Morning Sketch 10 – More Roses

More roses – more C strokes – and then other kinds of strokes to make leaves. For the leaves, brush point on paper, squish down and move, bring brush up to another point. Just as in sumi-e! Then, while the paper and paint are still wet, take the tip of the brush and create little points around the outer edge of each leaf. Some roses have pointy leaf edges, others do not. I don’t think the Rose Police will come knocking on my door, though, so I am safe.

Roses in these kinds of sketches are easy enough to do. However, creating a successful painting of more than one sketchy rose is another story. Light, shadow, shape all begin to play together, and sometimes not very nicely.

Here, a rose with a simpler petal style than the classical tea rose. As a kid in the midwest there were deep red wild roses throughout the countryside, and here in California there is a bush as above along a local trail. There are about 5 petals around a yellow center, and the wild roses are messy things that are such a pleasure and delight to encounter.

Painting a white rose is not easy because white is influenced by light and shadow and shade. Instead, you have to look at the colors in the white – light? dark? cool? warm?

The above little painting was a success, but it is only a sketch. A bouquet of roses will be far more challenging and I really doubt my ability to succeed there.

Morning Sketch 9 – Roses

Things are made up of shapes, and understanding their shapes and structures should – hopefully! – make them easier to paint.

I have a small rose garden, and it always pleases me to see it in bloom. Most of the roses I chose for fragrance, but some I chose because I like them. So, as my roses come back to life after weeks of rain, it seemed fitting to paint roses.

A few videos later . . . open roses are shaped like tea cups. For me, try a coffee up. Paint them like a series of C shapes, but vary the thickness of the C strokes. These made sense. As well, when looking at the roses, I realized my way of seeing things to paint has shifted over the past year and suddenly they became easier to “see” – if that makes any sense.

Above, first play with roses.

Strange Nocturne

This was going to be a nice beachy scene with a white house and rocky coastline . . . but things got out of hand. First, a part of me blames the paper – it is student grade and did not seem up to the task of a lot of large swaths of wet washes. Next, I got frustrated. And I was hungry. And getting quite annoyed. So, I just grabbed stuff and sort of scribbled on it – take that, you nasty painting! Anyway, this is the result, and while it is certainly no beauty, it makes me remember I do want to do some nocturnes – night paintings, night colors. How can that be done?!


Negative painting? Check.

Loose style? Check.

Masses of color to create suggestions of shapes? Check.

I am pleased with this painting – there are areas which could be better, but is any painting actually “perfect”? Certainly not in watercolor!

Lilacs are one of my favorite spring flowers. Their fragrance is heavenly and a welcome sight as winter fades away. Sadly, it seems hybridizing them for a coastal SoCal climate is not successful.

I drew the flower masses in pencil, creating general shapes. A few pointy leaf shapes. A glass vase. Dropped petals. From there, the rest happened with lighter washes of color, white areas left behind, and eventual deepening shades of lavender, purple, and pink. Some blue, too. It sort of happened all over rather than section by section.

And then my next painting was a complete disaster!!

Morning Sketch 8 – Shapes & Shadows

Negative painting can only go so far as other things in watercolor need attention. Shapes and shadows are very important for both realistic and more abstract things if you want to make them somewhat recognizable! Consequently, I have been painting fruit and vegetables all morning, to the point I am feeling crazy. Some subjects are more successful, others not, but the lesson is to paint shapes directly and with some finesse, as well as to create shadows while the subject is either dry or wet. Click through at your convenience for a trip to the market.

One thing I have realized from painting all these things is that patience, once more, and mindfulness, is necessary to get anywhere with these things! What looks spontaneous often is not. Instead, it is made up of experience and thought and so on. Persistence is my only hope . . .

Morning Sketch 7 – Negative Painting & Daffodils

More work on negative painting and flowers. I wanted simple but interesting flowers to paint. Daffodils are perfect for this – beautiful flowers, usually one color, and have a relative simple shape – petals and a tube in the middle.

To begin, I obviously did a sketch, and obviously also depend on the sketch to let the viewer know these are (supposedly) daffodils. I painted the blue around the drawing first – working the dark in against all traditional watercolor rules. Then, the vase. Then a loose blobbing of yellow, darker yellow, some greyed yellow for shadows, and a touch of orange for the centers of the flowers. The leaves happened somewhere, and final daubs of darkestness to accent things.

Not a great painting but it was a good practice piece. Still more practice is needed. Negative painting is getting easier. Color blobs are getting easier, too, to show lighter and darker areas, as practiced in yesterdays press-release brush play. Once more, I am not after a botanical painting with detail, but an ability to have a loose, expressive style that shows things in a painterly manner for what they really are.

One day, one day . . .

Morning Sketch 6 – Mark Making

For many years I did Chinese painting and sumi-e (Japanese ink painting), and learned a lot about brush strokes. While the brushes used in these schools of painting are brushes, they are constructed differently than western art brushes and have very different characteristics. However, what you do with them is the same in many instances. Both Chinese painting and sumi-e depend on lines made with ink to create shapes and forms, express colors where none exist, and add color, too.

