I daydream of the perfect life, we probably all do. The perfect balance, where everyone we love is healthy, happy and productive. Where our lawns stay green, with the perfect amount of rain, nighttime of course, and the days are mild and gloriously sunny. Yeah, and I weigh 125 pounds and fit into a size 6. Since none of that is attainable, or at least I haven’t figured out how so far in my 63 years, I take each day as it comes just trying to get through without any disastrous maladies, with as much grace as I can muster, with as much joy as I can glean from the most minor of things.
In the perfect world, I do a yoga practice every day, and draw or sketch for a few minutes each day, and play music, practicing my recorder. Sadly none of those things have become routine for me. The goal is not to make them into a routine, but to make them into a habit. I have taught myself to stand up out of bed each morning, and turn and make the bed before I do anything else. It has become such a habit that I even do it in hotel rooms. I can’t stand an unmade bed. I’m getting much better about moving from room to room with a water bottle, staying much more hydrated, and my kidneys are thanking me for it. I do study yoga once a week, at a venue in my town, when I’m not traveling, and though that’s better than nothing, with the internet and some fabulous courses in yoga online, many of them free, what is my problem? I do though, spend a few minutes each day working on a puzzle. And I do read almost every day before bed. There are some habits I’m rather proud of, but there are some I just can’t seem to make stick, and I don’t know why. The puzzle corner is my favorite place in my house.
I just spent the last five days at Peters Valley, one of my most favorite places on earth (the others are in my own house, like my studio). I took a water color class with Jane Brennan, one of my favorite people, and this is the second time I took the class. I appreciate when students take my classes over and over because each time I took the class, I defined just a bit better what I wanted to learn, and did.
Last year, I posted about the class here, I was just curious to see if I could still paint, see, draw, and participate without totally embarrassing myself. Which is just an incredibly stupid reason to take a class. And I’d chew out a student, and I do, who is worried about what other people think. I should have been taking the class for shear enjoyment and learning the medium, and exploring the possibilities of two dimensional work. I actually accomplished though, what I set out to do. I can still paint, draw, and though it takes effort, I really did enjoy myself and actually framed a couple of the pieces I did for the walls in my home. But it takes effort. Because I hadn’t done it since art school in the 70’s.
Moving forward, I had grand visions of spending a few minutes a day sketching, doing a small water color, making painting a part of my routine. Yeah. Over the past year, I did 1 1/2 paintings. On the same day. I made this little pear, testing some technique I read about, and can’t remember now how I did it.
And I started this wonderful painting of tomatoes, from a layout in Real Simple Magazine, and I never finished it.
So I took this class again. This time, I knew the routine.
We started with just simple washes over the paper. Then we were left to just make something out of it. I don’t do well making stuff up. I need to see something in front of me. This was challenging and not what we did last year. I struggled, but then stood back and was pretty impressed with myself. My son loves this picture best out of everything I did. And I just made it up in my head. Go figure.
Next came the dreaded still life. She had watermelon and some lemons.
Not great, but a passable attempt.
Then she brought a huge planter of some kind of flower I couldn’t identify.
Not my favorite of the things I’ve done, way more tedious than I like and I started to dread starting a new still life. Which was weird. I wanted to be able to draw/paint/sketch quickly, throwing down color and line rapidly, not belabor for hours over a painting I’m not particularly enjoying. And that’s probably why I didn’t make this a daily habit over the past year.
I pulled out one of the photos I loved from my Cuba trip, and though I love what I painted, it was tedious and not inspiring. I did get to finally experiment with masking fluid for the grill work.
That basically ended the first day of class, and I had four paintings to show, but what I really wanted to do was explore working in a sketch book. Last year I brought a brand new little sketch book, something like a 6″ x 9″, because it was on the materials list to bring, and I follow those to the letter. I didn’t put one mark in the book during the class, nor through the entire year that followed. I wanted to start a real sketch book, so I brought it to class in the morning of the second day, even though it wasn’t actually water color paper, and I set out to attempt to sketch with something I had a small set of, and had used periodically during my tenure as features editor of Handwoven Magazine when I wrote the color forecast column, but haven’t touched since. Water color pencils. You draw first and add water later. I used a small set of Prismacolors, just the basic colors.
