View from the parking lot of Matanzas Creek Winery in Santa Rosa, CA.

Lavender Garden and Vineyard

Lavender Garden and Vineyard

A gorgeous day was spent with Joanie and Wakar, painting at the winery.  The mounds of lavender were not in bloom.  They looked like scoops of blue green ice cream, maybe a mix of pistachio and blueberry.  The steep, rolling hills of the Sonoma Valley take my breath away and renew the pleasure of plein air painting.

This trip has been quite different from the one I planned.  My life is like that, always full of surprises.  If the surprise isn’t a good one, I do my best to transform it into something wonderful.  Just like a painting that has lost its way, the solution often brings the experience to a level beyond what it might have otherwise been.

Painting:  sketched lightly in pencil, followed by watercolor and areas clarified with pencil after the watercolor was completely dry.

As I carried my backpack and suitcase to the car last Thursday morning, the light of my flashlight was not aimed at the dining table where the watercolor travel kits, replenished with fresh paint, and travel brushes lay ready to be packed.  They are still on the table ready to be packed.  Fortunately, I had several tubes of paint packed for teaching the workshops.

Pill Box Watercolor Palette

For $1.67 I picked up a pill box organizer at a local drug store in Mountain View.  I used the hinged caps and the spare well for a bit of mixing.  It’s not the best, but it works.

Cloud Pruned Juniper Tree

My day was spent drawing and painting the cloud pruned Juniper trees near Hangar One at Moffett Field.

Taking a break from reality

It’s difficult to be serious when looking at such Seuss-like trees.

Cloud Pruned Juniper Tree

Sketchbook drawings:  Drawn en plein air first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Black Ink, followed by watercolor using a small waterbrush.  BFK Rives paper

We lost power long before the tree hit the house.

Strong winds at 3pm

Throughout the night the wind sounded like a locomotive on a loop around our house.  Sometime around 1 am, a different sound was heard above the howling of the wind.


We are fortunate that the tree fell as it did, taking hardly more than the gutters along with it as it fell to the ground.

Hurricane Sandy retreats from Polt Mountain

A reminder of the power, the fury and the beauty of nature……

October on the Wicomico River in Maryland is perfect.  I don’t have to wear a bee keepers face mask to protect myself from mosquitoes!

Wicomico River, oil painting, en plein air

The colors are simultaneously muted and bright once the mist has lifted from the water.

Plein Air Oil Painting:  5″ x 5″ color study on gessoed birch panel.

Painting the landscape as it passed by at 65 mph reminded me that I could use more practice painting strictly from memory.

9 am looking East from the side yard.

After glancing at this view (not studying it carefully) I turned my back and attempted to paint an impression of what I remembered.  For me, this uses an entirely different section of my brain.  It is not an eye / hand coordination process nor is it a process in which the painting develops in its own direction with each mark.  It feels disjointed and awkward. Of course ….. that means I need to do it more often until it feels comfortable, until I feel the creative juices flowing during the process.

For this painting I lay down colors in watercolor.  The shapes and colors appeared lifeless.  When a painting is lifeless, I resort to splatters to bring energy onto the paper.  When that fails, I resort to my fountain pen to redefine something …. anything.  When that fails, I take what I’ve learned and move on, knowing I’m one step closer to a more exciting and more successful painting from memory.

If you love drawing with fountain pens and a splash of color, don’t throw away old file folders!  I love the smooth surface and the off-white, ochre color.  They feel similar in weight to 80 lb cover stock.  Light washes of watercolor or gouache don’t cause ripples. The nib of the fountain pen glides across the surface.

Oak tree behind the cabin at Carolina Landing

Overall, I’m pleased with the photos of sketchbook drawings taken with my iphone during the road trip.  The image above was shot on the back porch of the cabin under gray, morning light before we packed the car and headed to the Outer Banks.  The pale ochre tone of the file folder paper was lost in translation.

Starting my day on a porch (either my own or someone else’s), pen in hand, coffee within reach, my sense of sight and smell tuning in to the vibes of the dawning day is as crucial to me as eating and sleeping …. in fact, I am more willing to skip eating and sleeping than I am drawing and painting.

sketchbook drawing: drawn en plein air on file folder paper, first with ink using a fountain pen, followed by watercolor wash.

I’m saving the lat two pages of my original coptic-bound sketchbook for morning drawings of the glass inkwell collection.

the original … first of many …

Yesterday’s weather was glorious!  I grabbed the next sketchbook in line and drove the four miles to Mountain Farm where I have a view to the net hillside.

Coptic-Bound Sketchbook using rejected watercolor paintings

I need to adjust to painting over fragments of older, unsuccessful paintings and the dirty splatters of the backsides of the paintings I tore to make the sheets for the sketchbook pictured above.  I like the horizontal format better than the vertical format.

View from Mountain Farm, No. 1

View from Mountain Farm, No. 2

View from Mountain Farm, No.3

Sketchbook drawings No. 1 and No. 3 – drawn en plein air with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Black Ink followed by watercolor using a waterbrush and half-pan watercolors stored in an Altoid tin. Top of sock cut as an wrist band for cleaning the waterbrush between colors.

Sketchbook drawing No. 2 – sketched lightly with pencil before painting with watercolor.

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