I've been using the hashtag #strugglingtowardspring on my Instagram account, and it continues to be true, as temperatures are still dipping below freezing at night and barely reaching 50 during the days. We don't have any leaves on the trees, though there are buds, and little green leaves on some shrubs. No tulips that I've seen, just a few early daffodils and hyacinths, so the forsythia has been extremely welcome.
The community gardens open on May 1, so after that I'll have access to my garden and a wider range of subject material. I "stole" this little sprig from the park when it was still tightly budded, and enjoyed watching the flowers open. It always reminds me of my father-in-law, who loved it because it reminded him of his first springs in New England after immigrating from the Middle East. We always took him some branches from an unruly bush we planted in our own yard; the other day J. and I were wondering if that bush is still there, or if the new house owners decided it was too much trouble to prune it back every year.
An artist mentor of mine, during those years in Vermont, once asked me "what is the is-ness of a zinnia, a pair of shoes, a person? That's what you have to search out. And it doesn't reside in details." Over the years I've come to understand much better what he meant than I did at the time. There is a sort of shorthand for everything, even our faces - not a caricature, but particular aspects of each thing in which reside its essence. I love plants for their sculptural quality, but I think another reason I enjoy drawing them is that the species are so individual. I can ask myself this question and try to capture, quickly and freely, what makes - for example - forsythia "forsythia." Drawing is a way to search out and learn that, and once you have a handle on it, you can start to use that essence more creatively. Until then, you're just copying and getting caught up in details. Often, I realize while drawing that I've been looking at an object or a plant or animal for years and years -- appreciating it a lot, even loving it -- but not really seeing it fully. And that "essential quality" is never more tricky, more elusive, than when drawing your own face.