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Thursday 31 January 2013

The last days of January

3 Last sketches for Jan

My last three days of daily Garden Sketches for January. It has been a great exercise in daily sketching while I was (and still am) housebound. I will hopefully bind these together somehow as the “January Record

They have all been 7 x10 inches approx and on different papers, using up the end pages of old sketchbooks and paper odds and ends here and there. Very thrifty.


29th Jan Tues: Some sky! A brief early morning glimpse of blue sky with some clouds rushing by, before more rain. I am looking over the roof of the bungalow behind us and these are the tops of the wild plum. The bird feeder is underneath this tree, hence the birds. It has been great to see moving skies after days of the heavy grey static snow clouds.


30th Jan Wed: On the window sill in the conservatory are these old scales They were my mothers from long ago and are waiting, like many other old family bits and pieces in the conservatory,  for some tender loving care and attention. I had harvested some shallots and put them there to dry in the sun… and to be honest forgotten about them. The shine in the sill is not because it is clean but because it is plastic, like most of the rest of Ugly Bungalow :). This was a very quick and rather wobbly sketch. I feel it deserved a bit more time and trouble, another day.


31st Jan Thursday: Hiding. The tiny mouse was out again this morning. It made me laugh as I watched it hide behind the pot until the birds had gone or were distracted before rushing out to grab a seed and rushing back again.

Two garden scenes

And another couple of slightly larger watercolour sketches, 11 x 7 inches,  of the January garden, without the snow this time.


Looking the other way from my work room window towards the shed. Everything is rather drab but you can find some colours. The magnolia shoots are getting bigger I am sure!


The pond at dusk from today. Empty pots, twiggy plant stalks and fallen leaves. Two black birds were still hanging around. The watertower is reflected in the pond.

I am enjoying these slightly larger colour sketches and will try to do one a week for the rest of the year. Although finding 52 different views of this small garden might be challenging.

Forward into Feb

In Feb I might be doing something a bit different for my daily garden record. Thinking ahead to the Nature Journalling Course I am running in March, I am  conscious that there are many different ways of recording and not everyone wants to paint and draw. I am not quite sure what I will do yet. Maybe colour recording, maybe some collage, maybe pencil studies… but definitely prints! My press has arrived!..which makes up for the sad state of the Foot…more of that later.

Monday 28 January 2013

Garden Record Week 4

This is almost the last week of January. The snow continued all week until Sat and I was getting fed up with trying to find something new to draw out of the window. I drew a few tools and then on Saturday the sun came out and it began to thaw.   


Jan 22nd Tues: A pot with a few hopeful shoots by the back door. It’s sheltered here and the pot only has a little snow.


Jan 23rd Wed: I have a box of seed packet remnants from last year. Here are a few white runner beans. This is a pen and ink drawing with some washes of colour.


Jan 24th Thurs: Dad’s long handled trowel. It’s a favourite of mine. I quite like drawing tools. It’s good practice for accurate observation.


 Jan 25th Fri: My gloves and the secateurs…they have been sitting on the windowsill in the conservatory for a long time now. I can’t wait to get into the garden again!


 Jan 26th Sat: There was a little extra snow overnight and we continue to put out food for the birds. The starlings are always the first to arrive. Just as last year there are three and they are called “The Gang of Three”.


Jan 26th Sun: Welcome sun and a thaw has come, but on the north side of the house some snow remained in this tub. There are some daffs coming though. Hurrahh… and with a little extra time a single bean. I may chart its progress from bean to splendid and hopefully productive plant


 Jan 27th Monday: The snow has left things bedraggled. This is the edge of a wicker planter with a few wilted strawberry runners. The tiny wren likes this warm corner and seems to find insects under the windowsill.

Three more days to go and I will have the January sketches done. I might do something a little different in February. 

Friday 25 January 2013

2 Snowy Garden Sketches

These are just a couple of extra, slightly larger sketches (about 8 x11 inches) which I made today sitting with my drawing board on my knee and looking out of the window. I had not really intended to keep them, thinking they would just be brushwork practice, but they have actually captured the garden as it looks today, with the bird tracks in the remaining snow, twiggy dead plant stalks and a few green leaves here and there.


