Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Still drawing oaks

I've been trying to get a drawing of all the native oaks that I come across, while they still have leaves and acorns. Today's drawing is Quercus agrifolia or Coast live oak. Live oak is evergreen so I only had to beat the acorn drop. Which was tough. I'd start fondling a branch to draw and the acorns would drop off! Grrr! I finally stopped touching and just looked, then sketched!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Windy day

Today the wind blew just as if it was a winter day. Leaves swirled about the streets in formation and branches and acorns fell from trees. This gave me the opportunity to draw some branches from trees whose canopies are too high up for me to get to. Windfall indeed!


Today I walked at Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery. There are two trees at this cemetery that are home to two large colonies of bees. I don't know what kind of bees because I don't like to get too close! All summer long, I'd see them flying fast and furious to and from their respective trees. Today it was pretty cold and I wondered what happens to the bees in the winter. I was daydreaming and forgot about the first tree but snapped myself out of my reverie for the second and was surprised to find a large number of bees clinging to the outside of the tree their hive was (is?) in. It's a blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus). A few of them would fly half-heartedly about the tree and then come back to the group hug.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Light, trees, quarried rock

I first noticed this cluster of blue oak (Quercus douglassii) a couple of weeks ago as I walked by on a trail at Howarth Park. I'd been wanting to come back and try drawing them again, but kept arriving at the wrong time of day. Today I finally got the timing right.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I love dead trees and wonder what it means!

It could mean something deep and dark that, perhaps, I'd rather not know. It also could be that I'm just learning (again, after many years) to from life and they're easier than trees that are covered with leaves.

I like this one with the fallen tree strewn about below it. I'd like to try to do another sketch and get the background to stay in the back rather than compete. I must overcome my urge to put in every darned detail! Perhaps there'll be some fog next week to make it easier.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lawn mushroom

Leucoagaricus leucothites is it's name and it's really a rather ordinary mushroom. But when I spotted a little troop of them in a neighbor's lawn this evening it was a big event for me because it's been sooooo long since there have been mushrooms fruiting in Santa Rosa, what with too little rain last winter and the usual (long) dry summer. When these plain, white mushrooms start sprouting up in lawns around town it's a promise of fun to come!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Another oak study

I have a fear of drawing leaves. Maybe there's a medical term for it. Maybe not. Whatever. Without color, I find it tough to draw them, so two days ago I set out on a mission to draw leaves until I felt more comfortable doing so. Now it's become an oak study with little side trips to visit other trees and shrubs. I'm feeling a bit more at ease with the leaves and enjoying the other parts of the plants, too! Today's oak is Quercus wislizenii or Interior Live Oak.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

California Coffeeberry

I like this little tree (Rhamnus californica) or is it a shrub? I'm not sure. It's the size and formation of a small tree but it's delicate, slender branches and somewhat sprawling habit make it seem more shrub-like.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Oregon white oak

Until today I've been unsure about which valley oaks I see at Howarth Park in Santa Rosa CA are Quercus lobata (Valley oak) or Q. garryana (Oregon white or Garry oak). I became rather earnest about the whole thing last year but was thwarted by a severe shortage of acorns. This year the trees are covered with them, so I was thrilled to come across one with acorns that were distinctively those of Q. garryana. I'll have to try to find a Q. lobata to draw. I can't say that I'm better able to identify the trees just by looking, but at least I know that one tree is, indeed, Q. garryana. If I study it some more, it might make it easier for me to distinguish the two.

First persimmon crop

We planted a Fuyu (Jiro) persimmon (Diospyros kaki) January 19, 2004. This year it produced fruit for the first time! Of course, they won't be ripe for a while, but I had to take a couple off of a branch that I missed when I was thinning. There were so many on it that it was in danger of breaking.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bad Drawing Spell!

For the past few days I haven’t been able to sketch. Each day I put on my pack and set out for a walk with my dog, Chloe. I have every intention of sketching but it doesn’t happen. The light isn't right. Or the angle. Or I'm not in the mood to draw. Or my mind is too filled with all of the things I have to finish by day’s end. Finally, the walk is nearly over and I try to force myself to draw something, anything. Failure.

I was just going to wait it out and not post, but I suddenly found myself curious to find out what happens when other artists experience this.

I first discovered that I wasn't the only person who had this problem when I read the early diaries of Wanda Gág an illustrator and printmaker, who wrote often about the highs and lows of drawing moods:

Oct. 13, Monday

Thursday I had a fierce drawing streak.

The day before I had had such a fierce streak too. I went to chapel with Theresa and afterwards she wanted me to go to one of the classes at the Y.W. on “First Lessons in Nursing,” but I was then already absolutely wild to finish the picture I had started before supper so I didn’t go. I locked myself up in my room and just drew. Three of the girls came and wanted me to go to the movies with them but I asked to be excused and I drew until about eleven when we have to turn our lights out. 1

Yeah, I know this feeling! It’s not an every day thing but it’s probably one of the things that contributed to my choice to make art for a living. At the other end of the spectrum:
Feb. 2, Monday

Today I started portrait class and turned out a very bad sketch, for I had no drawing mood. It is now a whole week since my drawing mood has forsaken me and I feel so forlorn, so very much lost. 2

As an illustrator, I’ve found ways to work around the problem but when there’s no deadline looming it’s not as easy. And I find that it’s not black or white. Sometimes I can draw and it’s fun and I do good work but it’s not that transcendent place where nothing else in the world matters. Probably that’s a good thing. But what about when you just can’t get yourself to draw? Or what you draw is so awful that you’re sure you’ve lost your ability and go into a panic because, for goodness sake, what else can you do to make a living!?

