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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Sketching on the beach

April 21 – Earthday!

11:35am, 88 degrees and humid – but comfortable in the breeze off the ocean and, believe it or not, no mosquitoes!

Dan and I are down on the beach near the pothole tidepools. Actually, Dan is in one, slowly broiling to a lovely lobster red but can’t bring himself to come out. I’m sitting directly under three scarlet macaws who are chowing down on beach almonds, grooming and squawking. The beach almond tree which (I’m sketching under it) has large green leaves, some turning red with age. Somehow, these huge red birds blend in with the foliage, looking just like the red leaves from a distance! A dark brown hawk with orange beak and legs, barred tail and a white rump has made a couple of sorties at them, but they’re not impressed. [Later: it was a Common Black Hawk.]

I’ve been sketching the gorgeous leaf clusters of the beach almond. I usually sketch with pencil, but because of the humidity and the fact that I prefer to write in the journal with ball-point pen, I’m also sketching with the pen. It makes me really observe carefully because I can’t erase mistakes. Good practice!

I forgot to wear my swimsuit (or suitable undies) for swimming, so between sketching session drawing the beach almond leaves, a little shell I found, and a macaw-harvested almond, I discreetly skinny-dipped between passers-by. But even though there are many people at the lodge, the beach is still uncrowded and it is easy to feel a fine solitude. It was lovely in the rock pools (some are 5’ across, others are even larger) with the thundering surf dumping occasional tubs of warm bubblebath from seaward heated pools over the edge and onto us. Heaven!

On the walk down to the tidepools I had some small adventures – a pizote digging in the sand let me come within 15’ before it slipped into a tangle of palm fronds. A reddish-brown squirrel holding an almond husk the size of its head allowed me to gawk from barely 4’ away as it gnawed at its prize. And then the macaws!

(Later: I’ve been adding color to my beach almond sketches with my watercolor pencils and I’m very pleased with the results. On the drawing, the large clump was penciled, then the color was spread around and intensified by painting with water (I’m using a brush that holds water in the barrel – you squeeze it and it moistens the tip, then you paint. It really beats carrying a water bottle and a brush).

Since I’m sketching and coloring these partially to set an example for my students-to-be, I’ve left the small leaf clump on the right un-moistened to show what it looks like before wetting. On the main group of leaves, after the first “painting” of water, I added more color with the pencils, then wet that, too.

I didn’t wet the final penciling of the almond husk because I wanted to leave some texture, which the pencils provided perfectly. [Click on the drawing for a really close close-up!]

Although I am teaching the watercolor pencil sessions to students, I haven’t done a lot of watercolor pencil painting myself. This is highly advantageous in one way – I have enough general painting and color experience to be able to keep well ahead of beginning-to-intermediate students, but it also gives me a fresh perspective of what they are learning and problems they might encounter. Anyway, I am glad to be playing with this – it sure gives the sketchbook more presence than just the uncolored drawings. By the time class starts tomorrow, I’ll have some sketches to share. This has been a fine celebration of Earth Day!

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