Some years they do, some years they don’t, but when they do it’s spectacular and kind of scary in a Tippi Hedron sort of way. You know what I mean if you’re of a certain age.
Although you’d never know it from the weather lately. My plan was to use peach blossoms for my sketch this month and the blossoms were making me a bit nervous because they were not opening due to all the cold weather. Finally they did open but they immediately got battered by yet another storm. Still, I was able to find these sprigs and get them staged and photographed. Let the sketching begin.
But here’s something new. Because of the transitory nature of blossoms and the poem I wanted to include this month, I wanted to trace my sketch onto the paper. I often work this way, but rarely in journals. Surprise, this book has sketches on the other side of the paper, making tracing with my trusty light box a bit tricky.
Many people seem to think it’s “cheating” to use any mechanical or optical aids to begin artwork. Tell that to Vermeer and all the other masters who used camera obscura to trace images on to canvases. What’s cheating is using someone else’s photos. I selected the subject, staged it how I wanted it and photographed it myself. So I own it start to finish.
Only April and May are left and then I will get my own book back. It will be like Christmas in June!
Or I should say on because I’ve just finished spraying this little journal entry with fixative.
I’ve had that same can of workable fixative since 1990-something and it’s still going strong since I don’t use it for most of my drawings that will be framed. But in journals that will be hauled around and handled, fixing graphite or colored pencil is essential or they will smear and/or imprint on the opposite page.
The subject of this drawing is an oak gall found on a local walk. Even folks who know about oak galls are usually not aware that there are so many different kinds. I’ve started a little series to document the ones I find. This one I call a brain gall. For obvious reasons. That’s not its real name, because I’m no expert on the 90+ different gall wasps endemic to California’s native oak population. I call them as I see them if I can’t find out the real name.
Graphite is a medium that always circles back around in my art practice as drawing has always been my first love and pencils are such familiar, reliable, predictable, accessible, controllable and correctable instruments that they are irresistible to me. Sure, everyone wants to paint and watercolors sparkle with personality, but the humble graphite pencil can really shine as an art tool.
Here is the development of the oak leaf:
Here’s a snapshot of the stars of the show. I use these clutch pencils each loaded with 2mm leads of various hardness and a rotary pointer. These old line drafting tools are getting a little hard to find in the computer age, but they are my favorites from way back. I don’t get many comments here, but if anyone visits and asks for it, I’ll do a post dedicated to the tools and techniques I use for graphite drawings.
I’ll leave you with my other entry in the Oak Gall series, Red Cone Galls plus a few Silk Button Galls for good measure.
Next up, this month’s sketch for the Sketchbook Exchange Project, then I’ll come back for a few more varieties of galls. The Spiny Turban is a fun one.