I started sketching scenes from my daily walks during the stay at home mandate. I spotted people taking work calls as they walked. Lots of dogs happily being walked many times a day. People waved and were friendly, while keeping at a six foot distance. Towards the end of the first week, I spotted police wrapping playground equipment in orange snow fencing and putting up yellow police tape to keep kids off the equipment. The mayor sent out an announcement that parks would stay open if people kept their distance, but playground equipment could carry some risk of transmitting the virus, so we were advised not to allow children to use them. That scene and the cawing crows in the trees made this a sobering moment as the virus began to spread from New York to New Jersey.
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.
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.
I started a pastel landscape of the Passaic River which runs along the edge of my town as it loops around northern New Jersey. I decided to take a break from the landscape of the Adige River in Verona, Italy which was at the stage where it was driving me crazy. So I thought, just grab the small pastel pad and do a relaxing little sketch based on some pictures and sketches I made last spring. Of course, paintings have a way of taking on an ornery life of their own. Despite its small scale and my promise to myself to just relax, I struggled through a number of issues. I worked on this at home without the guidance of my art teacher. I have reached a stopping point and ‘The Passaic’ was photographed this afternoon in my makeshift kitchen photo ‘studio’ (ha ha, see my previous post about photographing my work for this blog.) ‘The Passaic’ will be wrapped in glassine and put out of reach and sight for now. So here it is, pastel on 9×12 tinted Canson pastel paper.