Mostly what I do is wait it out. Over the years I've come up with other projects that help me wait out the doldrums. I sew. I visit with friends. I clean my studio. I look at sketches done during good times and sigh. A lot.

One day I wake up and I know it's over. I can hardly get out the door fast enough and it's tough to drag myself back to the ordinary world when my time for sketching is up.

So, artists, what do you do when you can't draw or write or play music?

1 Wanda Gág. Growing Pains: Diaries and Drawings for the Years 1908 - 1917 (Coward-McCann, Inc., 1940) p. 163
2 Wanda Gág. Growing Pains: Diaries and Drawings for the Years 1908 - 1917 (Coward-McCann, Inc., 1940) p. 193

Monday, September 14, 2009

First rain

Usually I sketch in ballpoint pen only, but today I was inspired to try pencil on my first sketch. I wanted to get more tone more quickly because I was afraid the light would change too fast. I hate having to stop and sharpen and I'm not crazy about the smudging, but I really like how much more tone I was able to get. I went over it with the pen later to get some of the darks darker. I think I may have to learn to live with the sharpener and the smudges!

It rained yesterday. The weather woman this morning said it was .11 inch which isn't much but, oh, it was enough to transform the park! The woods smelled like wet leaves, wet bay laurel (Umbellularia californica) and wet wood.

Sounds kind of ho hum but it's a smell that I just never get tired of and is especially wonderful after months of smelling dust. I got there early enough to catch the sun just rising over the eastern ridge, casting deep shadows against brightly lit grasses. And the mosses on the trees were bright green and glowing in the sunlight.

A really great morning!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Paulownia sp.

There seems to be a cult following for these trees. Understandably, I think. I've been admiring them in my neighborhood for years but only found out what they are this year, thanks to a friend who saw me drawing one in the spring.

Someone had knocked a branch off of that same tree and I found it this morning and brought it home to draw. The leaves faded faster than I could draw them, even with liberal spritzing with water and wrapping the broken branch end in a wet towel.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Found stuff

Some days I find fun things to draw. Since I don't always get around to drawing them right away, I have a good stash for days when I can't spend much time out and about in the morning. There are only a few Linden (Tilia sp.) trees in my neighborhood. I didn't get around to drawing the intoxicatingly fragrant blossoms but here's a little sketch of the fallen seed.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Unknown tree in a cemetery

When I just walk by and look at a tree I see a trunk and some leaves, maybe some flowers if it's in bloom. When I stop to draw it I discover a mysterious (to me) and amazing world. All of a sudden it becomes really interesting and I want to know more about it.

This tree is growing in the lowland of the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery and I have no idea what it is. The leaves are compound and opposite but in the most interesting way! They clasp onto the branch and snap off rather easily. Underneath is where I found the new leaf buds hiding out. It also has matted bunches of seed stalks clasped around random branches, as if they'd fallen, then dried and stuck together like velcro.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor day

On my way to the cemetery my attention was arrested by swarms of bees buzzing about a flowering palm (Phoenix canariensis). The flowers that had fallen to the ground had only sepals, no petals and were tiny; a few of millimeters.

Apparently, these palms are dioecious, meaning each tree is either male or female but not both. Here's some information about the sex lives of Canary Island Palms. It seems that both males and females flower but only the female bears fruit. This tree stands with another so, perhaps it's a boy and a girl. I'll have to watch to see if fruit develops on either.

Horse chestnut one more time

My red horse chestnut got lost in the kitchen for a few days. When I found it, the shell had completely split open to reveal two seeds, one a bit stunted.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Foothill Regional Park

I hadn't walked at this park, in Windsor CA, in a good long while. This time of year it's really gorgeous, and one of my favorite places to be, especially on a foggy morning. The dead grasses which cover the ground and seem like so much hay, when the sun is out, take on a rich amber glow on gray mornings such as this one. I was so busy feasting my eyes that I sort of forgot to draw until close to the last minute. I didn't much like the sketch while I was drawing it, but when I looked at it a day later it wasn't so bad. The sun had come out by the time I began drawing but I was in a steep ravine where the shadows still held some mystery and then gave way to bright, sunny open space.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Red Horse Chestnut

This is the seed from Red Horse Chestnut (Aesculus x carnea). It was on the sidewalk in an area where neither tree was evident, although I know of one of these trees about a mile away. I had a hard time deciding between horse chestnut and buckeye when I first found it, then discovered that Red Horse Chestnut is a cross between Common Horse Chestnut (A. hippocastanum) and Red Buckeye (A. pavia). Which explained everything! I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had started to open the day after I found it so I drew it each day. The seed inside was half ivory-colored at first, becoming more brown each day.

Obsessive redrawing

A nice thing about drawing trees and piles of lumber is that they don't move from day to day so I can go back and redraw them when I'm not very happy with earlier drawings. I traced the same route as yesterday and drew the ground squirrel (Spermophilus beecheyi) habitat while the squirrels hid from me, then when to draw more of the blue oak (quercus douglassi) infected with Inonotus hispidus. And, hey, I actually like both drawings better than those I did yesterday! A good day.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Wandering at Howarth Park

I wanted to go back and spend more time on the ground squirrels from 8/26/09. The moment I sat down to draw they made themselves invisible so I worked on drawing the scenery.

Afterwards, I headed back to draw an blue oak being consumed by Inonotus hispidus and, possibly, Sudden Oak Death (Phytophthora ramorum). The fruiting I. hispidus is so lovely and I feel a bit conflicted about admiring it so when I see what dastardly things it does to the poor tree. I'm not sure if SOD is also involved. It kind of looks like it. In my experience, the I. hispidus doesn't make the tree look like it exploded from within. There are a lot of trees afflicted with SOD in Howarth Park, so it seems like a good possiblity.