It’s a mid-summer day in March and I’m still trapped in my house. Nothing to do but watch the tulips open, curl, fade and lose their petals in this heat. They too are wondering where spring went.
This was done with watercolour pencils, which I have never used before. I wasn’t sure quite what to do with them. If you want green do you mix yellow and blue on the paper and hope for the best? Or do you use a green pencil? It was a bit of an experiment on a day when I couldn’t get out… And a very difficult work to scan (especially the yellows!) because of the vibrancy of the colours.
It’s the first day of spring but it feels like the first day of summer and that is just freakish. We went directly from winter to summer, totally bypassing spring. Straight from coats, boots, and mittens to shorts and tank tops. But this is just some kind of cruel joke because no doubt the cold will be back next week.
The Mexican painter Frida Kahlo was bedridden for most of her life due to a terrible accident that occurred while she was riding a bus. She was in a full body cast for months and many of her self-portraits were painted from her bed. Thankfully I wasn’t in a bus accident but I did have to paint from bed today because of a back injury. And my sketch does have a mirror in it but thankfully it’s not a self-portrait.
For some of us who live in cold climates, checking the frozen ground and waiting for something green to emerge from the thawing soil is a daily activity in March and April. There are no shoots poking out of the ground yet in my garden but when my son surprised me with these tulips the other day I felt almost sure that spring will come.
This winter I couldn’t venture too far from home to paint so mostly I ended up driving around and around, up and down the same streets, looking for somewhere interesting to stop. I keep thinking I will run out of places but it all depends on the time of day and the way light is hitting objects. This is the same street in Pointe Claire where I painted “Old Pole New Pole” a few weeks ago but this is the other side of the road.
In his book Dog Days David Hockney says of his dachshunds “They are not very good models. One knock on the door is enough to make them leap up”. In my house it is the opening of the dishwasher.
All winter I’ve been working in my Moleskine and I’ve become quite used to the paper in that little sketchbook. None of the single sheets of watercolour paper I have on hand quite matches it. Arches cold press is too rough, and hot press is too smooth. So I ordered some Fabriano Artistico soft press and guess what? It’s just right.
This was painted with a limited palette of three colours — ultramarine blue, raw sienna and alizarin crimson.
It was raining/snowing too hard today to do a lot of painting in my car so I used my pen instead. Even though colour is my first love it’s fun to go back to line work once in a while.
Posting a sketch a day can be a challenge because sometimes what I paint is just not good enough for public viewing. Usually when that happens it’s because I overworked the painting or I got too finicky with it and it lost its freshness (like the first one I did today!!). Last week I described one solution which was to do something completely different and give yourself a time limit of ten minutes. Today I found a another solution. Start a new sketch but with a brush that is too big for what you’re painting. That way you can’t get caught up in the details. For this painting in my smallest Moleskine (3″ x 5″) I used a very big round brush (#10) and only went to a smaller one when I painted some of the texture in the grass.
The snow is melting quickly these days and with some rain tomorrow and then really warm temperatures later in the week, there may not be any snow left by the weekend. But there were still a few white patches at the edge of this farmer’s field this morning. I sketched this panorama in my large Moleskine.