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: collage

Collages of potted plants
Aloes on the deck, collage
Geraniums, collage

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.

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: still life with mask

Still life with mask, charcoal pencil
Still life with mask, charcoal pencil

Grocery shopping during the pandemic requires a mask in New Jersey. Store shelves are often empty and some things are almost impossible to find. But this week, I found a bag of dried peas and the prize: a roll of toilet paper! I tried to draw this still life with a dramatic, raking light and very dark and light values.

Help, My Still Life is Moldy!

Moldy gourds

Moldy gourds

I returned to my studio after a long break and found these fall gourds have turned all moldy. Yech!

If you ever wondered why artists paint still life subjects, you probably realize that everyday objects are cheap, available, they don’t fidget like live models, or run away like children and animals. But flowers wilt, candy gets eaten, and produce can get disgusting after a while.

Someone told me that the painter Soutine, known for his still life’s of raw meat, would keep the meat until the stench of rotting meat was unbearable and meanwhile he really was a starving artist because his stomach ailments made it difficult to eat.

And another still life anecdote, Cezanne demanded of his model, ‘you must sit like an apple!’ Which explained why he painted apples so often – more cooperative and uncomplaining.

So work quickly and take pictures. Just think what Cezanne and Soutine would have done with an iPhone!