November 28, 2020

Rose Garden, Descanso Gardens, 11/21/2020 (water soluble purple ink, Inktense pencils, watercolor pastels on Mix media paper)

Ode to a SoCal Fall

I was lucky enough to have this past week off. So, last Saturday I went to the Descanso Gardens (not a virtual trip, but for real) to sketch because I wanted to begin my vacation with a lovely bit of fall nature and sketching. I like to go there early in the morning as there are fewer people wandering around. Actually, even before March 2020 it was always my habit to go places where I hoped there weren’t going to be many people. As I am a person of habit, I have often written about my habitual visits to their Rose Garden. I always turn right when I enter the Descanso’s gate. And I always head for the first open gate into the Rose Garden. It seems that my first thought is always to find something there to sketch. Then, it seems my plan is to find something else to sketch anywhere but the Rose Garden. The trellised fall leaves you see here were not to be ignored. Within the first minutes I had walked in the gate, I found myself sitting down to capture these amazing fall colors on these rather sculptural trellises. Exuberant and rampant fall color is not really something I have come to expect here in Southern California. It’s not to say that colorful leaves and berries are not to be found, but it seems you have to make an effort to find them. I grew up in Northern CA and the cooler fall and winter weather we had there seemed to carry a kind of secret message in the air that told gardeners to plant and enjoy more deciduous trees and shrubs than can be found in a typical SoCal neighborhood. Of course sometimes those Northern CA gardeners seem to have gotten the wrong message and in turn planted palm trees and bougainvillea, but that’s OK I guess. That will be struggle for sure, but I really appreciate such optimism. It was nice to come upon something so familiar to my Northern CA girl past. We are having some pretty lovely fall weather right now and the sky is the insane blue you see here. Such a nice backdrop for definite pops of bright yellow—perfect for my new gamboge and Cadmium yellow watercolor pigments. I have sat in this same spot and sketched the trellises before. It’s a nice arrangement, with each of four tall structures centering around a small pond. As I am usually in the Rose Garden early there are always lots of birds flitting in and out of this area. I never mind lots of birds around me. Nice.

Just as I was finishing up, I heard a toddler yelling out as her attending adults were trying to have a conversation. When I finally packed up my bag I looked over at this little one and she was going absolutely crazy trying to catch the birds. But what I really noticed was the fact that she had a face shield over her face. It looked as though she had on a knit hat that had the shield attached. She wasn’t wearing a mask, but the shield did not appear to impede her joyously running around yelling “bird!” I was happy to see the parents trying to keep this little one safe as they wandered the garden with a whole lot of strangers. I have to say that I often see “maskless” toddlers that are up and out of his or her stroller running about. I actually find this kind of distressing as the adults are wearing masks, but the little ones aren’t. I am guessing the parents would say that their toddler won’t wear a mask. Well, I guess that means they really shouldn’t take them to a public place right now. Maybe? It almost seems selfish to me that they will protect themselves, but not their little ones. Ok, I’m done…

Oak woodland, Descanso Gardens, 11/23/2020 (Black ink with fude fountain pen nib and Inktense pencils on mix media paper)

After wandering the Descanso a bit more I found myself drawn to this oak woodland area. They have a very low key SoCal fall display there right now. There are numerous clumps of gold-burnished logs, stumps and stones placed at the base of a number of oak trees. If a visitor looks closely they can find small gold plaques with clues about things that live in the an oak woodland. Children, and their adults, are invited to see how many of the questions they can answer as they wander from tree to tree. It also seems like a great way to help people with social distancing. Quite a safe golden fall moment!

Monarch butterfly in my 2020 summer/fall backyard (Posca pens on Strathmore Black Mixed Media vellum surface paper)

My final sketch today is of a monarch butterfly that hatched in my back garden the other day. I have been experimenting with POSCA markers and knew I wanted to include this lovely creature in all it’s fall orange and black glory. But when I was ready to add the orange pigment, there wasn’t an orange pen in my set of pens. I was so sure it was there, but no, it wasn’t. I panicked with an overwhelming sense of disappointment. How could I have an Ode to Fall without the color orange? I called the local Blick art store and had them grab a couple different orange POSCA pen point sizes for me and put them on hold. I went there the next day and picked them up. So glad I had some time off this week so I could do that—anything to avoid any orange-colored anxiety, yes? Just trying to smoothly ride my creativity train right now and stay calm. How about you? 

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