I finally got to the Descanso Garden last Sunday to do some long awaited sketching. The end of August and first part of September brought triple digit heat here in Southern California and it has been too uncomfortable to make the effort to sit outside—even for a quick sketch. In fact, that heat caused a substantial fire that I could see from my front porch on the top of some “all too close” mountains across the way. So, Sunday morning I packed my backpack with my paints and bubble wrap, found a favorite shady bench in the rose garden and did this watercolor in about 30 minutes. Sheer bliss!
I think I’ve mentioned in previous posts that there is quite a worldwide “urban sketching” phenomenon going on right now. On my Facebook urban sketchers group page, people from all over the world post their art. Many do renderings of vacation spots they are visiting; some include people in their art and some do historic buildings, train stations or back allies without anyone there at all. For those who include people, they’ve posted art with people sitting at cafes drinking coffee or reading, people strolling along the street, people walking in and around art museums and even people doing laundry at a Laundromat. Some of the really good urban sketchers do short videos (with time lapse) to show the rest of us how it’s done—with beautiful and purposeful pencil and pen marks as well as perfect washes and layered watercolor details.
When I do a quick sketch/painting like this, I rarely add the people who are wondering around. (Come to think of it, I don’t usually add people in any of my art much at all. Hmmm…) I am usually more fixated on the movement of clouds across a soft blue sky or the greenery of a block of trees as the changing light deepens or brightens the trees and shrubs in a landscape. I am also more fixated on preserving as much white space as I can and adding, almost as an afterthought, highlights of pink or yellow. The people that seem to be milling around in my view are often too much of a distraction. I’m drawn to movement of another kind.
So, after 30 minutes or so I started packing up my stuff. I had propped this sketch up on the bench to dry. About that time a couple 9 or 10 year old girls and their adults stopped by to see what I was doing. Since I was done, a conversation with them seemed appropriate. You could tell the girls were interested in painting and wanted to see my paints and brushes. (One of the girls told me that she had just moved and couldn’t find her brushes. She looked up at her mother and her mom said they would have to look later when they got home.) I opened up my paint box and began to wonder if they would think my rather messy pots of paint would look like anything special. But they were all in and seemed even more drawn to the 15 or so different colors I have in the tray. By now they weren’t saying anything and were just staring. From out of nowhere I started talking about a color I am fond of using at present. I talked about how I think it’s important to have special colors that inspire you when you paint. (My favorite right now is an amazing pink called Opera.) I showed them the color and then showed them on my phone some other pieces I had done with that color. (I quickly breezed past the naked lady piece I did at the Norton Simon Museum the other day.) We talked about their favorite colors and then we all went our separate ways.
On the way home I got to thinking about having a favorite color and it seemed that might be something we do, and/or talk about, only when we are very young. “Why is that?” Don’t you remember when pink or purple was your favorite? Or maybe you were a child who liked black or red? I was working with a kid the other day and asked him to pick a marker (from a choice of red, green or blue) and he chose green. I almost fell off my chair as for the past two and a half years he has always chosen blue when given a choice of colors. He had a large grin on his face, as if he was trying to surprise me. I mean, he even commented that his new favorite color was not blue, but green. That was really a fun moment for both of us.
So, I challenge you to pick a color you like and get a shirt or hat in that color. And of course don’t forget to wear it. Maybe it will make you feel good to have a favorite color next to your skin. I have a t-shirt that is the same pink as the “Opera” color in my paint box. Every time I wear that t-shirt someone says that it’s a good color for me to wear. And I think to myself, “Thanks, but I already knew that! It’s in my paintbox.”