October 9, 2021

On September 25th I went to the Descanso Gardens with the explicit intention of doing a watercolor. That meant I would have to take a bigger backpack, as my usual stealth bag is too small and wouldn’t work for the occasion. That morning I put everything I might need in a more traditional backpack, one with lots of zippers and sections for lots of supplies. 

As I walked in the entrance I was immediately taken with the “fall” changes that had occurred. Gone were the vestiges of summer flowers and butterflies. If you read my story and art from last time, you will know that big changes had been planned and were coming, and it was clear they were getting ready for their evening holiday events. However, last time the workers were just laying the cable for the myriad of lights that would be needed for the evening enjoyment of future visitors. But on the 25th, all the cable had been safely placed around. All seemed ready for their first event, and included a house made of pumpkins and the Lock Ness Monster in the front pond made entirely of pumpkins and gourds.

If you were to ask me, “What’s your favorite season of the year?” I would have to say that fall is definitely my fav. I absolutely love that seasonal change. As the sun is not beating down from overhead, it means the daylight is changing and softening. And I love love love that we will soon go back to standard time. The temperatures are definitely cooler, especially at night. OMG!! We had rain on Monday—rain with thunder and lightning. It was wonderful! And just the other day I noticed the white crown sparrows, my non-summer birds, had returned to my SoCal bird feeder. I love knowing that they have been on their way, somehow making it here again and right on time. (I have already shared my art and a story about them. See May 21, 2017). So, what’s your favorite season?

Back at the Descanso on the 25th…

As I rounded the corner, just outside the rose garden, I came upon this view. I had seen the same display of funky jack-o-lantern light boxes in the same planting area last year. I also did a watercolor of the same jumble of plants/flowers and funny faces. (See the October 17, 2020 art and story.) I knew I wanted to do another watercolor of the scene, but from another vantage point. So, I sat at a nearby bench, made a preliminary sketch and began mixing my pots of color. It was heavenly! There is a big advantage to sitting to do a watercolor over my quick sketches. For my watercolor events I sit in one place for a longer period of time as I have to wait for various areas of the watercolor paper to dry. That means I can eat a snack or even visit with a friendly passer by or two. In fact, that’s exactly what happened—two lovely women came by and we had the best conversation, covering a myriad of topics. Wonderful!

One final note about this display…

It’s kind of crazy, but once Halloween is over, they rip everything out of this planter. Then they fill it with a spectacular bed of glass tulips that will put on a rather dazzling light display for the Enchanted Forest of Light. The lights flash and change color with musical accompaniment. Check it out…descansogardens.org

And one final note about this fall…

I guess the biggest SoCal fall 2021 story for this one CA girl will come on October 18th. You may be wondering what is so special about that date. LAUSD, my employer, has mandated that all teachers/staff must have had the first COVID vaccine by 10/15/2021 and the second one by 11/15—no exceptions. I’ve been vaccinated, but have heard there are others who have not. Not sure what the 18th will look like, and who will be on campus that day. If you hear about us in the news, I hope it’s good news. Stay tuned.

