229. Friday Flower Sketches

I’ve been playing with gouache of late, but really have missed watercolor and its transparency.  Yesterday I thought I would sit down to do some painting, but it never happened.  Today, out on the patio reading a book, I looked around at all the plants, and realized, duh!  There is a lot to play with out here!

I’d moved all my orchids outside to water and air out a bit.  This is the last of the blooming phalenopsis, so I painted it – no pencil or preliminary value studies – just direct watercolor and let it happen.  I can tell by the awkward handling of the paint I am out of practice; as well, the paper is not the best, but that is what sketch books are for.

About 6 weeks ago I took all my old and new flower seeds and planted them helter-skelter.  These are zinnias, plants which are notorious for wilting with not enough water – like in a couple of hours they can look like they will just fall over – but come back miraculously with a bit of help.  Totally crack me up – such simple flowers to be so demanding.  Kind of nervy.  Anyway, what I like about them is that they have beautifully shaped leaves, lovely stems, and smallish bright flowers that burst out of all the green surrounding them.  Here, a bit better handling, with a use of negative painting to create the leaves and perhaps a bit of dimension.

Finally, my favorite of the bunch.  Brush control and forethought.  Here I was perched on a rather tall chair, looking down onto the pot of scaveola, a sort of creeper from what I can observe.  It has a variety of leaf shapes, and the purple flowers sort of send out petals from behind the leaves in a peek-a-boo fashion.  I took a photo of this for Instagram, but you can also see the photo below of plant and sketch, taken with my phone.

 

227. A View from Above

More gouache!

Gouache apparently is best used straight out of the tube.  I put a bit of each color I have into a covered palette, and the result is the gouache dried out fairly quickly.  Today, I managed to make a hybrid painting it seems – rather watercolory and transparent, and rather gouachy and opaquish.  To see if I can rehydrate the gouache, I put a couple of drops of glycerin into each well along with a spray of water.  I’ll test them out tomorrow.  I hate to think of wasting a lot of paint – it’s not cheap, even on sale for 40% off.

There are some “rules” for painting with gouache.  One is thin to thick paint, and dark to light paint.  Each layer of gouache is opaque(ish) depending on how diluted it is.  Thus, you can begin with a watercolor-thin wash and end up with a straight-out-of-the-tube thickness.

To begin with, I laid down thin layers of color for all areas – sky, background, middle ground and foreground.  From there it was playing around.  Ultimately the sky and the foreground are more like gouache insofar I used heavier paints, but the middle to background remain less so and more along the lines of watercolor.

Besides using paint in different manners here, I tried to convey depth using atmospheric perspective.  to some degree it worked.  Being able to paint over things was really helpful.  I’m not really sure if things “worked” or “didn’t work” here – but I do know a bit more about how gouache can be used, and, as with everything, practice helps out a lot.

As fascinated as I am with the gouache, I also know I need to continue working on my other artistic goals of drawing and watercolor and perspective . . . so easy to go down a path and ignore everything else I want to do!

227. First Attempts with Gouache

Goo – osh!  Isn’t that a great word?

Anyway, when we were in San Diego awhile back, we found a genuine art store in the neighborhood.  Of course, I had to wander in there, and I finally was able to find water-based gouache paints.  All the ones I ever seem to find are acrylic, which is not what I want.  Today I got them out for the first time and put them onto a palette, leaving space for other colors, which I am sure I will want to add.

I think I need to add a red along the lines of alizarin and a couple of greens, such as Hookers and sap.  I use them a lot in watercolors.

My first picture was quite tentative, but eventually I got a bit more brave.  Sadly, the scanner did not differentiate very well between the yellows in the flowers.  Rather than just one color, I used both to suggest petals.  The greens are straight out of the tube as well as mixed with blue and black.

This next painting is what made me realize I needed an alizarin or something close to it.  The actual flowers are more pink; cad red does not turn pink with the addition of white, nor is very pretty with purple mixed in.  So, I settled on the violet with the addition of white.  The leaves were painted light to dark, and I tried to let the paint dry thoroughly so I could paint around things, such as the flowers, or on top of other colors.  This is how watercolor is done – light to dark.  The pot was done while the paint was still wet and I mixed other colors in as I went along.  That was really a lot of fun just to see the result.  Finally, the shadow was painting on fairly transparently and loosely, only to be covered with more opaque paint.  I rather like the result.

