My very first leaf of the day and it had to be the leaf of the splendid live oak tree. At the moment we are living in Winter Park a suburb of Orlando and there are live oaks in abundance. Huge and beautiful trees cast a dappled shade on the sidewalks and some star in the elegant gardens in this district . Why “live”? …because they stay green for almost all of the year. They are so different from the English oak. The leaves are tougher and some are almost like holly. It is a really magnificent tree and my first sight of Spanish moss hanging from its branches in the leafy side streets of Winter Park will always remain with me. Some interesting facts about the live oak are here from the Winter Park Live Oak Fund. There are two small live oaks outside our apartment where squirrels chase and chatter and generally squirrel about.
The leaves are very small,the longest only 2.5 inches. One would not have seemed enough! This also shows that some have prickles and some are very smooth.
The Live Oak
A word about green pencils.
Artists, designers, doodlers and scribblers of over a certain age will remember the joy of the newly sharpened pencil;
the smell of cedar wood, the promise of the next masterpiece.
My favourites were always the beautiful, elegant and classic Faber-Castell 9000 series. I still have them, a whole set. They sit lovingly sharpened in their tins. I have, since those early days, moved on to the equally seductive mechanical pencils, fine and delicate in .3 .5 and.7 but still Faber-Castell.
Their website is here.
Their logo shows, of course, the pencil victorious over the lance.. pen mightier than sword etc.
If you love pencils check out this website it will lead you to many others.
In order to put off the actual writing of the blog or, even worse, the doing of drawings I have spent many a long hour playing with its settings. It is an endlessly fascinating activity. I had to get help of course and the main problem with my increasing age it that my brain seems incapable of retaining the information so having “learnt”how to do it I instantly forget. I had to constantly go back to re read the ins and outs of customising html etc and I want to give this site a mention, without which I would never have got started . “Tips for New Bloggers” is great ….http://tips-for-new-bloggers.blogspot.com/
I am designing a new header too ..eventually.
Well, its that new-leaf-turning time of the year and I have decided to write this blog for quite a few reasons.
First and foremost… I decided to go back to some basics in art and take a botanical painting course with “the Society of Botanical Artists“. However I share with many the terrible creative “displacement behaviour problem” and so to discipline myself to produce some work, at least 2 days before the deadline, I am going to try to post a couple of images or more a week. The actual assignments for the course are only due bi- monthly and the lure of wandering the aisles of the local mall ( pronounced maul or mawl) in an attempt to put off the confrontation with paper and pencils is so strong that I may have to tie my leg to the desk. I can’t now remember the writer who had to do this to keep himself on track, but I sympathise… who was it?
Secondly… I am here in a new country and after 2 months have had some interesting experiences, have made some fascinating discoveries and have endless questions to ask. I will post a few of these online to help me remember what has happened and perhaps to get some answers to the questions. Unfortunately I cannot take a job here as the alleged “special relationship” between the USA and UK does not seem to extend to me doing anything useful positive and paid here… so I have to keep busy
Thirdly… It will be a sort of digital sketchbook too. I´m not very good at keeping sketchbooks as I have a haphazard grasshopper style of work which means I have odd thoughts scribbled on bits of paper. How I long to have those beautiful volumes of exquisite sketches that some artists have. I have faced up to many a lovely pristine sketch book with nothing but good intentions only to fail miserably by page three when the note or drawing I have done goes horribly wrong. I then have to either cut it out, or take the page out.. and that just leads to more dilemmas. …do I take out the whole page (and its connecting partner )..does that make the book look thinner or lopsided and.. worst of all …will anyone notice this deception and see and understand that I have made something less than perfect! ..etc etc.
Those who also have problems with perfection will understand.
Why this Course
Here in Florida, uprooted and missing the countryside of Europe it seemed the perfect thing to do. Engage with the local flora and fauna. I have always been in awe of the work of botanical and natural history painters, as much for their intrepid travels as for their work. Recording and rendering the natural world is a real challenge of skill and observation. It is also an honest and genuine art form with a purpose.
You may say why bother, as we have wonderful photographic techiques which can reveal more than the keenest human eye. But photography is instant and drawing in detail is slow and it is the luxury of going back to this slow and careful observation of what surrounds me that really appeals. In its slowness lies its pleasure. While you are drawing, ideas will emerge, connections will be made and the pure beauty of shape, line and tone will become apparent again. Already after only 4 days I have more notes in the “great-ideas which-may-never-see-the-light-of-day ” file. True! Most of them never will but it gives me some comfort to know they are there.
This painting course takes you back to the beginning of drawing again, careful observed drawing, then onto line, tone and colour. All the while keeping that disciplined approach, and the pace is slow too. I am so pleased to be part of it and this study will do nothing but enhance whatever other artistic things I am involved with. I also like to be part of something bigger and to have expert advice from some of the best botanical painters in the world will be wonderful. I admit I am daunted by their skills of observation, their design sense and sheer artistic virtuosity ..I have a lot to learn, but as learning is my drug of choice it wont be too arduous.