Carpinteria Bluffs

Another attempt at acrylic painting. This time I used a sheet from a Fredrix linen pad. I gessoed it and then used, initially, the Open medium with the paints, but I didn’t like the way it was working, and so switched to regular matte medium to dilute the paints. I tried to use the paints fairly straight out of the tube, blending with white and matte medium. The result was a fairly thick paint that behaved well.

The Carpinteria Bluffs are located in the southernmost section of Santa Barbara County, just above the border of Ventura County, where I currently live. Carpinteria was home for many years and always enjoy returning, especially in summer when the light shifts and everything has a glow of its own. Eucalyptus trees and other plant life make for a wonderful walk along the cliffs above the Pacific, and across the Santa Barbara Channel are the various islands that make up the Channel Island National Park. This might be San Miguel Island, but I can never remember which one is which!

Slow Summer River

Several weeks ago I started thinking more and more about what I am doing in my spare time. It is then I realized that, for me, the best way to spend my time is to learn new things, in particular, new art techniques. Thus, colored pencils; I signed up for an in-person class with masks and social distancing. I plan to continue this summer with the class.

At the same time, I thought it about time I learned to paint with acrylics, something I always avoided because I just didn’t like the idea of painting with plastic! Add to that, years ago, acrylic paints were not as good as they are now. I was also a considerably more impatient person, and less experienced painter, than I am now. Thus, I enrolled in “Intermediate” painting – I’ve been using gouache, so I have experience!

The first class was yesterday afternoon. I always wonder about teachers and how “good” they are. It takes time to become a good teacher, and honestly, I have found the quality of teachers for arts and languages at adult schools a mixed bag. However, I know I am going to enjoy this painting class. Students I spoke to said they have been coming to the class for 4 years – that says something for the teacher.

I totally enjoyed this first class. People paint what interests them. The teacher helps when asked, offers appropriate and spot on suggestions, and has a really fun personality that doesn’t become overwhelming. Teacher and fellow students are pleasant, delightful, and fun. Can’t go wrong with that, I say.

Because I didn’t know what to expect in class, I decided to bring a kit of paints I’d boughten several years ago, one with about 10 colors, to play with. I used this same kit to begin a painting – after all, play and doing are the best ways to learn. Along with paints and tentative beginnings of a painting, journeying in my cart were rags, water containers, dish soap, brushes, paper palette, an apron, and other bits and pieces.

Above is the underpainting I had done prior to arriving in class. Then days went by – about a week – and I got too busy to do anything with it until I arrived in class.

This is where the painting was at the end of class – nearly there. The sand on the left bank was re-shaped after the river was moved (ah! I feel like God when I get to change geography!) and relocated. And since we are mentioning God, there are two rather eyelike things up in the upper left sky that definitely need removing.

This morning I finished the river, refining this and that. Altogether, I am not displeased for a first acrylic in 40 years. The final painting is the one at the very top. Below you can see them in progression.

The process of learning is often best by doing. By doing, you know what it feels like, you have experience. I struggled here and there, such as with the sky, with the viscosity of the paint, with the shadows and coloring of the sand on both banks. I rather think I like the river in the 2nd version, but decided to change it by adding reflections and ripples for the final version. I took out the “eyes” in the second version, added more fluffy and high-altitude clouds, and worked to create a sense of sand and shadows on the left, along with that wonderfully mucky sand in still water.

This was painted on 11×14 Canson XL, gessoed, and taped to frog board. The kit is by Daler-Rowney, which provides good basic colors for the beginner.

And now?

Onward!

Snack Time for Mrs. Giraffe

I have a habit of giving things, especially animals, honorifics. Mr. Frog. Mrs. Giraffe. Mr. Happy Pants. Mr. Grumpy Britches. Lady Dilly Dally.

Yesterday was the last of the colored pencil classes, and I signed up for more. I have totally enjoyed this class because we are not taught “how” but, instead, explore. Different techniques, tools, paper, colors, and so on. That is what has made this class particularly fun, besides the fact that the teacher is very nice, positive, and comfortable to be around.

This is a giraffe (obvious?) done on Pastelmat sanded paper by Clairfontaine. The surface has a bit of grit on it, but it is really, really fine grit. If you have used Uart 800 paper, this is finer. We drew our giraffes, then used Gamsol (odorless mineral spirits) to refine the giraffe by blurring the colored pencil and softening the edges. From there, a bokeh background with squiggles of color and more Gamsol. Finally, I decided to add some leaves and branches straight to the image, no Gamsol.

This image is a straight Epson V600 scan without color adjustment. Unlike Mr. Frog, this one is not layers and layers of colors, paint, and who knows what else. Fun and easy to do, and to scan.

Mr. Frog

Above is the final work on Mr. Frog. But who is Mr. Frog?

I bought a book on colored pencils back when it first came out, back when I had no time, no studio, little experience, and the aforementioned attitude. The book is Creative Colored Pencil Workshop by Carlynne Hershberger and Kelli Money Huff. In 2007, it didn’t teach me what I wanted simply because I was not ready for it. Today is another story, and to be truthful, I am so glad I kept this book. It is opening my eyes to other ways of creating a drawing or a painting by demonstrating, though clear exercises, what can be done beyond a “pure” medium.

