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.
My 2020 “Pandemic Sketchbook” chronicled my life during the lockdown through the advent of Covid vaccines. In 2021, I started a new sketchbook whose themes were more hopeful, so I didn’t think of it as a pandemic journal. It was just a way of keeping a habit of sketching several times a week. In 2022, I started a third sketchbook, smaller and the paper is best for dry media only. I made several charcoal sketches in early spring based on museum postcards, snapshots from my 1990’s instant camera and other visual cues uncovered while decluttering my house or reading the news.
I usually work on an acrylic painting on canvas at my weekly art class. These painting can take several months to finish. After a lengthy project, I often take a mental break by working on drawings that can be completed in a couple of weeks or so. After wrestling with the adorable snowman still life, which took more time than I had anticipated, I began a series of large charcoal drawings based on my teacher’s photographs of wildlife. These are about 11 x 14 inches on Bristol board, which should be the right proportions for making note cards.
In my last post, I mentioned that one element of the still life I am working on in my teacher’s studio has to come home with me each week. I can’t leave the poinsettia because the studio cats might be tempted to nibble on this toxic plant. So the potted poinsettia gets tucked up in a brown paper bag each week and sits in the passenger seat while I drive home. So far the cold weather has not bothered it. It is so cold in my home studio that the plant is now on my dining room table where it’s nice and warm for this tropical denizen and also warm enough for me to draw it in my sketchbook today without freezing my hands. I sketched the plant loosely in pencil, then inked it in black. I erased the pencil marks, then added the color with a new set of watercolor markers that my daughter gave me for Christmas. The colors are vivid. The brand is ‘Primrosia.’
Looking back on my painting progress and process, by early December, the pumpkin had rotted and was put out for the squirrels. The flowers were dead and brittle. The gourd was hanging in there pretty well, but I was frustrated. And cold. Very cold.
I was now working from a combination of a large printout of an old photograph, an iPad on a stand displaying the photograph of the still life as it originally was, and the sad remnants of the still life on the table. I was also a little tired of the whole thing after two months. Plus, with the Pandemic raging around us, I was masked, glasses fogging up, bundled up in layers, and leaving the studio doors open because three of us were working in the shared studio. We kept our distance, trying to converse through muffling masks across the space and hands frozen in medical gloves because we shared some brushes and paints. Well, this was an art class unlike any other in the past and I’m sure we will look back on it and be amazed.
This was my first acrylic painting aside from a couple quick studies last fall. I plan to keep going with this medium in 2021.
When I finished the painting, I disassembled the still life I had been studying for weeks. The gourd went out for the squirrels. The dead flowers were thrown out. The vase washed and put away. The battered silver tray returned to my kitchen to hold a bottle of hand soap and sanitizer. I folded the red flannel drape for future use in my studio. I’m ready to gaze at a new still life.
I finally finished my painting in the week before the Christmas break in our classes. I learned a lot. I could not have done this without the excellent and patient instruction from my wonderful teacher. Teachers rock! Happy New Year!