I keep a notebook to scribble To-Do’s, painting ideas, and tidbits gleaned from books and the web. It’s old fashioned to keep a paper To-Do list, I know, but I love the feel of paper, and I enjoy writing lists. It’s as important as keeping a moleskine for field sketching in my car, and in my bag. Sketching while you wait for kids, or a lovely piece on NPR to conclude, or a chapter in an audio book to close, etc… that’s a great use of double-pleasure time. Checking things off a To-Do list is pretty snazzy too. A notebook in my hands feels solid and reminiscent of scholarly things. The calendar on my phone is great, and I use it every day, but moving through tasks on a keyboard doesn’t supply the same gratification I get with old school pencil & paper.
While in France last month, I tried to write a little every day about where we were, and what I thought might be compelling to paint back in my studio. I scribbled all flavors of wanderings and wonderings in margins and around little sketches and notes. It’s a pleasure to look through the notes now, and recall tidbits; “Find Creme de Marrons to add to plain yogurt!”, and “Carve a 3-color linocut of lavender fields!” I was sitting in the field above, pondering how I’d sequence the carving; which color first, how dark to go on the last color, what size plate to use, and which tone of paper, etc. Can you see in that photo how it might work as a relief print?
I’m pretty sure I would have forgotten the idea of making a linocut from this scene if I hadn’t written it down. (Three cheers for paper notebooks!) As soon as I finish the series of watercolors in process for Fall exhibits, I think a little lavender field linocut might be a perfect project to recall the buzzing bees, fragrant air and all that purple, as far as the eye can see. Maybe I’ll use the project as a video tutorial too. Do you want to learn to carve lino blocks?
One of the treats I brought home from the Abbey de Senanque, near Gordes is lavender oil. Their famous lavender fields had just been re-planted (certain lavender cultivars have to be pulled & replaced with new plants every six years), so the purple-ratio was low, but the grounds were beautiful and the gift shop was open. Lavender is the most popular oil used in soaps worldwide, but the plant has been deemed a noxious and invasive weed in parts of Australia and Spain. I love the scent, but my husband thinks it smells like bug spray, so I put a drop on a cotton ball and set it on a tiny dish by a breezy open window when he’s not home. 🙂
The field where we painted lavender near Bonnieux was flanked by a vineyard on one side, and a creek lined with hedges of queen anne’s lace on the other. The white canopies of flowerettes were all dotted with metallic green beetles twice the size of the green fig beetles I sometimes see bumbling around our macadamia nut tree in California. With more time, I would have enjoyed doing some plant and insect studies, but I’m grateful for the photos to play with that idea later.
I’m almost finished with a watercolor of the view beyond the castle wall, just to the right of the cat lounging above. Twilight views in watercolor seem challenging to be, due to the spots of bright lights in the distant villages against the indigo landscape, but I decided to tackle it while the image was fresh in my mind. Hopefully, I’ll finish before my next post. (Subscribe to get these posts via email.) Have you painted a twilight or nocturnal scene in watercolor? How did it go? Did you have to use frisket or masking to preserve your spots of light?
I can be inspired by a face, the juxtaposition of two colors, a flash of something out of the corner of my eye, a distant horizon, an intimate corner of a stream, the way two globs of paint interact with each other. For me, there’s no such thing as an “artist’s block” or a dull moment – there’s just not enough time in a day to explore everything I want to get to.