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As you can imagine, this year, my garden has been a particular source of solace and inspiration!  Alas, spring’s explosion of flowers is already fading away for another year.  As always, I tried desperately to hold onto the beauty through the magic of art, but (also as always) the ineffable beauty slipped away as I tried to capture it with paint. In fairness, the true thrust of my artwork lately concerns the crisis of life in the modern oceans (which is a rather different subject than pretty pleasure gardens).

A few weeks ago I posted the watercolor paintings which I made of the garden’s cherry blossom phase.  Here are some little sketches I made during the tulip florescence which followed.

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Leen Van Der Mark Tulips in Brooklyn (Wayne Ferrebee, 2020) Watercolor on paper

These tulips are called Leen Van der Mark, and they are my favorite (since they look even more Dutch than they sound).  Initially there were even more tulips than this, but the squirrels beheaded quite a lot of them.  The strange metal mushroom is some sort of industrial vent/fan thing. Probably best not to think about it too much.

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The Broken Pot with Crabapple Blossoms (Wayne Ferrebee, 2020) Watercolor on Paper

Here is a melancholic picture of the non-flower part of the garden.  The neighbor’s cypress wall fell down in a spring gale revealing the wire, garbage, and urban chaos on the other side. I tried to capture the madness (along with the poignant broken pot and withered elephant ear), but I feel like I only managed to draw a blue halo around the fake plastic urn.

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Bleeding Heart Sphinx (Wayne Ferrebee, 2020) Watercolor on Paper

There are some small casts of classical sculptures in my garden.  This little sphinx always topples over unless it is secured to a brick or a paver.  The strange taupe “hands” are meant to be hellebore flowers–which are actually that color but which possess a winsome troubling beauty wholly absent here (although I guess they are a bit troubling). Once again we can see bits of the detritus in the neighbor’s exposed yard.

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Rhododendron in Spring Flower Bed (Wayne Ferrebee, 2020) Watercolor on Paper

Here is the opposite side of the garden,with some summer impatiens popping up.  I have forgotten what these orange and yellow tulips are called, but they remind me forcefully of my childhood (when I gave one to my schoolbus driver in kindergarten). The extreme right of the composition features a very beautiful and robust fern (although we can only see one of the surviving fronds from winter). In front of the frond is a species tulip, Tulipa clusiana, which is native to Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and the western Himalayas.  Those places are usually much scarier than Brooklyn, so perhaps it will naturalize and take over.

Thanks for looking at these pictures.  I am a flounderist rather than a garden painter, but it was good to have a pretext to just sit in the sunny garden and stare at the flowers for hours.  I will see if I can take the watercolor set out to the stoop and do a street scene as summer gets closer.  The police have been scuffling with quarantine scofflaws out front, so that painting might actually be an exciting picture (if I can watercolor fast enough to paint a near-riot).  Speaking of which, stay safe out there and best wishes for continuing health and some floral joy of your own.

 

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Cherry Tree at Dusk (Wayne Ferrebee, 2020), watercolor and colored pencil on paper

There is a large & venerable Kwanzan Cherry Tree in my backyard in Brooklyn.  Each year it blooms for a week (or less) and during that time the garden becomes transcendent in its sublime pink beauty.  Nothing symbolizes the sacred renewal of spring more than the cherry blossoms (which I have blogged about often in the past).

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Rennie Burning the Broken Fence (Wayne Ferrebee, 2020) Watercolor on paper

Year after year the blossoms come and go so quickly, and, stumbling along behind, I try to capture their evanescent glory with my art.  Yet I am never satisfied.  This strange pandemic year, I had a bit more time in the garden to draw (after all there were no blossom parties to prepare for) and…for a moment I thought that perhaps I got a bit closer to capturing a smidgen of the tree’s beauty.  Yet, now that I have photographed the drawings and watercolor paintings, suddenly they seem alien from the tree’s living glory.

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Cherry Blossoms and Holly at Night (Wayne Ferrebee, 2020) Watercolor

So it goes with human endeavor, I suppose.  At any rate, here are the drawings.  There is a fierce wind howling outside right now (and near freezing temps) so I have a feeling that this is the blossom art portfolio for this year (although maybe I will try some more tulip paintings before those go too).  It all goes so fast.  it is all so beautiful.

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Cherry Blossoms and Tulips (Wayne Ferrebee, 2020) Watercolor on paper

Anyway, here are my cherry blossom paintings this year.  Take care of yourself and be safe.  There will be another spring next year when we can have the full party with all of the trappings!

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Cherry Blossoms on Easter (Wayne Ferrebee, 2020) Watercolor and Colored Pencil on Paper

Sphinx and Rose (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, watercolor and ink)

Sphinx and Rose (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, watercolor and ink)

June is the season when the roses bloom—both the everblooming modern roses which bloom all season long and the classical garden roses which have a beautiful inflorescence once a year—in June (that sentence turned out to be quite circular).  Here are three small watercolor paintings of my garden this week.  We were tragically short of roses, till my goodhearted roommate purchased one (it’s a cerise and cream hybrid tea rose from the seventies known as “Double Delight”).  She purchased it, but I lugged it home from the distant nursery by brute force and planted it—so I guess it’s a mutual project.

