Spring Things and not so Spring-y Things (Self-Portrait)

Figgie 2014, ink and watercolor, 8x5.5 in

Figgie 2014, ink and watercolor, 8×5.5 in

This little fig tree has survived so much: being transplanted, then a killer frost, and then transplanting again after sewer line work. As soon as leaves sprouted this year so did two figs. Sadly the crows or squirrels (or the toddler next door?) took them before I could even post this.

Little Rose Studies, ink and watercolor, 7.5x5.5 in

Little Rose Studies, ink and watercolor, 7.5×5.5 in

I sat in the driveway and quickly sketched some roses but had to stop when the shadow of the house took away the light.

End of Journal Self-Portrait, graphite, 5x7.5 in

End of Journal Self-Portrait, graphite, 5×7.5 in

And then there’s my not so spring-y self, frowning into the mirror, with hat-head and something wrong with the mouth. And yes, it’s intentionally buried at the bottom of this post. It feels good to be drawing again, after what seems like months away from it. It’s also a little frustrating feeling rusty at it. But the only fix for that is more drawing!

Empress Hornblower and the Wanna Be Cantaloupe

Empress Hornblower at Sunset, ink and watercolor, 5x7 in

Empress Hornblower at Sunset, ink and watercolor, 5×7 in

Sounds like a great title for a children’s book, no? The Empress Hornblower (above) is part of a fleet of party boats moored behind the ritzy hotel at the northern Berkeley marina, an area long-time residents remember as the old Berkeley dump.

Before “ecology” and “global warming” were common words, cities dumped their garbage, old cars, construction rubble, etc. in the San Francisco Bay. As they filled in the bay with garbage, they created new land on which they built housing, freeways, and, when they finally closed the dump, parks and hotels.

Wanna Be Cantalope

Wanna Be Cantaloupe, ink and watercolor, 5×7 in

My tenant (I own/live in a duplex) loves to garden so I put in a raised bed for her and we prepared the soil along the side of our property for flowers and veges. When she  planted cantaloupes I warned her they wouldn’t thrive in our foggy climate but she ignored me.

They were cute but never got bigger than chubby  cucumbers, and probably most of that was skin. She pulled them out before she left on vacation in October. I didn’t have the heart to ask her if she ate them or put them in the green bin for recycling.

Glove Love (Every Day in May #11)

EDIM 11-Gardening Gloves, ink & watercolor sketch, 8x10"

EDIM 11-Gardening Gloves, ink & watercolor sketch, 8×10″

I received these wonderful half-rubber, half-knitted gardening gloves as a house-warming gift when I bought my home in 2001. They’re still in excellent condition and I think of the friend who gave them to me every time I prune my roses without getting wounded by the thorns.

I’m not sure if their excellent condition is because they’re such good quality or because I don’t spend enough time gardening. I set them on a roll of transparent packing tape on my drawing table to sketch them and let the paint mingle on the paper instead of mixing one color. Drawing gloves is fun!

 

Something Creepy and A Lock: Every Day in May 9-10

EDiM 10: Something Creepy, ink & watercolor, 8x5"

EDiM 10: Something Creepy, ink & watercolor, 8×5″

The creepiest things around my house are snails and slugs. They creep along, leaving their silvery trails of slime. Yuck. My gardeners warned me that the big Agapanthus plants left behind by the former owner of my home were snail havens and wanted to remove them. But I like the crazy purple flowers and left them. To collect snails to sketch I knew where to go: I filled a plastic cup from two Agapanthus.

Most of the snails curled up in their shells and hid. One was very curious and climbed onto a leaf I stuck in the cup. I put the leaf and snail on the table to draw but he was a busy guy so I had to keep moving him when he reached the end of the leaf. Then I put him in the cup and he started climbing up and over the side, giving me a clear view of his face, which was just a little nub, with no apparent eyes or mouth. Extremely creepy.

EDiM 9-10, Draw a Lock & Something Creepy, ink & watercolor, 8x11"

EDiM 9-10, Draw a Lock & Something Creepy, ink & watercolor, 8×11″

The lock above is one I’ve had for many years. It lives in my gym bag and even though I sometimes go long stretches without using it, I seem to always remember the combination. I keep the combination in my iPhone’s contact list just in case I forget. I don’t want to be stranded in the locker room!  I struggled a bit drawing the lock so did it several times, starting with the one at the bottom.