I drew this.
I really liked this.
I went back to the original planter of flowers, still set up in the room and zoomed in and actually studied the plant. I still don’t know what it is, but I drew it with a lot more detail. In water color pencil. I started to add water and then we went out on location for the afternoon. I was sort of liking this medium, it was tedious in a different way, one where I had more control, ( and isn’t it always better when you are in control?) And I liked that. And threading 4000 ends on a loom is tedious, but I like that kind of tedious. I finished watering it later in the afternoon.
I wandered around Peters Valley, settling on an old red barn, but instead of drawing the whole barn, I zoomed in on just the lower corner where the wood was rotting away and the foundation slipping. It was gorgeous in its decay. And I’m really happy with the painting.
These little drawings are about 6 x 9, and in a spiral bound sketch book. They are my treasures. They make me smile.
I wandered over to the pond where everyone else was happily painting. I painted this pond last year, and didn’t enjoy it. I wanted to see how fast I could put something down on paper. I used my cell phone camera to zoom in and crop a manageable amount. I worked quick, and though I’m not drawn to trees and scenery, I was happy with what I put down in a short amount of time.
It was getting really hot outside, so we gathered back in the studio, and I grabbed what I thought were some lemons and was frustrated that they just weren’t responding to all my yellows and that was because they were really clementines. Duh… I had found in my art cabinet at home the night before, a brand new untouched tray of 72 Derwent water color pencils. I had six shades of yellow to choose from. And they turned out to be orange clementines. Still laughing.
Before I left for the day, I started on this little avocado, from a photo in a Real Simple Magazine. Day four I finished it up.
Then I started on some cherry tomatoes, also from a photo, inspired by a botanical drawing book by Mindy Lighthipe, (who used to be a weaver on the craft fair circuit in the 1980’s). Don’t worry, I’m not ready to give up my day job.
I wanted to see what would happen if I did a water color wash background and then used water color pencils to trace in some details. Another picture from my imagination, but pretty limited. I did figure out what I wanted to know.
So we left again, on location, this time to Walpack Village, where we went last year and I spent hours painting the church. I wandered up the street and took some photos. Again, I wanted to see how fast I could get something on paper, trying the same technique of putting in watercolor wash areas, and they quickly applying details with pencils, using them wet, another technique. An OK effort, but I found out what I wanted to know. I particularly liked the road with the double yellow line. That should be the name of the painting.
Back at the studio in Peters Valley, the morning of day 5, I decided to be really brave and try figure drawing. I used to love that back in the day, but I’m really really rusty and wasn’t sure I could get something worthy. I leafed through a couple magazines and found a photo of a woman on a beach towel poolside. I dove in. Pun intended. Not bad considering I haven’t done figure drawing since the 70’s. I miss working with a live model.
Jane brought in some fresh still life combinations and I decided to just sketch with water color pencils and see where it took me. I am so loving this medium, especially with 72 colors to pick from.
I did this. I particularly liked the wine bottle.
Then I did this. Those begonia leaves were a challenge, but my trusty box of 72 colors was up to it.
I came home feeling like I might be able to see myself sketching something small on a daily basis, even if from a magazine or photo. I immediately set up my easel in the corner of my bedroom, facing out the balcony.
I will remember to pack my sketch book tomorrow, I’m heading back to the Valley to teach a five day beginning weaving class. The class is full with 10 students. It will be an intense five days. I’m determined to sketch something each day. And do a daily yoga routine, and lose 10 pounds. And I’m bringing my knitting, and lots of computer work to do. You’d think I’d be heading out for a week at the beach…