I've been taking the new small set of Sennelier watercolors out to keep testing them. I miss some of my regular colors, but as I've said, I love the sap green that is a little cooler and darker than the Windsor and Newton one I generally use. The lighter green is fun, but it skews a little acid, and I try to tamp it down a bit instead of using it straight. I ended up loving those top two that I did, but the second time out for bigger pieces (instead of the tiny, quick passenger seat sketches I've been doing), I couldn't get the colors right, and everything felt overcooked. I'm pretty much at a loss to explain why I had such disappointing results the second time after feeling pretty good about the first outing, but there you are. I miss the transparency of my normal W&N set, and on the forest piece, I really missed the burnt Sienna that I depend on a good bit. I think the cobalt blue is also a little edgier than I'm used to, and that didn't come into play much until the tree trunk study. Overall, it's fun to switch things up sometimes, and I enjoy having this kit that's the right size for a purse or tiny project, but W&N still has my heart.
I've been doing more landscapes than anything else lately (which are always the primary draw for me), but I've done a handful of smaller scale, daily life sketches lately, and I really enjoy them as well. Here's a round up from the last month, since they haven't been fitting thematically into the posts I've made lately. I always enjoy opening sketchbooks back up later and remembering a favorite luncheon, a date at an ice cream parlor, or an especially yummy dessert.
Or even a medical check up...
And my very favorite -- Belgian torte from a dessert shop I had tried two years ago up in Bellingham on a day out up there. I was delighted that the place had made it through the pandemic. The torte was at least as good as I had remembered.
One of my very favorite places out here is Rasar State Park. It's small, but it has a huge variety of landscapes, from forest to beach to stone beach to meadow. It's right along the Skagit river, and it was a natural place for me to go to try to jump start my sketching a bit. I cleaned and refilled several fountain pens, and these are both done with my favorite green ink, a bamboo color that is warmer and more natural than a lot of acid greens you find. The first is a wooded walk along the side of the river, looking down to this spreading tree that hangs over the water. The second piece was sitting out on the beach proper with a view down the Skagit and off into the distance. I've drawn and painted versions of this view (from a few different angles) over the last several years, and it continues to sing to me.
The Sennelier sap green is lush and gorgeous, a little cooler and more opaque than the Windsor and Newton sap green that I've been used to. In fact, all of the colors are more opaque. This set feels like a step towards gouache. I've had fun playing with it, and I've enjoyed having a Paynes grey, which is a color I keep hearing about but have never used. I'm having trouble getting the dark richness that I can with my W&N set, though, and the light green in this one is more acidic than the warm green gold I have in my regular set. It's always good to try new things, and after feeling under the weather for several weeks, I wanted a new toy to jump start my sketching practice. I had real trouble getting up the energy to draw much of anything for a while there. This will be a neat set for keeping in a purse and being ready for on-the-go. I may try to get a tube of the green I like to add to my regular set, but at this point, I'm still a total fan of the professional grade Windsor and Newton watercolors.
I did finally get some depth in this last one, and I like how the colors bleed into each other. I also like that they dry faster than my W&N ones. I always thought that was more paper than paint, but these seem to dry more quickly instead of my having to carry an open book around for the next several minutes. But I'm still sticking with my main set for more formal work.
I've been doing some print work here, but it took me a while to get sketching again much because I was under the weather for a while. One of the early outings was a drive up most of the way on Sauk Mountain, stopping at a small avalanche fall and walking and sketching. I'd missed the trillium here down on the valley floor, but (unlike the flatlands of the Delta landscape) you can change seasons by driving a few miles straight up. So we drove back into trillium for me to enjoy them and have a gentle walk. It was glorious.
The trillium are very different from the wake robin kind we have in west Tennessee. They're huge for one thing, but they change colors as they age. They progress from white when they're new blossoms into a pink a bit later, and in old age they go a dark orchid color. It's a spectacular transition to watch, and it makes for a fun range of drawing too.
As always, I was also drawn to the trees and did this sketch of the alders hugging the edge of an embankment with their roots.
It felt grand to be sketching again, so I have more to scan and post in the coming days when I can manage a little computer time on a borrowed machine.
I got the end campsite at Farragut State Park in Idaho, down in a nest of trees a little further away than usual from other campers. It's the same campground where I did the sketch for my "Explore" print of Alice (the camper van) under tall trees last year. It was gorgeous to sit out there, and again, I sketched the next morning before taking off. The light in the forest next to me really caught my eye. Of course, the sun went away as I started sketching and only came back out when I was done, but I'd seen enough to capture the feel of the place, if not the exact patterns.
It was a 2600 mile trip solo in 6 days, so I didn't take a lot of time off, but I did want to sketch every day to give myself a mental break and enjoy the places I was driving through. I sketched one morning at a scenic pullover in South Dakota and did the same the next day in Wyoming. These are my two favorite sketches of the trip, and it's no real surprise to me that they are the fresh, morning ones before I got tired.
I'm late getting things scanned in, but I had a really wonderful time sketching on my cross country trip last month. I'm going to put them up on the blog in chronological order. My first night was in Long Branch State Park, Missouri. It's always my favorite stop, and I got the spot I like with the tiny lake beach, but it was cold and rainy, so I didn't linger as long at the lake as I normally do. I sat inside and sketched the peonies that I'd brought with me because they were too lovely to leave. You can just see the lake out the back door window in the distance.
The next evening was Lake Vermillion in South Dakota. I played with my intense pencils again. I wasn't thrilled with the results, but I do now remember sitting and looking at the sunset across the blue lake and also seeing Alice's shadow (my camper van) with the sun behind us while I was having breakfast and tea the next morning. Even if sketches don't always turn out as hoped, looking at anything long enough to sketch it is an exercise in both memory and mindfulness, and almost always a pleasure.
I drove 2600 miles across the country since I last posted. I've been working hard on my WAMA show to give myself some space to take time off this summer. My beau lives in Washington State, so I left my house in capable hands for the summer and have come to see him and enjoy the mountain landscape for a while. I'm not ready to get on an airplane yet, so trips are harder and also longer to make the driving worthwhile.
It was a long but beautiful drive, and I'll get going scanning in my trip sketches soon, but I've been giving myself some time to sleep and recover and enjoy. Here's the first sketch I did after getting here. Jude had some flowers waiting for me, and I always love sketching flower gifts to make them last longer.
I did one quick green ink sketch at Rockport State Park as well. I love the Vanilla leaf wildflowers that are sculptural on the forest floor the way the mayapples are sculptural in the forests at home. I"m heading out to one of my favorite sketching sites today, so I figure I'll get back in the groove of things soon, but for now I hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful month as much as I am.
I also met a fantastic dog and got to love on him a bit, thanks to his person and my friend Charley. I am still deeply missing Mr. Darcy, and it's going to be a very long summer travel season before I'm able to get another dog. The longest I've gone in my adult life without a dog companion. So some dog love along the way means a great deal.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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