Sunday last I found myself at the Shoseian (Whispering Pine) Teahouse and the Japanese Friendship Garden for a bit of sketching with one of my sketching groups. There was a special event going on where one could “Experience Manga, Anime and Cosplay at the Shoseian Teahouse.” (So says the announcement for the event…) There were food trucks and events scheduled all morning. Not sure why, but for this piece I turned my back to the teahouse and fixated on this row of palm trees, a complete 180 from the “official” action. I was happy enough with the Japanese music behind me and even enjoyed hearing the Pokemon theme song that I had heard many times when my son was a little boy.
But once I’d finished this watercolor I turned around and moved closer to the teahouse, where I did a simple pencil sketch of the classically Japanese landscape that is in front of the tea house. ( I would have posted it, but didn’t finish…) It was a perfect day of art for me, as I sat next to a very special urban sketcher friend as I sketched the unfinished… And soon she was sharing with me her sketchpad full of wonderful pen and ink drawings she had recently done for an online class. (That’s when I stopped sketching and found myself totally enjoying her artwork and our conversation.) That’s kind of what we do. We share ideas, classes we are taking, and places we have recently sketched. A couple weeks ago my friend shared art she created in Vermont while traveling with her daughter and a couple months before that she shared art she had done while in Amsterdam. And of course we geek out over supplies we have just started using and new places to order materials. In fact, this very watercolor was done with a number 10 watercolor brush that a fellow painter was giving away, or passing along, with about a dozen other brushes. I thought it fitting to use my newly acquired #10 for this watercolor. (Such a nerd, right?)
If I take this random “sharing” a bit further it kind of reminds me of giving or getting a pass along plant. I’ve already written about such plant sharing in my blog, but think it’s worth mentioning again. These are plants, or plant parts, that you give to a friend or neighbor. It might be hollyhocks seeds or iris rhizomes, gladiola corms or daffodil bulbs you have dug up and separated. It might also be geranium cuttings, or strawberry plants that have sent out an abundance of runners. Over the years I have had my son’s great grandma’s peach colored gladiolus, amaryllis bulbs from my son’s great aunt’s garden and violets from another great aunt’s yard—just to name a few plants and people. I have always liked exchanging such things and recently shared seeds from some of my heavenly pink hollyhocks with a neighbor I don’t really know at all. Just the other day, I found a tiny jar on my front porch with hollyhock seeds from her garden. And so it goes, passing along things we love and cherish. I love the idea that I can look out over my garden and note that I have scented geraniums, daffodil bulbs and of course hollyhock seeds from friends and even now some strangers. So it goes with art materials. Even though my artist friends don’t normally give materials away, they often share ideas that become rooted in my brain. And I find myself looking for a perfectly sized, and beautifully bound, book of perfectly lovely watercolor paper, a small tin of liquid graphite and/or a Duke 209 fountain pen with fude nib.
You might wonder how a discussion of pass along plants can bring me back around to the visit with my friend in front of the teahouse, but it does. The class she had just taken had many references to basic line drawing, but was really rooted in drawing plants. Yes, plants and how to set up a composition and layering of plants with tips on how to add detail without drawing every branch, leaf or bark layer. It was fascinating and she was so excited to talk about it. If you are an artist and would like to know more about her class, Google Will Weston. Not sure if he lives around here, but I assume he has in the past as he has been a layout artist and background painter for Disney Feature and TV Animation (in Burbank) as well as an art instructor at the ArtCenter (in Pasadena).
The afternoon’s art experience was also kind of special for me as this tea garden was the very spot I had been introduced to urban sketching more than 3 years ago. I had been living in Glendale for only a couple months when I found myself at 1601 West Mountain Street in Glendale. The Shoseian Teahouse, the Brand Library and Art Center, and the Doctor’s House Museum and Gazebo can be found at that address. (And all of this backs up to the Verdugo Mountains with grassy fields, picnic areas and a playground.) On a particular day, which I thought was a weekend day (maybe not…), my son and I visited this place. The teahouse is not always open, but it was that day. As we wandered about I saw a number of people madly sketching away. I asked one of the sketchers what was going on and she told me about their group and said I should talk with the woman who was the leader of the group. She pointed to a rather handsome woman (wearing a red hat) standing under the shade of a large tree. I struck up a conversation with the “red hatted woman” and she suggested I join them for other sketching events. Specifically, she invited me to meet up with them at the Norton Simon Museum any first Friday of the month. And with that fateful introduction to the charming woman with the red hat, who was now sitting next to me in front of the Shoesian Teahouse, I was hooked!
More creativity in Glendale/Burbank
Thought it worth mentioning just a bit more about the creative community I have joined and enjoy. (This little corner of SoCal is quite a hotbed of creativity with Disney, Dreamworks (Glendale), and ABC (Burbank) nearby.) But I didn’t fully realize the level of creativity in Glendale until Halloween 2016. I had driven through a couple neighborhoods and was struck by the elaborate decorations in various yards. So, Halloween night my son and I walked through one of these spots. It was amazing. One corner lot had been turned into Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory, with couches on one side. And in that area the movie “Young Frankenstein” was being projected onto a large screen. People were invited to sit on a couch and watch the movie. (It was in honor of Gene Wilder, who had passed away that August.) Then there were light displays of every kind with many houses looking like they had taken props from a Disney set. And in the garage of one of the houses, at the top of one street, was a live band playing music. (Of course the musicians were all wearing costumes…) There were even “lit up” signs, set up by the city of Glendale, reminding drivers in the neighborhoods to watch out for trick or treaters.
And I have a Glendale friend who regularly hires a group of stuntmen and stunt women who put up (and take down) holiday lights at their house for a fee. He made a funny remark as we drove through a Burbank neighborhood the other day. I commented on some crazy looking brick and stone work in a particular yard. He said that the house was probably owned by a Disney art director. I have to admit, it did look like a set you might find in a Snow White movie. Yes, only in LA!