December 28, 2019

Trees and sky at UCSC, with the ocean just out of reach, 2019 (wax crayons/pastels on mat board for 5 by 7 image)

It’s almost 2020 and it’s been cold here in SoCal. The narcissus dot my garden in small bunches of vertical green leaves and stems, and there is snow on the San Gabriel Mountains behind my house. Pretty nice actually…

In year’s past I have made holiday gifts for friends and family. But it’s been so long since I’ve done that and I can’t really remember when I stopped, or why I stopped, for that matter. So this year I thought I would try to revive some of that homespun gifting again. Somehow, not really sure when the idea popped into my mind, I thought it would be interesting to paint little scenes from a photo I took of the amazing trees and ocean plus sky view at the UCSC campus. And I wanted this little scene around the edges of an 8 by 10 inch mat with a 5 by 7 opening. I knew I wanted to flank the sides of the frame with lovely vertical stabs of redwoods and other conifers. But I also wanted to fill in the center backing with the in between continued view of shorter conifers and shrubbery with more of that fabulous blue sky. Normally that space in a mat would be filled with some 5 by 7 inch photo or other special two dimensional image. I was kind of liking the idea that you could either put something in the frame, or not. And whatever went in that spot didn’t need to go behind glass either. I found that by taping the top edge of the mat to the backing I created a kind of free standing sandwich board pop up. If someone wanted to hang something in the frame it could be taped behind the opening with a little piece of drafting tape. If not it could be left open, with nothing else added. (When I finished the first one of these I amused myself greatly by placing a small stuffed UCSC banana slug looking out of the opening. In fact, I can’t stop giggling about it, so random and yet corny. But that kind of describes me perfectly, so random and corny, and yet easily amused…) I am also quite aware that my idea of giving this little gift of Northern CA trees and ocean inspired sky would not be done by the 1st. So, now I plan to give this little gift as a kind of random and corny “anytime” gift, hopefully not too much after January 1, 2020.

But I think the real story here is how I came upon the best media to do this little bit of personal ephemera from One CA girl. When I picked up the half dozen good quality Crescent board mats for the project I thought it would be fun to try using some lovely inks for this landscape. I had found an acrylic pearlescent sky blue and light green that I thought would be perfect for the project. Oh, I also wanted to try out my new Fude fountain pen filled with water soluble black ink as well. (You may have noticed by the above caption there isn’t one of these items listed there…) 

Here’s what happened: I experimented with the materials I just described using a few scraps of Crescent board. Nothing turned out the way I had hoped, with each one taking way longer to do than I had patience for. I knew if it took too long I would become bored doing a similar scene over and over again. And eventually I just got bored with all this trial and error and opened up one of the mat board frames I had bought and tried it there. Not sure why I thought doing the same thing I had just tried would be any different with this board. (Isn’t that the definition of insanity? You do the same thing over and over, expecting different results each time?) I try to be aware of the paper I paint on and the quality of mat board was described as “good.” And it turns out that it was not “good enough,” but somehow I thought I could bend it to my will. So, I finally realized it was just getting too wet and little balls of paper were rolling around underneath my soggy brush. I needed to rethink my materials, loosing the iridescent sky blue ink in favor of something that would be more like a dry brush technique. 

I remembered that I had some wax pastels/crayons that needed only the slightest bit of water to blend the colors together. I have two sets—Neocolor Ink water-soluble wax pastels (set of 15) and Lyra-Aquacolor wax crayons (set of 12) and that material turned out to be just right. I have no idea where I got either tin. But I do enjoy using them as they show the texture of the paper when applied like a pastel or crayon and blend nicely with just the tiniest bit of water.

Now comes the funnier bit. Several years ago I found myself sketching several Buddha’s in the downstair Asian Art section of the Norton Simon. I decided to try out each of them in the frame. There is nothing left to say here, right?

Buddha 1
Head of Buddha, Thailand, 8th century (Norton Simon Museum of Art)
Buddha 3
Buddha Shakyamuni, Nepal, 13th century (Norton Simon Museum of Art)
Buddha 2
Buddha Shakyamuni, Thailand, 15th century (Norton Simon Museum of Art)


Just got back from sketching at the Fiesta Parade Floats in Irwindale. Yes, it’s just about time for the Rose Parade in Pasadena and I saw hundreds of volunteers inside the huge Fiesta warehouse, gluing dried plant parts to various floats that will be rolling along the parade route. The smell of glue in there was almost overpowering and finally went outside to sketch some of the leftover bits of floats that surround the building. (I will probably post those sketches next week.) I don’t often watch the parade anymore, but usually hear the bomber jets that open the parade fly over my house very early the morning of the first. Maybe when they wake me up this year I’ll get up and watch it live. It might be fun to see the floats I saw today with all the live flowers. Stay tuned…

Happy New Year!

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