Today's addition to the comforts sketchbook is beet greens. Thanks to one of my art group member's expansive garden, I scored on some very large beets pulled directly from the ground as I watched, and while I do like beets, I think the greens may be even better. Now if you are like a friend of mine who takes great pleasure in making gagging sounds like a 4 year old at the mere mention of most vegetables, I apologize for bringing this up. But I happen to love many veggies including beet greens which my mother fixed a lot when I was a kid. She'd place them in a big flat pan with a little water, cover with a lid and gently simmer them until the stems were tender and the leaves totally soft. They were always served with a splash of vinegar, just like the canned spinach which she also frequently served. (And yes, I love spinach too.) For me, it's the vinegar that makes it. It's another one of those things that I will occasionally buy at the store if they happen to get some in, although a lot of the time it's just the beets and no greens attached. What a cheat and a waste. So to have these fresh from the garden to binge on this week has been a special treat.
Yesterday I started thinking of how I'd capture this and knew the colored pencils would not do - too much variation in the green of the leaves to mess with, even if I used the Derwent Inktense ones that you can activate with a wet brush. No, I'd have to get out my little set of Sennelier watercolors and see what I could do. I haven't played with them much and am still learning how they work. I was particularly worried about matching the stem color by mixing. Maybe I had a gel pen close in color that I could use instead. I also have a pretty full set of Sharpie permanent markers and that is where I found the exact color ready to go.
Gee, looking at this you might think I actually know what I'm doing! But most of what I do in this sketchbook is by trial and error, building on what I learn from each sketch. I did the initial sketch in pencil, this time using a 6H which erases better than the HB I used on the previous sketch. Then I outlined the stems (but not the veins) and the outer edge of the leaves with the Micron Pigma pen .05. I carefully added color to the stems and veins with the Sharpie marker, then filled in the rest with watercolor, mixing sap green and light green on the brush right in the pans rather than off on the palette area. This worked really well in getting the variation I needed and is what I remember doing with watercolors when I was young. Lastly, I added a bit of shadow here and there with the Payne's grey mixed with just a bit of the sap green. Frankly, I hadn't noticed but a bit of shadowing here and there until I was done with everything else. I'd completely missed the shadow that one stem was casting, so intent was my focus on the bigger picture. I still marvel at how the brain can edit like that without you realizing it. I should mention that this particular sketchbook is a mix media Art Book by Canson, with a 138 lb paper (fine on one side, medium on other) that's suitable for wet and dry mediums and heavy enough that there is very little shadowing, if any, should you choose to use both sides of a page as I do. And I usually spend a couple of hours over these sketches, though I'm certainly not aware of that much time passing while I'm engrossed in the process.
Honestly, I've seen other fiber artist's watercolor renderings of leaves and flowers and have been so envious, thinking I couldn't do it. But I'm learning that watercolors are somewhat forgiving, and I just love how this sketch turned out. I guess it's not that far out of range after all.