I’ve had this week off. So, without much planning or thought I found myself at the Descanso Gardens on a weekday. I didn’t really have any idea of what I might sketch. But there I was, sitting across from a row of birch trees with a stained glass house just visible through the trees. I had my stealth bag and decided I would use some stormy grey water soluble ink and “hard candy colored” Inktense pencils to capture this scene. I purposely sat on a bench with damp grass within my reach. This is so I could scrub my paintbrush in that bit of water and use it to blend the media on the page. By the time I was ready to scrub my brush in the grass, it had dried out considerably and my brush was covered with damp dirt. (We’ve been having some Santa Ana conditions here in SoCal and that means it’s windy, very windy. When that happens our “drought driven” air dries making everything seem brittle. In fact, we have all been on high fire alert as such windy weather can lead to fires.)
I was frustrated that I couldn’t muster any moisture from the grass and considered putting the brush in my mouth, hoping I could find enough liquid to mix my colors here. (That probably wouldn’t have been a good idea.) Just like that I looked at the cup of take away cappuccino I had brought into the garden. There was just a tiny bit in the bottom of my paper cup. Have you already guessed what I used to create the birch bark color? Why yes, I poured a tiny bit into my blue cup, dipped my brush in and applied it to the trees. Oh yeah, before I did this, I cleaned the dirt from the brush. Now that I think of it I’m not sure why I poured such a tiny bit into the blue cup. Was I planning to drink those remaining few drops of my cold cappuccino? Possibly! (A few minutes earlier I had contemplated mixing the colors with my saliva…) Whatever the weird thoughts that were running through my mind, I was satisfied with the mocha tree color I achieved here. In the end, this became a perfect urban sketching outing—I was in the moment, and I told you a story. All in all, it was a very satisfying day off.
Now it’s time to switch to my non-urban sketching, art. I stretched canvas for two 24 by 30 inch pieces of art and cleaned all my paint trays. Then I took inventory of my oil paints and brushes. I should say that stretching the canvas took longer than I expected as I had to re-stretch one of them as one side and each corner were lumpy and slightly puckered. I should have remembered that you can’t use the selvage edge of the canvas as it doesn’t stretch smoothly and/or lie flat. So, I took that one off the bars, cut out a new piece and reattached it. That one went on perfectly. Now, I have two canvases ready to go. My brushes looked fine, but I decided I might want a couple new ones, just for fun. I went through my tubes of paint and was mad that I couldn’t get the lids off half of them. I would need to buy a half dozen more. And as long as I needed to buy some new tubes of paint, I would also pick up a couple brushes at the same time.
As I already said, I had this week off and had hoped I would at least get the non-colors down for one land scape, but that didn’t happen. However, I did a couple preliminary sketches, noting desired compositions and the under colors I plan to use. If you’re not a painter, none of this probably seems interesting at all, but that’s my process and I hope to continue on this particular journey. I may try to get some pigment on a canvas tomorrow. Stay tuned…