Friday, February 27, 2015

Drawing on What's Right in Front of You

I just finished reading American Mirror by Deborah Solomon, a new biography of Norman Rockwell, and really enjoyed it. And after having lived with an illustrator for quite a number of years, I have a certain appreciation of the demands that "art on a deadline" can create.

Watercolor Group in Parque del Capricho, Madrid
I was also struck how Rockwell claimed that he was unable to draw unless he had a model, a few costumes or props, a photograph or some sort of reference material right in front of him. Most people (and I include myself in this group) didn't understand: how could he not just draw something plucked from his brain or coughed up from memory, especially after spending so many years doing art full time?

In Spain last fall, the illustrator in my family gave a plein air painting demo to a group of painting friends. Mistake - it poured rain and soaked us all. But the Spaniards persevered, and took us to lunch for the traditional dish Cocido Madrileno.  And by the time dessert came, most of us were more tipsy than damp.

The following day - rain, rain, rain and more rain. So to me, it seemed like a great idea to make little "thank you" paintings for the lovely painters who had treated us so well the day before. I mean, what else to do when all the museums have been visited and painting in the Parque del Retiro is not an option?

Except, except, the painter had nothing in front of him to paint! He, like Norman Rockwell, just couldn't settle down. He whined, he moaned, he huffed and puffed, he paced and squirmed, but I didn't relent. I mean, what else did he have to do on a rainy day except bug me, right? Better to get to work than "help" me knit or read.

iPad to the rescue. Along with a coffee cup borrowed from the kitchen, a stack of pens and pencils, a new tall and skinny painting pad, and an unyielding partner. And in the end, I certainly think it was worth the bother.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Day Off

Sutter Buttes Painting
One of the very nice things about retirement is the flexible schedule. My Wednesday can now be a "Saturday".

So while everyone else was tearing up the freeway, we tootled off to the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area to check out the locals. I looked and listened to the birds; Michael painted.

Sutter Buttes Photo

White Pelicans
Wascally Wabbit

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Other Lobelia

When the rains end, the plants think it must be spring. And without a single, lonely drop of rain in January (a new record), spring may just be here. Yikes!

Many people have asked me about this little beautiful "lobelia" in the front yard which believes in spring and is beginning to flower. Yes, very blue like a lobelia, but actually not a lobelia at all. 

It's called Lithodora diffusa Grace Ward, an evergreen perennial which rambles along, entirely covered in blue for months and months. Quite drought tolerant, but is much happier with a drink of water every few weeks. 

I'm not the biggest fan of blue flowers, but if something is going to put out for me, year after year, with very little effort on my part, am I really going to care what color it is?