My Grandmother Ruby used to carry scissors in her purse when she went out for a walk. She loved flowers, she grew them on her balcony and often had a little bouquet on her table. Over the years we spent many a pleasant day wandering in the garden centre and planting up her small riotously colour-filled boxes. But cut flowers were a different story. Oh she wanted them, in the early spring when the sky was grey, and hers were months from being ready – but she would not pay for them. Besides, she had a Law that if any flower extended into any walkway, it was common property.
That included any that could be hooked with a cane and pulled over to the sidewalk. This could sometimes be an embarrassing situation for me, causing me to rapidly walk ahead, which amused her. I myself, purchased my flowers at full price.
However, I have lately found my thinking to be more in line with hers.
I have looked up that Law, and I believe she was correct.
I call it the Law of Unauthorized Pruning for Art’s Sake.
3″ Paintbrush: Ballpoint pen & watercolour
I have so many art supplies. More than a person could even use in a lifetime, I’m sure. Maybe more than 2 or 3 persons. Oh well, I am in good company with the tool fanatics, and there are worse obsessions. Like shoes. I don’t get shoes. One pair of Keens and yer good to go.
I think about what a wobbly me might choose to take on a trip, and honestly, I know I will pack ten times more than I will actually use. I will pack more than I can possibly carry without tipping over. (Sorry, friends and porters) But it makes me anxious to think I might need all my favourite… somethings. Like a perfect jar of spangly blue ink, or 5 shades of gold acrylic. Paper? Where would I find perfect sketchbooks?? And what if the unthinkable happened.. and they all… got… LOST.
Luckily, almost everywhere in this world, one can find a ballpoint pen. So I’ve been practicing.
I shall channel Andrea Joseph. Or Mark Powell. Nothing beats looking to the Masters when you need to soothe supply anxiety. If it came right down to it, if I can find a Bic and a ratty old placemat, I’ll be fine. Whew.
But I’m still packing the Art Bin.
A favourite spoon and a funny little can I have kept for years….
…looking closely at bits and pieces that otherwise slip away unnoticed.
More like Soul Companions, don’t you think? Cute as bugs, I say. And I kissed em both on the nose this morning. :)
Practice continues in my pursuit to learn techniques to one day produce a Carnet de Voyage. Luckily, it involves deliciousness and conviviality. I should be well fed whenever I do wander away from my home base.
January has rolled into February. Winter cold has remained at bay – in fact, it has been a typical balmy West Coast Winter… so far.
It seems to me the sketching moments have been plentiful. Self-imposed challenges of Sketchbook Skool Bootkamp and Kim Oka’s 30 day journaling have provided practice and entertainment on damp evenings.
Weather even broke into brief sun, and a rare trip to a dear friend’s welcoming home was actually realized. By me, alone. My mountain to climb, and I did it. I was well rewarded. :)
When one doesn’t have to hang sheets and plastic over the doorways to keep the heat of the fireplace trapped, (also known as Art Ghetto decor) and when the toilet seat is actually room temperature every day…(yes, last January was a bit trying) the subtle layers of a coast winter can be relaxed into, enjoyed even. Especially if you have a friend or two to share the fire.
On a calm afternoon I scooter to the pier, smell the ocean, feel the sky, watch the water flowing under the Robert’s Creek bridge.
February begins. And the sun is now rising before 8am and setting after 5pm.
After Wayne Thiebaud: detail from Boston Cremes, 1962
In my naiveity, (perhaps with a smidge of an ego) I thought it would be fun and easy to forego the obvious choice of something seriously Renaissancey for my SBS assignment – ‘Copy an Artist that you Admire’. Well, I have been schooled. Wayne Thiebaud is a Master of thick acrylic paint and unlikely colour placement, and he molds beautiful delicious form with deft skill. Pop Art genius – I won’t make the mistake of underestimating his delightful simplicity again. I did, however, manage to sweat it out, and do a credible job while using the simplest of tools myself, my basic sketch kit. Nothing fancy at all – a Uniball black ink pen, my small Cotman travel watercolours, a couple of fineliners and pencil crayons, and some housepaint from a sample I have had hanging around on my desk for ages. That was to cover the orange blotchy mistake I made early in the sketch, and had no other way to disguise. Luckily the thick pages in my Kim Oka journal could take the abuse. Yep, I learned my lesson. And I’ll happily do this exercise again, because there is scads more to learn from a giant like Thiebaud. I am a baby when it comes to this kind of painting. And honestly, I kind of like that feeling of being in the shit and having to wallow my way out – it certainly keeps things interesting. So copy I will, and if it was good enough for the Renaissance greats… well then.
It is a funny thing, entirely unexpected, but I have become quite… attached.. to Sketchbook Skool.
Oh I knew when I joined it would be fun. And I hoped it would be inspiring, and challenging in a stress-free kind of way. I also wanted to hang with pro sketchers I have admired for a few years now, learn from them and peek into their sketchbooks. It has been all that – and much more.
Bootkamp launches today, a mash-up of classes put together into a concentrated schedule, just for those of us who have taken the previous three courses, and I have been waiting with all the impatience of a kid on Christmas Eve… who knew? I spent the most delicious evening working on the first assignment. Home alone, the fireplace on, implements gathered, sketchbook ready, hockey game on (ya we lost whatever) dinner simmering and a glass of wine… dive in. Three blissful hours later, I post. To the site first, then to the SBS facebook page. And the beeps start up. All the people that I only know by icons and comments start chiming in, commenting, saying hello… friends by shared passion for the pencil, pen, watercolour set – from all over the world. They welcome me back, and I them, curious to see what they will do.
My sweet little family sleeps while I play.
Such a simple thing, a sketch, can comfort on a winter evening – and with a few keystrokes can reach around the world.
The people gathered at the mouth of Roberts Creek, fragile boats in hand. They are here to set intentions for the New Year, to float away the encumbrances of last year, to invite in the wishes for this year.
The one on the left is my boat, an Origami Sampan, inspired by Kim Oka’s enthusiasm. She was the BoatMaster. I made three, one each for me, Robert and Janet. Sue Bailey tucked a wish into the prow of my boat. I think intention boats can take unlimited requests, but her daughter Hannah had secretly made her a boat too, so she was well covered. Robert braved the rocks to take our boats to the water while Janet and I watched from the pier. With candles lit, they are surprisingly swift as they silently fly over the waves and out into the Salish Sea. Can you see them?
Mine said, “Fear Out – Faith In” and had my favourite Joni Mitchell lyric… We are Stardust. We are Golden. We are Billion Year Old Carbon.
And the first day of a New Year feels so good.
The first real weather of the season is rolling in. Colour? Gunmetal. Payne’s Grey. Ivory black. Smudged charcoal. And I feel a kind of a thrill. Long ago, at the beginning of my painting, I spent 2 years using only black and white paint. Like Georgia O’Keeffe, I later read. Greys? I have them…..
Art Historical re-imaginings… I can still hear my Art History professor Josephine Jungic (also my friend, so missed) saying – “oh, what have you done to Duccio??”.. with a smile…
More recent details made large, and a lesson learned – when you buy black paint, from anywhere, make sure you buy enough – black is never the same black. Ever.
I wish I knew where this painting was……….. a rare loss. I try to know where all my children of the soul have gone.
Is it my destiny to love this coast so much?
All I know is, I don’t fear the grey. I think it is most subtle, silvery, deep. And full of potential. We need dark to understand light, as simple as that, and as complex.