October 30, 2021

Did you miss me? Something came up…twice…

This week’s art and words just sort of came to me as I walked into the Descanso Gardens with my stealth sketching bag last Sunday. I knew the Descanso would be replete with Halloween decor for their evening “Carved” events. And as I wasn’t wandering around there this time last year, I wanted to check it out in all its splendor. It was really pretty terrific to see even in the daylight! They had gourds and pumpkins aplenty on the ground and wired to arbors. Quite a few of said fall fruits had been attacked by squirrels and the like, and their guts had been hollowed out very cleanly and completely. I even encountered a squirrel digging through a hole in a pumpkin—chowing down on all those lovely gooey seeds. They didn’t seem too worried that I was standing close by. I continued on my journey through the Descanso, looking for all things cute and/or spooky. On my last visit (October 9, 2021) I did a watercolor of the jack-o-lantern bird houses. Looking at that planter area again it seemed as though 50, or more, had been added—very cute. There were huge bugs (a spider, a dragon fly etc.) made from branches and pumpkins, stationed under the oaks in the oak woodland. But my favorite was a grouping of creepy spirits made from branches and bits of fabric and string. They looked as though they were coming up out of the ground, hiding behind a tree and chasing each other around on a grassy area. I can only imagine how they might appear to come to life at night, with strategic lighting. As you can see, I didn’t draw any of that. Instead, I found myself sitting on a bench near the pumpkin house. It was there on the 9th, but it didn’t really wow me at the time. But wait, I did come up with a reason to sketch the little organic cottage for that day’s sketching adventure. As I was walking around, looking at everything else, an idea bubbled up from somewhere and took the form of a pair of sketches of that holiday pumpkin house surrounded by hay bales. I wanted to see what kind of difference in detail or rendering I would get sketching the exact same view, one while sitting on a bench on the spot and the other from a photo of the same scene sometime later. So, I endured the screaming children, live, for this one. It was fun! Then, using the exact same materials and colors I did the identical view from a photo at home that afternoon. Here it is!

I guess they really look pretty similar, but of course there were different people and different sounds. For this “at home version” it was amazingly quiet, except for the sounds of Bille Holiday singing in the background. This one was fun too! I don’t know if one is more successful than the other. I must say that for the “on location” sketch I was having some real trouble getting the oxblood ink to flow, and the lines were a little more on the “scratchy side than I wanted. But at home I had no such technical difficulties with the Fude pen nib and/or the ink flow. I guess the biggest difference was the feeling of being in the moment for the first sketch and how much I thought about that first experience while doing the second one. There were immediate comparisons for this one. For the first sketch I got involved in a couple conversations with passers by, while no such distractions occurred at home. Two different groups of women stopped to chat and look at my art. The first couple stopped, took my picture and promised not to post the pic online or anything. They were very curious to see if I had captured the woman yelling at her daughter. (I guess the little girl had managed to jiggle free one of the pumpkins from the house and was trying to take it home.) Then there was a grandma, mom and young girl who stopped by. That was fun as I could see the yearning and “art eyes” of the little girl. I know if it weren’t for the pandemic she would have sat right next to me on the bench to draw. Mom and grandma were very interested in my materials and mom took a photo of my tin of Derwent Inktense pencils. I told them they should go on a field trip to an art store and just wander around. That was very pleasant.

But what struck me about both images, while I sat at home, was how much the pumpkin house reminded me of the witches house in Hansel and Gretel. I think that all started when I heard a child had tried to steal a pumpkin right off the house. But in my story the witch is the mom, yelling at her kid for trying to take away something that didn’t belong to her. You see the connection too, right? I could almost imagine it was covered in large round candies, instead of so many colorful pumpkins. The roof would be made out of cotton candy and not straw. And instead of hay bales, there would be stacks and stacks of giant s’mores—marshmallow, chocolate and graham crackers. Oh yeah, there’s one more piece of One CA Girl crazy to add to this spooky scenario. For this second view there was a woman, directly in the middle here, and she really looked the part of a witch—black clothing, long white hair and a cap that made me think of a long “witchy” nose. I think that’s enough. I’m done!

Happy Halloween!!

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