Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Long-billed Curlew at El Matador Beach--Vickie Henderson

I spent the first week of November in the Los Angeles area of California where my son lives.  Most of my trip was spent assisting him with projects in the city, but whenever we had a free moment he would say...."we need to get some nature in."  My heart smiled.
I love driving the Pacific Coast Highway, watching the coast line snake ahead of me, the wide expanse of ocean waves in motion on one side, stark sandy cliffs climbing above me on the other.  When you reach the Malibu area, hidden among the ocean-side cliffs are a series of "pocket beaches" or what are known as "cliff-foot strands"-- beaches that have isolated accessibility due to the steep cliffs above them.

It was at one of these beach access points that my son said "turn hear"--El Matador Beach park. Reaching the ocean shore from the parking area required a careful downward climb involving dirt paths divided by stairways that zigzagged back and forth along the cliff face.  Not a climb for the faint at heart.  But every step of it was worth it. (If you click on the top image, you can see the people in the shadow of the boulder giving you an idea of the height of my position.)
I paused at each level to take in the view, before descending to the next level, and just before reaching the shore I spotted shorebirds foraging among the rocks.  Here is where I found  a Long-billed Curlew, a delightful life bird for me!
Prior to my trip I had purchased a Moleskin Sketchbook to try out for field sketching and brought it along with me.  Creating the sketch in pencil was easy.  But applying color was a different experience.  Watercolor on a different quality paper can be as challenging as trying a new medium. There is an adjustment curve.  In this case, the paper is heavy but not designed specifically for watercolor.  More color, less water, more near-dry brush is required.  All of this taken in with my learn-as-you-go style.  An interesting experience that I would like to be more in charge of when I apply color to the next sketch.

In the meantime, tell me about your experience with Moleskin sketchbooks and other sketchbooks you like to carry with you in the field.  And I'm wondering why we can't get a Moleskin sized book with 90# smooth-press watercolor paper in it.  Wouldn't that be a dandy Christmas present for those of us who can't seem to get around to making our own!

Moleskin Sketchbook, 5" x 8 1/4 at Cheap Joe's
To see more images of beautiful El Matador Beach visit my Long-billed Curlew posts at Vickie Henderson Art and Vickie's Sketchbook.


  1. Just beautiful! YOu must be so proud of your son, inheriting your love of getting out in nature!

  2. Absolutely lovely...and what a wonderful time, Vickie.

  3. If you find the Moleskin wrapped in a pink band, it is made with watercolor paper. Works great. Love your work and this blog. Kay Zimmerman

  4. Vickie, your post brought back sweet memories of this shoreline and of the special light at this time of the year. I lived near by in Topanga Canyon for a long time and my own son still lives in Ca. Try Paradise coast while you are here, also lovely if you walk further north pass the point.
    Have fun and post more lovely sketches. I am also curious about the best watercolor moleskin book to buy (get) for Xmas....

  5. Beautiful sketch of the curlew and the steep cliffs.

    My field sketchbook isn't as fancy as a moleskine watercolor sketchbook, but I've been quite pleased with BeePaper Aquabee's "Super Deluxe" sketchbook / 93# 9x6 inches. A lot of my posts are done on that paper.

  6. Lovely, Vickie! I too am challenged by the particular moleskin book I have. It's not wc paper, just their regular unlined journal paper. Cannot recommend it. I'm with Elva re: BeePaper's super deluxe. I also like Pentalic Nature Sketch. It's creamier than Bee but it's also 130# vs 90#.

  7. OOoh, hadn't heard of the Pentalic...I may have to search for it. Still love doing my own, but I'm always game to test something new. (I've used the Aquabee for years, and really like it.)

  8. I've loved using the Aquabee also, but noticed when I ordered another 5 x 8 book, the paper has changed from the old Aquabee paper. Haven't tried the new one yet. I also don't like the spiral binding....there's always something, isn't there?

  9. Oh, Fooey, Vickie, sorry to hear that. Let us know how you like it now? And yes, spiral bindings can be a pain...Roz sent me a Stonehenge sketchbook that's quite nice, but that spiral binding!

  10. Vickie, your sketch is lovely! I think you managed the watercolor in the moleskine beautifully!
    I stopped using sketchbooks and carry 8.5 x 11 paper, a clip and a masonite board. I can use whatever paper I feel like! My favorite is Strathmore sketch 400 but I use several others, too. I keep the sketches in 3-ring binders divided by month.


We'd love to hear from you, your questions, comments, observations! Please feel free to comment, feedback is important to us.