The white dots on the one above are the silvery magnolia buds. The blackbirds are always hanging around outside the window hoping for more food.


The birds have regular routes, followed sometimes by the neighbouring cats.
The watercolour paper is really really cheap but dries quite quickly and holds a brush stroke edge quite well. I used just one size 8 brush with a good point.

More snow is forecast for tonight before a welcome thaw!

Monday 21 January 2013

Garden Record Week 3

Week Three of my garden sketches…and the snow continues….
Here the Ugly Bungalow is still the home of the halt and lame, but thank you for all your very kind wishes and thoughts…soon …soon, just as soon as the Foot will willingly accept a shoe!


15th Jan Tuesday:  It was snowy this morning but a little warmer. This sketch was done early, before the snow melted. The pond is frozen and in the early grey light there was little in the way of reflection. Snow scenes are nice to do in watercolour.. you only have to paint the dark bits!


16th Jan Wednesday: Over by the dark shed there are a few strands of jasmine.The little yellow flowers are pretty little pinpoints of sun in the grey day.


17th Jan Thursday: Some old cornstalks in the remaining snow… in the lull before the next lot came.



18th Jan Friday: This cold weather has brought many birds to the garden. We fill up the feeders and throw handfuls of food on the concrete outside the kitchen door. I made a page of tiny thumbnails, just basic birds based on two simple shapes.
Then a sketch of two of the hedge sparrows. Yesterday I saw the tiny field mouse again.  It’s so tiny, I tried to get a photo but it’s far too quick for my camera. 


19th Jan Sat The little long tailed tits are enchanting. Normally they stay over by the bird feeder but this week they have been all over the magnolia just outside my window. I wonder what they are finding to eat? They are rather well camouflaged which is what I wanted to show in this quick sketch. Also the snowy fields have brought fieldfares into the garden. I don’t think I have ever knowingly seen fieldfares before. They a quite big and very attractive. Sketch to follow.


20th Jan Sunday: 2 brooms, the big yard broom and a much smaller one, and some logs in the conservatory. It’s still snowing.


21st Jan Monday:The foot scraper and birds tracks by the back door. It’s Dads old cast iron scraper and has lost one of its finials. 
A flick of white paint gives some quick snow.

Sketches are all 10 x 7 inches and on a variety of surfaces. I am using them for daily practise and trying out new things or for tackling my weaknesses.

I do hope it stops snowing soon. It’s really not my favourite weather but Chris went out on Saturday and took some great photos around the reservoir which I will, unashamedly, use for some sketches this coming week.

NB**** and I have updated my workshops/courses/ events  page on the blog SEE HERE and the bee on the sidebar!

Monday 14 January 2013

Garden Record Week 2

Week two of my half hour garden sketches. The Foot is making very slow progress so I am stuck indoors. I must admit that at the beginning of the week I was thinking I would never walk again. It’s like walking on knives right now, but it’s just a matter of time and there is plenty to do..It’s just that I really, really want to get out for a walk..

However, looking at the sketches before I post them I see they are a bit of a mixed bag..not a beautifully designed set as such but just some daily drawing discipline.


Tues Jan 8th: I am still drawing out of the window. This is the cherry tree which is just outside.  Its new shoots are deep red. The tracery of branches is beautiful and  I could have done with a few hours not just 30 mins. I did it in stages as (annoyingly) I had to keep waiting for the paint to dry.


Wed Jan 9th: The squash heap: A heap of soil to the right of the cherry tree The soil came out of the pond and in the late summer the patti pan squashes and courgettes ran wild. Now nothing remains except some torn black plastic, a few bricks and, of course, weeds. It’s not exactly picturesque but some nice shapes in there. This is the HP paper again which I am definitely preferring for this size. The paint also dries quicker :)


Thurs Jan 10th: Grey and cold outside with very cold weather forecast. I have a few leaves on the table from my little ginkgo tree. I collected almost all the leaves. They are so interesting.. all different.


