The final painting of the fire escapes behind an old hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona. Very different from the photo. I am not sure if I like it or not, but two noteworthy accomplishments: no mud, no outlines. Is it overworked? Don’t know. Does it look “real”? Don’t know. I am too close to it timewise to consider it objectively. But no mud and no outlines I can say for sure!
From our trip to Flagstaff this summer. Below is the original photo, to show the color and the actual image. I think it might be behind the Hotel Monte Vista, from the parking lot, but I don’t remember. Anyway, some artistic license. I actually was planning to do the entire photo, but once I started my sketch, from the top left building, it soon became apparent that my proportions were totally off, and ended up with the upper part. However, I think the fire escapes are actually pretty interesting, and are a strong point in the drawing, as are all the lines of the pipes and landings and stairs.
Today I return to work after 10 days off. Those days were filled with all the whirlwind activities of Thanksgiving, but also filled with time to focus on drawing and painting. I tried to do something everyday, which worked, except for yesterday as I had to prepare to return to the classroom. I also went out for a long walk in the local botanical garden with one of the dogs, and that was something I needed – get outside, hike, get into the world of plants.
Now, work looms ahead this morning. Some of my work days are nearly 11 hours long, and it does not leave much room for anything personal. About the only time I have is in the mornings, while I drink my coffee. Instead of looking at the grim and gory news, I plan to try to do a sketch or a watercolor in the morning. For example, find one of my photos (of which I have taken thousands) and use it for the basis of a sketch or painting or both. I just need to continue doing it! The sense of satisfaction with my life, which I have not felt for the past 4 years (since my schedule was changed), is returning. Now I have to keep up the momentum. If I can, I will try to post something every 2 or 3 days, as that is easy enough to do.
Now, let’s do it!
I had a brainstorm the other day: Why not use vacation photos for drawing and watercolor subjects? I certainly do have a bucket load of photos. And, last summer we went to a lot of historical and beautiful places as we wandered through parts of the western U.S. Here, a view from a cliff in Mesa Verde National Park.
Colors include indanthrene blue, quinacridone yellow, organic vermilion, burnt sienna, cobalt blue, phthalo green and Carbon Ink in a Pentalic watercolor book.
Given my frustration with painting grapes the other day, I decided to look at some YouTube watercolor videos on painting the highlights and shadows of spherical objects. I found two which I really liked, and the result is I did a number of studies, as can be seen below. Techniques include both wet-in-wet, glazing, and a few others.
The purple balls were done with glazing; the shadows were wet-in-wet. Here and there I went in with a damp brush to soften the edges of the shadows in the grapes, or to blur paint over areas which seemed weird. Not too bad, but I do not find glazing appealing; it may be I need to improve my glazing technique.
These orange goodies are preludes to a potential painting of oranges. The one on the right was done first, but as the ink was bleeding – it was ordinary fountain pen ink – I moved on to the one on the left, which is drawn with Sailor’s Carbon Ink. I like the on the left quite a bit – the bleed into the shadow, as well as the colors themselves, which are Hansa Yellow, Pyrrol Orange, and Organic Vermilion. The brush I used was a large one, a Cosmotop 14, and the paper was the Canson pad of watercolor paper (not the Montval).
Soooooo!! Things are beginning to improve!
It’s 92 F outside (33.33 C) in late December in Southern California. The air conditioning is on because it was 85 F in the house. A Christmas Cactus blooms in cold weather elsewhere . . .
Today was a day of wrath! I was soooo frustrated!
And a day of learning. I did four watercolors without lines. The first two were sketched in with pencil; the last two were done freehand, relying on imagination and the precepts of sumi-e, where lines are not drawn.
In each painting, something works, and in each painting there are places of failure. What I failed at was separating various areas from the neighboring shape or shadow. Some areas appear rather painterly. I still have a long way to go – but at least, at last, there are no lines.
Paper is Canson’s watercolor paper, and colors include quinacridone yellow, cobalt teal, carbazole violet, ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, Hooker’s green, alizarin crimson, Payne’s grey, and a few others.
This is a view of Mirror Lake in Yosemite National Park and some artistic license with color thrown in. Here, I used a sumi-e brush and watercolors. Yes, lines. No mud. This is the first picture, other than my pencil cup, that I really like since I started this project.
I began with a photo, then drew in some lines, used the ink brush to create the bones. Then it sat overnight and in my sleep I imagined how I would paint it. Parts worked out, parts didn’t. After the colors were applied, I went back with my sumi-e brush and redid some original strokes and then added others to create contrast and so on. Colors include phthalo blue, indanthrene blue, organic vermillion, hansa yellow, quinacridone gold, Hooker’s green, carbazole violet, cerulean blue, and ultramarine blue.
There are a lot of books about painting – how to, what to use, what to buy – but not a lot inspire. I found one: Ted Keller’s Watercolor: One Person’s Teachings on Watercolor Painting and Becoming an Artist. Why is he inspirational? Because he says to paint 100 paintings to learn how to paint; paint 300 paintings to develop your style. And that says it all. If I sit around waiting to become a painter, it ain’t gonna happen.
Hence: enumeration. I’ve decided that my paintings / drawings should be numbered. I want to see what I have at 100 paintings, and then 300. Numbering things is a way to mark progress. Numbering is a way to organize. I like numbering things because I have a secret fetish to count some things. For instance, when I bake, I count to 100 when I mix batter by hand. When I knead bread, it’s 1-2-3-4 turn. That way, I stay focused on my task rather than letting my monkey mind get distracted and unfocused. When I jogged, I did the same thing to set a pace, increasing or decreasing the count of 1-2-3-4 with speed.
Numbering things may seem sort of dorky when it comes to painting or drawing, but it really is a way to mark the passage of time (how old are you?) and growth. It’s a road map, a guide, a way to see the journey, just as is this blog.