October 2, 2021

As I wandered around the Descanso Gardens last summer (Ha! 9/19/2021), I didn’t really have much of an idea of what I wanted to sketch. I was horrified with the sign of aphids on the milkweed, and just had to walk away. But I was also distracted with the number of workers wandering around the garden. And there were numerous large boxes filled with electrical gear all around as well. I imagined they were laying cable for all the lights that would be needed for the upcoming holiday evening events—Carved and Enchanted Forest of Light. It turns out I was right, as there were signs all around the worker’s trucks and beside the garden paths, alerting us to their intent. Actually, I kind of marvel at that kind of advertising, don’t you? I imagine that such signage is meant to alert everyone of the long black electrical cables winding their way around the paths—a rather daunting safety hazard I think. But it also reminded me that there are those of us who have attended either one or both events in the past, and we should think about buying our tickets for the 2021 holiday season. And for those who had never attended either event, it might peek their curiosity to find out more about what they might be missing. Eventually,  I kind forgot all about the aphids, workers and massive spaghetti lines of cable, and wandered into the rose garden. I often head straight for the arbor area that was patterned after Monet’s garden arbor archway. It’s very similar to his arbor of  climbing roses and other flowering plants in Giverny. I’m not sure if the roses in Monet’s garden are one’s that he actually planted in the late 1800’s, but they are covered with roses and other climbing plants today. The gardeners at the Descanso have planted some older varieties of roses in their arbor garden area. I discovered the age of some of these varieties one day, when I’d stopped to read the descriptions posted by each one. My favorite old rose is at the farthest end of the arbor, near the rest rooms that look like a charming cottage. (I love that!) That particular climbing rose variety was introduced to the world in 1811 (Rosa ‘Champney’s Pink Cluster’). Not sure why that old rose fascinates me so much. But I love it when I find clusters of those flowers just blooming their little hearts out. And it makes me wonder if that lovely old fashioned perfume is exactly what others first smelled in 1811. (Oh, I learned that if you bend down to smell a charming rose and burp just as you take a sniff, you won’t smell a thing. And of course you will not smell a thing if you are laughing when you try to take a whiff. It’s true. I can tell you that first hand.) If you really look at these older roses, you might notice how much smaller they are compared to most rose cultivars from the 20th and 21st centuries. Also, the colors of those old roses seem to be much more muted and tend to be some variation of pink. 

As I turned around to look for a spot to maybe sketch the heirloom rose, I spied this charming squirrel statue in the nearby maze garden for tiny children. It’s funny, but I a rarely go into the maze for tiny children as it seems there are often unattended tiny children running around in there. But I came face to face with this guy and decided to sketch him—both of us standing there “bold as brass.” I was ready to bolt if any tiny children, without their handlers, appeared on the scene. I felt sorry for the squirrel as he or she was rooted to the spot and would not be running away from anything any time soon.

So for this one, I sat beside a tiny creek that runs through the rose garden. And not only did I sit by this bit of moving water, I dipped my brush right into that water as it moved slowly past. I felt very bold. And there were even a couple tiny well behaved children who stopped by to see what I was doing. It was nice. I liked that!

As I peacefully sat there, watching those hummingbirds from afar, I couldn’t help thinking how much my application of pigment to paper puts me into a kind of familiar echo chamber. You might be wondering what I mean. I will try to explain. The echoes I am referring to might be the repeated use of a color. Or it might be the commitment to a certain line to indicate leaves or flowers or even a random squirrel statue in a maze garden for tiny children. It might also be a nod to composition as I try to include/repeat similar shapes. I guess it doesn’t work for me to make everything I render a one of a kind, unless I am focusing on one tree, one lamp post, one building and/or one squirrel. Is this any clearer? I also like the idea that even though I am repeating line, color and/or composition, what I sketch/paint is a single point in time. So, every time I repeat something on the page, it will never look that same again. From sketch to sketch, day to day and even season to season. It will always be something new. I like that! As you may already know, you can make a repeat visit to a place, but it will never be exactly the same as you remember. All those echoes are different, every time. And I love that!

BTW…about last Saturday’s post…something came up. It was my birthday, and I enjoyed a lovely unplanned day. Of course I went to the Descanso Gardens! Stay tuned.

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. 

