Here are the two sides.
This drawing has the liveliness I try for but don't always manage. That's what I liked about the dog and his master in the previous drawing, too, though that one was -- as my friend David remarked -- even less "studied."
I'll be away for a few days and will probably post some photos from there. Stay tuned!
While looking through a little Moleskin notebook in my purse, I found this sketch, from earlier in the winter, done in a waiting room. I like the way it captures something about winter life here in Montreal. The Burmese mountain dog was a guide-dog-in-training, and the young woman seated beyond him was his trainer. He's get up, look around, and then calmly lie down agian, settling his head onto the floor with a resigned sign. I like her layers of wooly sweaters, her oversized satchel, and her fur-lined Sorels. All pretty true to life.
While we're on the subject of things wooly and warm, this hat was my knitting project during the Olympics; I finished it last night. It's a super-easy pattern from The Purl Bee, adapted by me for knitting with two unequal weight yarns - a lightweight brown alpaca and a midnight blue lace-weight merino, both odds and ends from my knitting basket. The resulting hat, knit in a K1 P1 rib, is very stretchy and I think it will even fit underneath my bike helmet for early spring biking, if the snow ever departs!
Speaking of which, the basil is up, and already thinned to one plant per pot!
But by and large I haven't been very productive lately, for a variety of reasons. I'm hoping to get back into the swing of it soon.
Two nights ago I made another drawing of the candelabra and rosary, this time with a jade plant (I had burned the Christmas greens in the fireplace!) My thought was: Mexico, desert, succulents, blue sky outside and a suggestion of snow drifted against the window. Once the drawing was done -- and I try to do them quite fast -- I already felt in trouble. Instead of the relationships I had intended between the objects, each of them just sat there on the page, separate, and - I felt - looking bored with each other. Or was I unexcited by them? I went ahead and added some color anyway, on the somewhat-receptive sketchbook paper.
Better, but when I flipped back through the sketchbook to see the original drawing I was dismayed - it was so much livelier and freer (as is often the case with first attempts!) There were some passages in the new sketch that I did like, though: the right side of the terracotta pot, some of the rosary beads, the yellow birds at the bottom of the candelabra, thr dripping wax, and the interplay of the browns/oranges and those bright blues.
Once the drawing was photographed and in Photoshop, I was able to play with the cropping. Sometimes moving in on a pictures will force the objects into relationship, and improve the balance of the positive/negative space. (It's nice to be able to do this in the computer rather than with scissors!) The result below seems a lot better to me, but of course it's quite a different thing. What do you think?
Still life with a Mexican candelabra and rosary, and Christmas greens in an Egyptian brass jug.
Doing a drawing like this is as much a psychological exploration as anything. It started with the painted ceramic candelabra from Oaxaca, which had been on our mantle at Christmas. The leftover greens in the brass jug need to be thrown out. The holly is dried up, but the evergreen branches are still all right, and so I've left them. When I put the two objects together I felt there was some affinity between the little holly berries and the hanging "dingleberries" on the whimsical candelabra. I needed another object and this Huichol rosary suggested itself: more round things, and also from Mexico. On the glass tabletop, the candelabra was slightly in front of the jug, but when I drew them, I somehow placed them standing side-by-side, like married couple. I thought that was odd. I noticed the liveliness of the little birds on the one, and the greenery and berries on the other, and then across the front, the wooden "berries" of the rosary. I'm not Catholic, so I don't use a rosary, but this one called to me when I saw it at a stand in a Mexico City market; the vendor told me it was carved by the Huichol Indians. For some reason, it touches me, and I always keep it on my little meditation shrine.
This is just an exploratory sketch, but it's interesting to study pictures like this. Why did I pick these particular objects? What are their affinities in terms of form and color; what can be exploited and emphasized, what should be changed? Do they suggest an idea, or set of ideas, or relationships? Can they tell a story? Which objects seem to want to be dominant, which are bridges or connections? How could they be rearranged to say something different, or to convey an idea more forcefully? What could be added or taken away? How can I change the colors to create a different emotion or mood that helps speak of the relationships in the picture?
In my own home, there are many objects that have personal significance, and many things that suggest place, people, relationships. Perhaps dominant among them are thigns that represent my anglo-saxon heritage, and my husband's in the middle and near east, but there are also objects that sound echoes of my personal search for meaning, that I have kept for a reason even though thos ereasons may not be obvious to me, even yet. Drawing and painting these things helps me see myself and my path more clearly, like thinking back over a significant dream.
A while back I placed some Cycladic figures in a Quebec landscape. This Christmas, I did a relief print of a star over an iconic Quebec mountain. Combining objects with landscape is another way to explore relationships and personal movement - both physical and psychological; I've learned a lot from seeing how Clive Hicks-Jenkins has done this in his own work.
So, in the above drawing, there is the start of something, perhaps, about New and Old world expressions of religion, and there's also a contrast bewteen the live greens and berries in the old jug, and the ceramic depictions of flowers, fruit, and birds in the Mexican candelabra. For the time being, the round forms of the bulbous jug, the base of the candelabra, and the multiplicity of berries and balls are what interest me artistically; the color needs to be simplified, and the rosary may or may not need to be replaced with something else.
