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’m trying to get back to a daily walk routine. It’s been hard this spring/summer because of all the rain and a bunch of house stuff we’ve been doing, but I was out the other day and stopped to sit in a park near my house. There was a birch tree there to keep me company and I decided to draw it, or at least its feet and legs.
Stillman & Birn Alpha (9×6 softcover), Kaweco Lilliput pen, DeAtramentis Document Black, Daniel Smith watercolors
Once upon a time, someone got the bright idea to plant a bunch of bamboo as a hedgerow between our house and the one next door. When done it probably looked like a good idea. The problem is that over time, the bamboo takes over EVERYTHING because its roots propogate the plant(s) into a persistent monster plant.
So, ever since we bought the place we’ve been fighting it by cutting it back continually. We seem to be winning the battle as this year we don’t have much of it along our driveway (its last stand), leaving a sort of grassless, bamboo-less area.
What’s happened, though is a big surprise. We’ve got a “field” of tiny strawberry plants. There are hundreds of them, most less than two inches high and sporting 3 distinct leaves. Normally we’d be mowing and/or planting something but I’m going to let things go to see what happens. I don’t think that these plants are going to get much taller and I could find only a couple flowers. But I did find one plant that had two microscopic strawberries. They even tasted like strawberries, though you’d need a couple hundred of them to make a handful. I had to draw the little guy. Full size this plant measure just over 1″ high.
In another venue I commented that if not for the internet I might well never use color. I met a friend for coffee in a park and saw this scene. The next day I returned to sketch it. I just couldn’t bring myself to mess it up with color. The plants seemed to speak volumes, at least to me.