I finished reading a small book about weather prediction by observation of clouds: “Wolkenbilder Wettervorhersage” . It was an easy-to-read guide through the complex field of weather prediction and the more intuitive interpretation of clouds as indicators for humidity, wind, temperature and pressure. The scientific approach was enriched by clear pictures, that had for me a significant artistic interest naturally embedded in them. How can one not think of the many paintings and drawings, where the artists tried to convey the lightness and vibrancy of clouds and skies, as well as the difficulty of capturing the textures and contrasts with a camera?
I liked the first chapters, that described the main weather states and sequences for Germany. I guess that the latitude and the simple orography of the country makes the weather dependent on medium to large-scale weather phenomena, and the weather prediction seems pretty straightforward. Now I feel more knowledgeable about what I see in the sky, and I’m reassured by my new ability of deciphering the messages hidden in the clouds literally in plain sight.
This morning I went outside before it could get too hot. I went straight to the goats’ enclosure and found many children greeting and petting them. I walked to the other side of the enclosure, on the bridge above it, and started sketching.
At first the goats were really far away and I could only draw the outlines. These are two small goats in the first page. Then I focused on an older goat laying down in the shade, and what I could see best were its horns. I went on sketching horns in all possible orientations. Their shape is not easy to understand, especially as I don’t have depth perception: so the sketches become flat just like pictures. They are the clearest way to show two important facts: first, that the horns are not cylindrical, and second, that they follow a wide spiral. When the spiral of one horn is seen from the side (with the axis coming out of the page, so to speak), it makes a very round arc, but then the other horn has the funniest shape, as the axis of the spiral is almost parallel to the page and the horn section (which is sort of tear-shaped) makes all sort of sharp angles and almost rectangular shapes. The 90-degree angle midway is the oddest form that comes out of this combination of shapes, and I find it the most recognisable goat horn marker. I will definitely come back and try to observe the horns better. In the meanwhile, enjoy these three relaxed goats 🙂
In the park near my house there is an enclosure with a dozen goats. They can stay in a little wooden house and roam in a space with plenty of rocks and some shade under the trees. There are some older goats that walk slowly, a few youngsters and a few who will give birth soon. They seem content and with enough to do to have a pleasant life. Here is one that looked quite satisfied:
A black goat was resting in a convenient spot to be drawn so I took my sketchbook and gave it a try:
I would like to visit them more often but there is always quite a crowd around, and there are not many sitting spots (just one bench). I get tired quickly of the distractions from the flow of people, just the same as in the zoo, but there even more because there are no other animals to visit. I almost wish I were a goat and had the chance to stay in the enclosure, maybe in a quiet corner, and take all my time to contemplate, eat, jump and sleep 🙂
A very short post about today’s observations in nature:
I tried to focus on something simple at the park (where a lot was going on, and I don’t start about what is going on around the world…) – something down to earth. The ground just in front of me became my observation area and I picked a pinecone as main subject. Not pictured are ants, tiny spiders, aphids, various grasses, and a green caterpillar that fell from the birch tree above me. It was likely an orange underwing. I took it back on the birch and looked at it climbing the trunk in its characteristic looping gait. Just as I arrived there, a small treecreeper was hopping up the birch tree and chirping very quietly.
Not easy to find a short title for the post, so let me jump straight to the pictures:
This watercolor sketch is from the sunny morning at the park near my house. I found it difficult to choose what to paint, because many views were pleasing but also challenging, so I went for my usual shaded spot and turned around until I found a view with enough depth but not too much to paint. The combination of grass, trees and dark background was just right for my taste and so I started painting. I’m sort of happy on how it turned out, I was able to mix paint so that it came close to the actual scene and sort of controlled the dilution of colors, but I guess there is much to improve about the trees in the background and in general about the technique. Practice makes perfect 🙂
Knitting also progresses nicely. I finished the first of the blue-stripey socks and almost finished the body of the linen sweater:
And finally, bread #116 and #117. I had to bake the second one after less than a week from baking the first, because it sort of vanished (innocent looks…):
The weather is not going to be luring me outside next week, so I forecast more knitting updates… stay tuned, and stay safe 🙂
I was in Bürgerpark for Easter and there were a lot of people, the weather was very nice and sunny:
Unfortunately for the nest on my windowsill there are sad news… One morning I found the nest empty, and two crows flying close by, followed by the pigeon pair. I ran downstairs and on the ground just below the nest there were the rests of the eggs. I feel sad for the parents who were so dedicated, and as the breeding season is still at the beginning, I hope they find another safe spot for the nest.
I wish you all to stay safe and healthy, and to strive to feed on the positivity you can find inside and around you.
