Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Eruption of Spring

More than any other season here on my island, Spring erupts almost overnight with no regard for what the temperature may be or what the date is on the calendar. And Spring has landed.

I too feel an urgency to try to capture everything about the first few weeks before the lightning fast changes occur. I can't seem to get enough. I find I look at everything differently, even the humble little honeysuckle shoots under the pergola, their translucent "skins" drinking in the sunlight.

It's like I woke up and realized the world had turned to living color. I suppose only another artist would understand this. I am not gifted enough to write cohesively about what it feels like. But Dorothy would understand. She felt it when she landed in Munchkinland.

Herons are everywhere, tiptoeing through the marsh now that the frogs are abundant. Their heads and necks remind me of an arrow; pointing then released to strike.

Yesterday, after my morning walk at the pond, I just couldn't bear to return home and head into the studio to work. So I ambled off to Jockey's Ridge, the largest, living, sand dune on the East Coast. The new grasses closest to me were shining with greens, catching the early spring light. And a glorious cloud bank was building behind the dune to the west. I hoped I'd be lucky enough to catch those clouds in a painting when I returned home. But alas, as clouds are fleeting it didn't happen.

I did a couple of sketches and at last, finally felt full, ready to return home.

Jockey's Ridge

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Into the field I go!

My first love, as most of you know, is field sketching. Nothing can take the place of being out in nature and studying your subject firsthand.

I teach a lot of workshops on location, a joy for me, and my students come away happy and fulfilled. The first question I am always asked is this: What do I bring with me in my pack.

So here goes. First off, I have a Walkstool. It is a fabulous, lightweight stool with three telescopic legs. But any lightweight camp stool would suffice. I also wear a baseball cap to help with the sun's glare. And I bring a large bottle of water for me and to use if I decide to add a splash of watercolor to my sketches.

Now for the inside of my pack. My Canson sketchbook with spiral binding is the one item I cannot live without, followed closely by my Pitt Artist Pens, F, S and assorted B tips. I also add a General's Sketch and Wash pencil, Papermate mechanical pencils, and ball point pens.

I have never taken to watercolor pencils. So I took an old watercolor container and outfitted it with my own Daniel Smith paints and a few old brushes. Can't forget the paper towels and water holder. Another old container carries a few sticks of Nupastels for some color accents. And finally, a pack of post cards. I love to do one after I'm done working in my book.

All of it fits neatly into my old thrift store bag. Of course I better not forget my glasses!

And that's it. Easy enough to carry and chock full of everything I could possibly want in the field.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Postcards from the Edge - of the Ocean

I have begun an interesting sideline to my outdoor sketching. I thought it would be a nice alternative to the photo postcards everyone buys on our island to offer an original watercolor one. This postcard can be sent through the mail and framed as a reminder of an Outer Banks vacation.

I had done a couple of them years ago, and after finding them buried in the back of a drawer, I decided to give it another go. I love the small format since it doesn't allow me to overwork or spend too much time on each one. Now, they are not all successful as you can see, but I think some are rather charming.

So now, while I'm outdoors sketching in my book, I do a little postcard too.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Being Still

Be still and surprising things will happen all around you.

Though it's still bitter cold, I went to the pond this morning. I have never been there on a Saturday. Only two people strolled by and they weren't as friendly as the weekday people. Perhaps they had a bad work week and now they had to exercise on the weekend to boot. I understand. I rather liked having MY pond to myself.

I "flew" around my laps, keeping to my promise of no sketching till the exercise is done. I was just so eager to get to sketching all the birds I kept seeing at the edge of the water.

Now here is one of the benefits of documenting one place. Finally I got to sit and I saw two Cedar Waxwings perched above my head; WAY EARLY for them to be showing their masked faces. But what a gift to me. Waxwings stand for gentleness and courtesy, something we all need to foster within ourselves these days.

I teach a class on how to draw birds, so my work this morning will be a good example of what to do in the field. Birds rarely sit still for you. You need to work fast - start by just observing them; are they rounded, long tail or short, thick bill or thin. Then lay in some basic shapes and a line for positioning. Now these sketches may not look like much to you, but I am now able to use them for reference to do an accurate drawing of that bird.

But back to the topic of this post. People are always in a rush. Keeping a nature journal forces you to slow down, relax and be in the moment. But you don't need to be an artist to enjoy nature. If you want to truly experience Mother Nature, you have to just sit and be still.

You will be surprised at how soon nature will resume and forget you are there. This little Yellow-rump Warbler got so used to me this morning he spent many minutes at my feet, poking through the grasses!