May 29, 2021

Descanso Gardens bridge into the rose garden, 5/15/2021 (Inktense pencil and majestic purple water-soluble ink on Canson mix media paper)

On May 15th I found myself seated at a bench across from this bridge. There are a number of entrances into the rose garden at the Descanso Gardens, but this is the only one with a bridge. As I spend so much time in this part of the garden it struck me odd I hadn’t sketched it yet. And as I hadn’t done a proper urban sketch lately, it would be the perfect sight that would tell an “urban sketcher” story of a SoCal bridge over a dry river bed. Since that day this sketch has been propped open near my laptop. Every time I would glance at it I wondered if it worthy of an even closer look from this one CA girl. It ticks most of the “urban sketching” boxes as it has an obvious human element and it marks a moment in time. But if it truly is to be considered an urban sketch it is supposed to be shared, and I really hadn’t originally planned to do that. Is there something more to be said? There is a SoCal back story, I guess. As I said, the bridge goes over a dry and therefore non-existent river. It’s actually a common sight around here, complete with boulders lining the basin—boulders that were smoothed in another real river somewhere else. However, this pretend river actually has a purpose other than to add a bit of hardscape interest that can be added to any garden landscape. Every so often we get torrential rains and then flooding. This usually dry river bed is meant to divert rainwater in a specific direction, keeping it from spilling into the planted beds and eroding the soil. (It’s also common for folks around here to have sand bags handy, just in case water is pouring down the usually dry streets. Filled sand bags can be lined up at the sides of streets and placed around walkways, creating fake river banks. This helps divert the speeding rainwater away from someone’s front door or into their garage.) But I kept wondering if describing a bit of “purposeful” hardscape you might find around here would really hold anyone’s interest, even mine. It’s almost as boring as talking about desiring a water feature in a garden. Actually, adding and/or maintaining water features is all but unheard of in SoCal. It’s probably no big deal to set up a lovely and artistic Italian fountain somewhere in the garden—it’s hooking it up to water that’s the problem. With water always in short supply it’s not a popular thing to do. Of course, lots of people have swimming pools. Hmm…It’s also not uncommon for neighbors to let their lawn die because they had gone past the amount of water they were allotted in a month and were charged a fine for the extra watering. Of course, we did not get enough rain again this season. Meteorologists are predicting another year of dry conditions, higher than normal summer temperatures and fires for the west coast…yuck!

But last Sunday a “worthy” story about this particular bridge popped onto my RADAR and I knew I wanted to share it. It all started when I saw many of my urban sketching buddies that had gathered that morning for a virtual portrait party that included hats and various props. One of the organizers of that portrait drawing event told us that an outdoor sketching outing had been planned for the third weekend in June. And it seems we would be meeting in the rose garden of the Descanso Gardens. Woo hoo! This was big news as we hadn’t been out as a group for over a year, and the last time we were all together in the flesh it was at the Descanso. Not everyone seemed comfortable with the idea of going out mid day with a group of more than 3 people to sketch for a couple hours. But I knew I was ready. It felt as though I was once again sitting on that same bench, waiting for my friends to come across the bridge and into the rose garden to sketch together again. It seemed a worthy wondering. I found myself wondering if I would find an empty spot on that same bench. I haven’t done a plein air watercolor in over a year, and I’m so ready to dig out my watercolors and luxuriate. I guess I should explain that I haven’t done such a watercolor at the Descanso because I haven’t been comfortable enough to go out with a bunch of strangers and stay 30 to 45 minutes in one spot. Instead, I have been traveling light with my stealth bag. That smaller backpack contains only a few pens, pencils and pad of mixed media paper for short 15 minute or less sketches. And I am often drawing standing up. So much to think about and so much to look forward to—packing my larger backpack with things that would require me to linger, waiting for the watercolor to dry. Can’t wait to hang out and sketch with friends.

So, without further ado, and fresh from a portrait party…

Ready or not? Here they come! Did you already forget about the hats and props?

Happy birthday, Kelly (5/29)

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