I spent a few days in magnificently wet and colorful forests on the Pacific Coast near Mendocino. Mostly hiking - but also looking at a gorgeous ocean sunset, foraging for mushrooms, and cooking them after.
Rama Hughes is an amazing artist and art teacher. He created an official portrait party quite some time ago (Here is an old blog!) and he hosts portrait parties and other wonderful drawing games online with his gang at the Art School of the Future.
I am a happy participant in these events when I have a chance and last week Rama hosted his Birthday Portrait party! I was excited to attend but the day did not go as planned and my enthusiasm was gone. Until I remembered that this is such a supportive no-stress group of people that even if I join for a few minutes and run away - I know that there would be no hard feelings. So I took a little break to rest and joined later in the party - but had such a BLAST drawing everyone!
The whole drawing experience was a disaster as my first pen ran on me like crazy and spattered a lot of ink all over. The next one ran out of ink in the middle of the line. The third one needed resuscitation which did not go well and another ink splatter happened and then another pen tugged on the paper and sprayed more ink. The last pen ran out of ink too - but by that time I was expecting something like this to happen :) I had fun cleaning and refilling my pens after but most importantly - I enjoyed drawing people and kept smiling the whole time! Thank you, Rama - and Happy Birthday!
Some time ago I got a bunch of bulbs and planted them into pots or put in the water jars. I was not sure what was where and so far these bulbs were teaching me patience. I drew them periodically. But this week one of the plants started to grow very rapidly and we have the very first flower: it’s a daffodil!
My Mind Map - Connecting Windows Into Different Lives (Hammershoi, Lucia Berlin, Bergman, Sydney Smith and more).
A few weeks ago, I shared some parts of my sketchbook where I dive into the world of books that I enjoyed recently and artworks that I am consuming by re-drawing them.
Some of the drawings and thought processes about connections did not make it to the previous post (Words and pictures about Vermeer, Hammershoi, Monet, Sydney Smith, windows, and refugee crisis). So I am adding them here - with the astonishing prose of Lucia Berlin and some stills from Bergman's movies that haunted me for weeks.
The last sketch of the day was of the Sea Ranch non-denominational chapel. It is a wonderful little building that makes me think about hobbit holes and the power of a community. It was inspired by an artist, designed based on sketches and location setting, built by local craftsmen, and is maintained by the volunteers in this community. I wish to visit more places like this! (here is a very interesting story with great photos from the process of construction).
It was the end of a long sketching day and the setting sun was gifting us a gorgeous golden glow. I did a quick pen drawing which did not dry properly (dump day and a sketchbook that was out and about all day long) - so when I sprayed it with water I got a beautiful running ink effect. Then I decided to add color but now I wish I left it and just enjoyed the view instead of rushing to catch it on my dump paper.
And these last two sketches are from a quick stop on the way back - some boats in the Bodega Bay while we chewed on our sandwiches and made plans for more trips like this.
Here are links to the other parts of this story:
I took with me a portable kit for the stencil technique that I've been working on for some time now. The experiment went very well - I can have all the tools in a pocket and work on location. It does require a surface to work on (either putting a sketchbook on my knees or standing next to somewhere where I can place my book). And I tried adding white gouache to it for the first time - here is an image I shared in a previous post - when it was unfinished. And again - in its final version.
I used this technique to work in the cypress lane too. It is a mind-bending row of trees that creates a tunnel that catches the light in a very special way. This was probably the most challenging sketching spot for me because of so many amazing views - each one more interesting than the other. All three of us ended up experimenting with our subject and tools. Photos of me are by Srivani and Suhita. Thank you!
Here are links to the other parts of this story:
After an early lunch, we moved to the beach where I got to sketch some treasures (we found a large piece of kelp with the leaves and roots and a top shell of a crab). We were sitting in a little cove with a perfect view of these two rocks guarding the entrance to the beach.
And in the next beach was occupied by harbor seals - we painted above it - view to the side and view of the seals - playing in the water (usually you see them lying on the rocks but this time we witnessed a lot of activity!).
