Fireworks aren’t blooming in the skies of the USA’s small towns this July 4th, but wild raspberries, wild garlic, and Bee Balm are making a natural red, white and blue sky display. You will have to imagine the colors. In this nature journal drawing, I used a black pen and ink wash.
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.
I have been drawing nature finds and things growing in my garden for quite a while in the Before Times or BC, Before Corona virus. I think of my style as not very precise botanical drawings. So I kept drawing things from the natural world in my Pandemic Sketchbook, things I spotted on my daily walks when the lockdown was very strict here in the New York metropolitan area. Everyone was walking and walking in the neighborhood, partly because everything was closed and sitting at home was making people stir crazy, I suspect. Leaving my sketchbook aside when I found several pieces of blue card stock in a file cabinet, I drew some flowers and a visiting House Finch with watercolor pencils on the blue background. The paper could take a little bit of water with a small brush and some blending with a tortillon . I also realized I can wet the point of the pencil to get texture. After three drawings, I ran out of this color and moved on to something else. I’ve been trying different styles and techniques in my sketchbook and trying to use up the supplies I have in my studio rather than succumb to Pandemic online shopping syndrome. I see Amazon boxes piled on every door step on my daily walks. Now there’s a topic: delivery man carrying a teetering pile of boxes! It’s hot and humid summer now so people are back indoors in the air conditioning. Shops and things are opening up and traffic is increasing, and my extremely Blue Period is over for now. Let’s hope it doesn’t have a resurgence. (Metaphor alert there…)
Trying new techniques while sketching only what I can see while staying at home is a good way to see my surroundings with a different point of view. Collage is a technique that for some reason takes a little less concentration than a realistic sketch. It is less bound to reality, I suppose. I included crossword puzzles from the newspaper to remind me of new activities people are doing to pass the time. You can also spot a wrapper in Chinese from a bar of soap and a photograph of Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading infectious disease specialist in the U.S. So hints of the pandemic lurk in the collage inevitably.
The flowering trees were beautiful in April and May. I am using my sketchbook to try different mediums and styles. The top painting is a close-up of a dogwood blossom in wet on wet watercolor. The sketch below is done in oil pastels, applied thickly in layers, blended and scratched through with a palette knife .