Garden Sketches

Mad Hatter chili and Young Lemon Grass Leaves on Rhodia Tablet

I’ve been rather busy of late – running here and there, sewing, hanging out with friends, and so on.  As a result, I have not been able to sit down to paint for the past few days.  Today I made the determined effort to do so, and am glad I did.  Instead of working in the studio, I went outside onto my rather warm and sunny patio – 95F / 35C – and moved what I could into the shade of the canopy.  A small table, a chair, some water and paints, my home made iron gall ink and my dip pen all accompanied me.  Pandora and Donna Summer, too!

I pulled out a watercolor sketchbook, and immediately found that the paper has a sizing issue, as well as cannot handle water in any amount.  Wah!  However, for pen and a small amount of color, it will do.  I also used a Rhodia tablet, very smooth and polished, and works very well with a sharp pen nib.  The results are straight above – and captioned!  It worked out quite nicely.

Watercolor sketchbook. Iron gall ink applied first, then watercolor paint. Milkweed in bloom.The watercolor sketchbook, as I said, was disappointing for wet work.  However, for ink and color, it is not too bad.  Here, I did the ink drawing first and then applied the color.  The color rather overwhelmed the lines at time, so I went back and added more ink after the paint dried.  In 95F weather, it dries pretty quickly.

A flowerpot with a dead sunflower (left), oregano in bloom (middle), and the stalk and leaves of milkweed plant. Color applied first, dried, and then iron gall ink drawing.This last picture was an afterthought.  The first drawing found the color overwhelming the ink at times, so I decided to paint first, and then draw.  Artistic experiment!

Anyway, the art bug has been temporarily allayed.  More tomorrow I hope!

North of Gilroy

Farms in California are a bit different than what I remember as a kid in the Midwest and out on the plains.  The land along the coast is gentle and low lying.  The ocean brings in mist and fog, creating at times a dreamy, otherworldly quality that is soft and ethereal.  Fog comes and goes, scenery appears and vanishes.  Colors can be pale or deeply rich depending on light and cloud.

The Muddy Palette

Before I knew that gouache works best fresh out of the tube, I filled a palette up just as I do with watercolors.  Let’s face it, paint ain’t cheap, so I wet these paints over and over.  Finally, most of the colors are used up and it is into the sink to soak for now!  In the future, fresh paint.  That will be a really new event for me because I don’t tend to paint like that.  I made swatch cards of all my gouache colors (more than 20, less than 1000), so I plan to use those as I consider paints in future paintings.

Fog Monster #2

For some time I have considered the possibility of doing two studies for each painting, one in watercolor and the other in gouache.  Today’s painting is exactly that.  I took the same study in gouache (yesterday) and painted it in watercolor.  It was a really interesting experience!

First, I am doing all these studies in a 7×10 sketchbook.  The paper is not really good for really wet watercolors, but is very nice for gouache.  Knowing this, I kept my paper as unsaturated as possible, but also worked to use wet-in-wet where I thought necessary, such as in the sky and fog bank, but being very careful about the amount of water I used.  In other areas I did small, quick forays into wet work, but kept it to a minimum while allowing for bleeds, or coming back to work a bit more, such as on the right side where the grasses are in contrast to the road (lower right side).

Problems continue with depth.  The middle ground hills and the ones against the fog are muddled into each other.  While I made things simpler in the distance, the colors remain the same in intensity.  Atmospheric perspective needs a bit of boost in this one.

Look forward to more of these studies.

Rain Country

This time a sky and land study from a Pixabay image.  I did this on the reverse side of another painting, so the paper, 140# Arches cold press, was warped.  I thought about ironing it, but decided to just tape it to the board, and use the warps to my advantage with the sky.  Overall, it worked pretty well, but where there were dribbles, I snagged them with a tissue.  It was rather fun.

Altogether, I like the way this painting turned out.  I was rather stumped about the foreground, so I just made some leafy, grassy strokes.  The water along the roadway came out fairly good, as did the road itself.  Perspective on a flat land is a challenge but it seems to have worked out, too.

Some days a painting works, and you are in the moment with paint, brush, and paper.   A lot of the painting was like that.  Then, at the end, I stepped back and thought about contrast, and added a bit here and there as blobs or lines or dots.  And finally it was done.

Dry Garden

This is just a little sketch done this morning with a local Meetup group.  There were only three of us, but every time I go to one of this group’s get-togethers, I feel like a princess.  Alison, the leader, does a lovely job.  Me, I am a no-frills type of person, so when someone goes to a lot of trouble for a simple thing, and does it with such evident pleasure, it is just a luxurious feeling!

Anyway, we met at our local library, yacked a bit about watercolor and color theory, and then moved off to the native plant garden.  It was mid-90s, so a shady spot was found, we plopped down, and painted in between the chit chat.  Still, I tried to focus on contrast and depth . . . this painting turned out better than I expected as it had my usual anemic colors, but ended up fairly decent.  It’s about 5×7 inches.

An Afternoon’s Study

After spending the last month working small – on 7×10 paper – and using both gouache and regular watercolor, I felt the need for something big and expansive!  This means broad strokes, rapid washes, focusing and thinking ahead at the same time.  That is what I find when I work with really wet watercolors, and much of this study was done with washes bleeding into another.

Not feeling especially original, and totally delighted that Edo Hannema uploaded another tutorial after a few months absence from YouTube, I decided to follow along with his video.

If you are not familiar with Edo Hannema, he is a watercolorist located in Holland. As Holland is a very flat country, he is much influenced by skies and extensive landscape. Water is also a strong element in many of his landscapes.

For me, it is a real pleasure to follow his practice videos, in part because I live in such a dry part of the world! Additionally, he is candid about what he is doing. For instance, if he doesn’t like a bit of his painting, he says it right out loud. As someone who struggles to paint and make my watercolor look good, it is so reassuring to find other painters get as frustrated or annoyed as I do when something doesn’t go the way I want it to. At one point in his video he talks about the tall tree in the left center of the painting. “I hate this!” I can understand that frustration. When the houses nearby don’t go as planned, he tells the viewer to make the best of the situation. That is what you have to do in watercolor.

As you can see, my sky is quite violent compared to his gentle one – I kept getting blooms for some reason, and struggled to get rid of them.  Another element of my own painting was my determination to keep my brushes clean!  World Watercolor Month 2019 really brought that point home to me.  I managed to do it pretty well.

Daily practice takes work.  Tomorrow, I hope to work on gouache color swatches, using whites to create variations in tonality of a given color, as well as working with complementary colors to achieve greys.  That should prove to be an interesting adventure.