Stopping Time

There are times when I wish I could make time stand still. Like now. Now, when the buds of apple blossoms are tinged with ruby and pink. When tiny magenta flowering redbuds stand out against bright new green leaves. When passing bluebirds or goldfinches flash so brightly that their brilliance catches you by surprise. If I could stop time right now, I could paint it all instead of just these few lovely buds unfolding.

Tips and Techniques– I’ve been struggling lately with whether to sketch fast and loose or slowly and carefully. It’s a dance between accuracy and imperfection, patience, and frustration. I started this page with a single stem of apple blossoms, which I wanted to observe and draw carefully. But as I added a second stem and a third, my patience began to give way. By the time I got to the redbud blossoms, I was eager to get them down and finish. Time is fleeting; there’s so much to do—how do you resolve the dance?

25 Comments on “Stopping Time

  1. You know what? At 79 years of age, I’m just happy to see and appreciate another glorious spring. I got out Friday early and went to the forest to catch the ephemerals you mentioned. I was rewarded with a beautiful red trillium and also a white one in addition to spring beauties, trout lily and jack in the pulpit. PLUS a garter snake well camouflaged and warming itself.
    Your painting is lovely. Apple blossoms are so beautiful. A favorite.

  2. The dance looks beautiful; no need for splatters. These blossoms are a lovely array of variety in size and colour – what we find in nature. Thank you for your blog, it is so very helpful.

  3. “Lovely” is the perfect word! Fast and loose, exact and detailed- you master them both!

  4. Oh such a lovely way to finish April, Jean! Your tangle of branches seems to express the excitement of the rush of Spring, but to my eye any hint of frustration on your part is invisible. I can relate to the mad dash to capture everything blooming before the buds and opening flowers lose their charm. For me, this is the crazy season, and impossible to sketch fast enough ( even fast and loose) to illustrate the beautiful chaos. I try to commit to memory the shapes, smells, colors, and back everything with photos, just I case I have the energy to journalize it all. Thanks for inspiring and sharing!

  5. Pingback: Stopping Time – Tonya LaLonde

  6. Love the spring flowers. I get it, sometimes fast works, sometimes not. I often start with just a branch and end up doing a whole landscape, so I get it. That is what we doit I guess, it is just fun.

  7. I think the end result is beautiful- a little bit of chaos is good and I love the paint splatter.

    • Thanks Avery– Sometimes I look at very precise natural history/botanical artwork and want to do that. But I love the spontaneity and imperfection of a loose sketch, especially in a sketchbook, so I vacillate. I appreciate your encouragement!

  8. Hello Jean,

    I have followed you for some years and have 2 copies of your book waiting for grandchildren to be a wee bit older.

    I teach classes: “Art for a Travel Journal” and since discovering your work some years ago, have always included your info on my Resources Hand Out.

    I am teaching for the first time since before Covid at a new-to-me facility that holds many more people than my previous site, thus, I am creating a slide presentation so people can well see small sketchbook pages from the larger room.

    I would love to include several images of your incredibly delightful inspired pages, with, of course, full attribution.

    I would hope to know by Friday the 5th if this is amenable to you as I teach on Saturday and must have final slides well organized by Friday (if not thursday 😉 I am well on my way with my presentation as I am editing and updating two online classes I provided during Covid but would love to include a few examples of your charm and expertise.

    Most sincerely, Penelope Youngfeather Sisters, Oregon


  9. It IS a dance! What a wonderful metaphor. I think resolving the dance depends on how much time I have. If it’s a fleeting few minutes, the dance is brief. When I have a longer period of time, I can go further and deeper. No matter what, it’s important to breathe in the fragrances and listen to the sounds.

  10. I think I can see the frenzied abundance of spring in your sketch and I can certainly see it in your text. Why can’t we not only stop time but wedge some slices of these glorious days into the tedium of winter? Wouldn’t that be nice? 😉 Spring always gets too busy. I have projects I’m involved in, there are all the usual, mundane tasks to do – and I want to get out to see and photograph all the wildflowers before they’ve finished. Yes, it’s faster than what you’re doing but it’s the same problem. Too much, too fast. But we have to admit, it’s not a bad problem to have, is it?

    • Right. It’s a fine struggle. It has rained every day this week and the greens are lush and gorgeous. I realize I don’t have to paint it all as long as I see it. But we might as well leave the chores for another day and enjoy it.

  11. Yes, a dance. I’m an impatient person, and a very impatient sketcher. Thanks for admitting to some impatient tendencies – makes me feel a bit better that even a lovely sketcher struggles. I strive for something that is somewhat accurate, though far from photo-realistic. I often resort to adding text and measurements to make up for the inaccuracies. I do find that if I carve out “real” time in my schedule, then I gain some patience while sketching. Regardless of the outcome, sketching ANYTHING makes me more observant. More calm. Thank you for sharing your sketches and tips in your newsletters. I find them useful.

    • Hi Jaci- It helps to know that others struggle too…and we all do. I realized this week that it doesn’t matter so much if I can’t capture all the things I want to as long as I’m sketching something. I just need to be outside, noticing, discovering, sketching. I’m glad to know you feel that way too.

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