September 18, 2021

This week’s words and art are about the true joy I feel when sketching the same place/thing over and over again. Actually, the kernel idea for that statement didn’t originate with me. Last week, an urban sketcher friend suggested that painting the same place over and over again was a personal joy of hers. It seems that we both are obsessed with creating art at the Descanso Gardens. Her “go to” place is the Japanese Tea Garden. She not only posted her lovely and colorful watercolors with her fellow urban sketchers, but also described all the lovely evenings she had spent in that particular garden. And the part that got me was her description of the lovely and languid time she has spent painting the same place over and over again. (Actually, I stumbled upon her painting there one evening this last July. That was fun!) Her art wonderfully captures the trees, shrubs, colorful bridge, running water and koi. For my forever joyful painting place, I prefer the wonderful morning light in the Rose Garden at the Descanso. Of course, this week’s art is of a couple mornings spent there. If you saw last week’s post, you know that I have been experimenting with sketching/painting with droplets of water found in the grass at my feet. This soft vignette was done with water droplets I accumulated on my paint brush after scrubbing it in the grass. Just so.

But on Thursday I found myself using water droplets that were on the leaves of a nearby rose shrub to complete this one. OMG! Is this just too precious? Maybe… But it was truly inspirational to let those water droplets blend the green marine ink with my Inktense and watercolor pencils. I also like the blue-green effect of that ink with my Teal Green and Sea Blue Inktense pencils. 

Lately, I have been imagining how I might start stretching canvases again—maybe doing some landscapes with oils based on my myriad sketches and/or studies of the Descanso Gardens. I am not thinking of actually dragging my usual 24 by 30 or so canvases into the garden. It would be the plein air thing to do, but I just don’t like shlepping all that stuff to a location with so many people coming and going. I would need a couple hours to finish one piece and that’s way out of my comfort zone. (Kind of a little whiny, I guess.) But what I am interested in trying out could be accomplished right here in my living room. I am kind of wondering if I could use the many sketches I have done to do a larger, more complex and final, Descanso Garden landscape. I am kind of wondering if I might have gained some Descanso “tree,” “shrub” or “bench” muscle memory. That would be fun to explore, right? I can already imagine shades of green as my non/under colors—then adding a grove of golden oaks. Or what about a far-off view with that perfect soft blue sky and hills with trees and roses littered all about the landscape? I have so many views and colors to draw upon…And I have a huge roll of canvas to draw upon as well. I just need to start ordering the stretcher bars and look for my staple gun. Stay tuned…

September 12, 2021

Most weeks I post my art and story every Saturday. And most times if it goes up on Sunday it’s because something came up on Saturday. Most often it’s because I got busy during the week and even though the art was done, the written part wasn’t. I guess you could say that this week something came up. It had to do with the fact that this week’s Saturday was September 11th. And as you are probably aware, it was not just any September 11th, but the 20th anniversary of that most infamous and maybe indescribable day. I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to believe it has been 20 years. If you were in the US on September 11, 2001 you probably remember what you were doing when the three attacks took place. I sure do. So, my planned Saturday post just didn’t happen. But I still had something to say and share this week. 

Here goes…

Last Sunday (9/5), I found myself enjoying a little sketching time at the Descanso Gardens. Lately, I have been bringing my stealth bag with Inktense pencils, fountain pens with fude nib, Canson’s mix media paper, a small jar for water and a watercolor brush. Most times I get all the dry lines of pigment in place, fill the jar with water and brush/scrub/blend the color into place. However, when I had finished this particular rose I started thinking about where I would get some water to add the finishing touches. For some reason, I looked down at my feet and noticed for the first time that the grass was wet. Actually, that’s not exactly true. I had realized earlier that the grass and bench I was was sitting on were both wet. The Descanso gardeners had finished watering the lawn just before I sat down. Thank God for my sheet of bubble wrap. (Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I always carry a sheet of bubble wrap and rag in my stealth bag. When I sit on the ground, a rock or a wet bench, I roll out the plastic wrap and sit on it. I use the rag to wipe up wet spots or to control the amount of water I add to a sketch.) But as I looked more thoughtfully at the wet grass, I wondered if I could get my brush wet enough by gently scrubbing the brush around and around in the damp grass. Then I could apply the moisture I had soaked up in the brushes bristles, using it to blend the colors on my paper. I tried it on the spot. OMG! It worked!!! Over and over again, I twirled my brush around and around in the grass. Then I applied the water where I wanted it. The rag came in handy for this newly discovered technique as a way to clean the bits of dirt and grass that collected on the brush. All in all, I was thrilled with the effect. And I got to try out my discovery twice in one sitting. Because, as it turns out I could not only see this rose but also a patch of pink amaryllis was within view of my perch. I tried to get a kind of pink glow around the “naked ladies”—common name for this particular amaryllis. 

