June Plumeria

It was the best intention, really, to take a few days, a few moments, to wander about the yard, painting and sketching, posting #NatureDoodlewash and joining in with Charlie, (from Doodlewash), and his fun plans for June. Then one thing led to another, a flower reminded me of a painting done last summer which included plumeria blossoms and mangos, it started me wondering if it might be fun to revisit the subject, which took me back inside to the easel, splashing in paint and water, visiting memories and shutting the door on my ‘hiking’ in the yard. Easily distracted it seems.

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A result of my distraction.

Now we are counting the days, minutes even, to July’s debut of National Watercolor Month. All one has to do is visit Facebook to get a sense of the excitement and energy that is building, on an international level, for the start of Charlie’s 31 day National Watercolor Month challenge and fundraising for the Zebra Foundation. To get a feel for it, visit here, watch the video, start getting your painting gear together and join the rest of us as we wait, excitedly and with eager anticipation for the start of July.

In the meantime, there is still June, where have all the days gone? So out the door I go, and with determination not to be distracted I am met again by white plumeria blossoms waving at me brightly under a summer sun. Feels like déjà vu.

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Focus on the flowers…

The Singapore plumeria tree, our Grande Dame of the yard, despite the cat’s opinion, is wearing her summer frock of dark green glossy leaves.  A few months ago a single white flower bloomed on one of the lower branches and was promptly plucked by a howling northerly wind, our rainy season’s final stormy tantrum.

It seemed that the tree did not approve of losing the blossom so early, and as if overnight, with island magic, large bouquets of white plumeria began to flower all over the dark canopy.  The white flower petals easily reflecting the light of sun and moon had become a gleaming defiant crown of heavily scented blossoms for the tree.   Now as ocean trades slip by, the large clusters of flowers, nestled among the dark green leaves, nod and sway gracefully in the breezes, as if dancing to the song of summer.

Plumeria Sketching

Plumeria sketching

Leading Lost Hearts Home

Shisa Companions

Shisa Companions

Started in 2014 and observed every April 23rd, today is National Lost Dog Awareness.

As described at National Calendar Days (continuing with Charlie’s invitation):

“This day was created not only to bring awareness to the dogs that go missing but to also celebrate the reunions.  Through networks of shelters, veterinaries, social media and other media sources, many lost canines are reunited with their loved ones. National Lost Dog Awareness Day is an opportunity to learn more about prevention and networking.”

Positive thoughts and prayers for the lost that they find their way home, for the searching that they find their friends, and for the many in between who help reconnect hearts.

If prayers were bells

All the world would hear ringing

Leading lost hearts home

 

National Pet Day

National Pet Day

National Pet Day

Joining Charlie’s invitation to celebrate a National or International Day with a doodlewash and because it is hard to resist the idea of celebrating National Pet Day, (April 11th), here is a morning doodle. Peace and happiness to all companions great and small and the people who love and care for them.

Friends through the seasons

Faithful in good times and bad

Sharing lives and hearts

Flowers and Birdsong

Flowers and Birdsong

Just another pen and ink sketchbook doodle (in between projects), while thinking about friends, International Women’s Day and the monthly draw a bird day started by Laura at Create art everyday, and of course done while listening to birdsong.

Smiles of true friends lift

Hearts like flowers and birdsong

Clouds tickle the toes

Like A Phoenix

Like A Phoenix

It is a time of transition, in-between creative projects, a time to put aside paint brushes and reach for the pencil and pens. What better place to relax and ponder over new directions than doodling in the sketchbook. I suppose the arrival of a New Moon and Chinese New Year were on my mind, it seemed to be the direction for my drawings and scribbles.  Here in the islands local celebrations include brightly colored decorations, lions dancing in Chinatown streets, and sharing plenty of good food with family and friends. The festivities herald seasonal change while allowing moments of reflection and offering hopes for another new year.

It is a time of transition, … a good time to pause, take a breath, and recharge the batteries before continuing creative journeys, under a shining moon, like a phoenix reborn and filled with possibilities.

