When Work is Done

Our list was long last weekend: paint the back porch railing, fix windowsills, repair broken glazing, prime bare trim, rake leaves, mow the lawn, mulch the gardens, brush hog the field edge, clean out the gutter, mount the rain diverter…you get the idea. It was a beautiful fall three-day weekend, perfect for a hike or bike ride, or for getting stuff done. That’s why you didn’t see a blog post and I didn’t pick up my sketchbook until the sun was sinking low on Monday afternoon. I went to a local conservation area, where the recently mown meadow glowed in the late-day light. In the margins that escaped the reaper, I was drawn to milkweed pods, now split open and brittle, their work done too, casting seeds on the breeze.

Tips and Techniques– I’m sure I’ve said this before, but don’t overlook the small stuff. There are so many times when just looking at a single plant proves fascinating. I sketched the milkweed directly in ink with a Micron 02 pen and then added a couple of watercolor washes of yellow ochre, burnt sienna, and cobalt blue. I used a bit of ultramarine, alizarin crimson, and burnt umber for the darkest shadows, stems, and seeds. Sometimes keeping the palette and the subject simple are what make the difference between completing a page or not.

12 Comments on “When Work is Done

  1. What is it about milkweed pods that grab our attention? As a child, my sister and I would pretend they were parrots or boats. The silk was so soft we said we’d make ‘feather’ beds with them. I love that milkweed pods made it to your list of fascinating things. And a lovely rendition too.

  2. This is so lovely, and as Erica said above, brings back memories of childhood when milkweed pods were so fascinating. I appreciate your sharing the day’s palette and would like to know what journal, or journals, you regularly use if you are able to share that information.

    • Hi Barbara- I did this in a Stillman and Birn Zeta journal 5.5×8.5″. I’ve been using this journal for a while and I like the smooth paper for ink and the heft for watercolor. I think journals are very personal– you’ve got to try few to find the paper that best suits your style.

  3. Milkweed pods are one of my favorite things about fall. I have drawn them and photographed them many times over the years, and still your post draws me to them again.
    Beautiful as always.

  4. I was just looking at some milkweed plants in the back yard, thinking “I should try to paint this”. Now I have the help I need to do so!

  5. Thank you for this message, I always worry about how everyone sees my house and I freeze up to do art because of this. I want to be able to ignore the messes and do art. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!

  6. “…now split and brittle, their work done too…” Beautifully told and illustrated, Jean. I like the way you emphasized all the rakish angles that older milkweed pods have and the sweet lightness of the seeds’ silk.

  7. Wonderful drawings and observations. I love milkweed pods, they are almost comical as they fry and burst. I am trying to get milkweed established in our back”forty”.

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