Yesterday was a meeting of the Pencil Portraits in the Park group, but drawing people held little appeal for me. So, I decided to try something I had briefly seen somewhere and thought interesting: during their travels in the 19th century, many people sketched in pencil (graphite) and then colored the drawings with watercolor. These days most people sketch with waterproof ink and then color things in, but I rather liked this idea. A sycamore tree in our park, dressed out in autumn finery made a nice portrait, methinks.
9×12, hot press 140# Arches. Graphite and watercolor.
Well, this one sure had me going for a while! The idea was to avoid angles, and look squarely into the building, and so I did . . . and then came along the Esposo who said, “Nay! This does not work!” And, damn, if he wasn’t right! So, I had to pull out some gouache to overlay a roof on the tree in the background, and make the roof look rather beat up and weathered, with beams and such visible. Sort of a success.
And, I wanted to paint falling snow. Falling snow in a photograph varies from white, sharp dots to elongated shapes. Time to experiment. I used some gouache, diluted, and applied some streaks – I wanted a sense of wind blowing from upper left to lower right, with snow pushed by the wind. It was okay. So, I got a fan brush and made a wet mess of the white paint and splattered and splattered and splattered. I even got it my coffee. Luckily the paint isn’t poisonous, so I shall return.
Overall, this is not a great success as a painting, but it was fun. I rather like the composition with the tree in the very front of the painting. The barn is w-a-a-y off as far as believable perspective, but such is life. But, I have been sticking to my snow themes, and perhaps it is time to do one more and then move to a different season different subject, or put it away for a few days and get back to sewing or doing photography. I can now hobble forth on my partly healed broken toe.
Arches rough, 140#, 10×14. Watercolor with a splash (well, several splashes) of gouache.
I feel I somehow turned a bit of a corner when it comes to painting. Shari Blaukopf’s online classes are helping a lot. She applies color directly and doesn’t follow “the rules” – by this I mean applying all the light colors first and ending with darks. Instead, she applies color to areas and moves on, making sure in many cases to let the paint dry. (Gotta love those hair dryers!) The corner also started to turn when I decided it was time to add some of the rest of the world to my painting, meaning buildings and so on. Thus far, buildings, but I am gaining confidence with them, so why not with people and urban scenes?
The fact is, I was getting pretty tired of my limited subjects, so this is a good thing. Now, even my boring suburban neighborhood is taking on a totally different perspective – there are a lot of things to paint, even here.
Nothing like a slushy pile of dirty snow alongside the road to make you really appreciate bright, white clean snow!
I thought I would do this for more practice painting snow, using some of the things that stuck in my mind from the Shari Blaukopf’s class on painting snow. Add to that, I tried to recall and implement some of the things I have learned over the past several months from my courses with Ian Roberts. Something seems to be shifting!
There are a lot of watercolor instructors out there. Many are good, some mediocre, and others not worth the time. Among my favorites are Rick Surowicz, Oliver Pyle, and Shari Blaukopf. Most important is if I like their paintings or not! Next is their teaching style. In person classes are hard to find, get to, and can be expensive, but online courses are often repeatable. I am beginning to find this to be the best venue for my own learrning. Blaukopf has a number of short courses, very reasonably priced, which fous on this or that. Shari Blaukopf fits both criteria – great painter, great teacher.
I have purchased a number of her courses. Over time, her classes, already good, have gotten even better with more details and focused studies. You can learn a lot from copying a painting – a long, traditional history for the art student – but when you watch a painter achieve a painting, how they apply paint, when they explain their approach, learning is an even better experience.
I can paint snow and have done it fairly well, I think. What I enjoyed about this class was to see her sequence of painting, understand the logic behind her approach, as well as the fact that her painting is pretty direct. Shari applies her colors directly to the paper, sometimes mixing on the palette and other times on the paper while adding other colors. The key factor in her success is she does not overwork her painting!! She also explains why and where she is using hard and soft edges, as well as warm and cool colors. Not everyone is this clear.
In the end, her painting always have a lively freshness to them, with plenty of detail mixed with a painterly quality. Perhaps a lack of fussiness? Whatever it is, her painting seems very spontaneous to me. Seeing / learning how she achieves this has been the highlight of her classes. She is thoughtful, plans ahead, and yet achieves a looseness that is hard to match. As watercolor – or “watercolour” – is such a challenging medium, good techniques are like gold to me.
I am not sure whether this is done, overdone, or not yet done! Certainly it is more finished than before – and I am not sure I even like it – so it is in the garage to dry and to be ignored for awhile.
Oil paints are proving to be a pleasure to use. Their malleability makes them easy in comparison to acrylic paint. Add to that, they don’t end up looking plasticky.
Compositionally this painting has little to offer. It’s just a study of trees and color and playing with paints. A learning experience by doing. For instance, I finally “got it” when using brushes – and why painters use multiple brushes in oils. You know how you always see the artist holding 2 or 3 or more brushes in one hand, painting with the other? It is – for me at least – a way to keep colors more pure without creating mud. That was an eye-opener. In water based paints it is really quick and easy to clean a brush, but not with oils. Okay, new thing learned.
Below is the photograph I used as the basis for this painting along with all stages of the painting itself so far.
Another view of the WIP. I worked on it a bit in home and then in yesterday’s class. More work to be done, but I am letting it sit in the backyard to dry a bit and give me a break from it as well. It seems that when you work in oils you can always find more and more to fix! Well, yes, it is still “getting there” – so more to come.