Foxes pop up in my sketchbook in the same unexpected, and I hope charming and rather mysterious way, that real foxes turn up in my suburban neighborhood. They are always smaller than expected and trot so quickly past that they are easily missed. The top two-page spread of a Red Fox seems to have a story. It seems like an excerpt from a children’s book, but that’s all there is…so far. The portrait of the Fox also seems to have some story to tell. That seems to be the nature of these elusive animals. A flash of red, and then it’s gone.
A half hour drive west on the interstate last week took me through beautiful monochromatic landscapes shrouded in fog. When I returned home, I painted the scenes from memory. First I divided a 9×12 sheet of watercolor paper in fourths to practice with small vignettes. I used a limited palette of Payne’s grey, lamp black, ultramarine blue, yellow ochre and burnt sienna (it might be Indian red, not sure because I filled my watercolor pans a while ago.) I added Chinese white details with a rigger brush at the end.
I started two slightly larger practice pieces next, including a color chart at the bottom of the paper. I was trying to really think through the process, but also trying to keep the nice transparent, loose quality of the medium. I hoped to somehow get the foggy effect of the day by leaving white paper to suggest the fog curling around the trees and foothills. The sketch below seemed like a good start, but then …
…I struggled, and worked, and belabored the whole thing and lost the fresh beginning, see below. I think I’m finished with this and maybe I’ll try a full-sheet painting next.
What did I learn from my practice pieces? What I really missed in these exercises is a source photograph to work from, and my teacher! When I work at home, I hear my teacher’s voice in my head, but I don’t have her experienced eye on my work. Next week, back to class.
Last May while visiting Stone Harbor, I took an iPhone picture of the salt marshes along the causeway leading to Seven Mile Island, a barrier island along the southern end of the New Jersey shoreline. The marsh grasses were a spring green with some winter browns mixed in at that point.
Last summer, I took a charcoal drawing course and drew the scene of the salt marshes in black and white, with soft vine charcoal on watercolor paper:
Today, I revisited the scene in pastel: 12×18, Canson pastel paper:
This part of New Jersey is so beautiful. I enjoy revisiting it, in person, and in different art mediums. Next, sometime this winter, I will paint the scene in watercolor then oils. By then, it will be time to drive ‘down the shore’ again, as we supposedly say in New Jersey.
After you finish your work of art, you have to make some finishing touches. Just Google any of these phrases and you will see that artists think about these issues a lot. Before you see a work of art displayed in a gallery or on a website or in someone’s home, all these things should have happened:
Don’t forget to sign your work (search for ‘artist signature’ posts on the web)
(Seriously it’s easy to forget to do this!)
Don’t forget to use fixative, varnish or other preservative appropriate to the medium
Did you photograph it for your website or records?
Store it somewhere safe until you frame it for exhibit or sale
I am at the ‘store it somewhere safe’ step. The photo collage shows that I have safely ‘stored’ and (Bonus at No Extra Cost to me !) displayed, my two latest charcoal sketches by thumbtacking them to the walls of my studio space. One small pastel still sits on a tabletop easel taunting me: are you done or not? And my biggest recent work, a pastel of Verona, Italy, is clipped to a drawing board, covered with glassine and resting on top of the old wardrobe filled with crafts supplies. That’s me with my iPad snapping the pic of the resting pastel. The wardrobe itself is decorated with oil pastels, paper collage and acrylic sketches, so that’s another way to find storage space for your artistic efforts. Just paint on your furniture.
So anyway, to my friends and family who are super supportive and kind about my late-blooming artistic journey, this is what’s going on. It seems like a long way to get these works framed, exhibited, sold, gifted, turned into cards or pillows or even a proper website. But I am learning a lot and slowly producing work. And enjoying the process. And liking some of the results enough to thumbtack them to the walls without cringing or climbing up to change one more little detail. Progress!
I just started a charcoal drawing course last night. The switch from the brilliant colors of pastels that I have been using the last few months to black and white was a jolt. I thought it would be nice to sort of simplify my thinking or observing of the world to just values and forms and lines without colors kind of calling out to me. What I need to do is turn my photographs into black and white but last night I was expecting a still life and was not prepared to just ‘do whatever you want.’ I based this drawing on a picture on my iPhone that I took in May. The picture is looking from the Stone Harbor Wetlands Institute over the salt marshes and bay toward the barrier islands of south New Jersey.