Fri Jan 11th: Early dusky morning light, reflected branches in the plastic carry-all which is full to the brim with water. It is a scrappy sketch but I may try to develop this. I do love reflections.


Sat Jan 12th I was a bit stuck this morning so drew some plant labels in a glass jar. They are Dads old labels. One says “Wallflowers Aida 2003” . There is crumpled up seed packet at the back.  This is drawn on rough paper so has a softer look.


Sunday 13th: There are a few sage leaves in the herb bed to the left of the window. I made this sketch while listening to Martin Carthy on Desert Island Discs. It was very cold and frost this morning.


Monday 14th: It’s snowing. Fairly pretty but not as inspiring in the Garden as it would be in a sweeping landscape. I might try something snowy tomorrow as I think it is here to stay for a day or two. 
But today I drew this old artichoke head.  
It seems to me that randomly found compositions work much better than ones you carefully organise and I had put this artichoke head on top of a paintcan to dry. I had raised the handle of the paintcan to prop up the artichoke. So that’s what I have drawn.

I am really hoping the good Foot fairy will come and visit this week :)

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Monday 7 January 2013

Garden Record Week 1

Week one of my daily sketches. Although they will eventually make a rather haphazard garden record, they are much more to do with the discipline of a bit of daily practice.

Through the Window

I am still not very mobile so I am sitting by the window and drawing what I can see. The sketches have to be done early or the day gets away from me and they have to be quick, no more than 30 mins.

I am keeping the size (10 x7 inches) constant for this month, then I can bind them into a “January” book.

GD1 bg

1st Jan. The wicker bean support and 3 sparrows, as in my first of Jan post, Recording a Gardening Year.   


2nd Jan. Old blackened sunflower heads that I can see through the window. I hobbled out to look at them and thought that, sometime, I might bring one in and make a study.  They are fascinating things. Their huge hanging heads are heavy-looking and but are as light as a feather. Their forms tell of a weight and substance that was once there but has long gone. They are not what they seem.


3rd Jan. The fence line at the back of the garden. There are a few small trees, an un-named apple, the tall wild cherry, a crab apple, a russet apple ( it had just one apple this year) a section of laurel hedge and a twisting crab apple tree in the next garden. This is how it looked when we came last year. In the summer it is dense. This was watercolour and brush…no pen on this one.


4th Jan: The twisting branches of a now dead shrub on the SW border fence We left it because the birds like the tall branches. A few reddish berberis leaves on the right.


5th Jan: Over by the shed are two old chimney pots. Last year I planted them with geraniums and lobelia. Just the twiggy stems of the lobelia are left. and a couple of old yellowed leaves of a shrub.


6th Jan: Dusk. Yesterday at 4.20 pm it was dusk, but a luminous dusk. A moment or two when all the colours are deeply saturated before slipping into monochrome greys. Amongst these dark colours, were a few glowing silvery brights, the stachys, the silver buds of the magnolia,shining like tiny fairy lights and some old globe artichoke leaves. I wanted to make a quick record so I pre-washed the page the day before with mid grey to give a base for the sketch. 
My cheap scanner is a blunt tool which has the astonishing capacity to reduce a myriad of colours to just 2. It looks very monochrome here but in reality it’s a bit more colourful.


7th Jan:

A last sketch for week 1. Weeds growing outside my window. I changed paper from Not to HP. I like HP for smaller work. It holds a beautiful crisp edge


Weed: On Sunday I had a little extra time and made a small study of another weed. One of the many that grow exuberantly between the paving slabs.

After a few weeks away from the drawing board I have felt hesitant and rusty. Next week will be better. 

Why do a daily drawing?

For me, it’s partly to keep me “looking”, partly to to keep my hand/brain coordination working. It’s the “doing” of it that’s important, not the end result.

