This morning was the last day of our Pencil Portraits in the Park class, and it was sad and fun and productive. Hopefully our teacher will offer it again. As we are outdoors and all vaccinated, most of us go maskless. In the classroom, two hours of wearing masks would not be fun.
After class, a trip to the store and then home for lunch, a nap, afternoon coffee, and continuing the repeating of my following along with Lena Rivo in her “Color Mastery Essentials” class. For this study, she wants the student to see how things are done – give an overview to the novice – but as I have already a bit of experience, I followed, paused the video, painted, backtracked, and so on.
My study is not particularly elegant or well done, but the experience is what was important. I know more about color mixing, but the lessons also mentioned mixing the gouache directly on the paper, painting the main subjects first (guess what they were!), doing the shadows, and then painting the negative space – the background – around them. From there, refinement, such as stems, fixing shapes, etc. I decided to add some prints to the tablecloth in colors I had left on my palette, and rather like the way it pulled everything together a bit.
Awhile back I enrolled in an online class offered by a gouache artist, Lena Rivo, whose work I admire. The class is called “Color Mastery Essntials” and I have found it to be such a pleasure.
I have been painting with gouache since around 2019, and the first task was to get comfortable with the medium, learning its quirks. Every medium needs a level of study that comes simply through experience, and then, once experience is gained, refinement of that experience. Lena Rivo can be found on YouTube, painting in oils, acrylics, and gouache. Her style is simple, her colors are very clean and vibrant. Because mud is my middle name, I thought her class would be worth a try.
Was it? Most definitely. I have gone through nearly all the modules, and am doing them another time. This one is what caught my attention today – value. I really don’t see value but with the exercises in her class, values are becoming more and more visible. The above exercise was about values. The light colors of the fish contrast sharply with one another, some being darker and others being lighter than the water. Besides value, the question is what temperature do you see within the values? Warm? Cold? I never really thought about things this way.
If you want to see Lena Rivo’s work on YouTube, click here, and for her website, click here. There are free downloads about how to improve your art and an excellent guide for painting with gouache. A gallery of her work is eye candy, filled with beautiful colors. Flowers, people. landscapes, the sea and more are all represented here. You can also find links to her courses.
I won’t go into too many details of the class I enrolled in, as it is her class, but I will say I do recommend it. It is clear and logical, moving from simple to more complex. Topics covered include how to keep your colors vibrant, even in shadows, how to evaluate light and dark, and steps to take to evaluate what you see to create your own, original painting.
In all honesty, I tend to be skeptical about online learning, mostly because live online learning can be very poorly done. The same with a class that is prepared and self-paced by the student. Lena Rivo’s class is not dull, it is interesting, and full of important details that don’t overwhelm. Each lesson builds on the previous, and repeating modules effects learning more with each round.
I plan on continuing to repeat what I’ve already covered because I am seeing it again, with new and more experienced eyes.
I have a few blogs, this one, a general one, and a photography one. I thought I had posted these paintings here, but they were on the general one.
I have been busy cleaning up my house, spending hours moving and discarding, selling and donating. In between I did some art work, gardening, and the daily drudgery. I will say, I did go out shopping the other day and got some new clothes – a semi-annual thing.
Anyway, in between daily nonsense, I have been trying my hand at things I don’t feel comfortable doing. Buildings and people are the most common issue. Boats also fall into that category.
I sat down one afternoon and did three paintings. This was the first, focusing on shape, shadow, light and dark, warm and cool.
More confident after the first foray, I chose one with more detail, specifically the slats making up the sides of the boat. Add to that algae, more light and dark from shadows. Rust seems to be part of the painting, or perhaps it is just flaked paint remains on wood.
Finally, I turned to Winslow Homer for boats. He has painted all kinds in all sorts of weather and places. This is from one he did in the Caribbean or Florida or the Gulf of Mexico. I just took the boat and tried to look at how Homer caught the light, the sky and water, and the shadows on the white boat and sails.
Boats are actually pretty simple, but their shapes are disguised. Draw a square or rectangle, at least two. Have them overlap. Then connect the corners with curved lines, and you have a boat. Depending on the style, the front is usually pointed, but the rear could be flat or pointed, too. To learn and see about all types of boats, click on this Wikipedia link, and then choose a boat. For kicks, I chose Z. Go take a look!
After spending 7 hours yesterday sorting through books I hope to sell or donate, I was bushed. Dusty and dirty, too. It’s amazing how much of a mess your life can become when you aren’t paying attention! Painting definitely has its attraction as opposed to drudgery, but lately I feel like pushing myself into areas I don’t ordinarily venture. Cleaning and discarding shakes things up, and it seems to be carrying over into artwork.
