February 1, 2020

Descansos Proteas in January
Proteas at Descanso Gardens entrance, 1/26/2020 (watercolor, Inktense pencil and white watercolor crayon on watercolor paper)

After I finished my laundry and posted my story last Saturday, I planted the garlic for my upcoming pickle garden. But as I dug in the ground I knew I wanted to go to the Descanso Gardens the next day for some painting/sketching. It had been too long since I had done a “full on” watercolor there and I wanted to capture a particularly huge and amazing Sycamore tree I had seen in the rose garden the previous weekend. In my mind’s eye I had remembered a huge Sycamore tree with golden leaves (yes, it still has last year’s fall leaves hanging from the branches) against a bright blue winter sky. I had all kinds of plans for my new gamboge leaves against a backdrop of cerulean.

However, as I walked through the front gate, I immediately wondered if I should look for that tree at all. This is because directly in front of me were these amazing drifts of bright yellow. The sky was pretty hazy so it wasn’t going to be a cerulean sky day in the rose garden anyway. The picture I had in my mind was trying to change and I was wondering how the bright yellow Sycamore leaves would look against a hazy sky. I wasn’t sure which way my desire to use my new gamboge watercolor color would take me—to the tree leaves or atop these clumps of proteas. But I was transfixed there at the entrance, with the backdrop of the dark and moody oaks next to the woven together cherry trees. I couldn’t make myself walk away. And of course the pathways were also part of the appeal here, inviting me to walk around and maybe see who might be under the umbrella way in the back. It almost wasn’t fair. Of course you might wonder why I was making such a big deal about making such a choice. “Get on with it,” you might say. “Paint this beautiful scene and forget about the tree.” But there really was much more to making this decision, at least for me. Sitting in the front of the garden, out in the open, with many people walking by would be very uncomfortable for me. There were so many people coming and going. I could hear mothers and fathers making deals with their children, trying to convince them that running along the paths was not only a bad idea, but would not be tolerated. Uh huh. And many were lingering in the very spot I was interested in, taking lots of photos. My usual comfort zone at the Descanso is under a slightly hidden and protected rose covered arbor in the rose garden. Lots of people wander through there, but somehow I feel more comfortable and hidden away. I did scout out a prime protea spot slightly off the path in the duff and slightly hidden under the shade of a lovely oak tree. But I still went to look at the Sycamore tree. Crazy huh? I wanted to be sure I wasn’t missing something and slightly hoped that it was going to be so outstanding that I would soon forget about the proteas. When I got there I realized that even though the tree was huge and stately the leaves were a kind of a mottled orange. It didn’t take me long to realize there was not going to be a new gamboge opportunity here. So, I left, quickly got some water by the miniature train and train station and went back to the front entrance. I took a deep breath and set up my pots for paint in the oak duff, just across from this view. I wondered if it was OK to sit there, wondering if anyone who worked there would tell me to get back on the path. (There are way more employees at the front entrance than in the rose garden. In the rose garden I can sneak eat a half a peanut butter sandwich without anyone reminding me that you aren’t to bring anything to eat into the garden. I knew that wouldn’t be the case out there.) A couple guys in a truck drove past and neither of them said anything, so I thought I would be OK. But of course another person, wearing many badges and name tags, came along and said, “We really don’t like people sitting in the plantings.” Of course with a comment like that I should have been able to say, “But I am sitting on dead oak leaves, my feet are only 8 inches from the actual path and I get very anxious out in the open. May I please sit here?” But of course I didn’t say anything and moved out of that tiny bit of oak cover and onto the very edge of the path—maybe a grand total of 12 inches. Wow! I was really uncomfortable there, sitting right out where people were strolling directly in front of me and my pots of paint. I knew I would have to work quickly because the paint would be drying faster than I like (another reason I rationalize my desire to look for a bit of shade or cover). And I wondered how long before I just had to get out of there. I always think “passers by” are wondering why someone would be allowed to sit in such a brazen way, on the path and in the way…like, does this CA girl think she is “all that” with her art work? Don’t get me wrong, I am not looking for compliments. I just want to go unnoticed and be left alone. But how could I do that? I was right out there in front of God and everybody. So, I worked hard to keep my head down, not to make eye contact, hurried along with the picture and left for home. 

When I got home, I heard about the tragic helicopter accident in some nearby SoCal hills that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter and 7 other people. So, my personal art angst quickly disappeared and was replaced with public sadness and profound loss. On Monday, flags were flown at half mast across Los Angeles. Just another day in the life of one SoCal girl I guess.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s