Author: -N-

WIP: 3 Trees in a California Drought

I have been taking an oil painting / acrylic painting class through the local adult school, and the current teacher is pretty good. I am only doing oils this go around – I did acrylics last class – and I am finding them far more to my liking than acrylics. Much more to offer in terms of – what? – pleasure in using. With acrylics I feel like I am in a mad dash to paint and that really is not a fun experience. With oils, you can play and take your time, and that for this impatient person is actually a pleasure after the pressures I felt with acrylics!

This is what my backyard looks like – hell. There is no grass and there are too many big trees. Once we get rid of 10 more 35 foot tall trees and have the back yard plowed up to be rid of tree roots, then I might be able to make it far more habitable. Nonetheless, looking for something to paint, I decided to take a photo of some of the trees against the back wall and push it in color to an extreme. By pushing the colors in LR I thought I might find new colors to use in the painting. And, it worked – I found purples and turquoises and rather icky orangish yellows.

So, I am trying to do this alla prima, but it’s not going to happen. It is happening so far in two alla prima sessions, and probably will need three or more. I am not trying to create a masterpiece. I am trying to learn how to use oils. So, this is play, and here it is, after my second alla prima session.

Next class is in a couple of days, so let’s see where it goes from here . . .

Along Mystic Creek

I cannot believe it has been over 3 weeks since I last posted here! Suffice it to say I have been busy with learning how to handle oil paints and some drawing, and really not in the mood to look at the computer much.

That said, today a trip down to Pasadena’s Blick store was a fun morning’s journey and got my mojo going again. I didn’t spend too much, but did pick up some colors in oil and watercolor from brands not available locally (and that is not to say we don’t have a fantastic store nearby), and just had fun wandering around a well-stocked art store. The esposo did the driving as I am not a big fan of driving in L.A., even on a Sunday morning.

Anyhoo! I am trying a more subtle approach to my watercolors – perhaps less bright, more delicate? As well, trying to convey depth better along with leading the eye of the viewer where I want to go. Not too sure if it is working, but the process is fun.

9×12, Fabriano 140# CP.


I think this is the first original flower study I am happy with. The reason is that it has the looseness of style I have been trying to get, a brightness of color, and decent contrast.

I began by wetting my paper on both sides after drawing in the basic flower shapes, some stems, and leaves. All of the pencil lines are simply guides, but it did help. From there, I did the flowers with a wet wash, more water than pigment, to suggest the basic flower petals. From there, leaves in a light yellow green with the plan to paint darker colors over petals and leaves. Once I had those general shapes in, I placed the flower center in, allowing it to bleed into the leaves and petals as it would. Then I dried it with the hair dryer.

More washes came along using more pigment and less water, but still wet. I tried to suggest leaves and shapes, painting around the flower to create indents where the petals fell over the leaves in an attempt to create some depth. Again the hair dryer, probably multiple times. Finally details with a fairly dry brush, thicker pigment slightly dampened with water. This was done for some of the stems, the flower centers, and a bit here and there.

I am using my new palette, but I don’t think I really like the alizarin crimson that much. It is the “permanent” variety and seems rather dull to my eye. I tried to liven it up with other colors, like some blue and red and orange in different areas, but it is not as vibrant a red violet I would like. I will need to do a bit of research here.

So, at last, a sense of being able to paint flowers in a manner pleasing to my sense of what a floral watercolor should look like.

9×12 CP Arches, 140 lb.

A Few Flower Studies

When you find an artist whose work you like, and who is also a good teacher, an online class can teach you a lot! The nice thing with videos is that you can watch them over and over, catching little things with each viewing.

Shari Blaukopf is a painter that I admire. Her watercolors are clean and fresh. She also has a really nice online personality, whether it is on her blog or in her recorded classes. I’ve made comments on her blog and she replies; I have uploaded a painting or two, and she is always gracious. One day it would be nice to take a class with her in person.

Anyway, I have / am taking two of her courses on flowers. One is painting wet-in-wet flowers, and the other is painting fresh cut flowers.