Here are links to the other parts of this story:
I've been to the Sea Ranch before, but not like this. This time two of my friends (Suhita and Srivani) and I went for an art adventure, and it could not have been better. Our endeavor began with some rain during the drive but even that was an interesting experience on a majestic Hwy 1 along the Pacific Coast. The house was warm, and conversations were galvanizing.
The next morning we woke up to perfect weather which changed a lot during the day but every surprising turn brought more interesting light to our works. It was not cold, we witnessed some magnificent skies, we had some interesting architectural solutions and nature to draw. We managed to sketch in five different settings on that day and here are my sketches from the first one:
Here are links to the other parts of this story:
This was an evening of trying different approaches to drawing a pomegranate. At the end of the night, I used so many different materials on the last sketch that when sprayed my sketchbook with the casein fixative it started spreading in all directions. But that is fun too :)
I have my bright lights on and have a whole bunch of little festive arrangements going on - apples, persimmons, dry flowers, pine cones, magnolia cones, pistachio tree berries - and a few days ago my collection grew with this branch of Kangaroo Paws! This plant is usually yellow or red and is native to south-western Australia but is now cultivated around the world and scientists sequenced the genome of kangaroo paws and were able to produce many new colors for the kangaroo paw including blues, purples, and whites!
It's a season - persimmon season! I get all the varieties I can find and eat them and draw them and enjoy them as decorations around my home and a reason to go out and look at the beautiful trees filled with luminous leaves and then bare branches with fruits on them. The image below was painted with gouache. But I draw them with ink and pencil and watercolor and whatever I can find during this season! I will assemble my favorites here of course!
I saw this beauty in a bouquet that my friend put together - it looked so familiarly thistle-ish and so fiery orange I immediately was drawn to it and made a sketch with scissors to try and capture the fire above the onion-shaped head. And later I identified it as a Safflower!
I went to the magical forest in the Santa Cruz mountains this week. We sketched persimmon trees and apples and had a great time catching up and hatching plans for more sketching projects with Suhita and Gay. It was a wondrous time of color and bird songs at the end of a busy week and it was a gift!
As I am getting ready to part with the library books on Hammershøi, one more dive into redrawing of his windows brought up more connections and the interest to write them down. (Here is the first post about Hammershoi and another book connection).
Vermeer's light makes him one of my favorite painters, but his windows are not the main subject - they are a cornerstone of his works but there are too many other things to explore. With Hammershoi it is the elevation of the window beyond the source of light or framing device that makes me look again. The scarceness of other things and static, formulaic figures only make me look at the windows more and then just look more at everything. There is an essay that proposes homelessness as a concept for understanding Hammershoi and suggests that these paintings are a safe place for him. It helped me see that I think about his paintings as very long halts, icebergs of time. They make me think about winter feeling endless and about refugees, especially kids because of their different perceptions of time. About all the people who were torn away from their homes and whose life is suspended, people who are trying to find an anchor and human connection or at least calve that iceberg into something more manageable.
A few years ago there was an exhibition of Claude Monet's "The Early Years" and I saw it in San Francisco. One painting stuck with me since then - there is a girl with a red kerchief passing outside the window on a winter afternoon. We are looking from a room that already feels like dusk. The most interesting part for me is that I did not notice the girl during my first visit to the museum but wrote down quite a lot about the work itself. How many more times I didn't notice people?
My fascination with windows and multifarious associations needs another mention. There is an astonishing children's book illustrator whose name is Sydney Smith and in his book "Town is by the sea" (text by Joanne Schwartz) and I think that inherently this book is about windows. There are everywhere either by the presence of the light or lack of it and they are telling their own story. We see the world through them, without them, we see the world protected by them, we measure the passage of time by them. There is a lot of light in this book and a lot of darkness. But there is hope in between too, I think.
Everything is included - from lodging and food (with attention to dietary restrictions) to sketching materials and a schedule packed with demos and working side-by-side.
I am in a predicament: I love citrus fruits and especially clementines that fill my home with the fragrance and anticipation of the holidays right at the fold between fall and winter. But I also try to buy local fruits and vegetables when I have a chance. This year most of the clementines were from afar and these blew my mind completely - all the way from Australia!
