With spring well underway here in Williamsburg, I’ve been celebrating the change in season with my sketching. Let’s take a look at what I’ve doing.
Several of these drawings are studies for the next entry in my vanitas series, with spring as the seasonal focal point. These flowers were all sketched at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden, which is about a 10-minute drive from my house.
I’ve also been making sketches that celebrate the season more broadly, and aren’t necessarily intended for any future projects for the moment. The arrival of the spring lambs is an annual event at Colonial Williamsburg, so I was happy to find one in repose for my sketchbook. The flowering trees are from the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, which we visited over Easter. And Brandon picked up the floral bouquet for me one day just because.
A third group of drawings has been exploring different techniques. As an artist, I’ve always been more comfortable with drawing than painting. I usually approach painting as a way of adding color to drawings. Even when I do set out to make a painting I usually start with a drawing for guidance. For these latest sketches though, I’ve been focusing more on painting for its own sake. The two sketches of driftwood by the James River started out as quick pencil sketches done on-site, but once I got home I started working in paint, only adding pen and ink afterward. I painted the lily in real-time as the sun was setting, with the light constantly changing as I added pigment. I’m especially pleased with the sketch of holly blooming outside our bedroom window. For this sketch I did no preparatory drawing at all, but instead launched right into painting, only adding details with pencil and pen and ink at the very end. Admittedly, none of this is revolutionary, but it does represent a new direction in my personal sketching practice. Even if I don’t work this way all the time in the future, just knowing that I’m willing to be more assertive with paint opens up new possibilities.
Overall, I think these sketches show an ongoing enthusiasm for exploring different subject matter as well as techniques. The site-based sketches have been especially satisfying to draw because I traveled very little last spring. With everything in lockdown and no sign of the pandemic getting under control anytime soon, I didn’t feel comfortable venturing outside beyond my immediate neighborhood, so I missed the public gardens, new lambs, and other signifiers of spring. While I recognize that the pandemic is not over, the prospect of vaccinations and a clearer understanding of physical distancing, masking, and sanitization have made me a little more comfortable with going outside to different places, and it shows in my sketches.