Monday, January 23, 2012

Drawing in a Greenhouse on a Gloomy Sunday

Yesterday was another in a long string of chilly, breezy, overcast, drizzly days here in Asheville, so a small group of us from my journal group went on a sketch crawl to a local garden center's greenhouse.  As soon as we stepped inside the place we shed our coats and scarves and relaxed in the balmy, sweet-smelling air.  Sinuses opened up, coughs abated, dry skin felt soft, and winter woes vanished.  I love drawing in a greenhouse in winter!

I had some research to do in addition to some drawing, so I went in search of a garden center worker and got good information on dealing with the mealy bugs that are making life tough for my indoor lemon tree.  The first page of my journal, shown here, has my notes about the lemon tree, including the results of the soil test I performed on it when I got home, using the little pH kit I had bought at the garden center.
Then I settled in to drawing in front of a bench filled with paperwhites that had passed their sell-by date and were popping out of their pots, their blossoms gone dry and rattly.   I was remembering a project I did a few years ago.  I bought a few paperwhite narcissus bulbs and planted them on December 1.  Then I drew the bulbs, sprouts, leaves, and eventually the blooms every day for the next 31 days.  I had used 16 large sheets of paper and divided each page in half vertically.  I began drawing in the left hand rectangle of the first page using pencil.  The next day I drew in the right hand rectangle of the same page, only this time I used a different medium.  Then I put the page at the bottom of the stack of paper and didn't look at it until the month was over.  Each day I drew the same paperwhites, but used a different medium or a different point of view or distance from the plant or style of drawing. 

At the end of December I got all the drawings out and spread them out on the floor.  I loved them!  They ended up in a show in Vienna, Austria, as well as digitized and published as a small edition of books that I called "December Paperwhites."


  1. Well. When are you going to show us this book?
    Love your journal pages. Finally someone let you in to draw.

  2. Love this idea. You definitely need to show us this project sometime. I did a year long project on the sweet gum tree on my walk from garage to office - but only drawing it when there was significant change in the growth.

  3. This reminds me of an exercise I did a couple of years ago. I'd visited a friend in Calif. while he was in the middle of a watercolour course with Mike Bailey, in San Jose. Each student set up a still life at home and then each week painted two full-sheet (22x30") paintings of the still life. Brought them to class for viewing and critique. Mike would talk about value, composition, whatever. Next week: two more full-sheet paintings of the same still life. Etc. And so on for 10 weeks. This sounded so original and so inspiring that I tried it on my own when I got home. By about no. 7 I was sick of the still life and frustrated that I couldn't think of a fresh way to paint it. So I slashed wide bands of colour over the whole thing, wrote things like "This is stupid" and "20? You've got to be kidding" over it. That out of my system, I proceeded with no. 8 and on through 20. Didn't want to stop, so I did no. 21. I loosely bound them together in order in a huge book on a table and showed them at our small community's annual Arts Festival. Lots of appreciation and comments-- one of them even sold!-- though they hadn't been priced, and that hadn't been the intent.
    A very worthwhile exercise.

  4. oh, a greenhouse, i'd love to be in one right now! wish i could see the book!

  5. Aaahh mealy bugs.........depending on how extensive the infestation is i have found that rubbing alcohol and a Qtip work wonders when consistantly used once a week until you have it nipped in the bud. Be sure to check your other plants well as they spread easily. :)deb

  6. Thanks for the tip! I have the sick plant isolated. Will try alcohol and Q tip method. And yesterday I added a teaspoon of vinegar to a half gallon of water to water the plant with and lower the pH at the same time. Possibly when it likes its soil pH better it will be more resistant to bugs?