The studio is finally sort of back together. It was torn apart for flooring installation. Putting it back is slow – I didn’t realize how much stuff I had packed away in it, and how little I want to put back into it other than painting supplies, photography equipment, and books. It’s not gonna be easy.
So what! When in doubt, paint! And poppies are the best in a California spring!
This may be the last post for a few days as our house is torn apart and put together. The bathrooms, closets, laundry room, hallway, and bedrooms are getting new floors on Tuesday. The studio is bare. I have a small box filled with a few brushes, some paper, some paint, but who knows if I’ll be able to touch it for several days!
Because of this, I decided to end my weekend with a small ink and watercolor painting, derived from a photo I took last year of a barn in the hills nearby. I started by laying in pencil, then color, knowing I planned to deliberately finish with ink. I’m rather torn about the bright white of the roof – but it was in brilliant sunshine the day I took the photo. The windows are rather awful – looks like the barn has an eye infection!
Maybe I will tone the roof down later and fix the windows, but for now, it will remain as is. After I post this, it’s time to finish clearing out the studio, the closet, and put together little boxes so things like soap and toothpaste are available for kitchen use – we will have no bathroom sinks for a few weeks!
No, I haven’t forgotten my “Somewhere in Wyoming” picture, but as we are installing new floors in the back half of the house, my studio and supplies are packed up. All I have left are a few paints and brushes, and a couple of smallish sketch books. So, small things, done without the need for too much planning. And, truthfully, with the whole house in chaos, it’s probably for the best.
That said, this morning I was listening to the birds singing. The springtime songs are everywhere. When I was a child, I lived in rural Illinois, surrounded by huge oaks and wide open fields. In the fields were the meadowlarks, brilliantly colored and beautiful singers. The notes of the meadowlark are memorable and unmistakable. I found some photos, and hodge-podged one together. I am not really good at drawing animals, so birds are always a bit of a challenge.
The watercolor, without lines.
And with some inking done, for contrast and a bit of structure. I’m not sure if either really works well, or if there should be more color above the meadowlark instead of plain white paper. What do you think?
Rummaging through my photo files, I returned to my visit at the California Poppy Reserve last spring. We drove through winding canyon roads for a couple of hours to come to the open space and hills near Lancaster, California, where the acres of blooms were in full and colorful display. Golden hills, Yellow and purple hills. Winds of 50 mph (really!), cold, scudding clouds, shadows racing across the landscape. My hands were so cold it was almost impossible to hold the camera!
Here is the preliminary sketch.
And here is the final painting. It rather lacks depth of field, but it does have the intensity of color I remember of the day.
Last summer we went on a long road trip. Of course, the camera came out. Living in modern suburbia, I see little of “older” architecture in the form of dwellings, so ornate houses from the late 1800s-early 1900s have their draw. This is a part of a Victorian house high up a hill, hidden by trees and bushes, and accessed by a long, long stairway.
First drawing was in pencil, then inked over, and the pencil lines erased. I tried to keep the perspective – I am getting better at it – but there are still some errors.
And the final product, inked in detail, painted, inked again.
I am enjoying the meditative quality of drawing in detail and somehow not worrying if it is “right” or “wrong” – just doing it is enough. I also try to remember what I have learned from experience or a class, such as reflected light in windows.
When you get home at 7 p.m., have dinner, and paint some swatches on a wall to choose a color, there is not a lot of time left in the day to do much of anything. To slow down, I thought about what I had done the day before – watercolor and ink, not splashy and loose, but more controlled. A still life, and my favorite fruit – pears!
Last night I did the colors.
This morning, I did the ink.
The ink I used is waterproof, but is a warm grey in tone. It actually works for a more delicate and less contrasting line or dot.
I have always liked pen and ink combined with watercolor. The contrast between the two can be art in itself, or the two can work together, each enhancing the other. I came across this book by Claudia Nice, Creating Textures in Pen & Ink with Watercolor, quite some time ago. It’s detailed and it has some exercises with suggestions as to what to do and notes as to what she did to create the effects. Some are just ink and colors, others involve traditional “helpers” such as alcohol or salt to achieve results.
Yesterday afternoon I was in an antsy mood, but didn’t want to paint in my usual splashy style, but wanted some “containment” if that makes sense. I wanted something requiring a degree of precision. Ink is always the answer there. Realism, too, is not where I wander naturally, so Nice’s work and exercises always have a magic to them.
The first I chose was her “Old Broadleaf Maple” – detailed, subtle. And a tree. I love trees! This is my rendering of her example.
The second one I chose was a fly agaric mushroom. I have seen only one like it in my entire life – and even then I am not sure it was the same mushroom. I was hiking up in the Rockies in Colorado, up high, and came across some huge, red mushrooms, the kind you see in fairy tales. Wanting more colors than the tree, the red hues of the mushroom were perfect.
The beauty of Nice’s work is that while it appears easy, if you are doing the study, you focus on the small things as well as the overarching picture. By nature, I am not detailed oriented, and for me, it is a different way of seeing and doing something. I am always pleased with the results when I take my time. The biggest challenge is to take these studies to my own world, outside the pages of the book, and look for the details on a plant or whatever, decide what to keep, what to discard, and so on. It is hard work worth every minute!