To create the flowers above, I simply loaded my round sable, placed the tip on the paper, and pressed down gently as I moved the brush from a vertical to more horizontal. The point has more color than the body of the brush and this allows for gradation of colors. The point can be near the stem of a flower and leave a lighter tipped petal at the edge, or be the outer edge and lead to the center; the outer petal is then sharp and pointed. As well, paint can be added to vary colors, provide details, and so on.

Above, the blue flowers have the brush point closer to the stem and the yellow daffodils have the point used as the end of the petal. The freesia, the yellow flower, employs both techniques with extra color added. The alstromeria is done with the pressing technique, extra paint added while still damp, and final lines added with a brush point once the paint was dried.

I tend to forget that brush work is as important in watercolor as it is in ink painting. Shapes and lines and textures are expressed as they are in Asian ink painting. The fact that color is always the most attractive element in watercolor keeps me from remembering the importance of good brushwork.

Morning Sketch 5 – Negative Painting & Flowers

Practice makes perfect. While far from perfect, I have been trying to improve how I do negative painting. Flowers work well for this, but I have also decided to conscientiously work on flower painting.

I looked over at Pixabay and searched for “white flower” – several came up, some too busy with other things, some too simple, some lacking definition. What I wanted were white petals sticking out from something. As I already did daisies, I thought ones a bit simpler but still having interesting characteristics could be nice. Anemones of varying sorts came up, so off I went.

Above is the first one. I drew in the outline of the flower and then painted the center of the flowers but not any shadows on the petals. From there, I worked on the negative painting, trying to paint around the white petals. Then I let it dry and, as you can see in the lower left, put in a darker wash to outline leaves and a stem or two.

The second painting below was a bit more complex. I did the shadows on the flower petals – still white – after drawing in the basic shapes. You can see my pencil lines throughout. Then I did the leaves and stems in a lighter green. From there, I mixed in greens and blues for the most part and worked to paint around the white and shadowed petals, looking for contrast, coolness and warmth. After I let the painting dry, I went in again with shadows, augmenting a few petals here and there. The final step was to paint in the yellow flower centers with a dab and press of the brush.

I rather like these – they don’t look too overworked compared to the previous ones. My style is looser, which I prefer. As well, I worked with tube paints and a bigger palette so as to mix more colors. The paper this time is 100% cotton, a student grade one, but acceptable.

Just because these are better than previous negative painting studies doesn’t mean I’ve gotten there yet! So much more to learn – and a lot to do in that learning process.

Morning Sketch 4 – Negative Painting & Flowers

Negative painting is painting around an object, usually using darker paint around a more lightly painted object. Anyone who paints finds this quite often to be a bit of a mind tweak, so it is always worthwhile practicing. For me, negative painting is best done with the subject matter, if a photograph, done upside down. Then it – and everything else – just becomes a shape. Shapes are easy to relate to, more so than a flower or a whatever.

I really cannot paint flowers easily. I don’t want to create realistic paintings of flowers, but impressions of flowers. Being able to express a flower and to know what it is appeals to me far more to me than a scientific flower illustration. Don’t get me wrong – botanical illustration is stunning and something I love to see and admire them – but I want a looser style.

One way to express a flower is to create it in its environment. A field of flowers can dance in the wind. A bouquet of either one type of flower or many has its own beauty – the shape of petals and leaves and stems creating their own designs. Stems and leaves seen through clear glass are distorted fascinating to see.

For now, though, I just wanted to practice negative painting. I drew my flowers, and went to work, laying down basic colors and then coming in with darker colors to create shapes, such as leaves and stems. I did the daisies first, and they are rather crude. The poppies were next, and while the colors are muddy in places, it was more successful as far as what I was trying to accomplish.

Morning Sketch 3 – Winter sun

Nothing great . . . 6×9 on Strathmore Vision 140# paper.

What is the purpose of this sketch? First, trying to lead the eye to the two trees on the opposite river bank. Second, trying to reflect warm and cool light on the snow and ice of the river.

Problems? Paper is not great, but good for these kind of studies. Also using different paints – Schmincke pan paints, which are more saturated than the travel paints I used the past two days. And, as always, my sense of perspective is off. I am not quite sure why and it really bugs me!! Oh, well, perhaps one day I will find the answer to that problem.

Thinking about the atmospheric perspective, it seemed I needed softer edges in the distance. So, I wet the paper, blurred it a bit, and smeared a light mess of a blue-grey to give some distance. Then I took the painting into LR and decided to adjust the vertical perspective a bit, tilting the picture back a bit, and then doing a “smart fill” in the areas left white by that adjustment.

Don’t know if it improved the picture, but I think it might have as I often feel as if I am falling into my painting from above – sort of like a bad dream.