Charles Reid, besides being great at landscapes, is also fascinating for me as his watercolor portraits are so loose and wonderful. I read a bit in one of his books about how he does skin tones. Colors for pale skin can be yellow ochre, alizarin, and cerulean – these are the ones I used to paint the figure on the left. For the one on the right I threw in some ultramarine and Hooker’s green at Reid’s suggestion. I worked to make the highlights warm and the shadows cool – more yellow in the light areas, more blue in the shadow areas.
Here are some gardeners laboring away. The color palette was pretty simple – ultramarine, orange, and a bit of ochre and green. I tried to create a sense of dimension in each pose, working with complementary colors to create shadows.
I then thought that after doing people, I should do an animal. I found a wonderful picture on Pixabay of an elephant striding along. I was rather teary when I thought about how we are losing so many wonderful creatures, large and small, because human beings are not the best. Of course, I’m not starving, so my perspective is very different. I was caught by the beauty of this elephant and think I will probably draw and paint creatures more. I have never painted or drawn an elephant before and enjoyed this one a lot.
Finally, a building, specifically Dunguaire Castle. It’s from the 16th century and has been restored. I think it would be a wonderful place to visit as it is right on Galway Bay in western Ireland.
Altogether, this afternoon’s romp in the paint was satisfying and challenging. Figures, animals, buildings – all of these really pulled me out of my comfort zone. I kept my palette simple and worked to create a 3D element with shading as well as contrasts of warm and cool. Initially I used rather cheap paper, but in reality, it sucked, so I pulled out my Arches 140# CP and was much happier with the results.
I’ve long been a fan of Charles Reid and his wonderful, loose watercolor style. In particular, I enjoy his paintings of the Bahamas and other Caribbean scenes. The light, the sky, the land all work together to create something most of us dream about.
The above painting is by Charles Reid, but when you look at it, you can also see he is influenced by the watercolors by Winslow Homer a century earlier.
Winslow Homer painted not only the Bahamas in the Caribbean, but other tropical areas, such as Florida. Palm trees and ocean and sky and wind show us another world.
Several years ago I spent a week crewing in the British Virgin Islands, and the colors I saw were are so seductive. Around every corner, I thought of Winslow Homer. Charles Reid, while I knew of his work, I did not know he had painted the same areas as Homer, nor where I had been hanging out. It was a real delight to discover he painted the Bahamas and similar areas.
Here, a quick study – about 15 minutes – of the watercolor above by Mr. Reid. It’s rough. The goal was to capture a purity of color and gesture to express movement, the shape of people on the beach, the colors of the sky.
Sky, beach, water, clouds – the Caribbean has it all. The British Virgin Islands are just a few of the many islands in the area, many of which have tourist-driven economies. Despite this, the islands have their flavors, based on who originally colonized them – English, French, Dutch and American.
I don’t know if I could live on a small island because I am so spoiled by the ease with which I can buy a book (hard to do on an island, especially before e-books!) and a wide variety of food. What you cannot buy, though, is the atmosphere and the beauty. That you take home with photographs, paintings, and memories.
I have been so busy these past few weeks with cleaning and rearranging my house, discarding this, donating that, setting up a sewing cabinet, having personal documents shredded, etc., etc., etc., that the idea of sitting down to paint is like craving that first cup of coffee in the morning – I need it!
Whew. When I opened my gouache box, the smell of mold was there. Gouache needs to be kept damp, and if not opened up and used on a regular (i.e. daily) basis, moldy it can become. It’s not my idea of a good time.
I just decided to paint, not caring what it smelled like – and an open window and a good breeze helps! I mixed up colors, mashed up this and that, and when I was done, took everything to the sink and ran the water as hot as I could. Now, all is soaking, and here is a painting based upon a photo I took awhile ago.
Today it is still cold! I went out with my drawing class early this morning – 53F! (Laugh if you want – but that is really unusually cold where I live.) The sun came out and warmed us up, but I still felt the chill when I got home. A hot lunch started to thaw my chilly bones – so let’s consider that Spring is around the corner, and the thaw begins with running creeks.
The other day I painted fields ready for this coming year’s crops. Today, up at the treeline, the edge of mountains and forest giving way to barren rock and scrub. Snow is still here, the air bites, and the beauty astounds.
It’s mid-March and the land is opening up for the sowing of crops later in the season. The bright new greens of spring begin to show amongst the fields and grasses left over from the year before. Depending on where you live, trees are barren, or still green. I live in a climate that never sees snow, seldom rain, but the cycle of seasons still holds it’s excitement as birds return, bulbs emerge, and the land is once more prepared for another season of crops.
I should have gone to my Pencil Portraits class . . . but it was raining and cold and it’s outdoors. I’m a wuss, enjoying snow and ice from a distance. Thus, biting cold, frost, and snow fog. Wander along the road, beneath the trees, and remain in my snug house with a cup of cocoa and blues a-playing in the background. Not a rough life.