July 4, 2020

Vernazza final
June 2010 view from our hotel window in Vernazza, June 2020 (water soluble pastel crayons on grey-toned pastel board)

This week I have been on an extremely diverse journey of artistic expression, even for me. It all started with this nicely complicated pastel of a long ago view of Vernazza that I began week before last. It was a reaction to my frustrating attempt to do a quick painting during a virtual trip to Pienza with a sketching group (from last week’s post). I just finished this yesterday. When I create such a piece I kind of like to live with it and in it. I worked on it in sections, adding the non-colors underneath all the way to the final top coats, allowing for the grey tone of the actual board to show through in places. I have learned to be careful to stop each day before I go too far. Once I am done for the day I place it in a conspicuous place and try to walk past it often, scrutinizing it to see if I am happy with each days addition of pigment. And I say I like to live in it as I imagine myself looking out that second floor window of this view on the Visconte Via Roma, or walking up and down that particular street to and from the harbor. It’s no accident this is done on the rough pastel board, as I enjoy how it mimics the very rocks that were carved out to make this 11th century village. I read in Rick Steve’s 2010 Italy book that those buildings were not originally covered with brightly colored stucco, but rather made from indigenous stone. My recent virtual returning to Vernazza was divided with other artistic interests all week. And that all started last Sunday when I participated in a plein air workshop. The focus of that class was to create simple plein air sketches as simple value studies. You begin with an outline and deep shadows using a water soluble ink adding no more than 3 or 4 other colors after that. So, as I said, it was a week of differing focuses and techniques. Believe it or not, it was great fun! I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy a virtual trip to a beloved Italian town on the Cinque Terra, and still be able to go to the Descanso Gardens to sit on my handy dandy sheet of bubble wrap and sketch.

blue roof, 7.1.2020
Blue roof in Japanese Garden at Descanso Gardens, July 1, 2020 (Inktense pencil and watercolor on watercolor paper)

I went early to the Descanso on Wednesday (nice cool SoCal June gloom morning), hoping to try out the new (simpler) technique I had just learned. I thought I might go to the Japanese Garden to sketch. Before social distancing had become part of my life I almost never went into that part of the garden as there always seemed to be just too many people milling around for my level of pre-COVID comfort. However, I’d noticed recently that there didn’t seem to be too many in that part of the garden the last couple times I had walked past—just fewer people in the garden have helped I think. Also, I noticed they have placed ENTER and EXIT signs directing people along the paths inside. That probably helps people to keep their distance too. Works for me! But as I got closer I heard a skill saw and saw that someone was right where I had planned to sit, and they were repairing the wooden deck area. Hmm… I continued to wander, looking for the perfect spot. I came upon this view just outside that garden and across the trail. I could see the amazing “tea house” blue roof and the sound of the skill saw seemed farther away. Perfect! I laid out my materials and finished this one in no time—loving the simplicity of it. All it took was leaf green Inktense pencil as the outline/shadow pigment and just 3 other colors. As I was finishing up I noticed a mom with a babe in arms and what looked to be a 4-year-old watching me. I could tell that the little girl really wanted to come closer to see what I was doing. But practicing social distancing they stood about 10 feet away from me as the mom and I had a brief mask-muffled conversation about wanting to come closer. You could see in the little girl’s face that she really wanted to see what I was doing. It didn’t take me long to register that the reason I could see the little girl’s face was because she was not wearing a protective mask. Mom and I were each wearing ours, but the baby and little girl were not. I have noticed that such families seem to be all over the garden, but I am surprised to see that mom, or dad, is wearing a face covering, but often the little ones are not. That does make me wonder why they wouldn’t think to protect their young children too. I suspect they might say that the little ones won’t wear the masks. I guess that makes some kind of selfish sense to these parents, but they are still potentially exposing their children to the virus. And as much as I can imagine these parents wanting to get their kids outside to a garden, if they can’t wear a mask I’m not really sure they should be there.

Japanese Garden, Descanso, 7.3.2020
Colorful bridge in the Japanese Garden, Descanso Gardens, July 3, 2020 (watercolor and Inktense pencil on watercolor paper)

Not only did I finish the pastel yesterday, but I also went back to the Descanso Gardens, where I actually sketched this colorful bridge in their Japanese Garden. And the palette for this one was only birch colored Inktense pencil and two other colors. Woo hoo!

Next, I need to get some water soluble ink, a proper fountain pen, and do these again with proper ink and a couple watercolor colors. Such are the lofty plans for this one CA girl on July 4th, 2020. Don’t know about you, but it’s really hard to imagine making plans or mapping out future projects. I did start the sketch for a hydrangea botanical. But I’m taking it one day, or piece of art, at a time. Seems like the best non-plan for now. What about you?

Happy 4th of July!

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