The other day I had a wonderful time playing with different materials with two drawing friends. We had a variety of pastels and pencils, my gouache palette was sitting next to me. And my original plan was to simplify everything! I ended up with scissors, pencil, glue, and an attempt at the 3-dimensional sketch. The evening went well!
I got a bunch of marigolds from a friend (Thank you, Uma!) and started talking to everyone around me about these flowers.
I learned about their prevalence in the Diwali celebration and symbolism in various ceremonies and cultures. The saffron color is significant and has its connotation in the flag of India but the flower itself symbolizes brightness and positive energy. It is used in weddings and all forts of celebrations in India.
I knew these flowers as chornobryvtsi / Чорнобривці (Ukrainian) or бархатцы (Russian) and these hardy flowers were part of every flower bed during summer in my childhood as they require minimum maintenance and are usually self-seeding. They were part of folklore, traditional art, and songs and are considered one of the symbols of Ukraine.
And then more friends joined me in talking about marigolds as a part of The Day of the Dead Celebration. I learned that these flowers are native to the Americas, growing naturally from the southwestern United States into South America. The Aztecs called it campasúchil, the flower of 400 lives and they were also sacred to Mayan cultures often used to honor gods and spirits.
Marigolds were introduced to other parts of the world in the 16th century. The genus was described by Carl Linnaeus as Tagetes in 1753. The Latin name is derived from the Etruscan god named Tages who was born from the plowing of the earth (my guess is the shape of the petals are responsible for that). And the most commonly cultivated varieties of Tagetes are known as African marigolds or French marigolds.
And that is how one little unapologetically orange flower united many cultures and time periods together for me!
I received two wonderful presents from a friend recently: two gorgeously red and magnificently fuzzy socks! It's been quite warm so I considered them as two presents: I could not wear both for I would overheat. But tonight we are waiting for rain and it is such a pleasure to put them both on and feel warm and loved by a friend - from far away yet close. Thank you, dear M!
For several years now, October means that I dedicate my project time to an experiment of daily thematic drawings. It started with the idea of participating in inktober but I enjoy making my own rules every year - so we can call these anything - nintobers perhaps :)
In 2016 - I drew daily Badgers again.
In 2017 I took my just purchased iPad and used Procreate for a maiden voyage and drew digitally for a month.
In 2018 I drew Spanish words and my associations with them for a month (it is a fun way to learn language!)
2019 I drew 31 bats and added some interesting facts about them to the images.
In 2020 I experimented with stencils and printing techniques (that is where this year's project has roots).
This year (2021) I made a flower Alphabet. One letter / Flower per day. Created and posted daily. There are two versions - black and white and color - for each letter and there are obviously more pictures than there are letters in English alphabet - and here they are all together:
And here is a folder on Flickr where you can see them all closer:
I am selecting, cutting, cleaning, and polishing these to make an actual alphabet poster - but it is not ready yet.
Two books have made a deep furrow in my visual world lately. It took some time to register that, and now I am not sure if I started to take more time to look at things before I encountered these books, and that is the reason why they had such an impact or the other way around.
The first book is a series of essays about Japanese aesthetics In Praise of Shadows by the Japanese author and novelist Jun'ichirō Tanizaki. It talks about paper and toilets and writing instruments and theatre and how the path of a country is altered, how progress and cultural cross-pollination bring development and growth and also confusion, departure, and loss. And that all of these are inevitable, destructive and creative, and hard to accept yet are happening and therefore are already a part of life.
The second book is Hammershøi in Europe - it is a collection of paintings by a Dutch painter Vilhelm Hammershøi. I saw some works by Hammershoi in other books before but never noticed them or looked at them as I did after reading "In Praise of Shadows". There are studies, portraits, and landscapes and also glimpses at the shadows under the table, the light reflected in a lacquered cabinet sofa, a cup on the table, painting on the wall, roof shingles, and tree branches. And windows and doorframes and backs of the chairs and people.
These books for me are in a conversation about different ways to see light, about liminal spaces between the light and shadow, about very subtle feelings between places and periods of time, about a multitude of choices that were made and not made, and possibilities and delights of noticing. Perhaps it has something to do with my love for dust mites dancing in the sunbeams.
I've been re-drawing some Hammershoi paintings to discern them deeper.