Spring Unfolding

When the world has been brown for months, the first emergence of green is a wonderful thing. Skunk cabbage has been unfurling for several weeks now and is a most welcome sight along woodland streams and wetlands. In late winter, it sends up a maroon-striped spadix, which encloses its unpleasant smelling flower, and then in early spring it unrolls bright green leaves. I recently spent a pleasant afternoon sketching on the edge of a wooded steam, enjoying dappled sun and birdsong, and feeling grateful for this one beautiful color.

Tips & Techniques– Deciding what to sketch is sometimes harder than actually sketching. Likewise, figuring out what you want your page to look once you’ve chosen a subject may seem daunting. Here are a couple of ways to get past the blank white page:

  • Option 1: Start with a couple of quick thumbnail sketches. These will help you figure out whether you like your subject enough to devote time to it and whether you think you can tackle it in the time you have. Thumbnails will also help you consider different approaches to page layout. They can help you map out where the lights, mid-tones, and darks are too, which will give you a road map for the full page version.
  • Option 2: Just begin! Rather than thinking you have to figure out everything before you start, consider that your sketching journey can begin with a single step. Make a mark. Make another. Keep looking, keep going until you feel satisfied with the page.
  • Option 3: Be thoughtful. Consider what drew you to sketch this particular subject. Think about it for a minute- was it the color? The light? The scene or object? The story? Your experience? When you have an answer, you’ll have a better idea of what to emphasize and how you want to approach the page.

19 Comments on “Spring Unfolding

  1. Yea for skunk cabbage! The early signs of spring! I’ve often considered it one of those strong ancient plants that would survive a nuclear attack, along with horsetails. We have skunk cabbage appearing each spring along the edges of Quade creek that meanders through our back property and ending in Puget Sound. The yellow flowering plant follows the creek and grows abundantly in the lower wet valleys. Also, I’ve noticed the bugs like to hover around the plant…
    Your sketch very well describes its appearance. Thank you you for sharing.

    I’d love to join your sketching group that will be painting on the island in Maine. The Maine coast has all its own beauty, so serene and lovely but I just returned from traveling in Europe and need to keep my walking feet at home for a while.

  2. Thanks for your page this week Jean. Who knew skunk cabbage could look
    So alluring as it unfurls? Really appreciated your tips and techniques. Great to
    Think about the process in stages when I can.

    • They are basic things we often forget. I think they are most useful when faced with complicated subjects or when there are a lot of choices about what to focus on.

  3. This is all such great advice, especially just start. That one line on the page can open the floodgates. I released myself from my theme – which was making picking a subject hard and not very inspiring – and now I’m feeling inspired by everything. Your sketch is beautiful. You have such a talent for capturing the lights and darks.

    • Your paintings don’t look like you struggle with composition! But it is sort of like a puzzle– the pieces have to fall into place for things to look right.

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