Oh, wait. I forgot to tell you that I’m working on some illustrations of a delightful walled garden in Edinburgh called Dunbar’s Close, a small secret green space off the Royal Mile. Dunbar’s Close is a long narrow formal landscape comprised of three outdoor “rooms” — this is just one of the sketches I made of the general layout of the garden. The space is sandwiched between the Canongate Church and its cemetery and another tenement building. There’s a hill in the distance with the old Scottish Royal Academy on it.
I have an idea to paint all three of the Dunbar Close garden “rooms” seperately so I settled on an eastern view of the first “room”, which I drew on tracing paper and taped onto a light box so that when I turn the light box on I will be able to paint the image on my watercolor paper without having to draw it on my watercolor paper. Andyes, I am deliberately screwing with perspective so I can show more of the fancy shrubbery without dong an aerial view. That’s Coco, my really feral cat, helping me. I trapped her over ten years ago and it’s only been in the past 12 months that’s she begun to let me pet her. I’m left handed, so of course she’s decided to park her butt right where she will be most “helpful”. Yes, that’s a cup of tea in between two jars of water for the paints. Yes, sometimes I get confused and dip my brush into the tea cup instead of the water jar. I like the taste of ultramarine.
It wasn’t until I got this far that I realised that I had no idea how to paint shrubbery. It looked so easy — just swab some green stuff around! But oh, crap: it’s going to be harder than I thought. So I started to experiment:
This is how I learned that stippling is the only way to paint boxtree shrubs.
This is my second attempt to paint the damn boxtree shrubs. Still pretty icky. So I started over again:
Only to discover that I can’t paint ivy, or trees, or gravel, or background. So I start over again, but this time I’ll start with the gravel:
The gravel still looks shitty. Time to START OVER AGAIN. Technically, by this time I’ve turned the view of this garden from east to west…but you don’t really have to know that. I just wanted to avoid having to paint a whole lot of ivy, and the western walls have a nice stone pattern that I think will be more fun to do, so that’s why you won’t see two walls of ivy in the finished picture. Aren’t you glad to know that?
I liked this gravel better — made by letting the water do a lot of work while all I did was drop blobs of paint into it. So, whew. Now I can start on the cobblestone pathway.
So far, so good.
As it is starting to look a little monotonous, I’m going to add some warm color here in the cobblestones. Also I love this garden and I want to make it look a little more magical…
I’m not saying that this is the final illustration, or that I’m totally happy with it, but obviously I’ve learned a lot since this –
And it only took two days out of my life. Just imagine what I can learn if I START OVER AGAIN!
So that’s what I’ll be doing this fine Spring Friday: learning again from my mistakes, forcing myself to get it right this time, suffering for my art.
I’ll let you vote: Who isn’t entirely bored by my detailed telling of my trial-and-error methods and wants to see what this thing will look like after I’m done today? Better yet: does anyone have any suggestions to make this picture better?