Whatever your discipline, you need skills. The ideas in your head need a route out. I have more ideas than I could ever realise, but often it’s a lack of skill to make them work that is both the deepest frustration and the greatest barrier to progress.
The only way I can deal with that is to practise, practise, practise; brush work, pen strokes, colour mixing, thinking, reading, looking, looking again, being my own most severe critic, tearing it all up and starting again. If nothing else the sketching is beginning to help me understand what I am trying to do and how perhaps I can achieve it. 

For me, Hokusai’s wise and well know observations ring very true. I have quoted this before on the blog and keep it pinned up next to my drawing board. I am always encouraged that his most significant works were done later in life, from 60 onwards. He began publishing “One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji” in his seventies. He was, however, a genius and I am not.. but hope springs eternal. Practise practise practise…

“From around the age of six, I had the habit of sketching from life. I became an artist, and from fifty on began producing works that won some reputation, but nothing I did before the age of seventy was worthy of attention. At seventy-three, I began to grasp the structures of birds and beasts, insects and fish, and of the way plants grow. If I go on trying, I will surely understand them still better by the time I am eighty-six, so that by ninety I will have penetrated to their essential nature. At one hundred, I may well have a positively divine understanding of them, while at one hundred and thirty, forty, or more I will have reached the stage where every dot and every stroke I paint will be alive. May Heaven, that grants long life, give me the chance to prove that this is no lie.”

Katsushika Hokusai,  from the postscript to “One Hundred views of Mount Fuji”

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Tuesday 1 January 2013

Recording A Gardening Year

How to start this brand new, sun shining, bird singing year?
My simple resolution.. “do more and do it better”, so, without delay, let’s get going!
On 5th March this year I will be starting a year long monthly workshop at Barnesdale Gardens. It’s called:
“The Illustrated Garden Journal” :  Barnesdale Gardens Workshops
In these workshops we will look at many different ways of recording what goes on.. or doesn’t.. in the garden, who might be visiting, friend and foe alike and how the seasons ebb and flow. The scope is enormous and there are more ways of recording the garden than you can shake a bamboo cane at. The very first class will be about getting started, for me the MOST difficult part of any job. So today I thought I would set an excellent example by making Garden Record No 1. I may try to do one a day..for a while anyway.
So where to start? 
Well I am sitting in my studio ..not for long as The Foot has still has to be “up”… and I am looking out on my very neglected Garden. I just ran out of time to clear, tidy, mulch and replant so here it is, withered stalks, skeleton flower heads, piles of leaves and many many opportunist weeds. In my defence I did want to leave things that might be useful to bug, bird or beast to the very last minute, but it is looking just a bit sad.
So not instantly inspiring, but bang opposite my window is the old wicker bean support in the raised bed, complete with the remains of twisty bean stems and the odd black shrivelled pod. For the small birds it’s a stop off point on the way from the hedge to the bird table. They pause and peck about in the weedy ground and twitter at each other.
Today 3 hedge sparrows landed as I was looking out, so that’s what I decided to draw. The birds in this garden give me so much pleasure and it seems a good place to start.
There have to be rules for these ‘records’. They have to be quick, unfussy and must not be the be-all and end-all of the day as I am busy with other things. Half an hour MAX!
No 1 Garden Record Jan 1st 2013
Hopefully they will build up into an interesting garden record and by March 5th I will have quite a few to show my workshop group. Now let me from today is 64…let’s make it a round 60.
So 60 records by March 5th is my goal. Not necessarily sketches. It might be that I find a thing or make a print, press a beautiful leaf, record some pattern or a beautiful colour. Just one other rule: no photos.
I won’t be posting the records every day.. just once a week I think.
A Little Extra Encouragement
I hope my Easton painters might also join in this endeavour if they happen to be reading and for a little extra help I would recommend joining Paul Foxton's  Learning to See “Daily Practice” challenge which started today and runs for the month. Paul has an excellent art blog which I have followed for a few years now.
Sometimes it’s nice to be part of something else and to share ideas, problems and of course triumphs.  
It helps turn those good resolutions into realities!

NB** Update... This particular forum is now full.. but Paul tells me there will be more, so sign up anyway for future opportunities and enjoy his site and all the info he has to offer.