The above one is from the wet-in-wet flowers class. The paper is wet on both sides after the initial pencil sketch is done. The paper is then blotted. And from there, you go to town! It was really fun to see how the paper and paints all worked together. Not a great rendition, but the experience is the most important part as that is how you learn. My contrast issues are not too bad.

The hydrangeas are from Blaukopf’s course on fresh flowers. She does three different flowers – a blue salvia, then echinacea and black-eyed Susans, and finally the hydrangeas. I’ve done the salvia, but have yet to do the second one. I wanted to do the hydrangeas especially because of the delicacy of colors involved, as well as work on the contrast and negative painting, the latter which is just as much as a challenge for me as good contrast! Having been very frustrated with my colors always being too intense, this was also a good challenge for me with pigment and water control.

The past few days have been spent practicing free-motion quilting for a class this morning, so it was really a treat to wade back into painting. I love flowers, so painting them is the challenge, especially as I prefer a looser rather than more precise rendering of them. I think precision can be a lot easier than abstraction.

New Palette, New Colors

Quiller Palette – 28 Colors!

My all time favorite palette is the Quiller palette, available in porcelain or plastic. Plastic does stain, especially with phthalo colors it seems, so after a few years – 3 or 4? – it was time to buy a new one, and to fill it with colors. I like the plastic – or acrylic – palettes over porcelain because, if they are dropped, they don’t break into a bazillion pieces. It’s always a job to fill up a palette unless you are replenishing old favorites and standbys, but I decided to change a lot of my colors as I’ve bought colors over the past several months and want to put them to use. So, here we go – my new palette and the watercolors therein.

The outer corners of the Quiller palette are put to good use – 8 large wells. Beginning in the upper left corner and moving clockwise, I labeled them, for my purposes, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H. Color name and manufacturer are listed. Abbreviations: S = Schmincke Horadam, DS = Daniel Smith, H = Holbein, WN = Winsor Newton, MG = M. Graham, S = Sennelier.

  • A. Cadmium Yellow Lemon – SH
  • B. Lemon Yellow – DS
  • C. Permanent Yellow Deep – DS
  • D. Pyrrol Orange – DS
  • E. Italian Burnt Sienna – DS
  • F. Burnt Sienna – DS
  • G. Cobalt Teal – mixture of MG and DS to use up MG
  • H. French Ultramarine – DS

Next, if you look up into the upper left corner, you will see a spot marked on the palette with a rather long, pointy thingy. It is a yellow next to a rather periwinkle color on its left. That yellow is #1 in the following list, and clockwise around, ending in #24.

  • 1. Hansa Yellow – MG
  • 2. Hansa Yellow Deep – DS
  • 3. Gamboge – MG
  • 4. Naples Yellow – MG
  • 5. Quinacridone Gold – MG
  • 6. Translucent Orange – SH
  • 7. Cadmium Red Light – H
  • 8. Cadmium Red – WN
  • 9. Permanent Alizarin Crimson – DS
  • 10. Pyrrol Red – DS
  • 11. Quinacridone Coral – DS
  • 12. Raw Sienna – DS
  • 13. Raw Umber – DS
  • 14. Burnt Umber – DS
  • 15. Cerulean Blue – MG
  • 16. Cobalt Blue – DS
  • 17. Prussian Blue – S
  • 18. Manganese Blue Hue – DS
  • 19. Phthalo Green, Yellow Shade – DS
  • 20. May Green – SH
  • 21. Hooker’s Green – WN – the only one for me!
  • 22. Cobalt Violet – MG
  • 23. Carbazole Violet – DS
  • 24. Lavender – H

Sometime over the next few days I am going to paint out a sample of the palette and colors, copy it, and paste it to the lid of the palette. This way I have a copy on hand, and if the one on the palette gets messed up, I can print out another. I also like to read up and do a bit of research about the colors, and often refer to the Dick Blick site to get pigment information and Jane Blundell’s site to read up on her comments.