Lunar promises

Bloom like a phoenix reborn

Red fire monkey laughs

Draw a Bird Day: Corvus Hawaiiensis

Celebrating Laura’s (Create Art Everyday) Draw a Bird Day, (every 8th day of the month), with a poem and watercolor sketch of the Hawaiian Crow, (‘Alala or Corvus Hawaiiensis).  Working in a sketchbook not really meant for the use of water, the items used were pencil, Ultramarine blue (M. Graham) and Quinacridone burnt scarlet (Daniel Smith) watercolor.

Hawaiian Crow

Before the last pair disappeared from the wilds, conservationists began a captive breeding program with the goal to prevent extinction and eventually reintroduce birds back into their former habitats.  The story is far from over, the program continues and there is growing hope that one day the distinctive call of the Hawaiian crow will again be heard in the forest wilds.

Inspiration Freshly Picked

Morning arrived gray, low clouds hung so heavy with moisture it felt like sitting in a bamboo steamer, minus the tasty dumplings. Thank goodness our trade winds linger, a little shy at times, but always welcomed with grateful sighs of relief.

Last night the rain, envoys from a storm to our south, paid us a visit. Our white plumeria tree must have played host, so many of its blossoms now carpet the ground at its base like abandoned party favors from the late night revelers.

Our summer seems to be winding down in its own subtle way, so it was a pleasant surprise to find a bag of these late bloomers, a gift from a friend’s yard, hanging on my kitchen door.

Freshly picked

Mangoes are the sweetness of summer sunshine wrapped in rainbow hues of blended colors. I carefully pull each rounded fruit from the bag, taking in their scent and turning them gently round and round in my hands, admiring the way the colors dance and blend. The sight of a ripening mango always sings to me of watercolors and it is a challenge not to drop everything, load up the brush, and start painting immediately. I want to memorize the way the colors mingle so subtly from cool greens to vibrant yellow. But these beauties are ripe and smell good enough to eat on the spot.

Playing around with set upThe solution is a few quick set ups taking photos for reference …

A loose sketcha couple of loose sketches, and then back to the kitchen.

As I peel and slice my way through memories of summers past, I cannot help but stare for a moment at my hands, now covered with mango juice…what is that color? Gamboge? Maybe a mix of Orange Lake and Hansa Yellow or even Aureolin? I sift through the discarded peels … Is that a hint of Quinacridone Gold next to Rose Lake? And what a lovely purple, maybe a mix of Ultramarine Blue and Permanent Magenta or even Alizarin Crimson? Alright, this is becoming distracting, time to paint.

Exploring

Exploring

My creative journeys are not always planned and unless there is some sort of deadline involved there is always room to indulge in my penchant for meandering. Case in point, I had been continuing my explorations of waterfalls and simple still-lifes with collage, but now with the arrival of freshly picked inspiration I am excited to wander off the paper trail, maybe explore different styles while playing in pools of color. I will probably linger here for a bit and enjoy the remains of summer, at least until I feel the urge to meander once again.

Remembering summer

Remembering summer

Collage: watercolor dyed paper

It is summer in the islands and the air is weighted with humidity while the trade winds are barely a whisper on the skin. So for the next week or two, watercolor and collage will be my mode of transportation for the creative journey. With the air being fairly still, I can leave my papers out and not worry about having a paper chase every time a breeze wanders through the opened windows. On the other hand, with this sticky weather, I have to be careful not to brush up against a stack of torn paper bits or I might become a walking piñata.

The fact is I love paper. Always have. From store bought papers to found bits and scraps of plain, printed, textured, and or tinted ephemera that we come across in life’s journey.

Small variety of collage papers

Small variety of collage papers

Whether a delicately textured rice paper, or a sheet of elegant Chiyogami paper, even the pretty little postage stamp on yesterday’s mail, all are like little treasures, and with collage, most of these will wind up being torn, crumpled, painted and glued to make more little treasures.

Over the years, the paper I get the most use from are those that I can tint or ‘dye’ with watercolors. Most often these are ‘found’ papers, particularly plain tissue paper or other light weight papers used for stuffing or wrapping commercial purchases.

My process of dyeing the papers is varied, but all are fun and carefree. Unless I am after a particular color scheme, it is a go with the flow kind of thing which is great and therapeutic in helping to shake off the stresses of the day. During these sessions I just lay the papers out on a backing board, sometimes in a single layer and other times overlapping up to 3 layers depending on the thickness of the paper. It all becomes a mad experiment on color mingling and intensity with no worries about making a mistake.