August 28, 2021

Our sketching group gathered again last Sunday. We traveled to Oceanside, via Zoom, for some “virtual” sketching. For this event we rendered some of the same places that others had seen in person for the Oceanside 2021 Plein Air Festival (July 24 to July 31). Artists had been invited to wander about the city (real time), painting what they saw on the spot. Then, if you wanted, you could enter your painting into a juried competition. Our host for the virtual trip didn’t mention anything of the awards that were given out. I just assumed she didn’t enter her paintings. (And the two she showed us were lovely and worthy of an award as far as I was concerned.) It was a fun morning of sketching, as I had never actually been to Oceanside. Over the years I’ve driven past it many times as I zoomed along the 5 on my way to San Diego. And even though it’s a beach town, we didn’t sketch very near the water. In fact, to look at the art you see here, you might not even guess the Pacific Ocean was close by. As a result, there wasn’t much of a discussion of how to render ocean waves. Instead, we talked about how to impose some nice perspective when quickly sketching the quaint little Oceanside houses. I think my favorite sketch, of the two, is the Top Gun house. I already had a piece of watercolor paper that I had added a wash of gold and blue. I thought it looked nice as a background—with the ink lines outlining the tiny Victorian. (I hadn’t really intended the gold to attach itself to the house in that way—it reminded me a little of “rising damp.”) You may, or may not, have guessed that the Top Gun House was in the movie “Top Gun.” I haven’t actually watched the movie, but understand there is a scene with Tom Cruise where the house figures prominently. I guess he rides up to this very house on a motor cycle. (Yup! This is SoCal and such things happen around here all the time.) It was fun to explore Oceanside, just a bit–a town I had never visited. Even One CA Girl can be a CA tourist for a day.

Even though I enjoyed my morning of sketching in Oceanside, I think the more interesting story, for me, involves my participation in a Plein Air competition some years ago. However, it was not part of a Plein Air Art Festival. It happened at the Nevada County Fair as a fair entry. Painters were invited to meet at a specific day and time during the actual fair. Participants were to do a Plein Air painting on site and then come back after 2 or 3 hours and have the art judged. (I can’t remember if we painted for 2 or 3 hours…) When my son was little, we used to enter lots of different categories under the pines at the Nevada County Fair. One year he won a ribbon for his Troll Doll Collection. Another year it was Legos. Most years we also entered the ugly cake contest. That particular spring I was surprised to see the Plein Air art challenge and decided to enter the competition. As it turns out I was one of only 3 people who showed up for the event. Once the timer started, the other two immediately went into the midway area and began painting. As I am not a fan of carnival rides I went to the animal barn. I sat under the shade of a couple huge pine trees and began sketching a young lady who was getting her bull ready to show. I had never done a Plein Air sketch that involved a specific “time” element. I remember wondering how I would do. But I soon got into my “groove” and enjoyed capturing the moment with my watercolors, Prismacolor colored pencil on Strathmore Illustration board. An artist friend and her daughter came by a couple times to check in and encourage my progress. But as the time came for us to finish, I realized I wasn’t going to be done. I had spent too much time on the pine tree in the foreground. I hadn’t resolved the greenery in the background or the ground, nor had I added highlights to the bull. And there was a whole section with a calf and 4Her that wasn’t done. (Yes, I hadn’t had time to add another person.) Maybe if I had cut off the calf without a handler with my matt knife…? Maybe? I decided I would go back to our meeting spot, and confess that I hadn’t completed the art piece in the appointed time. And therefore, I would not be but not be competing. I figured the other ladies could duke it out for 1st and 2nd place, while I just stood back and watched. But when I got back to our spot and told them I wasn’t going to share, one of the women got really mad. I reiterated several times that I hadn’t finished and she just got madder and madder. Of course, if I had shown my art I would have for sure gotten third place, with them at 1 and 2. I didn’t give in. There were only two ribbons awarded for Plein Air painting art at the fair that year. I actually started to think it was kind of funny because the woman who got first place (the one making a stink) clearly wanted to beat out 2 others. Also, the woman who got second told me on the “down low” that the crabby art bully was often like that. (I guess they both belonged to the same art group in the area.) BTW, I remember looking to see if there was a Plein Air event at the Nevada County Fair the following year. Nothing like it was listed in the catalog. Surprise, surprise! Enough said…

August 21, 2021

When I was in art school, I remember one of my professors saying it was important to develop a style, a style all your own. It seemed to me at the time that trying to focus on one particular style would be pretty limiting and actually pretty boring. I think I still feel that way today. Maybe what he meant was that it was a good idea to focus on becoming skilled with drawing and painting. Then if you developed an ease with figure drawing, symmetry, composition, line work etc you would be on your way to becoming an artist, and a good artist at that. I remember he said that it took years to become a good painter. And it also somehow seemed important to him that someone could look at a piece of art and know who had painted it. Well, if you were to line up my art from week to week, you may not guess they were done by the same person. I think the people he must have been referring to were artists like Monet, Van Gogh, Leonardo etc. I wish he would have just said all of that. Otherwise, it just seems like some kind of rubbish artistic advice. All I have ever really wanted, artistically speaking, was to be skilled and memorable in some way.