I even started drawing again… not much, but I feel that I need to keep in touch with the combination of nature, observation and scribbling. John Muir Law‘s videos are for me a source of inspiration, insight and cheerfulness. Even when I don’t draw along, I feel revived in my interest for nature.
And last but not least, a pair of wood pigeons chose my windowsill as the place to make their nest. I had a heather plant that didn’t manage to thrive, and they apparently found it a great start for a nest, to the point that they first laid an egg and then brought twigs. Then yesterday I was nearby when they switched nesting duty, and I saw a second egg! I am very curious on what will happen next, and will keep you updated too 🙂
That’s all for now, I wish you all to stay safe and healthy, and to be able to deal with these challenging times as best as you can.
Hello all again, here is my first post after a while, and I wish to share some insights in my drawing process and a few thoughts and observations here and there.
This first version of the drawing served the purpose of getting myself familiar with the shapes and proportions of the bird in the picture. I draw birds only seldom and I have no model in my mind to follow, so I have to take some extra preparation steps before diving into the final drawing. Cormorants are water birds, but they lack the substance to make their feathers waterproof, so they spend quite a lot of time standing like this to dry.
Every start is a blank canvas. How do I know how much of my previous experience will be useful? What awaits me this time?
I copied the outlines of the sketch on a new piece of paper, with a light pencil, and started filling the spaces with a uniform and quite light shading.
That looks familiar, I guess that’s a good sign.
This part had been my favourite. It required me a change of mode, because I fully focused on the shapes and the contrasts between the various parts of the picture, and forgot about the big picture. The fact that this layer of darker and more detailed shading took a long time made it even more valuable to me.
The magic is in the details. Observing while staying still, almost disappearing, and the observed live their life undisturbed. How I loved that feeling when I was out in the field, silent spectator, invisible to the wildlife (if they acknowledged me, at least I hope I was considered a harmless human)!
The middle part of the bird required me a marked change in texture. I was initially having a hard time rendering the small ruffled feathers of the neck and the shiny feathers of the shoulders. I was very hopeful for the tail, but it didn’t come out as I wished. The point in the whole drawing is that I always added shades and never erased: some parts would have been way easier to fill up with a dark tone and then edited by erasing the tiny light strips of the feather spines – but I went for the slower and less forgiving path.
Am I trying to prove to myself and you that I’m worth it? Do you need that? I guess not, but it’s a very old habit of mine and it will take some more time to fade.
I was pretty happy with how it turned out. It looked sort of flat, but it’s how I prefer my drawings to look like. I like when they don’t reflect the picture or the reality as close as they could. I want them to be a filtered representation, and the filter to be visible. So I could have considered it done, at that point.
There is rarely the chance to get anything 100% ready anyway. We would wait the whole time in front of a stalling progress bar.
Here is the final step, one more layer of dark pencil to enhance the contrasts. I didn’t smooth out the hatching lines on purpose, and I wished I had used a coarser paper. Time to visit one of those wonderful stationery shops where you get in needing nothing and get out with a bunch of incredible stuff!
That’s my gift, my time, my attention, my patience. The little shared moments shine like fireflies.
Thanks for reading, and see you at the next update!
I was this morning at the Naturkundemuseum in Berlin, and I admired once again the skull of the T-rex Tristan Otto. It was displayed under a set of lights that made a fascinating play of light and shadows on the dark fossilised bones.
While I was drawing, many people of all ages ran to the display and stood in awe, observed it from different angles, took pictures, then moved forward for the visit. It is definitely a magnificient finding from a scientific viewpoint, as well as a visually appealing object. My mind first identified as a dinosaur skull, therefore as the remain of an animal who lived millions of years ago, when the Earth looked much different, there was no man, but the oceans and trees and reptiles and insects and all life, and the moon and sun above; but with time, while drawing, I started to see it as a sculpture, as a piece of art, as a monument to the exquisite art of chiseling, glorified by light – up to the extreme of flattening it onto paper, as an interesting set of shapes, lines, angles, proportions – abstract, essential, distilled.
These two viewpoints are valid for any other specimen in the exhibition, and for me, for everything I can see. I sometimes stop and marvel over an accidental composition on my way home, or a ray of light. I went to the museum to see Tristan Otto, and I enjoyed the whole visit, but did I enjoy it only because it was carefully organised, cleverly connected, and artfully displayed, or because it had value in itself? Did I admire the most colourful animals because they are artistically pleasant? They did not come to life with the purpose to be ambassadors of the beauty of wildlife, but they can still be considered as such: through their beauty, they can awaken our admiration and make us want to protect them from threats and extinction. I feel a bit uneasy with this thought, however, because I’m afraid that what is not beautiful, or not attractively presented, does not get that much attention. I understand that attractive presentation is an essential feature of many human creations and activities, but I feel uneasy applying it to everything, especially to what has no power in improving its appearance.