Under-painting from dyeing collage paper

Under-painting from dyeing collage paper

Periodically I will place the papers on a sheet of 140# cold press Arches watercolor paper and approach it as I would an under-painting. I will do several at a time and it is always exciting peeling off the dried paper and seeing what lies beneath.

Examining the remaining imprint, often a textured looking under-painting, frees the imagination to run loose and come up with painting ideas. I also use this method with my sketchbook, tearing smaller sized papers and using random colors on various pages.

Subtle pops of color

Subtle pops of color

Later when I am doing actual daily sketches, coming across one of these pages can not only inspire a drawing, but perks up the visual senses with their subtle pops of color.

Keeping a few plain papers on hand also helps when I want to clean out color wells to make room for fresher paint or to make use of the remaining puddles of paint in my pallet’s mixing area. Instead of wiping up the sometimes large mixed color puddles with a tissue and throwing it out, I can dye a few papers, and often times these interesting color blends really make a difference when used later in collages or other projects.

Looking at the  papers now strewn across the work table, landscapes come to mind. Cool landscapes with a water feature, a good destination during these overly warm summer days.

Paper landscapes

Paper landscapes

First I need to gather up the papers I will be using, maybe a glass of iced water, and then we can get started.

Sketchbook meditation

things on a table

Morning mayhem

When setting out on a journey, first things first, which direction to go in?  Because I usually have more than one project started, which direction becomes a daily question. The things I do, painting, writing, sewing, and gardening, are solitary pursuits, and unless I have company, am involved in a collaborative work, or facing a deadline, the choice of direction can sometimes be hard to make. To save time I like to plan the next day’s schedule before I go to bed, figure out the priorities, so that when I get started, I can run on automatic, at least for a short time, while waiting for my brain to wake up and catch up. That is the theory anyway. But sometimes there is just too much going on in my head to settle down and follow the previous night’s plan, too many “must” things demanding attention, too many “fun” things wanting to be done. So how do I decide? This is where my sketchbook comes in handy.

As far back as I can remember, growing up, pencil and paper were my ‘go to’ items, they helped me remember good times, offered escape in bad times, and afforded me a place in my mind that was quiet enough to let me focus and sort out whatever needed to be mulled over. Through the years, doodles, sketches, and creative marks, all helped to funnel the mental mayhem into something more manageable. But eventually my sketchbook went from every day use to only when ‘needed’, such as working out a problem composition, or as an emergency stand-in for a missing journal.

Recently, I have gone back to my old friend the sketchbook on a daily basis, the first thing in the morning and sometimes the last thing at night. It is not easy to rebuild an old habit, but it is very beneficial. To help the process, and keep it simple, I set aside time every morning and choose a subject matter per month. Nothing too complex but something of interest, for example, last month my subject was trees.

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Simple sketch

So every morning, while waiting for my tea or coffee to brew or with cup already in hand, I drew trees in pen and ink, uncomplicated, 30 minutes, and usually with enough time left on the clock to add some color if desired. After time is up I usually find that the exercise has helped to quiet the morning mayhem, to put my mind into a sort of meditative state making it easier to sort things out and settle on a direction for the day whether previously planned or not. Because the sketching is only for me, concern over presentation becomes a non-issue, and there is enough flexibility built in so that when life sometimes throws a monkey wrench, there is no stress if I miss a morning or two. Later when I make the time to ‘catch-up’ on any missing days, which is purely optional, my inner voice of accountability feels satisfied and whatever stresses I have collected from the day are dissolved in my 30 minutes, (up to an hour), of sketchbook meditation. More importantly though, the built in forgiveness allows this exercise to remain enjoyable and it does not take on the mantle of chore. A month’s worth of simple sketches in addition to those done outside the morning exercise adds up to a nice feeling of personal satisfaction and accomplishment.

An additional benefit to the morning sketching, I have noticed, is the emergence of themes, without conscious effort or design. By month’s end of just drawing trees, I had found inspiration for a new series of paintings which I am eager to get started on. Just more places I can explore on my creative travels.