Pandemic Sketchbook: botanicals in color

Four drawings of plants
Four Botanicals, watercolor

Four color sketches of what was blooming in May and June during our strict Stay at Home phase in the New York City metropolitan area. I bring back leaves and blooms from my daily walks, or from my garden, to draw in my studio. These were sketched in pencil, then watercolor or watercolor pencil added next, and sometimes they were inked as the last step. I love seeing video demonstrations of nature journalists sketching outside with their portable camp stools and tiny sketching kits, but the comfort of my small indoor studio is so tempting. Now that the sticky, hot northeastern USA summer is here, my air conditioner is also very tempting. Maybe plain air painting is in my future, but not the near future, I suspect.

Pandemic Sketchbook: talking to birds

Robin eating a worm, water color painting
Robin, watercolor

The robins in my yard are very friendly and not shy of humans. A rather plump robin visits me every day, or maybe he just likes the well-stocked buffet of earthworms in my backyard. We often have lunch together…or at least at the same time. I chat with him (her?) and he seems to pause to consider.

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: Teddy Bears in Windows

Scavenger hunt for kids at home: Christmas Teddy Bear in my Window
Teddy Bears, watercolor

In the first month of staying at home, I read that people were putting teddy bears in their windows so that parents could take their kids on scavenger hunts to search for teddy bears. I don’t know if anyone was doing that or not in my neighborhood, but it kept me busy. I posed the bears and drew pictures of them in my sketchbook. It quickly became apparent that keeping busy and distracted, to find a hobby or any way at all to cope is pretty important. For young parents trying to work at home and educate and take care of their kids, it’s a big job.

It Was a Grey and Foggy Road Trip

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 78 West, New Jersey, watercolor

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 …

Foggy landscape underpainting, watercolor

…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.

Foggy landscape, watercolor