Old Sketchbooks

I was recently rambling through my file chest searching for a watercolor of the front stoop of a place I lived some years ago.I have not found it yet but then again I am not entirely certain this particular painting has survived my periodic bouts of frustration which result in my discarding old work. Nonetheless I was surprised to find wedged in the back of a drawer one of my old sketchbooks from my art student days.As design students we were required to take a course which explored various furniture styles over the centuries.Hence my sketchbook of period furniture…inclusive of notes on distinguishing features. Some of the pages have yellowed considerably over time as you can see here.

old-sketchbookMy drawings are pretty loose and lacking detail….and the perspective is off. But I DO recall our instructor gave me a pass because she rather liked what she referred to as the “nervous quality” of my line work.sheraton-book-case

I think my “nervous” line work is more likely about my avoidance of straight lines and my preference for curves. Check out this table….georgian-table

But seeing these old forgotten sketches with a fresh eye put me in a mood to create a pattern quite different from what I am usually inclined to do….something far more quirky.


Might be an amusing wall paper print?

I had fallen out of the habit of keeping a sketchbook. Maybe it’s time to revisit the old tried and true.

Summer Road Trip

After a lengthy break I have decided to give this blog another shot. There may be a slight shift in focus as I am becoming more focused on nature photography. We will see what develops.Sometimes we start off in one direction and life has a way of altering our path;bringing up all manner of diversions and surprises.

I recently took a road trip with family members to visit relatives in North Carolina.We had not driven to this area in 15 years and parts of the route had changed considerably.We assumed that the modern convenience of GPS would get us through. But we discovered that GPS does not work in remote rural areas so we adapted as well as we could. There were a few unexpected detours but one happy consequence was our decision to stop at a farm in Delaware where we obtained some of the tastiest peaches I have had in recent memory. Much appreciated as a late frost in the northeast has resulted in a poor peach harvest in my area. These peaches were later transformed into a very rustic crostata which was enjoyed by all once we were reunited with our beloved aunt and uncle.

Delaware peaches
Delaware peaches on my aunt’s “Franciscan “plate

The area I am from borders the “Great Dismal Swamp” national wildlife refuge.The temperature was easily 100 degrees while we were visiting and we saw very few people outdoors. But I did venture out to take a few pictures. I went to the edge of the woods and took a few steps in when I noticed that the ground under my feet was no longer bone dry from lack of rain as the rest of the surrounding land. As my feet sank into the mud and mosquitos flew into my face I decided the photo I wanted was not worth the risk of snake bite.

swamp edge

But I got a few shots of my uncle’s garden which he still maintains as he approaches his 90th year.

garden melon

On a different note I got a few shots of the family burial grounds which are behind the garden.burial ground

I do not often visit cemeteries but it is hard to ignore the sense of history here.

While visiting a family member recuperating in a nursing home in another part of the state I noticed a bird cage in the lobby. I am not one to miss a bird photo opportunity when it presents itself so I got a few shots. The long tailed species was new to me and I discovered it is known as a “pin tailed Whydah”.Pin Tail Whydah

So there you have it…another source of inspiration for a design. In this sketch I paired the fellow with some stylized camellia blossoms. Who knew our road trip would result in new artwork?

whydah & camellia

Feeding Hummers

When we were really small kids our grandmother kept a vegetable garden and there were flowering shrubs and trees on the property.In addition she planted flower beds around the house.Phlox,hydrangea,iris,candy tuft and day lilies. We were in a rural area and there were enormous fields around us. Being an overly anxious child I worried about some of the critters surrounding me. Dragonflies really freaked me out. Bees and wasps were not my friends.The cats would occasionally gift us with the carcass of a toad or black snake. Turkey buzzards circled overhead looking for a meal.Among the many birds flying about were the Hummingbirds.They were so fast that I imagined them as small brightly colored torpedoes which might impale me with their sharp beaks. Seems silly now but many childhood fears are irrational.As I became older my worry of being impaled was replaced with wonder. How did they hover in the air like that? Why did their feathers look like rainbows? And after seeing a nest…how tiny must their eggs be?What were they drinking from those trumpet shaped flowers?

Now I find myself mesmerized by the sight of hummingbirds. Here is a recent image imagining these birds among the lilies.Hummers Feeding ©2016

As for those dragonflies that used to bother me?…Now we are buddies.

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dragonfly on my knee
Dragonfly On My Knee

Envisioning Water Gardens

I have been exploring the theme of water gardens in my art work lately. In a previous post I mentioned the  ponds at the New York Botanical Gardens which are spectacular in summer with colorful displays of water lily and lotus. Wave Hill has a lovely pool as well.

Wave Hill Water Garden
Wave Hill Water Garden

These plants are irresistible as decorative elements in design.The lotus in particular is quite prominent in the decorative arts of China and Japan. This vintage kimono makes the most of highly stylized lotus leaf motifs .

