Greetings pilgrims! I’m still here. Walking, painting, sketchbooking, porch-sitting, reading, writing in my daily journal, soaking up the mild winter sun, visiting nearby coastal hideaways. Grateful for everything under the stars.
LA county is headed for another “lockdown” probably similar to where you live, due to a shortage of ICU beds. All the things I like to do aren’t affected by lockdowns or stay-at-home orders since I’m already on introvert auto-pilot and I live alone with the cat posse. Naturally, it’s more difficult for people who live in multi-person households or who are more socially-minded. I did postpone a dentist visit until late February since it’s hard to keep a mask on when one is getting an implant.
I just ordered some super cute new masks because my friend, Joyce was wearing some outstanding ones when we had a socially distant art date last week. If they fit my big head and are as awesome as I think they’re gonna be, I’ll share her source.
Farmhouse Joan, if you’re reading this, I’ll have you know the mask you made and sent me way back in April is my go-to public garden walking mask.
I can think of no better news than the fact that vaccines are on the near horizon. I’m very glad that my 2 sisters, both in healthcare, will be receiving those first rounds of the vaccine. No more worrying about Carol going off to the hospital or Dottie seeing patients at hospice. What a relief that will be!
The art challenge I set for myself in November was to focus on portraits and figures. This could be a year-long study quite easily, but like my self-styled Inktober, what this daily practice did was to rev my art engine and blow out some of the cobwebs. I’m continuing with whatever strikes my fancy for December. Even if it’s a 2×3 inch watercolor face, I’m trying to do something daily. I find myself constantly noticing how light and shadows fall across the face.
I took a lot of screenshots while devouring The Crown season 4. Princess Margaret was a wonderful character to try and capture.
I spent Thanksgiving week on the Santa Barbara coast like I do almost every year. I rented a small upstairs apartment on Islay and had a lovely perch out on the world.
I pushed the desk up against the window and settled in for the week with a stack of watercolor paper, sketchbooks, and paint.
I made time for some socially distanced visits with friends, but you know me, I fly solo to most places and enjoy poking around in my own company. Not terribly different than pre-pandemic times.
I was able to use my reciprocal membership from Descanso Gardens at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and I went early in the morning to enjoy the redwood forest trail beside the sycamores, big-leaf maples, redwoods, oaks, and other trees scattered throughout Mission Canyon.
The bright trees below are from walks close to home or Descanso.
For those who aren’t Southern Californians, we do have seasons and if you live here long enough you will come to know them. Powerful observation skills are required. The drop in nighttime temperatures, the reddening of certain trees. Leaves turn gold and drop, blossoms fall, other trees bloom, pomegranates and persimmons ripen on heavy branches. In December my succulents are at their height in terms of attractiveness. The aeoniums grow like giant rosettes, some develop flower spikes. Grass grows in my yard. Deep blackish purple olives litter the ground. Everything waits for the promised rain.
Sometimes, like this year, it doesn’t arrive, so I keep on watering everything by hand.
I bought an old-fashioned coffee percolator because lately I am in need of black coffee and lots of it. I love the way the aroma billows through Moss Cottage, especially when I’ve been poking around in the garden then come back inside. It reminds me of a battered old percolator I remember from childhood.
For those of you with an ipad pro and an Apple pencil I can’t recommend Procreate highly enough. What fun I have tracing over photos. It’s a great way to study the planes of the face, color in shadows, get a handle on how features lay on the face. Sometimes I make drawings of these (from the ipad sketch) in my sketchbook. It’s a pleasure to be able to do a quick study of someone’s face or figure without having anything to clean up afterwards.
Then there are the ever present Zoom sketches with markers and crayons and watercolor brushes full of water and paint.
No trip to the coast is complete without a stop at the beloved salt marsh.
Enjoying a solo sunset at El Capitan north of Santa Babs. Can you see the moon floating above my head?
I discovered some interesting headstones at the charming Santa Barbara cemetery (est. 1867) which led me down an interesting Woodman of the World rabbit hole. I always visit when I’m in town. The ambiance and views are outstanding.
I enjoyed long bouts of sunset seeking with dear Sharron, in Carpinteria.
These photos below are from my daily walks along routes I take along the arroyo a few minutes drive from my house. This has been my morning ritual since March when the pandemic began in earnest.
I took these photos in order to paint these scenes into my sketchbook. The black and white above is to help me study the values more closely.
Ditto for the blue scrubjay in my birdbath in the front garden.
With a vaccine on the near horizon, international travel seems more and more like a real possibility for late 2021 or 2022. I have my first destination mapped out. At night I go out in the dark of my patio and cast my eyes up through the flocks of night clouds. I seek out the stars lost in their folds and imagine I am walking through dark hushed streets of a foreign city. Some distant galaxy where a pandemic is a long lost memory. A relic from a distant past.
In the meantime I am enjoying this winter which will live long in my memory for the rest of my life. Not for the sadness or despair that so many felt as a pandemic roared around the world like a comet. But for my quiet sojourn at home. The year I ate lunch outside in the gentle winter sun in between Zoom classes. When I painted and drew and read and wrote and walked and communed with trees and sat in silence on my porch. The year I didn’t have to leave my house early and drive to school. That year I stayed home.
ON MY BOOKSHELF
I hope you’re well. Making mountains of art, reading unputdownable books, swimming in rivers of coffee, cooking great batches of soups and stews, chopping wood for your nightly fires, tapping your maple trees, going for sleigh rides, putting up Christmas trees. Living, hoping, dreaming.
Being right here, right now.