Fading, slowly

A bunch of cheery tulips in February is always a welcome pick-me-up in the depths of an Ontario winter. And as they slowly fade, they become ever more interesting to draw.

I started with the jug of flowers, then the individual portraits as the flowers started their decline. Thanks to the course Botanical Sketchbooking: A Meditative Approach by Lapin (on Domestika) I have learned to slow down, observe carefully, not worry about “mistakes”, and draw directly with ink. I’ve also started incorporating colour pencil and a white gel pen, à la Lapin. It makes for a relaxing, and exhilarating, experience.

Herbarium inspiration

A few weeks ago I attended an online workshop given by the talented Jean Mackay courtesy of the Winslow Art Centre. She demonstrated how to access the vast international collection of herbarium and insectarium collections available through a central website, and then how she uses the digital images of these specimens for inspiration in her nature journal. This was particularly appealing to me at this time of year — the depth of winter in Ontario.

The first result was this sketch. Simply a colourful composition based on a few specimens and my imagination. A pleasant way to spend a winter afternoon. Thank you Jean for the inspiration and guidance!

January exhuberance

I received a joyful, lively, colourful bouquet for my birthday (thanks sweetheart). It was so exuberant it was hard to know where to start! But eventually I did, here’s the result.

My cat Harrley wanted to get in on the action.
He’s only sniffing the palette, not licking it!

Island treats

I received a tantalizing assortment of goodies from my dear friends on Salt Spring Island for Christmas. They looked so lovely piled up that I had to sketch them. All the while smokey wafts of hot peppers filled my nostrils and glints of sugar sparkled on the candied peel. Now that the sketch is done, I can get cooking and tasting.

Flower Power

I needed a boost to start the year, and I got one thanks to Karen Abend’s online challenge to draw a flower each day for 5 days. A photo reference and suggested approach was provided each day. It worked to get me drawing again, and I also learned a few things: draw the same thing a few times, try different materials, don’t fret. (Some of these drawings appear at the end of this post).

I also realized how much I prefer drawing from life, rather than a photo. Thankfully my amaryllis was still in bloom, so I drew it, then I drew it again, then, with great trepidation, added colour.

Day 1 challenge: draw directly with ink.
I found my own black and white photo of a rose from many decades ago and drew it using a dark brown ArtGraf tailor chalk which I had just purchased.
What a challenging flower to try and draw! This was the third attempt.

Suddenly Last Summer

Last summer I was balanced precariously on the edge of a raised garden bed, reaching for beans growing up a tall obelisk, most of them scarlet runner beans. Hummingbirds are particularly attracted to the brilliant red flowers produced by this pole bean, and the obelisk was covered with them. Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw a hummingbird, feeding on the nectar, only about 18 inches from my head! I heard it before I saw it, so I knew to keep still. Fortunately I have good peripheral vision, so I was able to get a pretty good look without turning my head. After enjoying several blooms it flew off.

I finally finished this sketch — started months ago — adding the bird (thanks to internet images) and the beans. So that magical encounter is now recorded in paint for posterity.

Bobolinks and Brandywine

Several weeks ago I realized that the straw sitting in my Brandywine tomato plant was actually the start of a nest. I’m fairly certain that the eggs that eventually appeared, and the bird sitting on them were boblink. This bird normally nests in meadows and fields (it is now quite rare due to disappearing nesting habitat). With the hayfield next door harvested, they needed a new spot. My thick “hedgerow” of tomato plants was ideal.

The bobolink chose the right plant, as this particular one was producing an unprecedented number of large tomatoes providing terrific camouflage. Brandywine was the first heirloom tomato I became familiar with when I started growing my own tomato plants from seeds many decades ago. Their fruit is usually quite large and the nest was eventually barely visible among the slowly ripening fruit.

Once the chicks had hatched and left the nest, it was safe for me to sit by the plant and try to capture this unusual scene (drawn fairly quickly on a hot, sunny day and finished later). I’m not sure if it’s a successful sketch, but it’s a better record than a quick photo.

About time…

I was surprised to see that it’s been 3 months since my last post. I’ve been sketching, following courses, drawing while waiting at the vaccine centre, car mechanic, etc., etc. Then, a couple of weeks ago (how time flys), for the first time in about a year, I got together with my fellow local sketchers to sketch en plein air at the Glengarry Pioneer Museum. It was a perfect day for it and so good to connect with the local art gang.

I sketched a view of the Trapper’s cabin. I was pretty rusty, but managed to produce this.

A couple of weeks ago it was time to harvest the garlic, which must be done at a certain point in the plant’s decline if you are to have success in storing the garlic for the months ahead. I planted Red Russian which has a soft pink hue. With the mud still clinging to the bulbs I couldn’t resist a sketch before hanging them up to cure in the barn, along with about 60 heads of Music garlic. In about 4 to 6 weeks I can trim and clean the bulbs to put in cold storage.

And a couple of months ago the hay fields next door got cut. And a week ago it was already time for a second cut. I did a quick sketch of the first cut. Those cylinder’s of hay are tricky to get right!

It’s a jungle out there.

I sketched this spot in the garden where, while sitting, it is an eyeful of foliage and flowers. And it changes a bit every day.

After drawing in pen, I used Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle watercolour pencils, just for a change of pace, then watercolour paint. The pencil colour is intense.