I’ve really been enjoying using a brush pen. It just feels great to draw with. But it didn’t seem like it would be the right tool for sketching flowers. Delicate petals and subtle nuances of colour drawn with a thick black line? Would it work? I tried it out in a smallish Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook (my favourite of their books), added a bit of watercolour, and I have to admit, it came out better than I expected. The thing about the brush pen is that it has an expressive line because you can add and release pressure while you draw. That’s probably why I like it so much, in fact. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
I would bet that most visitors to Savannah get to see the famous fountain in Forsyth Park, whether on foot or seated in one of the famous touring trolleys, but only the very lucky get to see it around St. Patrick’s Day when the water has been turned green. The approach to the iconic fountain is unforgettable — you walk up a wide path lined with azaleas (flowering at this time of year), under a canopy of Live Oaks dripping with moss — and the white fountain is set against a backdrop of deep green. Everyone stops to gaze up at it and many take a seat on a bench nearby to admire it for a longer time. No doubt one of the most magnificent spots to spend an hour or so in the city.
I knew when I saw an Atlanta number on my phone that it could only be good news about my lost bag. Yes, it has been located and is on its way back home as I write this.
I knew from the start of my journey home from Savannah that it had been mistagged. It travelled all the way to Denver and when no one claimed it, it was sent back to the lost luggage depot in Atlanta. Thanks to self-proclaimed nosy Delta baggage employee Jerry who looked at my luggage tag and realized it did not match the name on the Delta tag. He phoned me himself to give me the good news.
Thanks to everyone who wrote to me and sent such positive messages. I think Jerry had a sense that this was a bag that needed to get home. As for today’s sketch, it’s something I have been working on these past few days as I tried to remember everything that needed to get listed for the insurance claim.
It just occurred to me that maybe my lost suitcase is not sitting in an airport somewhere. What if, instead, it went home with someone else who is now painting with my palette and paints? With that in mind, I am attempting to take “the glass is half full” approach. I look at this as an opportunity to get acquainted with some of the pigments I may have purchased in the past but never used. You know, the ones that sit in the back of the drawer? Today I selected a primary triad of Ultramarine Light, Winsor Red and Hansa Yellow Light. This is close to another triad I use quite often, with the exception of the red, which is much brighter and warmer than the Permanent Alizarin Crimson I often paint with.
Painting with a limited palette really allows you to get to know your colours. Since I usually start by painting the sky, I was curious about what type of neutral I could obtain by mixing the three pigments together. As you can see, it’s a warm grey that sets the tone for the rest of the painting. From there I painted the row of buildings, choosing to use mostly purples, in contrast to a foreground that I knew would be predominantly warm. You can be certain that by working with a limited palette, even if all else fails, your painting will have a unity of colour.
Even though my luggage is now — after five days — officially considered “lost” by the airlines, I still haven’t given up hope that it will turn up somewhere. I have a few photos of some of my sketches that I did while I was in Palmetto Bluff, but of course still no originals. This one was a workshop demo that I did on Day Two. I had originally hoped to do a full watercolour of the marsh and the river, but as soon as I put my first wash down, there was a lightning strike nearby, a loud clap of thunder and then a torrential downpour. We scrambled for shelter to a tin roof shelter nearby and drew what we could see from that vantage point. It’s ironic to look at this now and realize that the original could be in the airport of any one of these cities.
For those of you who have been following my missing luggage saga, no news today. I figured that since my regular art supplies are still at large, I would take the opportunity to use some different tools for my daily sketches. I’ve been having fun experimenting with a brush pen, but as you can see, I don’t always let it dry for long enough before adding colour. In today’s sketch I skipped the preliminary pencil lines which set up the perspective and dove straight in with the brush pen. That means that I end up with some areas that need correction, but I like the spontaneity of the strokes, both thick and thin, as well as the quick darks that I am able to create.
Thanks Delta Airlines. My suitcase is still somewhere in luggage limbo, and inside it: my palette, my tubes of paint, my sketchbook and lots of paintings. Thankfully my brushes were in my carry-on bag, along with pens and a tiny travel palette. I am still hopeful it will be found soon and make its way home to me. I can replace everything except the work I did in Savannah and Palmetto Bluff, but it’s a lesson learned, isn’t it? Never leave artwork in the suitcase!
I was planning to post some of my workshop demos from Palmetto Bluff today, but even though I made it back to Montreal, it seems that my suitcase (sketchbooks included) is still in Savannah. It was an early flight so I’ll chalk it up to a Delta employee who hadn’t had coffee yet, or who was suffering from post St. Patrick’s day fatigue (the festivities go on forever in that city). While I was waiting for both of my flights to take off, I sketched these through the oval windows of the plane with a Pentel brush pen in a Moleskine sketchbook. I don’t work much in brush pen but I really enjoyed how much territory you can cover on the paper in a short time, and how quickly you can build up the darks.
Hopefully my bag with sketches will be back in Montreal in time for tomorrow’s post.
The Live Oak is such a distinctive feature in the landscape of the Old South. The trees form a soft green canopy over many roads, and the twisting branches drip with Spanish moss. I wasn’t sure about the origin of the name, ignorant Northerner that I am, but once again Wikipedia came to the rescue. It’s an evergreen oak, I’ve learned, hence the term “live”. I was happy today to have the chance to paint a demo of this centuries-old specimen at my Palmetto Bluff workshop. More about the workshop, this incredible location, and photos too, when I get home in a few days.
Factor’s Walk is a little bit of Savannah history. All along the riverfront you’ll find a row of tall brick buildings that formerly housed the Cotton Exchange, which included warehouses for the cotton and offices for the brokers (factors). These structures, sometimes as high as six stories, are built on a bluff and descend to the riverfront. Steel walkways connect the buildings to the bluff and the rest of the city. My favourite part of the journey down to the river and the Factor’s Walk is by any one of a number of steep staircases that each come with a warning sign: Historic Steps – descend at your own risk. There’s an elevator that you can take – no doubt a recent addition – but then you would miss the view under the walkways and the cobblestones that were brought to Savannah as ballast and left on the shore by departing ships.