Japanese Lotus Print Garment
Japanese Lotus Print Garment

So here are my variations on the idea of water gardens. In some of these images I attempted to create a sense of being within the picture.

lily pool ©2016
lily pool
Water Blossoms ©2016
water blossoms

In this image I wanted the viewer to have a sense of “spying” on the jaguar drinking from the pond.

Jaguar Lily Pond LR
jaguar lily pond


moonlit lily pond LR
moonlit lily pond

This year long blogging experiment exploring art, nature,inspiration and design is coming to an end soon. Still trying to figure what the last post will be..though it will likely feature some of my favorite subjects. Till next time,Bill.

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June Garden

During our recent frigid blast of winter I was thinking fondly of hours  spent watching birds on a friend’s property last summer. Bluebirds,cardinals, flocks of cedar waxwings,hummingbirds,finch and blue jay were among the creatures providing a show. Those birds stubbornly refused to pose long enough for me to take pictures. So I was obliged to content myself with photos of the surrounding property. But this was no hardship as the area is quite lovely;providing me with plenty of material for future work. This bird house image has been useful as you will see  below.

Hamden Birdhouse Photo
Hamden Birdhouse

I kept my eyes open hoping to catch a glimpse of a scarlet tanager. I have been fascinated by this bird for years;seeing photos and illustrations in various field guides and encyclopedias. Though they are reputed to spend some time in the northeast;I have yet to see a live specimen with my own eyes.

scarlet tanager painting©2016
Scarlet Tanager

So I have used artistic license ….incorporating this fellow into my fantasy of a back yard in June.

Feels Like June LR
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Surreal Mashup

While viewing a stunning example of “Trompe L’Oeil” painting by William Harnett I had a flashback to art school days when students were required to go through this exercise. I never came anywhere near the mastery shown by Mr. Harnett.

Still Life-Violin & Music
Still Life-Violin & Music William Harnett

But I like the illusory,surreal quality of this type of thing.  Sometimes objects appear to float in space .

I have also been reviewing the illustrated diaries of one of my favorite botanical illustrators,Margaret Mee who spent decades documenting the plants of the Amazon. Her body of work is rich and evocative.Margaret Mee

Her paintings inspired me to incorporate tropical elements into a new  design I was experimenting with which featured two of my favorite subjects,porcelain and flowers.

porcelain treasures LR
Porcelain Treasures©Bill Jackson 2016

It was fun combining the various elements of lotus flowers,leaves,drapery and Chinese ceramics to create this slightly surreal look. Till next time,Bill

Peacocks In the Garden

One finds the most startling things while walking around this city. At the beginning of this new year I took a stroll across Morningside Park.  I walked by the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine.

Cathedral Of Saint John the Divine
Cathedral of Saint John the Divine

Next door is the Children’s Sculpture Garden and when I passed through I was surprised to find myself facing a white peacock. Now this is not the sort of thing that happens to me every day so I felt obliged to hang around for a while.

Peacock Inspiration
From what I gather he goes by the name “Phil”

He was quite patient with those of us in the garden. Evidently he is known in his neighborhood and has been a resident for a number of years.  He posed for a number of pictures.These pictures provided me with the beginnings of an idea for a design.Nature is always inspiring. Though I am not sure how “natural” it is to see a white peacock in the middle of Manhattan. Anyhow;for my re-imagining I chose to get rid of the metal fencing and place the creatures in a more idyllic setting. Here is the somewhat romantic result. Till next time,Bill.

Peacock Garden LR
Peacock Garden©Bill Jackson2016

Coral Seas Fantasy

It seems a number of folks enjoyed the “Jaguar Paradise” post last month. Thanks to all for the kind words.So for this first post of the new year I am continuing the theme of animal life with an imagining of life in a coral reef.

As I never learned to swim I rely on aquariums and books for a suggestion of deep sea life.

aquarium lionfish
This lion fish photo was taken at an aquarium in Vegas.

The lion fish photos provided the inspiration for this underwater fantasy. As usual I have taken a lot of liberties with color….just for the fun of it.

Coral Seas Fantasy
Coral Seas Fantasy©Bill Jackson2015

Till next time, Bill

Cranford Roses

I vaguely  recall the pilot film for “The Waltons”  in which Patricia Neal’s character expressed surprise at being brought roses by her husband in the middle of a snowstorm at Christmas time.

Well on this last day of December we have yet to see any snow in these parts. Indeed the freakishly warm weather has induced trees to blossom and the roses have still not gone dormant.

December Roses by the Hudson
Roses by the Hudson

Seeing all these  roses stubbornly hanging on reminded me of a visit to the Cranford Rose Garden last June.Friends know that roses are my favorite and I took lots of pictures while I had the opportunity.

Cranford Rose Garden Inspiration
The inspiration

This image represents my attempt to capture in a design the lush,romantic,abundant mood brought about in that particular garden space.

Cranford Rose Column LR

Wishing peace and good will for ALL in the coming year,Bill