April 4, 2020

Vetch on HIway 46
Vetch on fields and hillsides of Highway 46, early 2000s (oil on birch panel)

I went for a quick drive on Wednesday afternoon through nearby neighborhoods that I love to visit. While driving along I realized I had made one other trip in the car only one other time in the past 14 plus days. And that trip had been to get groceries. So, this venture took on special meaning as I looked upon gardens I have not seen since spring had arrived. And of course spring’s “springiness” was out on display whether or not I had been out there recently to see it. It was lovely. I was taken by surprise, as I am every spring in CA, with the bright patches of poppies and lupines on display in all kinds of random untamed spots right now. Over the 3 plus years I have been posting art and words on One California Girl, I have sketched and written about both of these native wildflowers. So, the art you are looking at now is another favorite native wildflower that will be coming on soon in the golden state. It generally blooms just as the lupines are fading and it has a rather unfortunate name I think—it’s called vetch. And if that wasn’t bad enough, this is a painting of fields and hillsides of vetch—common name “hairy vetch.” Close up it doesn’t look like much. The flowers are a kind of cascade of tiny lavender colored blossom dots, and if you squint your eyes I guess the leaves and stems look a little hairy. But in this early 2000 Paso landscape I saw that day, the fields and hills looked the pink color you see here. No foolin’ Looking back on that lovely spring day I remember the sky was really this bright blue. It’s as though the amazing spring light actually changed the color of the flowers to pink. Or maybe it just played a trick on my eyes and mind, creating this a spectacular sight. 

I don’t know if there is such a sight along Highway 46 this year, as opulent  wildflower displays are often the result of the perfect amount of rainfall at the perfect time of the spring season. But there may not be much in the way of open fields at that spot anymore as there were vineyards to the right at that time. Maybe they have filled in with grapes since then. I’m not one to really lament such a change as it’s really true that one person’s flowers are another person’s weed patch. But as I have said, with regards to such changes in the Paso Robles wine country, I am so glad I was there to see this sight. And of course I am so glad I painted it.

This one I did from a photo I took as in the early 2000s. I was the single mom of a young child back then and didn’t have time to sit for any extended period of time and paint plein air. Besides, the fence surrounding that field was pretty close to the asphalt and cars have always whizzed up and down that road and I’m not really sure that would have been a safe place to sit then or now. I remember I was glad to get the couple dozen photos I took of the area at the time.

I did several oil paintings on birch panels during this time. If you are interested I have written about underpainting and general painting techniques on such a surface in a couple previous posts. (see January 19, 2019 and August 12, 2017) I will say that it’s kind of cool to try different pigment applications on such a hard surface. I remember really scrubbing the blue pigment over a raucous pink/red under color to get a smooth surface for the sky. But then I applied blobs of paint that sit proud on the wood and I think that really worked for the blossoms in the foreground. I have to add that the colors in the actual piece were much brighter than you see here as this is a scan of a photo copy of the original. And a scan of a photocopy is never good, yes? But I really never thought I would be sharing this image again and just made a photocopy for me. This would have been easy to scan…but no matter. (The original sold almost immediately when I put it up on the wall of a nearby tasting room, so there was no chance of remembering to do that.) At the time I was also doing larger landscape canvases and actually had hired a professional photographer to take pictures of those pieces. No use worrying about all that past painting stuff…spring is here. And I can only hope that some farmer/rancher somewhere in California will have a glorious spring field or two of “hairy vetch.” (Why does saying that make me laugh?) 

Wasn’t yesterday the first Friday of the month? Did I go to the Norton Simon?

For the first time since I moved to SoCal there would be no sketching time at the Norton Simon Museum the first Friday of the month. And you probably have guessed that the Norton Simon is closed because I don’t think social distancing can be achieved in an art gallery. At the beginning of the week our fearless leader suggested we have a virtual meeting, discussing how we might continue our group sketching in a “non-contact” way. Actually, I thought it would be fun to just get together virtually, with a favorite glass of wine in hand, and discuss that. Maybe even do quick sketches of each other and see how that all looked as we each finished our first or second glass of wine. Hmmm…

But this is what happened. There were at least a dozen of my sketching buddies who appeared virtually on my screen last night, and several had a glass of wine in hand. (One woman texted her husband, who was in the next room, to bring her a glass of wine. Pretty funny…) Our leader was a perfect host inviting each of us to share how we were doing with our collective confinement in our homes, and maybe share some art we had done in the past weeks. She was so gracious, letting each of us ramble on if we needed to. I shared that I had been doing lots of art and had even challenged myself to sketch everyday for two weeks. There were others who had been sketching as well—drawing things just outside the window, or whatever was laying around in the kitchen. A number of sketchers had been participating in online sketching classes. One member is an art teacher at a local art school and she had just finished teaching online when we gathered together. In fact, one sketcher did quick sketches of each of us in our “Brady Bunch” style face and upper body arrangement. (She posted that a little later in the evening.) But there were several people who said that they were too overwhelmed with what was going with the pandemic and couldn’t paint or sketch anything at all. You could tell that they were energized to see us and I think we all felt good about making this contact. In fact, we agreed to do this again in two weeks. And we now have a StayAtHome sketch challenge that we are to draw the same thing we can see inside our house or outside through a window for the next two weeks. I have a mug of pencils that sits on my desk. I think I might try to do that. And if a series of pencils in a cup look like anything interesting I will post what I have drawn next time. So, until next time…

Oh, and is there anyone out there making masks? I found a pattern from a NY Times story online. OMG, it took me all morning to make one. Well, I guess I have time to figure that out…

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