I spent a few days in the forest - looking at things and also looking for mushrooms. Here are some that I decided to bring with me home:
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.
I planned to make a process video today about my sketchbook page where I draw and paint scales from Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii). It did not go well. Here is a list of mistakes I made: filmed at a wonky angle; filmed at wrong orientation; did timelapse instead of video; did a video instead of time-lapse; forgot to turn on filming; cursed during filming; bad framing; shaky table/camera set-up; lost my train of thought when writing text, and the list goes on and on...
A couple of stills though will tell you the most important thing there is to know about all of the above: the scales of the bunya pine cone are enormous and magnificently textured. I hope to see a whole pinecone one day.
Two momentous changes are happening to the situation on my work table. No - the mess is still there - though I plan to draw it all and enjoy an temporary space for however long it will last. But the revolutions are: I have a new tea pot and a new paint water container. Somehow I managed to throw away the old tea pot without sketching it (probably because I was too upset when it cracked). But I got the plastic jar out of the recycling bin to draw (though now I am not sure this thing should be recycled).