Drawing Every Day Matters Life in general Sketchbook Pages Watercolor

Mailboxes: Everyday Matters Challenge #73

Everyday Matters’ challenge for this week is to draw or paint your mailbox. Below is a sketch of my front porch and mailbox (though I think I temporarily forgot everything I knew about drawing when I made it), plus photos of my actual painted mailboxes and a story about mailboxes and Art as Revenge:

Mailbox drawing

Below is my current mailbox (my crazy cats and I with address slightly blurred to protect the innocent):

Below is my old mailbox: (Notice the required opening of the jaws to insert mail.)

Molly-mailbox Open

Back in the freedom-loving Berkeley days of the 1970s, leash laws weren’t enforced and dogs could go anywhere with their owners. You never heard about people being attacked and bitten by pet dogs. Our friendly old dog Molly loved to bask in the sun in our front yard and would lazily greet people who parked on our street while shopping for produce at nearby Monterey Market.

We had been waiting for an important piece of mail–a much needed escrow check. After a week of not receiving ANY mail or notice as to why there was no mail, I spotted our mailman (who looked very much like R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural) at the end of the block. I caught up to him and asked why we had no mail.

He told me he wasn’t delivering it anymore if our dog was outside. He wasn’t impressed by my saying she was gentle and harmless. I demanded he give me our mail; he refused. I begged him to give it to me and said he could just put it on the ground and I’d pick it up; he refused. So I climbed onto the hood of his jeep holding my toddler, Cody in my arms, and insisted I wouldn’t get off until he gave me our mail. He threatened to call his supervisor (but couldn’t get to a pay phone unless I got off his jeep in this pre-cell phone era). We both threatened to call the police (he was stealing our mail, I said). We went back and forth like this for quite awhile, and we both refused to give in.

Finally, Cody announced he was hungry (and I’m sure confused by his mother’s very odd behavior) and then the postman announced that actually, he had no mail in his pouch for me. At this I realized I’d lost, got off his jeep, and from then on had to make sure Molly was indoors if I wanted to get mail.

But ART IS POWERFUL and I got my revenge. I kept Molly inside but painted my mailbox to look like her so he had to put his hand inside the dog’s mouth each time he delivered the mail!

Of course, I later came to understand how dangerous a mail carrier’s job can be and know how often they actually do get bitten…so Mr. Natural…er, Mr. Postman… if you’re reading this, I apologize.

Drawing Every Day Matters Plein Air Sketchbook Pages Watercolor

Reflecting Pool at Blake Gardens

Watercolor on Arches 9×12.

I returned to Blake Gardens today, much better equipped for painting outdoors and did this 2-hour sketch of the pond from a different angle. I brought my new lightweight Winsor Newton watercolor easel and put all of my supplies into my granny cart (one of those tall wheeled mesh carts that you usually see old ladies pulling to the grocery store. I’d bought it a year ago to use like a janitor’s rolling cart and pulled it around the house with my cleaning supplies hanging from it and a trash bag in the middle–now it can do double duty since I paint way more than I clean!). Setting up, I clamped a sheet of foamcore on top of the cart which turned it into a handy table beside the easel.

When I arrived I had a delicious picnic on the grass under the tall trees. My back got tired halfway through painting so I laid in the grass for a while and watched the sky like I used to love to do when I was a little girl.

Drawing Every Day Matters Gardening Life in general Plein Air Watercolor

Plein Air Painting at Blake Gardens (EDM: Someplace New)

Blake Garden

Plein air painting done at Blake Gardens, the 11 acre botanical gardens and University of California President’s Residence in Kensington, CA. (Open to the public weekdays.)

The Everyday Matters challenge for this week was to go someplace new and paint it. I’d never been to Blake Gardens before and I’d never done a complete watercolor plein air painting before except little sketchbook pictures, so I went to Blake Gardens and did this painting on a 9×12 Arches watercolor block.This scan actually looks better than the original, which was a little washed out.

I’m very fond of working in my studio from my photographs, with excellent lighting, comfortable temperature, a stereo playing my favorite music or audio books, and a comfy window seat when I need to sit back with a cool drink from the nearby fridge and rest.

Plein air (outdoor) painting is different! It was very HOT out so I picked a spot in the shade, but as the sun moved it was soon shining directly in my face. My white paper was blinding me. I’d look up at the scene and could barely see it–all I could see was white. My paint kept drying too quickly and I’d brought a too-small brush which was making icky streaks. I had to give up on wet-in-wet painting entirely and had trouble mixing colors because they looked much brighter than they really were. I spent the first hour just doing thumbnails, trying to figure out which part of the scene to put in the picture. It’s much easier to compose a painting from a photo than looking at the wide world in person!

I’m glad I pushed myself to try something new and will go back again soon, with bigger brushes, an umbrella and better snacks.