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!
Broken bones aside, I want to paint. Moving house to accommodate workers over the next two weeks aside, I still want to paint! I tell you, chaos exudes in my studio at the moment. Most of the shelves are empty, books are packed up, art supplies are vanishing hither and thither, and I feel like I am living in a tornado – and will be for a while as repairs are underway in the back half of the house as floors are replaced, walls painted, bathrooms repaired and updated. It’s really a mess.
This morning, I finally found some time to do a few things with this painting. Choosing colors and values with swishes of watercolor across the ink drawing showed me I had non-waterproof ink on the paper. Oh, well, such is life. Here are this morning’s labors – in a monochrome study and some colors for consideration. Messy but useful, like my house.
Notes: In future sketches, have a margin for testing colors or shades. Move house to left. Tree and mountain in background too close to same tone. Don’t use water soluble ink!
Notes: Use a margin around edge of painting to test tones or shades. Barn / house move to left. Trees – need some variation in color compared to grass above road. House too similar in color to red rock mountain behind.
Last summer we spent a couple of weeks traveling around the western part of the US, visiting states such as Wyoming and Arizona and Utah. Open space, loneliness, long drives through incredible country. This is a photo I took out of the car window on the way from Laramie, WY, to Grand Teton National Park, where we stayed for several days.
I pushed the colors in post production, to pull out greens, reds, and blues. The view of the house / barn was fascinating – and I expect the view from it is even better, rather than zipping by in a car. Anyway, I’ve decided to do some sketches, in ink then color, and hopefully an unlined watercolor based on elements of this photo. Below is this morning’s sketch.
I’ve never drawn a bicycle, much less painted one, in my life. Welcome to my first attempt! Rather out of proportion – wouldn’t want to ride on those wheels – but did get it to be recognizable.
Given the fact I broke my wrist and finger, I am surprised I can even draw, much less keep colors inside the lines.
Back to work with a messed up wrist . . . wasn’t bad. After work, the sun was still out. In our yard, we have a beautiful vase-shaped crepe myrtle tree. It is sending out the first leaves of the season. I sketched this at sunset, trying to catch the complex interweaving of the branches and the delicate greens of the baby leaves at the tips of the smallest branches.
Today I took off my splints – it’s like getting out of jail, I swear – to enjoy the freedom of using some pen and ink. Now the splints are back on, but there is a sense of satisfaction in doing some artwork, no matter how simple. Pen and color, with a focus on simple color.
Even though I am trying to be a good patient and wear my splints all the time, it just isn’t possible. I am still limping around, too, so I am not doing much hiking as my knee still hurts from the fall. Rather, I am on the patio in the warm afternoon sun, away from those dangerous dogs! I had a few pictures, a bit of imagination, and some watercolor pencils. I decided to try them out in some rather different ways to learn how to better use them.
Above is a Black Phoebe. They live in the trees around here. Their feathers are darker om the head, and their faces are not quite so fat. I tried to get in line detail and then used a fine brush. Darkest blacks were from an ink brush.
Next, just a simple Japanese maple leaf, no lines, only pencil and water. I laid it on pretty thick, but it is still paler than what I would like to see.
Finally, Queen Anne’s Lace. Here I wanted to draw into negative space, so what better subject than white flowers? I used ink, and for the paler flowers in the background, I dipped my brush in water and took color off the pencil tips before painting onto the paper.
Two days ago I was cleaning the kitchen up, even to the point of cleaning the oven and stove top – huge job for a Sunday morning. The other half was on call all day, so it seemed like the perfect time. We weren’t able to join family that day, so do something useful. All was going well until one of the dogs lay down behind me, and when I turned around, over I went. I took a standing lamp with me, fell over the arm of the couch, smacked my arm and hand on the treadle sewing machine, and ended up on my back. I knew my hand was messed up – it hurt! Off to the urgent care to have 3 questionable fractures, one in the wrist and 2 in the middle finger. Monday confirmed fractures, but only 2, both chips. Not too bad. But, now I am all bound up with a splint on my finger and one on my wrist. My right wrist. I am right-handed. Oh, woe is me!
Happily, my dog was more surprised and less damaged than I.
Spring break and the plans are to do all sorts of fun things. Like paint. And that is what I have been attempting to do today. It is not easy to draw a straight line or hold a brush, much less type, with normal dexterity. In a way that is really good as nothing can be considered “serious” when nothing is feeling coördinated. There is a real disconnect, like when your face is all numb from anaesthesia at the dentist. Believe me when I say drawing in splints make straight lines somewhat improbable.
And here are the results, pictures taken step by step as I waited for things to dry. I was on the patio whilst painting – someplace relatively safe as the dogs aren’t allowed in this part of the yard. The focus is on imagined shadows, not great art. Click to see larger.