about each species and about the group as a whole. And I enjoy the challenge of making the individual parts come together on paper. This piece is nearly done, but for labeling each of the tree seeds. What script to use is my final decision— as is figuring out what those three wiry balls on the right are (I know the rest—do you?)
Arts and Birding- For Photographers and Artists- July 19-24, 2020
Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine
Registration for this workshop opened on 10/21 and is already half full! If you are thinking of signing up for 2020, don’t wait too long or you’ll end up on the waiting list. Arts and Birding provides a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and rhythms of life on an island on Maine’s stunningly beautiful rocky coast. Yes, we’re enthusiastic about birds, but we also explore the island’s spruce forest, tide pools, and striking vistas, take a boat trip to see puffins, and offer daily skill sessions in your choice specialty of sketching/painting or photography. Beginner to advanced participants are welcome. We work in a fun, positive, collaborative atmosphere. Please feel free to leave a comment to ask questions– I’ve been directing this program for six years and it is truly a highlight of my year!