Pandemic Sketchbook: the Return of Fleur the frog

Drawing of a frog
Fleur the Frog looks at her Portrait

I have found it difficult to draw during this fourth month of staying at home, so I started painting rocks in June instead. Rock painting seems to require less concentration. I finally got back to my sketchbook today thanks to Fleur, my old froggy friend. In this drawing, Fleur the Frog looks at a painted rock featuring her portrait. An explanation of sorts is required. When I used to blog book reviews in my former life as a librarian, I recruited Fleur, an area frog from the local swamp, to ‘write’ for the blog. It gave me a break from the task. She reappeared on one of my recent painted rocks. Then, as is her rather ‘meta/ironic?’ habit, she just popped up in this still life today (above).

Mono print of a frog
Fleur the Frog, monoprint
Drawing of a frog
Fleur the Frog, pencil

Fleur appears in my art from time to time: in the monoprint from 2019 and in the original drawing which still appears as her avatar on the old library blog (above) In today’s drawing, I used a small plastic toy as a model in the still life. Thanks, Fleur, for posing. I needed the inspiration and bit of whimsy that you always bring to my work.

Still life with frog
Box of Rocks and Frog, pencil

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: my (very brief) Blue Period

Drawing of an iris
Iris, watercolor pencil
Wild Aster drawing
Wild Aster, watercolor pencil
Drawing of a house finch
House Finch, watercolor pencil

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…)

The Value of Canada Geese

In recent days we’ve learned that the United States and Canada have lost three billion birds since 1970! I drew this picture of two Canada Geese last Spring before that sad news story broke. My art teacher photographs the birds and other wildlife in New Jersey. This drawing is based on one of her photographs. As in previous exercises, the challenge for me was to get the very dark values and to accurately catch the range of values from their bright white feathers to the midrange grays of the pond. I borrowed a 6B XXX pencil (or something way beyond my 5B) from my teacher which enabled me to catch those velvety, reflective black feathers on their necks. I hope my drawing is not a Momento Mori for our birds and their turtle friends here in New Jersey. Note: admittedly there seem to be too many Canada Geese on corporate campuses and public parks, but other species don’t adapt so well to our human sprawl and overuse of pesticides.

Drawing of geese

Canada Geese, pencil

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