If you have been looking at the art I present each week for One CA Girl, you must have noticed lots of different styles. I really like trying new things and maybe from week to week you wouldn’t guess that I had created it. Oh well! My intention here has always been to present my art, past and/or present, that I would react to in some way. I might describe in excruciating detail the materials and technique I used. Or I might tell a story of my CA family, or I might present whatever musings that have been rolling around in my brain at any given moment during the previous week. 

For this week’s Descanso Gardens offering (8/15/2021), I was certainly attempting a paired down style, much like my Descanso’s rose arbor dated June 26, 2021–watercolor and Inktense pencils on watercolor paper. You have probably noticed that I identify each One CA Girl entry with a date (usually on a Saturday or Sunday). In a way the date is not really how I would like to identify each post, but rather I want the art to be the first thing you notice. However, as this is a journal of sorts, marking the date for each entry has always seemed the most expedient way to just get on with it. (Not sure I’m clever enough, or patient enough, to come up with a catchy title for each entry. Again, oh well!) 

It’s too bad you can’t see a WordPress feature that I use to store each week’s art/photo for One CA Girl. It’s called “Media Library” and it’s where each piece of art I have used over these past 4 years have been uploaded. It lines up each and every one as a discreet square—six images across. There is just the right amount of white space between each square and above each image is the date they were uploaded, with a discretely small font and a light shade of grey. And every now and then I scroll through the list. There are just over 500 images, with the first piece of art and story being shared March 25, 2017, my mother’s birthday. But looking at the Media Library just now reinforces my earlier comment about wanting to be somewhat memorable, coupled with the joy of having so many different styles over the years. Works for me. How about you?

August 14, 2021

This week was all about beginnings and endings for me. Or maybe it was more like endings and beginnings? It all started with my completely filling up another sketchbook. The 8/8/2021 sketch was the final one, thus ending the second in a series of Canson Mix Media 7 by 10 inch sketchbooks (Yes, I have completely filled two of them now and about to start another.) On 8/11/2021 I began sketching in the next Canson 7 by 10 inch sketchbook. But before I did that sketch I looked at the first couple sketches I had done in the beginning of the book ending with 8/8/2021. Are you with me so far? I was curious where I had been when I started that one. Those first few renderings reflected a spring “nests” theme going on at the Descanso at the time. If you look at the April 3, 2021 One CA Girl post, featuring those drawings, you will notice they were also done with pen and ink and Inktense pencils. And they were all done at the Descanso Gardens. What a surprise, right? It was fun to sit in a similar spot the other day, looking again at the same metal arbors at the entry area of the garden. Now, those rebar arbors are covered with life size butterflies (Descanso’s summer 2021 theme). As I walked around there this week, I noticed that they had also taken down many of the other nest displays. And they have removed the dragon fly I featured in my July 3, 2021 art/story. My, my, but seasonal beginnings and endings seem to be happening everywhere. I bet the Descanso’s getting ready for their fall themes. It was nice to get an invite to their 2021  “Carved” pumpkin and subsequent “Enchanted Forest of Light” outdoor events. Both were cancelled because of COVID worries.

