When the clouds roll away on a coast spring day, everything gleams with fresh intensity.
I’m busting out the tubes.
That is what my friend Marlene told me, and I have been fully embracing the pre-trip.
I had to think of something which would hold my attention, and keep my excitement from spilling over into anxiety – because I know myself. I can get… squirrelly. So, I have made up a crazy project for myself. I am filling one of my beautiful Kim Oka encaustic journals with sketches of details from Renaissance paintings, mostly of those that I could possibly see in Italy – but I am using ballpoint pens. And a bit of watercolour. Thats it.
Then, I am scanning these sketches and printing them out as postcards, which I will take with me.
While I am casually relaxing in a piazza with a tiny white cup filled with thick espresso, or perhaps a nice glass of jewel red Chianti, I will write my Deep Thoughts on them and send them back home to myself embellished with beautiful Italian stamps. This lovely dream is keeping my hands busy and my anxiety levels manageable.
Two more weeks……….
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.
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.
Ella is a Wild Dog in the Woods, or so it is reported to me – I wish I could see her leaping the logs and trails with grace and strength and exuberance. But this day, I’m glad I wasn’t there to see most of her disappear down a hole in a log – luckily no bear waiting for her at the bottom! There was some debris though, which must have tickled her ear causing an entire night of head shaking, ear flipping and scratching. Mournful brown eyes pleaded for help.
Still greatly bothered in the morning, there was nothing to do but take her to the Vet. Well, she wouldn’t stay still, so the Big Drugs had to come out. And what did they find for $300? A hair. And Poor Ella was a woozy, ill mess for the next day and a half. Perhaps she will re-think her Acting career.
I must say, she held still for a lovely long sketch.
And Sammie – I think he was just keeping her company as she slept it off. He’s good like that.
Days were long, and hot – sometimes too hot – but even with all the hours in a day to play it feels like it went so fast. The studio got cleaned (can you believe it??), a birthday came and went (delightful gifts of moths and wine and food with friends) and a new chair arrived so that more things could be done all in the same area (so many thanks, Marlene).
Still, some sketching got done in between lounging around in lawn chairs.
Now we are officially into Fall. This time, for me, is a time of cool, clear energy. A time to integrate changes and move forward. A time to flourish.
Now that the firewood is in…. 🙂
She got me drawing with ballpoint pens. Blobby, cheap, ubiquitous Bic pens. And I am telling you, as satisfying as it is to finish a page like this, the technique is Not easy. In theory, it is similar to the Tommy Kane crosshatch style, but I found that the meditative quality of time was much deeper. Maybe because the detail, the “hatchiness” was finer, took longer, made me able to enter that zone where you are sketching, but also hearing the birds, smelling the ocean, noting the sun passing and the light changing – in fact, this day on my back porch will live forever on this page.
Not a bad use of sitting on a butt all day, if you are MS heat-bagged anyway, hey? I love summer in the Creek.