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Not Wood Roses

Wood Roses or Pine Cones? (ink & watercolor)
Wood Roses or Pine Cones? (ink & watercolor)

I found these taking a walk (I was walking, not these thingees) which I thought might be called Wood Roses…but I looked it up and learned that Woodrose is “a parasitic plant endemic to New Zealand.”  Since these fell from a pine tree in Berkeley, they’re definitely not woodrose, but they do look like Wood Roses!

Faces Ink and watercolor wash Life in general Painting People Sketchbook Pages Watercolor

Sketching as an Antidote to Insanity

Marcy calling home, ink & watercolor
Marcy calling home from Mom's porch, ink & watercolor

It wasn’t an easy weekend in L.A. visiting family but sketching really helped me to avoid going completely bonkers. There were some lovely moments: walking on the beach in the misty morning with my sister Marcy, taking a tour with Mom and Marce of an historic house (now a museum) in Santa Monica where a huge retrospective of Milford Zorne‘s amazing paintings were on display (more about that in another post).

Mom cooking stinky cabbage, ink & watercolor
Mom cooking stinky cabbage, ink & watercolor

My 85 year old mother doesn’t cook much anymore, but she got inspired to make Pracas (sweet and sour meatballs in cabbage).  But despite not having some of the ingredients or being able to see the recipe in the cookbook well enough to follow it, and despite the jar of ancient fossilized onion flakes she substituted for the actual onion in the recipe (demanding that I use a sharp knife to break the clump up so it could be extracted from the jar), and the house stinking like cabbage all afternoon, dinner wasn’t that bad, really.

Guy sleeping holding his boarding pass; hanging out at Mom's
Guy sleeping holding his boarding pass at Oakland airport; hanging out at Mom's
Grateful for my pen & sketchbook
Grateful for my sketchbook

It’s amazing how sketching can calm my nerves and put the whole dysfunctional family thing at a distance while still being physically present.

Josh reading
Josh reading

It’s really good to be back home.

Drawing Life in general People Sketchbook Pages Watercolor

Life Without Coffee

Life Without Coffee, ink & watercolor in sketchbook
Life Without Coffee, ink & watercolor in sketchbook

This is what I look like far too often these days as I’ve gradually been reducing my caffeine intake. I’m down to one cup of 25% caf & 75% decaf in the morning and then nothing but decaf after that.

My painting ritual had been to make a cup of coffee before heading into the studio and bringing an entire vacuum pot of the stuff when I went out plein air painting. The extra energy from caffeine not only kept me painting when I should have been sleeping, but it also fueled my late night blog visiting and email answering.

It was fun having that artificial boost, but burning the candle at both ends was doing bad things to my health. While I miss the energy, I am sleeping at night now and waking up feeling alive and ready to go instead of feeling like my head is full of mashed potatoes.

It reminds me of something Maya Angelou said her grandmother told her:

“You don’t always get what you pay for, but you always pay for what you get.”

Yes I was squeezing extra hours out of the day but I was paying for them with being constantly sleep-deprived.

I asked a friend who doesn’t use caffeine what you’re supposed to do when you’re tired if you can’t drink coffee, thinking she’d have some other trick for keeping going. She looked at me perplexed at what seemed like a silly question.

“You rest!” she said. What a novel concept!

Sketchbook Pages Still Life Watercolor

Summer Leftovers #2: Avocado & Apricot Pits

Avocado & Apricot Pits, Watercolor on coldpress paper, 6x8
Avocado & Apricot Pits, Watercolor on coldpress paper, 6x8"

I thought that these apricot pits and this avocado pit, still in a bit of it’s outer papery sheath would be a good subject for using my set of Kremer Pigments’ pan watercolors.  The Kremer watercolors are unusual in that they’re so highly pigmented, mostly opaque and mostly sedimentary. They are quite stable when applied: the colors don’t charge or bleed much into each other, unlike the more volatile quinacridone and other synthetic pigments.

But I found that those qualities make them less suitable for glazing because their opacity and and saturation mean that one layer hides the one beneath it. Half of the colors in my 14-color palette are muted shades of red, brown, gold, green; a few are more brilliant, but so richly colored that they have to be thinned way down to appear transparent.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not as familiar with how these colors work together as I am my regular palette of mostly Winsor Newton tube watercolors. It takes practice to have control over one’s media and I felt pretty out of control with these but enjoyed playing with them. I’ll try them again for the next summer leftovers.

Sketchbook Pages Still Life

Summer Leftovers #1: Rosehips in Watercolor

Rosehips, watercolor on hotpress paper, 6x8"
Rosehips, watercolor on hotpress paper, 6x8"

After yesterday’s major migraine adding insult to a weeklong cold/flu bug, I’m grateful to be back among the living today, even if still less than 100%. It seemed like a good day to start doing some watercolor sketches of the collection of thingees I’ve saved from the summer, including pits from all my favorite stone fruits, shriveled and dried things from plants now gone, and stuff I’ve picked up on walks. These rosehips were the most recent and most colorful; all of the other stuff is in shades of brown and more about texture than color.

Since I’ve gotten used to oil painting alla prima*, it’s interesting to switch to watercolor and slow down to let sections/layers of watercolor dry before each next step. It makes for a nice rhythm and prevents that mindless paint paint paint I run into with oils. Waiting for the paint to dry gives time to step away and and then return to see what’s needed with fresh eyes and a chance to think a bit before putting down the paint.

*Alla Prima: A style of painting where the painting is done in one session while the paint is still wet. From the Italian word which literally means at all at once).