What a mess! This page, my life! Boxes and bins multiply through the house as we make our final push to pack for our move from New York to Connecticut. My desk, my art supplies: dismantled, boxed, and wrapped…for now. And so no lovely birds, no gardens, no carefully observed scenes until the chaos subsides.
It’s very satisfying to grow your own tomatoes. Not just cherry or grape tomatoes, which are fine, but full-sized Brandywines or beefsteaks. While other gardeners have been harvesting their tomatoes for a few weeks, my late-maturing heirlooms are just beginning to ripen. And I suppose that’s good. The slow yield has given me one or two to eat and more on the vine to paint.
This page is a bit of an experiment. I recently bought a new fountain pen—a Lamy Safari—and I tested it with a deep blue-gray waterproof ink from De Atramentis called Fog Gray. The extra-fine pen nib is still much, much thicker than my go-to Micron 02 pen. Although I loved the smooth line, I’m not quite used to the bolder stroke. I found it hard to get much subtlety, especially when shading, which I tend to add in ink before beginning the watercolor. I look forward to more testing!
Why is it that so many artists, including me, think we’re going to get it “right” the first time? I know that producing good art requires practice, trial and error, and problem solving. But I still get frustrated when things don’t turn out to my satisfaction.
Cohoes Falls- 1st attempt
So it was this week when I tried to paint Cohoes Falls in upstate New York. On my first go, I just didn’t get the drawing right. I found it hard to simplify the landscape into shapes that I could tackle. And I didn’t really figure out the values before trying to add color. The result: a piece that’s blobby and confusing.
Cohoes Falls, done in micron pen and watercolor in Stillman & Birn Zeta journal, 5.5×8.5
So…turn the page and try, try again. Here’s my second attempt:
It was challenging to capture the magnitude of the falls and landscape in my small journal…to get the full width of the falls requires reducing the height. An accordion fold journal might work best. But that would take a third try!
About Cohoes Falls: New York’s second largest waterfall (behind Niagara Falls), Cohoes Falls is 1000 feet wide and 75-90 feet high. Several dams divert water from the falls, so the volume is of water over them is not full force, especially in summertime. Still, they are mighty impressive. There is a terrific park overlooking the falls and, when conditions permit, a stairway and trail that allows access at the base of the falls.
For many years now, I’ve clamored over granite ledges, slippery seaweeds, and sharp barnacle-laden rocks to explore the watery realm of Maine’s tide pools. When the sea retreats at low tide, a world of strange and tenacious creatures is revealed. I go in search of spiny urchins, orange and green sea stars, feathery anemone, scampering hermit crabs and slow moving snails, tunicates, blue muscles, dog whelks, sponges, lurking crabs and, always, the unexpected. I bring my sketchbook and a pen and draw until the tide turns.
After this year’s adventure, I went back through my sketchbooks over the last 10 years to compare the drawings and the treasures found. Enjoy!