On Painting and Bee-ing

2016-06-18 00.17.13
Yellow-faced bumblebee (Bombus vosnesenkii) with Eaton’s penstemon (Penstemon eatonii)

Since this February, I’ve been spending most of my spare hours in the California native plant garden that I manage in the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery. This hasn’t left much time for painting, and I’ve been struggling for months with the frustration of wanting to do all the life things – paint more, wife more, socialize more, yoga more, etc. – all while working full time – even though I know it just can’t be done. Fortunately, the garden is entering its dormant season, and I’ll be painting more by the end of June.

One of the goals for the native garden has been to create a rich and diverse bee sanctuary in an urban environment. And after 19 years of development, I’d say we’ve achieved that goal. The summer blooms are peaking right now, and the garden is seriously humming with thousands of busy pollinators. With climate change, bee colony collapse disorder, and the myriad other pressures these little creatures face, creating this sanctuary has been very rewarding and incredibly satisfying.

So instead of being slightly resentful of, or frustrated with the time the garden has needed lately, I’ve been working on creating a bit of mental space for myself so that the garden can be an inspiration and not a burden. And with this different frame of mind, I opened up my art journal again and started a study of one of the bee species that visit the garden. It took maybe 20 minutes at the most to do this bee from a photo I took a few years ago. I’ve always been charmed by how the legs of this yellow-faced bumblebee languidly dangle below her as she buzzes around the Eaton’s penstemon.

I used both permanent ink from a 05 Micron pen and a Bic water-soluble rollerball pen to draw the bee and penstemon. Then, I applied quick washes of color. I purposely ran the brush over the water soluable ink to obtain shadows on the flower and to try and capture a sense of the transparent wings of the bee.

After I completed this small study, I felt relieved and light, and weeks of feeling creatively unsettled finally lifted. I was surprised how spending just a little time to put paint to paper opened up a calming sense of happiness and joy. Given this little insight, I’m looking forward to spending more time playing and painting in my art journal, starting with my little bee friends this summer.


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