Hydrangea and Bust (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, watercolor and ink)

Hydrangea and Bust (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, watercolor and ink)

I am going to try to feature more small paintings like this—daily impressions of pretty things and outlandish doodles–particularly as I transition back to running the rat race every day.  Let me know what you think!

Garden Flowers (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, watercolor and ink)

Garden Flowers (Wayne Ferrebee, 2015, watercolor and ink)

The Edge of the Woods (Wayne Ferrebee, 2012, watercolor)

The Edge of the Woods (Wayne Ferrebee, 2012, watercolor)

Well, it’s already Thanksgiving…2015 will be here before you know it. This year I’m staying in Brooklyn instead of going home to the fields and hardwood forests of Appalachia, but I’ll definitely miss visiting family, going hunting, and seeing all of the goodly farm creatures.  I probably should have organized things better, but to be frank, organization is really not my métier.  How does everybody do so well with all of these infernal lists, and applications, and invoices, and calendars, and spreadsheets? Anyway, to celebrate the holiday, here is a summertime watercolor picture of the family farm.  The trees look a bit crooked and a bit too green…but they were crooked and extremely green in real world (plus I didn’t realize I was sitting on an anthill when I first chose the location—so I was painting faster and faster).   Of course there was no wild turkey running through the painting–at least not that I could see—however they are supremely canny at blending in when they want to be (and I did find some feathers at the entrance to the forest).  The snake, chipmunk, and skulking frog are likewise inventions, although they are definitely out there in the woods.  I should really have painted an anthill: those guys were very much present!

Yes, like that...but bitier.

Yes, like that…but bitier.

I’m sorry I don’t have a November painting which show the beautiful browns, russets, and grays of the woodland.  The wild turkey would look extremely good against such a backdrop!  But the ants were bad enough—I don’t even want to think about watercolor in snow, sleet, and freezing rain…

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Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!  I hope you enjoy your turkeys and have a lot to be thankful for. All of you foreign folk will have to make do with my best wishes and imagine how succulent the turkey and mashed potatoes taste.  But wherever or whoever you are, you should know that I am most thankful for my readers!  You are all the best!

Lesser Shrew And Common Shrew (Archibald Thorburn, 1903, watercolor on paper)

Lesser Shrew And Common Shrew (Archibald Thorburn, 1903, watercolor on paper)

One of my favorite aspects of art is the foreground—the tiny and insignificant items pictured there frequently highlight the larger themes of the work (while wedding the larger figures to a microcosm of tiny dramas).   This is true unless the painting is all about the foreground, as is frequently the case with the works of Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935) a Scottish painter who specialized in watercolor paintings of wildlife—particularly birds and small creatures.  Here is a wonderful watercolor painting of two small shrews encountering a potentially dangerous larger shrew within a tiny landscape.  The pebbles and grass blades become forests and boulders for the tiny insectivores as they size up this strange encounter.  Of course there is a foreground in this tiny painting as well:  a common wildflower grows into the composition from the right corner.  The tiny salmon petals of the little flower lend color and drama to the scene (while reminding the viewer to always look for beauty, even in the world underfoot).

Okapi (Walton Ford, watercolor on paper)

Okapi (Walton Ford, watercolor on paper)

Walton Ford is a contemporary artist who paints realistic large-scale watercolor paintings of mammals and birds.  The creatures are often placed in anthropomorphic contexts (where they dress or act like people). Because the paintings are so large, the artist tends to annotate them in beautiful copperpoint longhand (although it is a bit hard to see in this example).  In this painting, a shy okapi, the wraith of the African jungle is trying to purloin a piece of honeycomb from a dangerous gun trap.  The okapi’s face is filled with purpose but the ominous fire on the horizon and the hunting paraphernalia in the foreground hints at a dark outcome.

Detail

Detail

Turkey with Fast Food (Wayne Ferrebee, 2013, watercolor on paper)

Turkey with Fast Food (Wayne Ferrebee, 2013, watercolor on paper)

We are quickly coming up to Thanksgiving and it is time to celebrate those magnificent birds, the turkeys.  Native only to the New World, turkeys are large fowl of the hugely important order Galliformes (which includes chickens, pheasants, quail, partridges, grouse, peacocks, and guineafowl).  Although there were once many taxonomic varieties of turkeys, today there are only two species remaining in the wild: the ocellated turkeys (Meleagris ocellata), and the wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo).

