January 30, 2021

Virtual trip to Newfoundland, 1/10/21 (Water soluble red ink with Fude nib and Inktense pencils on watercolor paper)

Of course my virtual visits to far away places did not stop while I toiled away on my many Descanso Gardens winter solstice 2020 pastels. On Sunday morning, January 10, 2021, I was whisked away to far away Newfoundland with 30 of my favorite virtual online traveling sketchers. As was our usual for such an event the choice of place was left up to one of our members. And as is our usual, when someone chooses a place it’s to be somewhere he or she has been. It is also best practice that the photos we sketch from were taken by the host. Every now and then someone shares “stock” pictures that we in turn sketch. But when using such photos (probably taken by a professional photographer) you are never to proclaim you actually created the art as you are tapping into another person’s creative vision captured in their photo. It all comes down to awareness, as none of the “virtual travel” pieces I share with you are published or sold. They are meant to transport me to a fantastic place, where our host tells us about his or her visit there. It’s nothing more than that and not meant as a finished piece of art to be sold. It’s just meant to be quick bits of practice, as well as events my friends and I can do together to keep the artistic juices flowing during “lockdown.” It’s also to keep us from going mad with the incessant sameness of it all. 

This is actually my second sketch of that mornings journey to Newfoundland. It was especially fun to plan and execute this one. Our tour guide described this as an abandoned dock, a relic of an earlier time when such buildings were in constant use for the local fishing trade. What was most interesting to me was that the structure appeared to be made completely of wood, including the wooden pilings that supported it all. To me, that would seem like a very temporary set up, as the submerged wood would be difficult to maintain, right? It reminded me of old piers I saw on our CA coast when I was little. Today, such wooden piers out here are pretty much a thing of the past, with the wood having been replaced by concrete and steel. Over time the pounding salty surf from Pacific Ocean storms, full of punishing water and wind, inevitably wore away probably all CA piers, even those made with the biggest center cut redwood timbers imaginable. Of course the Newfoundland waterway seen here appear much calmer than our thrashing CA coastline. I think our host said she was in Newfoundland in April. Maybe the winter storms you might associate with such a northerly North American location was over for the season. Someone in our group remarked that the buildings of Venice were constructed on wooden pilings as well. I guess I could imagine the city may have been originally built with wooden pilings, but I couldn’t believe you would find such underpinnings today. Surely all of that wood has been replaced with something else, right? I looked it up and sure enough Venice was built on wooden pilings. And it seems there are still some 1000 year old buildings with the original wood underneath. Of course Venice is sinking, but it started sinking right after it was first established. According to what I found online it’s the weight of everything pressing down into the wet soil (mud) underneath that’s causing the sinking, and the integrity or wear of the underwater wood really had nothing to do with this phenomenon. Still hard for me believe…

As you may have guessed I was fascinated with all the wood I saw in this image. I set about to challenge myself by rendering the wood, and virtually everything else you see here, with one continuous line of water soluble “oxblood” ink. As I noted in the caption, the only other inked lines I added were surrounding the greenish bits of moss/kelp/rocks just above the walkway and to the right, below the walkway. 

Descanso Gardens scribble sketch, 1/9/21 (Red water soluble ink with Fude nib, Inktense pencils on watercolor paper)

Not sure I made a conscious decision to use a similar palette and technique the day before we went on our virtual journey. But sure enough, I remember being interested in the weathered wood of a pergola and bit of fencing I saw in the rose garden. Of course, for this one, I was actually at the Descanso Gardens for this “realtime” rendering. It was such a lovely Saturday morning to sit and sketch.

Virtual trip to Newfoundland, 1/10/21 (Black ink and Inktense pencils on watercolor paper)

I thought I might also share the first sketch I did on our tour. It was not done with any particular intent or choice of materials. Funny, but this image reminded me that I had already been on a virtual trip to Newfoundland. And I had taken that particular journey years ago when I read “The Shipping News” by Annie Proulx. It’s quite an amazing story, with some very difficult themes, but nonetheless a wonderful book I would heartily recommend. Ms. Proulx shared with the reader a Newfoundland that had some calm days, but there were also many days of incomprehensibly stormy weather.

Finally, I mentioned that we were expecting some rain here in CA. And boy howdy did we get some rain last week. In fact, the winter storm wind and rain washed away part of Highway 1 in Big Sur. As I said, our CA Pacific coastline can have some serious wind and wave action that can not only take down a substantial wooden pier, but it can also break up concrete and wash it away. And even though my garden and I are glad of the rain, it’s nice to have a break from all the lashing and thrashing for now. Hope you and your weather are fairing well on this winter day as well.

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