It’s nice to know a bit about colors, and with so many new formulations on the market this becomes a good thing to do. What I think a color is may be very different than what a color is – such as granulating or not, fugitive or not (I try not to buy those, but I do have some normal alizarin crimson and rose madder genuine), warm or cool. Besides this, it is good to know in which direction a color “leans” – that is, does the red I am looking at lean to the blue or yellow side of the palette. Such things affect color mixing. As there are lot of new-to-me colors, it is good to become acquainted with my new friends.

And there we are.

Rest Stop

Rest stops are things to be much appreciated! Driving 8 hours days to get somewhere, or back from somewhere, they can provide a place to get out, walk around, and of course use the facilities.

Back when our family moved around the country multiple times, there weren’t any that I recall. It was the gas station bathroom or the woods or a bush. Some rest stops are well maintained by organizations or the state, others are sadly neglected and really disgusting. Really, really disgusting. The good ones have scenery, a place to sit and have a picnic, a place to walk the dogs. Some have vending machines, others give out weather info from NOAA, and some give a bit of history of the area.

This is a rest stop in Nebraska. It was clean and had a lot of room to wander. There was a bit of a woodland, a stream, late summer flowers, and a beautiful view of farmland and prairie. The sky was filled with fluffy clouds. Granted, it was in the 90s F, and very humid, but it did our souls and butts good to get out and wander. I had my camera and got a few good shots. This is a painting of one of them.

Watercolor, 9×12 CP Arches.

Out the Window

Driving day in, day out, it gets a bit old and boring unless you make it a point to look – and shoot fast exposures, too – out of the car window. I have a lot of shots! Nonetheless, the point of all these photos was simply subject matter for paintings. I don’t live in the midwest any more, but in a drying west coast state. Trees and poofy clouds are not my daily fare – so it is honestly a lot of fun to see what I get / got on the camera. It feels good to put a brush in my hand again after weeks of driving in a car!

Hue, Value, Intensity

Since February or March of this year I have been taking a series of online classes, complete with live Zoom meetings, with Ian Roberts. He has been the best online teacher because he is so diverse in his interests and he brings them into the world of creativity. I admire his artwork, too, and think his book on composition is an excellent resource. For me, art is more than a pretty picture – it is an expression of a person, a skill, a view point. All of this, in a painting, is more akin to me than any other form of art, such as photography or music. While I enjoy them, I just am not as I entranced by them as I am by color, paint, and the process of painting.

That said, the first of the three courses was about drawing and values, not as an art in and of itself, but as a means to move forward into preparing for a painting. Next came brushwork, using black and white to render shades of grey and to learn about value. By adding yellow ochre, the next step was discerning warm and cool variants of color – or monochrome. Finally, we have come to the third and final class in this series – colorwork.

What is color? As the title says, color varies with hue, value and intensity. This week our job is to mix greys from complementary colors. Easy enough – or is it? Part of it will depend on medium used, and then, it also depends on warmth and coolness of colors. Our preliminary palette begins with a warm and cool color of each of the primaries, along with white if necessary. Cool colors are Cerulean Blue, Alizarin Crimson, and Cadmium Yellow Lemon. Warm colors are Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Red Light, and Cadmium Yellow Deep. I have stuck with these three colors and a bit of titanium white gouache where I couldn’t keep the highlights, or lost them in my painting, or forgot about them altogether!

Pretty dull painting! It makes me think of the Upside Down. The point of this study was to take the clashing and garish still life Ian Roberts provided and tone it down – dull down the colors. I am using watercolors here, and I used complementary colors to tone things down but still leave the original color recognizable. The foreground cloth was bright lavender-violet; back behind squash a dark blue, wall on the left a sea green. Bowl is pinkish rose, apples green, and squash an orange with ridges casting shadows. Some shadows were hard edges, others blurred together. It was a hard exercise because I had to test my colors over and over again on a piece of scrap watercolor. This was on Arches 140# CP.

