November is the time to start panicking about creating the annual Christmas card. I’ve been stuck on the idea of a mouse-based picture this year, in honor of the many small furry friends who visited our house this past year. Here are some of the sketches I’ve made as I’ve been playing with the idea, arranged roughly in chronological order.
I was in a good mood, I had caught up on all my work, and it was a gorgeous summer day, so I gathered my stuff and went out to paint. I ended up in Sunderland, in a farmer’s field just below Mount Sugarloaf, a prominent outcropping on the banks of the Connecticut River. I painted away the afternoon. It was fun, but I was frustrated by the results. I took a few photos and then decided to do a pen sketch as back-up for further work in the studio. I had just about finished when a farmer came by and told me I wasn’t supposed to be out there and asked me to leave. I didn’t tell him I was just about to leave anyway.
Over the past few months our house has been beset with mice. It started when my wife noticed mouse poop in our kitchen drawers. We went out and bought some humane traps and, right away, we caught one. I took him about a mile up the road and let him out. The next day we caught another, and then another the day after that, then it settled down to about 2 or 3 a week. They were also getting into our cars in the driveway, causing a flood in the passenger section of my wife’s car when they clogged up the air conditioner drain. They also figured out how to defeat our traps, causing us to upgrade the design.
I began to suspect that the little guys were somehow finding their way back after I dropped them off. I tried to find some way to mark them so I could tell. I tried putting acrylic paint spots on their tail, but they cleaned it off before it dried. We haven’t caught one for six days now, so maybe we’ve won the battle at last.
Anyway, I decided to sketch a portrait of one of our last visitors.
We returned to Millen Pond in mid-August for a week’s stay. My plan was to draw with a different implement every day. On Sunday it was felt markers.
On Tuesday it was a 4B pencil.
On Thursday it was a watercolor brush.
On Friday it was pastels (this was my favorite of the week).
On Saturday I ended the week with a black pen
The last year has been very trying, made more so by the lack of time to do much drawing. I was very happy, therefore, to make it to the end of June and the start of my vacation. This year we tried someplace new, West Caroga Lake in New York’s Adirondack State Park. The weather was great – maybe even a little too hot - and in between the swimming, the board games, and playing with granddaughter Lucy, I got to do some drawing and painting.
I like to play with a variety of mediums when I get the chance, and over the course of the week I tried pencil, technical pens, colored pencil, dipping pen, watercolors and oil paints. My first drawing was a pencil drawing of the cottage next door, a typical Adirondack camp.
There were many old hemlocks along the shore and I liked the view of their thick branches arching over the sparkling waters of the lake. The branches and foliage have a unique shape that is surprisingly complex and difficult to capture. Silhouetted against the lake, I had the opportunity to study them closely, first with a colored pencil, then with a technical pen. They also appeared in a watercolor I did of a nearby dock.
Right below our balcony was a cluster of lily pads with white water lilies that opened in the morning and then closed up in the afternoon sun. They were the subject of my first oil painting that I worked on from Monday to Wednesday. I’m very pleased with how the water looks in the painting. On Friday I did a watercolor of the same subject.
On Thursday the kids took a road trip, leaving me alone for a quiet afternoon. I decided to try another oil painting and used some tiger lilies along the shore as a subject. The painting was done in just three hours and I was thrilled with how it came out. I had been taking some oil painting lessons over the past couple of years and I think I’m starting to see some improvement.
I have not been drawing enough lately. I would if I could, but I have just had too many other things that had to be done. Today I was looking at the late afternoon sunlight hitting the potted lily by the front window and thinking what a nice subject it would be to draw, and said dammit and grabbed my sketchbook and stole an hour of time to draw. It felt good.
I was at the Red Apple Farm on Saturday and had the chance to do some quick sketches of the apple trees. I love their shape. If I ever try to do a spooky picture of trees I’ll model them on the apples.
Today was Fresh Paint Day in Boston. I started at 9:20 with a blank scratchboard and a seat beside the Commonwealth Ave. Mall.
The picture came together very quickly. I chose a view down the mall with the trees forming an arch over the walkway. By 11:00 it was well on its way.
By 12:30 the end was already in sight..
By 2:45 I was done scratching. I briefly thought about coloring it, but a desperate need of a bathroom overruled that idea, so I declared victory and packed up.
The finished picture will be auctioned at the Fresh Paint Gala on May 3, with all proceeds going to the Copley Society..
I attended a conference in Nashville last week and we stayed at a place called the Opryland Resort. It was a huge, gaudy, expensive place, with over 2,000 rooms. The most striking feature of the place was the three huge atriums filled with tropical trees and plants, rivers and waterfalls. These covered several acres. I couldn’t help but get upset thinking how acres of natural land had been bulldozed to create this fantasyland for rich people. Still, I do like palm trees and could appreciate the beauty of the gardens. During a break between meetings I drew this sketch inside the largest atrium.
It was a warmer than usual January day, so I ventured out to my back wall with my sketchbook. I brought along a violet and a blue pencil. It was warmer than usual, but not really warm. I drew until my fingers started to get numb.
Some of the best work I've done isn't hanging on a wall; it's sitting in a box in my closet that's full of my old sketch books. I fill up one or two books each year. Some of the sketches end up as a basis of a more formal work, but most don't. They’re more important to me as a pictorial diary and also as on-going training; learning to really see and to understand shape, light and color.
This blog is to share my sketches as well as my sketching experiences.