56. Crepe Myrtle – First Leaves

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.

55. Castle, No Lines

Besides doing the orchid yesterday, I sat down and did what is being called”direct watercolor.”  As in sumi-e, the artist thinks about things before committing brush to paper.  No lines.  No value studies.  Look, see, think, paint.  It is a bit of a challenge and rather daunting, but I think this is such an enlightening way to learn the art of brushwork, value, contrast, and so on.  I did some glazes here and there, to create contrast as well as to carry various colors throughout the painting.  I also worked with vignetting, considering the shapes of the four corners of the vignette as well.

53. Watercolor Pencil Studies

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.

52. Broken Bones & Painting: False Fronts

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.

51. Light Industry, with Nil Rocha

I did another study, using a video produced by Nil Rocha.  As you can see, he has a style similar to Peter Sheeler – and a lot of other urban sketchers:  ink and watercolor.  Although it looks easy, it is deceptive.  It is far more difficult to achieve a good contrast study, meaning, a good light-dark balance.  I found that out with yesterday’s study with Peter Sheeler, and especially with this one.  I think I need to work out the values before I begin inking in lines.  Blah is far too easy to achieve!

Above, in color.  Below, converted to black and white in Lightroom to check out contrast.  Sadly lacking!

I’ve had a cold for the past week and it’s really hard to get creative with sniffles and a fever!  Following videos is a good way to learn, but more importantly they have helped me realize that I must push, push, push to show good contrast.  Middle tones are easy to create, as are lighter ones, but getting the truly dark ones is far more challenging for me than seems logical.  Something to think about . . .

51. Palm Tree in Hawaii, with Peter Sheeler

Peter Sheeler does it again – another video to learn from.  This is from Hawaii, and as Peter notes in his video, he has never in his life drawn a palm tree.  I actually think this might be a banana tree – we use them as decorations in my neighborhood.  This doesn’t matter, though; Peter’s mastery is what I wanted to learn from.  My take below.

My contrast is nowhere as attractive as Peter’s.  I am a bit more muddied.  Part of it is because I am not using either Sap or Hooker’s Green, both which I prefer to Viridian, which is part of the palette I pulled out to use.  My own preference is Hooker’s, as it is a wonderful green to add yellow or blue, for brightening or darkening.

Another comment, this is some of the Bee 6×9 paper I bought.  A bit of a sizing issue seemed to be “felt” in a couple of spots on the paper.  Still, for quick studies, I am not faulting the paper at all – I have been enjoying using it.

49.2 Watercolor Workshop, Day 3

Today was the last day of the workshop with Brenda Swenson.  She is a fabulous teacher who takes time with her students, with a personal quality that is positive and constructive.  I learned a lot from three days immersed in watercolor, and I think I turned a corner in how I handle color.  Besides being a good teacher – meaning her critiques and advice are sound – she also opened my eyes to a number of different things.

One lesson:  paint the same item 6 different ways.

Another lesson:  Use Canson pastel paper for painting!  The colors are good, the paper is 70% cottong, and those two things work well together.  Brenda brought in donuts for our first project.  Mine is below.

For the remainder of the day, we worked on vignettes.  I knew that vignettes were little images with white surrounding them.  So?  Well, it turns out that there is a real art to vignettes.  Making the image cruciform – in the shape of a cross – with portions of the painting touching the top, bottom, and sides (1 or all 4), but not flowing into the corners, makes for a vignette.  Key to an interesting picture is that each shape is in each corner is different than the others; additionally, work some of the white of the corners into the painting itself.  I was surprised to find myself rather calm today, rather than flighty and unfocused like yesterday.

Mine worked out fairly well.  A valid criticism was to make the lower windows somewhat greenish and warm, rather than a cold blue, to reflect the light of the unseen grass in the yard.  A glaze was suggested.

My second painting was supposed to be a vignette, but failed on the middle side portions.  I may go back in to fix it later.

Brenda provided all of us with incredible photos from her travels to use in the workshop, which in addition to unique items like plastic frogs and pecks of fake fruit, made for a really good experience.  My weekend was only too short!