Finally, I remembered that gouache suggests painting dark to light.  Here I placed a black/blue mixture and let it dry.  From there, I applied moss green, but I should have mixed it and the yellows and reds with white so they would dry brighter.  Still, that is a good lesson for the future:.  Darks in gouache dry lighter, and lights dry darker.  Here I applied paint directly and let it dry, as well as mixing it on the paper.

Because paper is so important in painting, I used some 6×8″ 100% cotton paper.  I’m glad I did as there were times when the paper was wet, as when laying down the black background on the painting above.  I really love the fact that I can put lighter colors on dark.  As a kid in elementary school, poster paints were some of my favorite ones for this same reason.

Old dog, new tricks!  Hooked on gouache, indeed!

226. Dappled Light

It’s been nearly 10 days since my last post.  Nothing traumatic to keep me away from painting – I just have had appointments and social activities accompanied by making sure all my retirement paperwork and insurance is in place for my “official” beginning of being a Medicare recipient on June 1st!  It’s been a slog, but it is in place, and hopefully nothing will make me have to do it all over again.

That said and done, the weather here in California has been really strange.  The new normal!  We have had rain into the month of May, and as a result flowers and plants and butterflies are prodigious, with spring flowers lasting well into what might be considered the summer months.  Even the hills are still colorful, but slowly fading to the usual beige and brown.  The rain, though, fills the bright blue sky with big clouds, sometimes ones which sit around and slowly disperse, sometimes with ones that dance their way across the sky, changing with every glance.  When I was a kid in the middle of nowhere, I loved lying in the hammock and making up stories as the clouds shifted and reformed.  It’s as magical now as it was then.

The local botanical garden is one of my favorite places.  It has so many things to see.  A variety of habitats are represented – desert, Mediterranean, and woodland, to name a few.  Today’s painting is a scene along one of the pathways, from the photo I took below.

I am always attracted to dappled light – the strong contrasts of dark and bright.  Photographically, it is hard to capture, but I was relatively pleased with the way the photo caught it.  I am also fairly pleased as to how I was able to interpret the photo and the light.  It was a struggle, and especially difficult after nearly two weeks of inactivity, but it worked out in the end.

225. Life Cycle of the Pomegranate

Well, I’m back!  I’ve spent the last 2 weeks dealing with all the little sticky bits of paperwork and choices for retirement, from choosing a supplemental Medicare program to whatever.  It’s a lot of drudgery, but has to be done.  I’ve everything except one card – the prescription card – but the rest is in place.  Besides that, I have also had the time and desire to focus on conquering some software issues, now resolved but only to have another pop up.  Thus, back to painting – so much more enjoyable and fun, even when things go wrong . . .

Here, the life cycle of the pomegranate, from flower to fruit to food for birds when it bursts open.  The local botanical garden has several of these lovely trees, now in the stage of bloom and setting fruit.  Large, ripe fruits come later in the year, of course.  I don’t know why I thought of doing a life cycle, but it seemed like a fun thing to do – maybe a mirror of my own life cycle?  Done with the weekly commute and such?

224. Loquats for the Picking

A couple of weeks ago I took a photo of loquats, not really ready to be eaten, but certainly not too much sooner!

The loquat is a fruit tree indigenous to southeastern China. It is frequently grown in California gardens for its fruit and decorative qualities. The fruit is a pale yellow to a golden color, and the leaves are stiff and dark green. The contrast of the roundish fruit with the wide, pointy leaves makes for an interesting painting subject.

The photo from which the drawing evolved:

Painting the loquat has a bit of cross-cultural history behind it, too; ink painting tradition honors the loquat in Asia.

It would be easy enough to paint a loquat in watercolors, without ink, as well.

223. Crocus

This became more of an impression of crocus rather than a detailed study.  To tell the truth, I have never seen a crocus in my life!  I can imagine the joy they bring, though, as they peek through the last of the winter’s snow.  Hyacinths were the bulbs that bloomed in the snow in the midwest, soon followed by tulips and daffodils.  I tried to work with negative space to define the flowers, as well as blur the background and put a bit more detail in the foreground – perspective in action on a conscious level!

This is the reverse side of the paper I used yesterday, St. Cuthbert’s Millford.  This paper has a really nice tooth, not smooth or CP, and smoother than rough.  It catches the brush bristles rather nicely.  Colors are dreamy when blending together.  It also lifts well – some color ran into another area and I was able to lift it out and recover to a degree from the mischief.  I don’t know if Arches would handle it as well as this paper, but that is something I should check out.

In addition to no longer making masses of mud, I find I am actually remembering things – make long brush strokes, lay down large areas of light colors and leave the whites in the process; think about the direction of the light; a few rules about perspective.