I haven’t reallly fallen off the Earth, but almost. For me, this has been a really weird year. Certainly, all the pandemic stuff that preceded it messed with my mind more than I thought but weather and life contributed to this year being, what was the word…oh yeah…WEIRD.
I came out of the pandemic looking to spend the spring/summer/fall out sketching like I normally do, but I never really got into that groove. Partly this was because of near constant rain from April to June. We had an amazing flower crop, though, and I dodged the rain to draw some of them.
By the time the rain stopped we felt pressed to get the housework we’d planned to get done in the spring and so everyday was spent with construction tools or paint brushes in my hand. We got a lot accomplished but not nearly as much as we’d planned. Anyways, we followed this with several picnics and other “we need to just hang out” actvities. Gals prices were too high to go anywhere so we didn’t. Should I blame Biden for our Quebec $6+/gal prices or credit him for the fact that they used to be $7.50/gal?
I resumed daily walking and during it I did a bunch of little sketches but I wasn’t too interested in scanning them and posting them. To be honest, social media is kinda getting to me. It’s become a steady stream of artists replacing posts of their finished products with frantic videos, sped up to a stess-inducing rate of scribbling and I just can’t watch this stuff. That, I guess is a topic for another discussion.
And then it got to be late August and September when we got a surprise. Just as cool/cold should have been setting in here, it got warm and beautiful. It was so nice that Chantal and I couldn’t resist spending the day in the backyard sipping wine, reading books and enjoying the sun. So, rather than a daily sketcher, I’ve become a daily reader…a serious daily reader – hours at a time. Here are a few of my new friends. Just a different way to feed the mind and now I want to draw Don Quixote and Sancho Panza (grin)
This summer I’ve fallen in love with sketching Chantal’s flowers. Why? Cuz they’re beautiful, plentiful, and available. But another reason is that they really help me hone the connection between my visual and motor cortex. Some call this hand-eye coordination but there are no hands or eyes being trained here. It’s all hind brain doing the work and the trick is to get this to happen without interference from the forebrain, be it left or right forebrain. When artists say “get the brain out of the way,” this is what they mean whether they realize it or not.
Anyway, I spent a bunch of time “in the zone” drawing these black-eyed susans, locating them relative to one another. During most of it I was “unavailable” to anyone walking by. In the end I was both exhausted and exhilarated. I think I got most of it right. The leaves are not accurate. I used lines representing some leaves to locate the flowers but otherwise the leaves were a by guess and by golly venture. Hope you like it.
This year has been an odd one, with lots more rain than usual and very high temperatures with jacket days interspersed. Our flowering plants have put on quite a show as a result but at the same time, insects have been scarce. I’ve seen a single Monarch but no other butterflies. No mosquitos, one moth, a few flies, but nothing like a typical Quebec summer cadre of insects. And NO spiders. I typically get to play with small jumping spiders and we normally end up with a bunch of web-building Theridids around our yard. Not this year.
But one species that comes and goes like clockwork are the excavators. These huge yellow and orange beasts trundle around Quebec City like they own the place, digging holes here and there, dragging a stream of orange traffic barrels in their wake. They show up ever spring. They start to die out when it turns cold.
As a biologist I’m always interested in the life cycles of organisms and excavators are no exception. The adult shown above is a prime example of the type. I drew this one several years ago and confess that anyone who believes urban sketching should be done quickly would take offense to the couple hours I spent drawing this one. There are several things to note beyond their overall size. First, its feet are huge as are its muddy footprints. Second, its head is sized to hold a single human and its small relative to its huge, elongated body that swings a long beak here and there.
While walking on my river, I came across a baby excavator. It was hiding next to an apartment building being built along my river. You can immediately see that it’s an infant. Notice how large its head is relative to its body. Its body is short and pudgy and its feet aren’t as developed as the adult versions. If you see these little guys operate you’ll notice it bouncing around and rocking back and forth, unlike the adults who move steadily. I wonder if they simply grow larger with age or maybe there’s a metamorphosis that takes place, maybe during the winter season. More study is required.
I live not far from Quebec City’s exposition center, which is convenient because there’s a farmer’s market, park area, and a large activity area associated with it. There’s also a very large statue. It stands 30-40 feet high and represents, I think, a deer, walking across ice. The deer is looking down and its reflection is depicted by a white version of itself. It’s pretty impressive.
I decided to draw it and I found it more difficult than it looks. The reason is that it’s an animal with four spindly legs balanced upon a second, upside down set of spindly legs. Clearly, if I got the angles of those thin legs wrong, my sketch would look like it was falling over. Not having the mass of the top animal balanced on those legs would, of course, have the same result.
So, I spent probably half an hour just triangulating all the points, getting the proportions figured out, and the result was a whole bunch of lines and dots that didn’t look like much. Drawing it was easier and while painting always reveals my poor brush work, that wasn’t too bad either. The one thing I regret was that I didn’t do it larger (sketch is only 6″ high).
Stillman & BIrn Nova Gray, pencil, Daniel Smith Watercolors
The beauty of nature comes in many forms. In the last week or so I’ve found three mice that have succumbed to the rigors of summer. I don’t know if this was because of the stifling heat and humidity or not but that’s my guess.
In any case, I tried to have a conversation with this one, Ms Mouse. As I drew her she didn’t have much to say but she was a very cooperative model and didn’t move at all. Her peacefulness spoke volumes though.
Stillman & Birn Alpha, DeAtramentis Document Black, Pilot Falcon, Daniel Smith watercolors