I started their exercise using watercolor and colored pencil. The study is a frog in a bit of shallow water. Step-by-step instructions. I did this exercise years ago, liked the result, but the purist in me was not happy with mixing the two together. Now, having started using colored pencil on a “serious” level, I appreciate the underpainting of the watercolor before the surface addition of detail in colored pencil. Below are the varying stages the final iteration of the picture about had to go through . . .

I scanned the original line drawing from the book, enlarged it, and then used Saral transfer paper to draw it onto a piece of Arches CP 140# paper. Initially I thought of using HP 140#, but changed my mind. The third picture shows the green watercolor laid in on frog and water plants, as well as varying blue watercolors for the pond. From there, browns and reds were added to the frogs body. These were all the watercolors used, essentially providing an underpainting for the colored pencils.

Scanning this picture, in its final rendition, was a disaster. You can see what it looks like below.

Scanned on Epson V600 Scanner

I use the Epson scanner for all my artwork shown on this blog. However, this picture is much different than a pencil drawing or painting. Instead, this picture is made of multiple layers – first watercolor, then a lot of layers of wax-based color pencil, and finally a blurring of the pencil with Gamsol (odor-free mineral spirits). I think the reflective nature of a scanner cannot handle the layers and made them excessively dark. The picture at the very top is a digital photo I took with my Fuji X100V and edited in LR. It is close to the original, but still not accurate.

Technology helps us to a point, but it also is important to think about why it fails or succeeds, just as with a drawing or painting or anything else you do. Analyzing a problem helps you work it out. Doing this painting /drawing / whatever made me realize that hot press paper is probably a better choice for such work. The cold press just had too much texture and it required a lot of layers to make the pigment fill in the valleys of texture. I used the Gamsol to smooth it out. I may do another painting, or this one again, to see how it works on hot press paper.

Anyway, fun in the sun with one of my favorite critters. I just love frogs!

Milkweed

Milkweed is a plant the oozes a milky substance when injured, such as cutting it. This ooze is rather thick and can irritate some people. When I was a kid, the milkweed in our area produced big pods that split open, and all the seeds flew off in the wind. It was always a fun thing to see.

Here in California – and I expect much of the western US – there is a different type of milkweed. This one is vital for the health of Monarch butterflies, and sadly, its presence is diminishing. The result is fewer butterflies every year. There is a concerted effort by gardeners and conservationists to propagate the milkweed, as well as to preserve it in the wild. Like the plant of my childhood, this one oozes and has windborne seeds, but has flowers (don’t recall ever seeing milkweed flowers as a kid) that come in yellow and dark orange.

I have milkweed in my garden, thanks to Am, my lovely auntie! Last year I lost it all because of rats, along with my lilies, but this year, thanks to bait stations, it is surviving. So, yesterday, a bit restless, I took out some Polychromos pencils, a pad of paper, and got to work.

Soap Bubbles

Black paper with metallic colored pencils make for a great study of soap bubbles! Here, the rougher surface of Mi Teintes pastel paper was used. Circular templates with very sharp pencils created the outlines of the bubbles, and then the pencils were used to create the reflections inside the bubbles and the iridescent qualities that make soap bubbles so beautiful. Below, same technique but on the smoother side of the black Mi Teintes paper.

Apple Without A Stem

If you read my blog at all, you know I think that you can, and I do, learn a lot from watching “how to” videos. YouTube is my favorite resource. Today, an apple without a stem. The video I followed is by Chris Cheng, which you can see below.

This video is rather long, no sound, but references to Prismacolor pencils by their names and numbers. She used Strathmore colored pencil paper, which has a bit of tooth compared to the Canson XL bristol I used. My paper is very smooth, and the difference of tooth / no tooth becomes apparent by the end. I completed the shadow too soon, and think it would have been best completed closer to the end of the project. It would work better at grounding the apple.

I spent about 90 minutes doing this drawing. Altogether I am pleased with the results.

Anna’s Hummingbird

Hummingbirds are amazing little critters! if you have never had the treat of their buzzing past you, I can only say that you are missing out. We have them in our area and enjoy their presence amongst our flowers. Here, an Anna’s Hummingbird in colored pencil.

Below you can see the various stages of my drawing. I have more work on the branch of the final image above, and prefer the third image below. I tried some Gamsol on the one above and wonder if it was a mistake.

I think I will look at this drawing again in a few days, touch it up, and maybe repost. I have a lot to learn about colored pencils and am enjoying it far more than I thought I would. One thing I have learned is to be patient and to take my time.

Fog Monster

Coastal fog swoops in during the months of May and June. “May Grey” and “June Gloom” to be specific! It can make for a very dreary summer – I know as I used to live on the beach. Move a half mile inland, and sunshine abounds. The eco system along parts of California depend on the fog.

Hot press Arches 140# paper makes for a lot of fun scumbling paint and blending it with a hard brush. The paper held up very well to all the abuse I heaped upon its smooth surface.