I went to the Descanso Garden this morning and looked at my favorite roses and the Earth Day displays they had around the garden. When I was first imagining this post, I thought I would feature a watercolor of roses from that rose garden. But while chatting with a fellow marcher yesterday I decided it would be good to commemorate the March for Science in Pasadena somehow and I was glad I’d brought some drawing materials with me. I hadn’t planned to do that, and only grabbed my pens, pencils, small pad of paper and sheet of bubble wrap (to sit on of course) as I ran out the door. I did this sketch when we all got to Memorial Park, at the end of the march. Besides a few of my LA urban sketching buddies were on the march and when we get together, that’s what we do. We collectively choose to draw something “plein air” and then gather 1 hour or 1.5 hours later to share what we did and “geek out” over who has a great idea or material for sketching “on the fly.” That’s how I learned about keeping a sheet of bubble wrap in my small backpack. Sometimes I use it to level my watercolors, but most times I sit on it when perched on the cold, dirty and/or wet concrete or wooden bench. Oh yeah, sometimes I wrap up wet brushes or wet and paint soaked rags in the bubble wrap. I also have a quart-size zip lock bag of dry quinoa that I put under my paint trays to level them, otherwise the colors all run to one corner.
So, then I began to think about how today’s post/blog and idea for art had changed and I realized how much my art had changed. When my son was young, 20 years ago, I was lucky if I could stop along a road and take a photo of something I wanted to paint or draw. You see, as a single mom of a very active little boy, I didn’t have hours to sit “plein air” style in a vineyard, on a cliff next to the ocean, beside a maple with scarlet colored fall leaves or at the end of a “March for Science” event. I had to work at home and did oil on canvas, or watercolor and colored pencil on illustration board in 20 or 30 minute chunks of time at my easel or drafting table. During those years I took hundreds of photos, categorizing and sorting them by time of year and location. When I worked on an art piece I was vicariously transported to that place all over again. In fact many of my paintings had roads that I would imagine traveling down to take me to those places. The other part of my fantasy “plein air” painting time was the music I would play. My “go to” eclectic easel tunes included Miles Davis, Diana Krall, Mozart, Andre Previn’s jazz quartets, and 60’s Brazilian music—to name just a few musical inspirations. There were even times I listened to the Chieftains as I painted.
So now I can really be in the moment and work as quickly or slowly as I wish. Of course now that I am outside more I have to figure out how to get everything I might want inside a backpack that doesn’t feel like I’m carrying wet cement. And the game becomes how to be smart about it and carry only the lightest and necessary materials—hence the bubble wrap and small bag of quinoa. Bottles of water can be heavy though and I am not always near a drinking fountain. But the other thing about being outside when I paint is dealing with the bugs and dirt that blow into the paint, as well as the bits of leaves or acorns that seem to drop out of the sky when a squirrel flicks something down from the branch of a tree I am sitting near. And sometimes I’m not a fan of the noise of other people’s children running around where I happen to be painting. I don’t think I miss my son being little either, but I guess I miss the art in Mozart.