November 18, 2017

Decanso water
Descanso Water, Fall 2017 (watercolor, Inktense pencils on watercolor paper)

A couple weeks ago I wrote about Monet’s water lilies and the amazing pond he had installed at Giverny. I decided to make it my mission to get in touch with my “Monet side” and paint California bodies of water, big and small, as often as I could. So, the last time I went to the Descanso Garden, I looked for the perfect bench, “waterside,” to sit and paint. It took some doing to veer away from my favorite spots in the rose garden. But I persisted and found the perfect bench beside the perfect dark waterway that led to the bright patch of green sunlight at the end of this view. I was a little intimidated to paint moving water and wondered if I could capture the reflections of the dark “greenness” of the trees.

As was usual for me, I intentionally avoided contact with people as I walked around the roses and under the oaks. Maybe I worry that someone will get to the spot I want before I can fill up my water bottles at the drinking fountain. I thought the view from this bench perfect as there were no nearby paths other than the one that lead directly here. So, I could be certain not to have anyone spoil my view. As I set up my materials, I felt a little smug that I had fooled everyone and would be unseen until I realized the train tracks for the miniature railroad at the garden were just to my right. Darn! But I soon realized I could angle my body all the way to the left and would therefore not have to look directly at any children or their adults as they “tooted” past my view of the secret garden.

I don’t often think about what I want to write as I paint. The words usually come after the art for me. If you have read any of my other posts you may have noticed that I sometimes write about painting in general—how I mix colors (sometimes talking to various blues), stress over details and generally discuss how I apply paint. I also like to include something that is very specific to California in the form of a place or person. Then of course there are my family stories and just general musings that float through my brain throughout the day and night. So, on this particular day I was stressing about making the water look “Monet-like,” as I assumed I would be writing about that experience. I was also trying to avoid eye contact with the people on the train that went past me about every 10 minutes. (I noticed that the lady sitting at the back of the train smiled at me the first couple rounds, but I am guessing she finally gave up as I stopped looking in that direction). Toot, toot!

Even with all these rather weird thoughts I managed to make a go of it, and was generally pleased with the feeling of green peace being reflected in the water. When all of a sudden, out of shadows, a rather large koi drifted into view. I hadn’t expected to see anything other than the dark colors of the water and was surprised that a bright spot of orange dared to appear here. But I was determined to add this shiny splash of color on the spot even though I hadn’t planned earlier to add such a “tart” color into the cool blue and green mix. I grabbed my Inktense Poppy Red and Tangerine pencils and began mixing a bit of lovely cadmium red paint. Another fish joined the first one and now I welcomed two fish into my composition. I thought this hilarious because I probably wouldn’t have done the same if a couple kids had walked through the scene, but instead I would have waited till they passed by. I was so glad I had saved some white space and I worked quickly to put them in the water. Within a minute or two they were gone from my view.

By this time I was almost done and ready for a break. So, I took out my half a peanut butter sandwich and turned to watch the next trainload of children and their bored looking adults chug past me. Toot toot! I was certain they were all very curious to see what I was doing and maybe wanted me to hold up the watercolor I had been working on. I was prepared to say, “No. No. I couldn’t. It’s still wet and not ready for anyone to see.” I was surprised to see that the train was completely full and no one was looking my way, including the lady sitting in the caboose. No one looked bored. They were busy enjoying the train—smiling and talking, waiting for the conductor to blow the whistle again. Toot toot! It made me smile to watch them wiz past without noticing the smug and self-important painter. They sure hadn’t left any white space for me! (I guess we are all allowed to find our place at the park.) Maybe they were trying to avoid me. And just like that, they went around a corner and disappeared from my view.

As I finished my sandwich I thought of my dad, and how he was quick to remind us that no one was “all that.” In my mind I heard him say one of our family sayings, “So, you think you are * Mrs. Astor. But you are more surely Mrs. Astor’s horse.” Toot toot! Time to pack up and go.

* If you don’t know who Mrs. Astor was, she was married to a very wealthy man (John Jay Astor). They were on the Titanic. She made it across the Atlantic, but he did not.

Just checked the weather for turkey day in SoCal. It’s supposed to be 90 degrees! Good Grief. Happy Thanksgiving!

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