More about snails:

Even though I didn’t see eyes or mouth it turns out they have them. Their weak eyes are on the end of their tentacles, the mouth is underneath the head. They don’t have ears and can’t hear but have a good sense of smell (though no nose). Lots more interesting snail facts on Snail World.com.

My Junkyard Garden

Old Car Parts in the Spring Garden, ink & watercolor 8x11"

Old Car Parts in the Spring Garden, ink & watercolor 8×11″

I inherited a bunch of rusty old car parts when I converted the garage (formerly used by my son to restore a 1970 muscle car) into my studio. I thought they were interesting looking “sculptures” and stuck them in my garden, planning to draw them.

It took me a year to get around to it but I finally spent a fun morning sketching them amidst sprouting irises. When I finished, I gave most of them to the my gardener who also collects scrap metal for recycling. I kept the two most interesting pieces as possible oil painting still life subjects in the future.

The Cycle of Life and a New Year: Figgy Survives!

Ink and watercolor illustration of bare fig tree

Figgy Lives to Fruit Again, ink & watercolor, 8×5″

Poor Figgy! I knew when I planted her (him? if it fruits is it female? do trees have genders?) from a little twig that it might be too close to my old clay pipe sewer line. And it was: the roots grew down and my drains clogged up.

Baby Fig's First Fruit, ink & watercolor, 5x8"; a watercolor sketch of a figs

Baby Fig’s First Fruit, ink & watercolor, 5×8″

I have documented this little tree’s life since I first planted it as a cutting (see planting a stick, 3 leaves, and skinny trunks) and for the first time it had produced several delicious figs (sketched above). There were still a few on the tree (can you find them in the sketch below?).

Fig Tree: Tall as My Pocket, Ink & watercolor, 8x5", drawing of fig tree

Fig Tree: Tall as My Pocket, Ink & watercolor, 8×5″

After several approaches to fix the clog failed, the plumber had to dig a huge, deep hole to reline the pipes. This required moving the tree, which it turns out, I’d planted RIGHT ON TOP of the sewer line where it met the street.

Digging out the tree, ink & watercolor sketch

Digging out the tree, ink & watercolor sketch

The plumber is a good man who loves trees.While I watched and sketched, he had his crew very carefully dig the tree out, gently arrange and trim the extensive roots (it’s true: trees have as much below the ground as above). Then they dug another big hole several feet away and replanted Figgy.

Critical Condition, ink & watercolor, dying fig tree drawing

Critical Condition (both me and Figgy).
I never seem to have enough information when working with contractors and often make wrong decisions. I cropped off and spared you from most of my journal scribbling on that subject.

By then it was getting dark, I was getting panicky as I’d been without water and bathroom use all day, and the job was extensive and expensive. They set up lights and kept working, finishing around 9:00 that night.

A few days later I could see Figgy was in critical condition. The leaves were dead and the branches were shriveling. That called for emergency surgery; I cut off most of them and as you can see by the sketch at the top of the post, it was successful.

So Figgy is a stick again, but full of potential, just as the year ends and a new one begins. I will spend this evening reflecting on 2012 and 2013 and will post about that soon. Meanwhile, best wishes to all for blossoming in a lively and good new year !

Airstream Trailer Coffee Kiosk at Flowerland Nursery

Flowerland Cafe, ink & watercolor, 6x8

Flowerland Cafe, ink & watercolor, 6×8

Lately food trucks pop up all over the Bay Area; former roach coaches are the new gourmet dining spots. But this is the first vintage Airstream trailer food truck I’ve seen and it doesn’t travel. It’s set up on blocks inside Flowerland Nursery on Solano Avenue in Albany (California–next door to Berkeley) and run by Local 123 Cafe.

I can’t think of a better place to enjoy a good cup of coffee than in a lovely garden. The lovely folks at Flowerland Nursery put interesting chairs and tables throughout the nursery, turning the whole place into a sort of garden café. You can get your coffee and then sit among the palms, the native plants, fruit trees or climbing vines to enjoy it.

And when you finish your coffee, you can take home the chair you sat on or the plant you sat beside (for a price of course).

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