Eventually I moved on and captured this sweet little “drip drop” landscape. For this one I used only my Inktense pencils and some watercolor pencils. (I guess I forgot to mention that I sometimes carry them around in my stealth bag as well…) I tried to take a photo of the droplets of water I used to paint. Not sure if it really shows, but if you zoom in, you should be able to see them.

I was at the Descanso Gardens again this morning and did another “drip drop” sketch. I’ll save that one for another time. Stay tuned…

September 4, 2021

The other day my postman put a few lychees in a bag near my mailbox. How sweet was that? He and I have had a number of friendly conversations about the things we grow in our gardens. Last spring, I remember him noticing that I had pineapple guava shrubs along an old stone wall in my front garden. He said the fruit was delicious and I should trying eating them. It was May and the shrub line up had lots of beautifully delicate blossoms. I read you can put the flowers in a salad or add them to ice tea. It seems they taste fruity and sweet with a little bit of a tangy flavor. The fruit is also edible, and can be blended into smoothies, or used as a fruit topping for ice cream and yoghurt. I noticed quite a few flowers on the shrubs that spring and had planned to try eating the fruit sometime later. With further research I found out that you could tell when the pineapple guava fruit was ripe when they dropped to the ground. But I never got the chance to taste any, as the squirrels ate every single one before a single one dropped to the ground. 

One day, in early summer, I remember this same gardening postman telling me of the many fruit trees he had in his garden. At that time, I had a bounty of tomatoes and I gave him a half dozen or so.

Fast forward to the lychees making their appearance on my front porch. The postman had even written a note on the bag, telling me what they were and who they were from him. I have to admit I had heard of lychees, but can’t remember actually seeing one before. (Glad he labeled the bag. They kind of reminded me of liquidambar pods and I would never eat a liquidambar pod.) I put them in a bowl on my kitchen counter and they sat there, untouched, for a number of days. Finally, I got up the courage to try one. But first I needed to figure out how to eat them—I had no idea what to do. I located a Youtube video to help me out. It featured a Swedish couple, and they talked about the fruit and how to eat it. This is what they said, in my own words. “Gently squeeze a lychee pod between your thumb and index finger. It should open easily, revealing a small whitish ball of juicy fruit flesh. Pop it into your mouth and nibble the fruit, but don’t eat the seed that is also inside the pod.” They said the fruit was sweet and tasted like a grape. Notice I said gently squeeze…because I forgot that part when I opened my first one. I squeezed with a bit too much gusto. Something that looked very much like a gooey eyeball hit me in the chest. And a fair amount of juice ran down my shirt. I finally got ahold of the fruit and popped it into my mouth, careful not to eat the seed. Actually, the seed is huge and I can’t imagine eating it. Good thing I was not tempted because lychee seeds are poisonous. The whole encounter was not really a good first taste of something new. I decided I would eat only that one. Because, if I got sick or died that night, I might be able to decide later whether or not I would be eating any more. I didn’t get sick and I’m still here. I’ve eaten a few more, but not many. 

I don’t often do still life art. (See 5/30/2020, 1/25/2020, 1/11/2020 posts for other examples.) I am calling this week’s still life art “Lychee in a la fermiere yoghurt jar.” I really like the colors and textures. The organic and prickly/leathery lychees inside the periwinkle blue container look nice, I think. A friend gave me a half dozen of the jars and I use them for a variety of artistic endeavors. For example, I keep all my ink samples in a couple and use another to hold water for quick watercolor art when I’m on the move. It’s a perfect size, and fits nicely in my smaller backpack. And what about the charming wine-colored felt star? Nice, huh? I should add that a dear friend made it, along with several other colorful stars. It was part of a gift she gave me one year. I have them on my work table and use them all the time as coasters. I put cups of tea, cappuccino and/or ice water on them. She is quite an artist in her own right and often makes amazing things with felt—very cool!

Not really sure how many lychee eyeballs I will be eating in the future. I thought I would thank my postman for the fruit by giving him this sketch. I won’t tell him that I’m not sure I will be eating all the lychees. Of course, he may not like the sketch. But I guess he could drop it in the mail and I would get it back. I’m sure we will both be polite and say nothing disagreeable. How could I? His gift was so thoughtful. We need to keep reaching out to each other. That’s as it should be.

And yes, the west is still on fire. I was so disheartened to see Tahoe burning. I know there are so many of us who are facing horrendous, and deadly, weather right now. But I think we should treat each other with as much kindness and understanding as we can. Maybe you have a friendly postman you can chat with.