The Primrose Path

February 11, 2017

Primroses are making a late-winter appearance in grocery stores around here.  They are a welcome splash of saturated color and hold the promise of Spring and gardening.

Watercolor sketch of yellow primroses

Watercolor sketch of yellow primroses

Ink sketch of primroses (primula)

Ink sketch of primroses (primula)

Watercolor vignettes from Tasha Tudor's Garden

Watercolor vignettes from Tasha Tudor’s Garden

 

Skagit swans at sunrise

Skagit swans at sunrise

“Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air —
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A Shrill dark music — like the rain pelting the trees — like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds —
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black  leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, I your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed you life?”
— Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems

I went to the Skagit Valley to see snow geese, but they were not in their usual places.  Instead, I saw swans — trumpeter swans, I think, although both trumpeters and tundra swans overwinter here.  Mary Oliver’s images — white crosses in the sky, black feet like dark leaves — capture the swans’ presence so perfectly.

Swans like white crosses

Swans like white crosses

Those relatively large black feet look like rudders!

Those relatively large black feet look like rudders!

Sketchbook, line drawings of Skagit swans

Sketchbook, line drawings of Skagit swans

 

 

 

Crow

Crow

Snow geese

Snow geese

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
Are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Anemones

Anemones

Crow

Crow

Pen and ink sketch of Canada goose

Pen and ink sketch of Canada goose

Pen and ink sketch of crow

Pen and ink sketch of crow

I’ve decided that if I am going to commit to becoming an artist, I need to give even a little time each day to making drawings or paintings.  So I will start by using a paperback book as a sketchbook, something so portable that I can have it with me and available to pull out and make a quick sketch in odd moments.  To keep it even more simple, I will just use a black ink pen for my drawings — no color or pigments.

Small ambitions are about all I can commit to right now.  I will keep this project light-hearted, more in the nature of doodling away in idleness than anything more serious.  The book has 168 pages, and I plan on drawing on the right-hand pages only.  My hope is to have filled the book by the end of the year.  And to have cultivated the good habit of taking time each day to spend on something important to me.

I like the theme of the book I have chosen, In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell.  I will inevitably read a couple of pages each day as I add my drawings, and perhaps this exercise will give me something to think about as I work.

I expect the book to become well worn as I handle it in the coming days.  It already has a coffee stain on the edge.

 

Intensely Ordinary

October 18, 2015

“Do not try to do extraordinary things but do ordinary things with intensity.”
— Emily Carr, from Hundreds and Thousands:The Journals of an Artist

Pen and ink sketches of flowers on color blocks

Pen and ink sketches of flowers on color blocks

Pen and ink sketches of flowers on color blocks

Pen and ink sketches of flowers on color blocks

 

Gordon Skagit Farms -- a bountiful harvest

Gordon Skagit Farms — a bountiful harvest

“As Gill says, “every man is called to give love to the work of his hands. Every man is called to be an artist.” The small family farm is one of the last places – they are getting rarer every day – where men and women (and girls and boys, too) can answer that call to be an artist, to learn to give love to the work of their hands. It is one of the last places where the maker – and some farmers still do talk about “making the crops” – is responsible, from start to finish, for the thing made. This certainly is a spiritual value, but it is not for that reason an impractical or uneconomic one. In fact, from the exercise of this responsibility, this giving of love to the work of the hands, the farmer, the farm, the consumer, and the nation all stand to gain in the most practical ways: They gain the means of life, the goodness of food, and the longevity and dependability of the sources of food, both natural and cultural. The proper answer to the spiritual calling becomes, in turn, the proper fulfillment of physical need.”
― Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food

Gordon Skagit Farms does a great job marrying farming and art.  A visit there is a visual feast.

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Pen and ink sketches of squashes and pumpkins

Pen and ink sketches of squashes and pumpkins

Wildflowers Near Mount Rainier

September 14, 2012

Beargrass in the meadow by Tipsoo Lake near Chinook Pass

The wildflowers are definitely one of the highlights of hiking the Naches Peak Loop Trail near Chinook Pass on Hwy 410.  They peak in late summer, so this is still a great time to go and see them.  Here are some photos of the wildflowers I saw along the trail:

Beargrass

Paintbrush

I believe this is rosy spirea.

And I believe this shrub is mountain ash.

Mountain ash with Mount Rainier

The colorful red berries of mountain ash

Meadows with Queen Anne’s Lace and lupine, among other wildflowers

Lupine

Foliage of lupine

I am not sure what this is — perhaps yellow dot saxifrage or slender mountain sandwort? Does anyone know?

It looks like this shrub is growing matchsticks!

Possibly Cascade penstemon?

Pen and ink sketches of wildflowers from my Moleskin journal

Watercolor sketch of magenta paintbrush

Another watercolor sketch of paintbrush