Even though I was glad to hear the Descanso was planning to reinstate their outdoor fall/winter events (Carved and Enchanted Forest of Light), it seems that other SoCal venues may not be so lucky. The Gamble House, in Pasadena, started giving tours of the house’s interior late last spring. Prior to that time they had been closed for several months because of COVID transmission worries. However, due to recent COVID worries, they have again stopped giving in-person tours inside the house. You can still tour the outside of the house in person and they have a virtual tour of the inside. But if you can’t get inside you will miss experiencing something truly extraordinary. (You may or may not be away, but the Gamble House exterior was used as Doc Brown’s house in the movie “Back to the Future.”) Not being able to step inside is sad news on so many levels. If you are a fan of craftsman architecture (specifically Greene and Greene buildings) it us heartbreaking to imagine you can’t experience the glorious textures and craftsmanship of the wood, glass and furniture of that time. But more heartbreaking for sure is the fact that their junior docent program will again be interrupted. Each year adult volunteer docents teach middle school students about that house, training them to give tours. Then elementary school students are invited to tour the house with the middle school student docents. Cool, huh? As the inside of the house will be closed, none of the recently “virtually” trained middle schoolers will be able to conduct those tours. Breaks my heart…

But my endings/beginnings story does not end with a couple sketchbooks, seasonal changes at the Descanso Gardens and/or the status of visiting The Gamble House. Another ending/beginning SoCal story for One CA Girl will begin on 8/16/2021. That is the day summer break ends and the 2021-2022 school year begins for LAUSD. That means I will be back on campus. I am cautiously optimistic for that beginning and truly looking forward to seeing all my students. Here’s to a new beginning! Wish us luck!

August 8, 2021

It might sound a little strange, but I have been playing hide and seek with monarch caterpillars much of the summer. I have seen monarch butterflies all around my garden. And I have seen a number of them flitting about the Descanso Gardens as well. (You may have already noticed the tiny orange blurs in the first two sketches for this week. Those were monarch and fritillary butterflies.) But I haven’t seen any monarch larva in action in either location since I shared a sketch on June 12, 2021. And believe me, I have looked for them both at home and at the Descanso! However, I have seen a number of wasps buzzing around the milkweed plants here and there. Wasps will hunt and kill such larva. I’ve seen them do it! If I see one hovering around my milkweed plants I spray them with water and then squish them underfoot. I probably wouldn’t be allowed to do that at the Descanso. No one there has ever questioned my bringing a squirt bottle filled with water into the garden, especially if they saw me use it to create one of my “just add water” sketches. (See 6/20/2020, 6/9/2020 and 4/13/2019 for examples of how I create a nice effect with Inktense pencils and blasts of water.) However, I wonder what the Descanso folks would think if I repeatedly sprayed a wasp–wetting it completely until it can’t fly, drops to the ground and I grind my heal into that ferocious critter—making it dead? That’s what I do at home, anyway. TMI, right?

However, you may or may not be interested in my quest to find thriving monarch larva or how I hunt and kill wasps. But you may be interested in my less violent story for the week—the amazing gingko tree you see in each sketch. I saw a whole bunch of butterflies flitting inside the potager garden (flanked by this maidenhair gingko tree) at the Descanso Gardens (7/28/2021), daring me to find out where they had been hiding. Of course that drew me in, but did not sustain my interest for long. I think maybe the best story here is that tree. (See January 1, 2021 to see this lovely tree as part of a series of pastel sketches I did in honor of our most recent winter solstice.) Once my attention was drawn into looking at the tree, I was hooked for more visits and summer tree renderings. These sketches show a “changed” opening to that part of the garden, as it was recently altered with a new rustic arbor. For the winter solstice pastel sketch, there was a kind of rustic gate that kept people from going inside. (Not really sure why we weren’t allowed in there. Maybe they had heard there was a CA girl planning to kill bugs in their garden?) It’s much better now, as the opening is much larger and people can walk around at will. (I haven’t been going near the wasps…) I happened to walk by the day the garden guys were reconstructing it. And I’m not sure why, but they left that original gate leaned up against the tree. I kind of like it there…somehow gone, but not forgotten. 

Monarch caterpillar update!

