September 28, 2019

Descanso class, 2016
Took a watercolor class at the Descanso Gardens, Saturday, June 25, 2016 (watercolor and watercolor crayons on watercolor paper)

It was purely by accident that I happened upon this watercolor. I am always on the lookout for unused watercolor paper and was flipping through an older pad. There were no blank sheets that could be salvaged, but there was this little sketch along with several remnants of exercises I did for a watercolor class I took at the Descanso Gardens in June 2016. Before taking that class I remember looking for a particular size paper at Swain’s Art Store (local independent art store that has recently gone out of business, sadly) because I wanted something on the small side (9 inches by 12). I was imagining myself wandering the garden with all my imagined new artist friends on the lookout for the perfect spot to paint. I didn’t want to lug around a large and heavy pad of paper. I think I secretly wanted something smaller because I had decided that in this class I was pursuing a new and personal artistic goal. That was, I wanted to force myself to paint quickly and of course it would take longer, in theory, to fill a larger page. (You may have noticed that I even marked a smaller rectangle to paint in, so the final sketch was actually 8 and 1/4 by 6 and 1/2. What was that about? What a weird size…) 

Anyway, I remember this class very well, spending several Saturday mornings in the garden (June 11, 18 and 25th) learning about a whole bunch of art stuff. Some things I had learned previously, some techniques were a new take on something I had already learned and some of what we did was brand new to me. I loved every bit of it. I think I have already mentioned the artist who taught the class in a previous post or two. Her name is Virginia Hein. And since taking her class we have become fast artist friends who find ourselves at the same venues, where we are always painting outside. She is such a wonderful and generous artist. (I heard her say the other day that she had taught a similar watercolor class at the Descanso earlier in the summer.) If you want to learn more about her amazingness just Google Virginia Hein. We focused on composition, how to get the most from your art by first coming up with a thumbnail, close up study of our paint colors and then (my favorite)—the perfect wash. Of course Virginia first demonstrated how to do this with cobalt blue. After that I practiced one cobalt blue sky after another, filling pages and pages of random bits of watercolor paper—trying to get it right. In fact, just before this sketch in my book is quite a number of sky wash attempts. Finally, I got bold enough to capture this little landscape. (Looking closely at it I am reminded that I used a particular brush that seems to have gone missing. Hmmm…)

After I found this piece of art, that is now already 3 years old, I realized how important One California Girl has become to me. Each week I look forward to picking out a piece of my art as a kind of muse for my thoughts and writing. And I write a little every day, thinking about what I want to say all week. Continuing my focus on beauty, funny thoughts and family stories has become especially important to me since I began the blog on March 25, 2017 (my mother’s birthday). I think the back story to this creative outlet need for me came together during the fall of 2016 and winter of 2017. As an artist I have always felt like I’m on the outside looking in, but during those months I found myself feeling like I was from another planet, wondering about the extra weirdness that seemed to be all around me. Sometimes I felt weightless and I might drift away at any time. Other times I felt so heavy that I might have sunk down into the Earth, just like Rumpelstiltskin did when the princess learned his name. Being from California I am kind of used to weird and wonderful people, places and things. But beginning 2017 I was struck by how people seemed to be so angry. What they were saying on Social Media and even on the street corner was so mean and not very helpful. I found myself feeling just bit numb, trying to ward off the negative slew of words and thoughts. 

I have to say that the weirdness continues. But I am thankful that I gave one California girl a voice and I get to do something creative every day. I will not succumb to feeling numb! I have found something that helps me continue feeling and contributing to something that feels good. I hope that you who have been reading my blog posts get a sense of what I’m talking about. I guess I should add here that sometimes my posts are a bit crabby, sometimes inspired and insightful, and even sometimes funny. It all depends on the time and place of the art and my state of mind. Because even if my words sound a bit cranky, I think maybe my art shows that I somehow found something beautiful to look at, study and share.

Last Wednesday I saw a quote from Archibishop Desmond Tutu.

“Do your little bit of good where you are;

it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

Pretty good words to live by and for me good words to blog by. It’s a good day today. It’s raining in SoCal and on Monday it will be my son’s birthday. Happy Birthday sweetie!

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