Turkeys were originally domesticated by the great civilizations of Mesoamerica and they became an important part of the agricultural base of Mayan and Aztec society.  When the Spanish conquered the great Central American civilizations with smallpox and war, the conquistadors also conquered the domesticated turkeys, which they took back to Spain in chains (probably).  Spanish farmers then further domesticated the birds, which were then reimported back to the Americas.  Today’s turkeys are descendants of Spanish turkeys (with some wild turkey genes mixed in by 18th, 19th, and 20th century farmers).

To celebrate this heritage, I have painted a small watercolor artwork of a domesticated Bronze Turkey visiting a Mesoamerican step pyramid.  The turkey’s splendid plumage fits in quite well with the vibrant colors of Central America, but peril looms! Will the Tom turkey learn in time that our Western continents are lands of unrestrained appetite?  To help him understand, I have scattered the ground with some of humankind’s favorite contemporary treats (which also prove appealing to an obstreperous little shrew).  There is probably some sort of parable here for hungry modern humans, but I will leave it to the viewers to tease it out (hopefully over a delicious holiday dinner).

by Zhang Da Be (from InkDance Chinese Painting Gallery)

by Zhang Da Be (from InkDance Chinese Painting Gallery)

I’m extremely excited that Chinese New Year is here at last!  A dozen times I have started to blog about Chinese snake paintings and stopped because I was waiting for the year of the snake—but that finally arrives on Sunday.  To celebrate the advent of year 4710—the year of the water snake–next week is devoted to snakes and serpents of all kind (a longstanding favorite topic here at Ferrebeekeeper).  Because they are one of the twelve zodiac animals, snakes have long been celebrated in Chinese art.  Additionally their sinuous form adapts beautifully to Chinese-style brush and calligraphy work (as is evident in the art works below).

Snake (Yang Shanshen, Ink on paper)

Snake (Yang Shanshen,
Ink on paper)

People born in snake years are said to be graceful and reserved.  Although they are successful at romance and have an innate intelligence they are also reputed to be materialists with a dark mysterious side.  The snake does not suffer the same stigma in China as in the West and the benevolent creator goddess Nuwa was a serpent goddess. Hopefully the year of the water snake will bring you every sort of happiness and success.  Tune in next week as we break in the new year with a variety or remarkable snakes and snake-related topics!

Red Snake by Zhang Daqian(1899-1983) from China Guardian

Red Snake by Zhang Daqian(1899-1983) from China Guardian

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One Stroke Calligraphy Snake (from Chinese Calligraphy Workshops with Tom Chow)

One Stroke Calligraphy Snake (from Chinese Calligraphy Workshops with Tom Chow)

Painting by Jiang Tao, Painted on:Chinese Rice Paper (from InkDance Chinese Painting Gallery)

Painting by Jiang Tao, Painted on:
Chinese Rice Paper (from InkDance Chinese Painting Gallery)

Chinese Papercut

Chinese Papercut

Vintage Chinese Cloisonne Porcelain Teacup

Vintage Chinese Cloisonne Porcelain Teacup

Zodiac&Snake – Chinese Painting (from Artisoo Chinese Painting Blog)

Zodiac&Snake – Chinese Painting (from Artisoo Chinese Painting Blog)

Here are three Chinese paintings of mallard ducks from 3 different eras.  Coincidentally, the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is one of the quintessential success stories of animals alive today.  It lives throughout Asia, Europe, North America, and North Africa (in addition to places where it has been introduced) and it was the ancestor to most domestic ducks.  However we will leave an in-depth wild duck essay for later this year (seriously, they really are magnificent & fascinating animals) in order to appreciate these three watercolor on silk paintings.

Duckling (Artist Unknown, Song Dynasty, ink and watercolor on silk)

Duckling (Artist Unknown, Song Dynasty, ink and watercolor on silk)

The first (and greatest) comes from the Song dynasty which ruled China from 960 AD to 1279 AD.  As mentioned earlier, the Song is regarded as a glorious apogee of Chinese art and poetry and the simple court painting of a duckling makes the reasons self-evident.  The animal is foreshortened and painted with effortless naturalism.

Waterfowl (Chen Lin, Yuan dynasty, ink and watercolor on silk)

Waterfowl (Chen Lin, Yuan dynasty, ink and watercolor on silk)

The Second painting comes from the Yuan dynasty—the era of Mongol occupation.  Although the duck is presented from the side as though diagramed, it still has a charming naturalism.  Additionally the bird has an amusingly insouciant look.  His magnificently rendered plumage and feet also serve to give him character while the autumn vines in the background further serve to give the painting piquancy.

Just Like Mum (Danny Han-Lin Chen, Contemporary)

Just Like Mum (Danny Han-Lin Chen, Contemporary)

Finally we have a lovingly rendered contemporary painting.  Even though it is separated from the others by nearly a millennium, the brushwork is similar. The feathers have been painted with swift sure strokes.   The background though vibrantly colored has been sketched in to suggest a landscape (rather then rendered in detail.  Although and there is a touch more photorealism in the duck’s plumage there is also a touch less charisma and personality in the ducks’ faces.

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