I went to the Descanso Gardens this morning to sketch. Guess what I found in a patch of milkweed just outside the potager garden? Yes, a monarch caterpillar. In fact, I saw two caterpillars munching away on this plant. That really made my day! After taking a bunch of pictures, I floated on air back into the garden to do another ginkgo tree sketch. It’s not here today. I’m saving it for next week’s story. Stay tuned…

July 31, 2021

Last Sunday Urban Sketchers Los Angeles met at Shoreline Village in Long Beach. I was thrilled to meet in person with my peeps for a day of drawing. And it seemed everyone in our group of 20, or so, was equally happy to be out and about for a sketching event. Shoreline Village is kind of a touristy spot, with lots of restaurants, shops and even a merry go round. So of course there were lots of families and couples wandering around, looking in windows and looking for a place to eat. The last time we were there it was pre pandemic (See 8/24/2019 post), and it looked much the same as it did the other day. I wasn’t particularly comfortable with so many people (sans masks) milling around. I’ve been vaccinated and I wore a mask—that helped alleviate my anxiety a little. But we were outside and I was very motivated to sit right down and draw. There are a bunch of great sketching opportunities at the Shoreline Village—the downtown Long Beach skyline with its tall buildings and palm trees, boats moving in and around the harbor, and colorful buildings along the wharf. And if you walk to the other side of the boardwalk, you can see the Queen Mary standing tall. Last Sunday there was also a huge cruise ship around that side as well. As I said, there was a lot to see and draw. So, I made the most of the morning and did these two sketches.

For the first sketch I rolled out my sheet of bubble wrap on a grassy area in the shade of a giant tree. It was a great way for me to begin my time there as it was across from the boardwalk and away from most of the people. There was also just enough of a breeze blowing to make the overall sketching experience cooly wonderful. As it turned out, another sketcher joined me there. We worked quietly for quite a while. At one point I looked at her and said that it was so wonderful to be sitting in a cool spot while looking at the boats coming and going in the marina. I also said that I would have enjoyed sitting there even if I wasn’t sketching anything. She said she thought so too. It was pretty great! But eventually we each finished what we were drawing and thought it a good idea to move on. Our group wasn’t meeting up for 45 minutes, and that meant we had plenty time to do another one. We packed up and went to look for another sketching opportunity—wondering if we would find an equally great spot. We wandered back to the actual boardwalk and looked for a place to perch. I found a set of stairs in the shade that offered a great view of another part of the harbor. My friend went around to the other side of the boardwalk to sketch the Queen Mary. The wooden steps were between two restaurants, making this sketching opportunity more lively than the first. It was nice, because by then I had relaxed about being around so many people. I really enjoyed doing that piece and boldly included a large ship as it motored it’s way out to the open ocean. I sat there for maybe 30 minutes, happily working away, until a security guard told me I couldn’t sit on the steps. He was nice about it. I knew I was close to being done, so I didn’t really mind moving. I packed up most of my materials, stood at the base of the stairs and finished the second sketch in a few minutes. It all ended perfectly as it was time for the group to get together and share what we had created. Sometimes it’s good to have a time limit. Then you can’t go too far with adding details that can ruin your final artwork. All in all, it was a great day to be a member of the Los Angeles Urban Sketchers group.

As an artist I am always thinking about how to use color in my work. Of course there are times that I don’t want color at all, focusing on a graphite grey pencil sketch, black ink lines or even white spaces and/or white pigment. If you have been looking at recent One California Girl art and stories you will then know of my most recent obsession with some new ink colors from The Goulet Pen Company. I ordered a sample set of 9 colors and have been experimenting with them in stand alone line drawings as well as a wonderful accompaniment to my Inktense pencils. I finally ordered a couple colors (Bleu Ocean and Green Marine) from Goulet, and I think they are amazing. I wonder if I’ve been having some kind of subconscious need to use the blues and greens of water. I mean, last week I sat creekside at the landlocked Descanso Gardens and went crazy with the water soluble Green Marine ink. And last Sunday I sat beside a Long Beach harbor and geeked out with Bleu Ocean ink. In case you are wondering, I created what I think is a great ocean color story by adding my Sea Blue and Teal Green Inktense pencils to the Bleu Ocean. Yes, it appears I am obsessed with water and colors of water. It’s pretty dry out here in California right now and I’m probably not the only CA girl who dreams of cool water.