All of this works better in the drawing I posted a few days ago, partly because the color is handled better, but also because that particular assemblage of objects has been consciously evolving on my desk for a long time. Anyway - it's a curious way to approach still life, but far more interesting to me than just sketching the forms and shapes and colors.
The subject isn't new, but the sketchbook is. This is the first drawing in my new Stillman & Birn Gamma series sketchbook. I liked the landscape format and size, and the paper quality and texture, but they are serious when they say "accepts light washes." "Light" should be in italics. The paper was quite curled at the corners when I looked at it this morning. Nevertheless, this is the best-quality, all-purpose, purchased sketchbook I've used. If it manages to get me drawing regularly again, that will be great.
Ink and watercolor drawing on Stonehenge, 10" x 5"
The colors are subdued; the foliage, for the most part, shorn; the flowers faded. It's the end of the season.
It was a good year in the garden. I was especially happy with my delphinium and sweet peas and dahlias, and the general look of the massed perennials - after three years, the garden filled in and came into its own this season. Doing these drawings has been good, too: I feel like I "grew" an illustration style that has gotten looser as the year has gone on, and given some pleasure to the other gardeners too.
That's the happiness of gardening communally - seeing and admiring what others are doing, sharing the beauty as well as the work, contributing what we're each good at, making friends, exchanging plants, going together on trips to nurseries and the botanical garden. By the same token, I've cherished the times when I was at the garden all alone: precious moments of nature and quiet in the middle of a huge city. Now the garden will become very silent indeed, as we wait for the blanket of snow that will protects the roots from freezing and thawing. Am I ready? Not really, but we never are, are we?
We're back in Montreal after a few days on the road. The first stop was at a New England lake where we spent a couple of days with old, close friends, savoring the end of summer. One of those days was rainy, and we were mostly inside the rustic house where they were staying. J. and I painted each other, and there was a marathon jigsaw puzzle session...good times.
Then we went to Wilmington, Delaware for a family funeral. It was the first time in more than 20 years that Jonathan and some of his cousins had been together. We had a couple of longish waits in airports, so I drew some fellow travelers, trying to capture a quick portrait of each.
I added the watercolor on the plane.
Thought he was listening to music, until he started carrying on a business conversation, talking into the air...
The animal-print bag was what got me.
This woman had a quiet elegance, in her purple top and hand-crocheted crimson beret.
Half-asleep, with a neat cap of blonde hair and flowered blouse.
Auburn, and an unusual face.
Typing on her laptop, totally concentrated.
A Viking - one of four young Scandinavian tourists.
And a quiet, neat Indian gentleman.
Inspired by Liz Steel's color notes and example, I recently revamped my own watercolor palette. Some of the tubes in my watercolor box were at least thirty years old: a lot has changed in the industry since then and I needed to get up to speed. For a couple of weeks I've been testing seeing how some new pigments behave and interact with each other, and how they're different from my standard ones. By and large, I'm super happy with the changes, and really impressed by the brilliance, clarity and superb mixing qualities of these newer pigments. It's been fun and exciting to learn more and explore the modern world of color (who knew that modern pigments have coded numbers that standardize them across manufacturers? Not I!) I was a kid who could happily spend an entire afternoon rearranging her big box of Crayola crayons, so make of all this what you will...
So, be forewarned, COLOR-GEEK tech talk coming up -- I'm really grateful to Liz, and if the following is helpful to anyone, that's great. Please bear in mind that the color reproduction on-screen is close but only approximate.
The new colors I'm using are Quinacridrone Gold, Quin Burnt Orange, Quin Red, Nickel Azo Yellow, Pyrrol Orange, Indigo, Indanthrone Blue, and Sap Green. Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna will be phased out. My two standard yellows will be Nickel Azo and Winsor Yellow, with Cadmium Yellow still on the big palette but only used when I need its more opaque qualities; ditto for Cadmium Red. Cadmium and Cobalt are both toxic; and one of my goals was to move away from some of the more toxic colors. However, the Cobalts (blue, green, violet) will stay for me, since nothing has yet been invented to replace their gorgeous hues.
For blues, I'm keeping Cerulean, indispensible for skies; my beloved Cobalt, and French Ultramarine, along with Indigo, which will help me create very dark darks. I'm not sure about the Indanthrone yet, that's the next pigment to test more extensively. I'm absolutely thrilled with Quin Gold and Quin Burnt Orange, alone and when mixed with blues and greens to create dark colors.
Most of the time, I like to mix my greens, though I do keep Hooker's Green Deep and Permanent Green on my palette, and Cobalt Green for occasional use. Sap Green is a unique color, very difficult if not impossible to mix, and because I paint so many landscapes and foliage, it seemed like it would be useful - and I think I'm going to love it. The photos don't show its exact hue, in spite of an hour of fiddling with Photoshop.
I only bought one of the many shades of Quinacridone Red - Rose - Coral that are available. I wanted something stronger and more brilliant than Alizarin Crimson but still in the cool red range, and so far Quin Red is fitting the bill beautifully. Pyrrol Orange is a new pigment, very brilliant, and more transparent than Cadmium Orange; I like it but it's almost too bright for me. We'll see.
Except for Winsor Yellow, which is a proprietary Winsor&Newton color that I just happen to really like, all the new paints were purchased by mail order from Daniel Smith.