Pandemic Sketchbook: cooking, gardening, puzzles and other pastimes

With people sheltering in place at home, something had to take the place of going out to socialize, eat, work, work out and other daily activities. Cooking, doing jigsaw puzzles and gardening became really popular. I’m a terrible baker because I don’t follow directions. When I made scones, the flour in my cupboard smelled funny, so I texted a friend who said to throw it out. After digging deeper in my baking supplies, I found a small bag of flour, so I made a small batch of scones. They tasted bland and were hard, so I painted a still life of the scones in the style of a Mexican bark painting that hangs in my studio.

Tea and scones, watercolor

When the weather warmed up, I cleaned up my garden to get ready for spring planting. It has been a cold, but beautiful spring in New Jersey, but the herbs seemed to be growing already in early April.

Herb garden, pen and ink

Puzzles are really in demand. Luckily I found two in my coat closet. It turns out, I’m not a very patient puzzle person, so again, I drew the picture instead of sorting the pieces the first day. A month after this painting, the puzzle is only half done!

Starting a jigsaw puzzle, watercolor

Pandemic Sketchbook: still life with mask

Still life with mask, charcoal pencil
Still life with mask, charcoal pencil

Grocery shopping during the pandemic requires a mask in New Jersey. Store shelves are often empty and some things are almost impossible to find. But this week, I found a bag of dried peas and the prize: a roll of toilet paper! I tried to draw this still life with a dramatic, raking light and very dark and light values.

Pandemic sketchbook

Still life of disposable gloves, face mask and liquid soap
Gloves, mask, and soap- Pandemic Sketchbook, watercolor and pencil

I started staying at home (social isolating, self-quarantine) on March 13, 2020, which was the day the schools closed in my town in New Jersey, USA. I also started a sketchbook to record my experiences of this pandemic around that time. My first drawing shows the disposable gloves and shop mask from my art studio. I wear them when I use pastels or spray fixatives, but now they take on a new meaning. I bought extra liquid soap in early March because we were being told to wash our hands often and well at that point. My drawing was meant to be funny, but it also seems to me in retrospect to be a bit menacing. At that point, we had no idea that the New York metropolitan area would become a world hotspot for the coronavirus. When I went to the drugstore for soap, there was no hand sanitizer in stock, which was a harbinger of shortages to come. A rumor was circulating on social media that hand sanitizer could be made from vodka and aloe. That was just the beginning of many unhelpful suggestions on social media. I drew the still life and posted it on social media with the suggestion that it would be better to just drink the vodka and admire the plant. Gallows humor is a way to deal with adversity and can be helpful or disrespectful depending on the viewer’s mood.

Bottle of vodka, aloe plant and martini glass
Vodka, aloe plant, and Quarantini, Pandemic sketchbook, watercolor and pencil

Frame a Still Life

The drawing exercise here was to set up a still life, prop a window mat in front of it, set my desktop easel and point of view so that it would not move throughout the time I was drawing and to capture it in exactly in the same proportions in the rectangle on the paper as the mat/viewer has. I’m afraid I can’t describe that better without a photograph of the studio setup. which I forgot to take. Just think: capture the reality in front of you exactly on the paper in front of you, including the size. Sketch in pencil, then fill in with gouache. Aside from trying to accurately draw the flocked bunny toy and his glass bowl of candy, the challenges were the furry/fuzzy bunny texture, the glass reflections, and the eye reflections, and of course, the bane of my drawing existence, the elliptical shape of the bowl. When I came back to class for my next session with this drawing, other students had eaten the Skittles and my teacher had to run around finding more to fill up the bowl. They might be M&M’s mixed with Skittles…but my devotion to realism gave up after two classes and I started to eat my own still life too.

Painting of bunny toy and bowl of Skittles

Flocked Bunny and Bowl of Skittles, gouache

Keeping a Sketchbook: value studies

This 9 by 12 sketchbook doesn’t travel with me, but stays on my drafting table. The top three sketches were made with a range of pencils from 5B to 5H. What I really needed to punch up the dark values is a super-duper dark, almost charcoal, pencil. So that’s on the art supply shopping list. No matter how many layers I put on, I just could not build up really velvety blacks with my old pencil collection. I don’t like to mix my charcoal pencils with the graphite pencils. They seem to resist each other. The shiny graphite makes a weird base for charcoal. The charcoal just floats on top.
To draw the ducks, my teacher loaned me her darkest pencil. You can see the very dark necks on the ducks are darker than anything in the previous sketches. The finished duckies will star in a future post.

Sketch of fruit

Apple and orange, pencil

Flower sketch

Black-eyed Susan, pencil

Flower sketch

Daffodils, pencil

Sketch of ducks

Ducks, pencil