Our next study was a very low key (low key in color intensity) landscape. Evidence of a hazy day dulled all the colors so that while they were warm and cool, they all were similar in tonality. The above scan of my painting in black and white showed me I did accomplish by and large, especially in the field that makes up the lower 2/3 of the painting. The colors were very soft without a lot of bright or intense colors; rather, they all sort of blended into each other when I squinted my eyes. Only a few areas of dark contrast stood out – on the right of the field in the curve, and the bottoms of the trees at the edge of the field.

As you can see, there are no colors of high intensity. They are soft and subtle, even when dark. Hue means variations of color – and there are several, and as this is watercolor the colors are transparent and can be laid over one another or blended, depending on the wetness of the paper. The values are all in the middle of the spectrum. I used Kilimanjaro 300# Bright White paper, and this is a 10×10 inch square. My palette here are only the 6 colors I mentioned above, without any white at all.

In many ways, the still life is more “my style” insofar as the colors are laid in rather heavily. The landscape involves a more delicate and patient approach to the colors. Both were very challenging in their own way, but each taught me a lot. I liked the limited palette as I was forced to stay within its parameters, but could still achieve a lot of lovely colors, as well as darks and lights.

More to come . . .

Water, Water, Everywhere

More practice paintings. Negative painting will return in the not-too-distant future. Before all those negative painting exercises came in, I ran across the watercolors of Javid Tabatabaei. He has a wonderful way of painting skies reflected in water. His YouTube channel shows his tricks – definitely watch him if you want to see what magic he creates with a very simple method.

Normally, I paint the sky first, and then I do the distant hills. Water on the ground is left to last. Tabatabaei strokes in the sky and the water where the colors of the sky are reflected, but he leaves areas of bright water white or with a light tint of gold or yellow or blue, depending on his needs. For the sun, he paints around the circular shape of the sun; he does the same for the moon. Other times he will lift the paint. This technique creates a lot of drama.

Below are a couple of studies I followed on YouTube as well as a copy of a painting from Tabatabaei’s Instagram account, to see if I had learned from his demonstrations. I did. And to tell you the truth, this is one of the most fabulous ways I have ever seen for painting water and sky in watercolor – a big thanks to Mr. Tabatabaei for sure! Very simple, very elegant.

The above is my first attempt to follow Tabatabaei’s technique; this is from a YouTube study I seem to be unable to find at present. This is also on HP paper by Fabriano, and I was not really in a comfort zone as far as using it. Still, it worked out quite nicely. Here, I tried to lift out the image of the sun, but it really didn’t work. White gouache failed too. So, a painting lacking in success in a lot of ways but that water and reflections are yummy!

The one above is also from a YouTube video by Tabatabaei. He has a couple of YouTube channels, come to think of it. That may be why I am having problems finding them! This one and the one below are on Arches CP paper.

Finally, my version of one of Tabatabaei’s paintings using his water / sky technique. It worked out pretty good, I think, and I can see I am going to have a lot of fun painting water! Expect a monsoon or flood . . . of watery watercolor paintings.

Thanks, Javid!

In the Canyon

Another rendering of another artist’s work! This is from a (what else?) YouTube video by Roland Lee, an American watercolorist who paints the national parks of Bryce and Zion with a beautiful and delicate touch.

The subject here, of course, is landscape, but here are more subtle renderings of nature – here, more trees – using negative painting. I added a few of my own touches, of course, but the point of the lesson was observed and learned to a degree. Not easy to do, not easy to follow, but I rather like the results. More practice to come, too.

Learning from a paint-along is rather fun, at times daunting. I used to think of my paintings all as “failures” because I never replicated the teacher’s work. Of course, that is silly, but until I could let it go, as well as become more adept at watercolors and skilled in their handling, my own paintings would be disappointments. Now I am getting comfortable with my own style, if there is one, as well as how I handle everything. Skills are building.

Done on Arches CP 140#, 9×12.

And here is the video to enjoy – Roland Lee is a good presenter – clear instructions and a deft hand. I know I will be looking at more of his over time.