This may be the last post for a few days as our house is torn apart and put together. The bathrooms, closets, laundry room, hallway, and bedrooms are getting new floors on Tuesday. The studio is bare. I have a small box filled with a few brushes, some paper, some paint, but who knows if I’ll be able to touch it for several days!
Because of this, I decided to end my weekend with a small ink and watercolor painting, derived from a photo I took last year of a barn in the hills nearby. I started by laying in pencil, then color, knowing I planned to deliberately finish with ink. I’m rather torn about the bright white of the roof – but it was in brilliant sunshine the day I took the photo. The windows are rather awful – looks like the barn has an eye infection!
Maybe I will tone the roof down later and fix the windows, but for now, it will remain as is. After I post this, it’s time to finish clearing out the studio, the closet, and put together little boxes so things like soap and toothpaste are available for kitchen use – we will have no bathroom sinks for a few weeks!
No, I haven’t forgotten my “Somewhere in Wyoming” picture, but as we are installing new floors in the back half of the house, my studio and supplies are packed up. All I have left are a few paints and brushes, and a couple of smallish sketch books. So, small things, done without the need for too much planning. And, truthfully, with the whole house in chaos, it’s probably for the best.
That said, this morning I was listening to the birds singing. The springtime songs are everywhere. When I was a child, I lived in rural Illinois, surrounded by huge oaks and wide open fields. In the fields were the meadowlarks, brilliantly colored and beautiful singers. The notes of the meadowlark are memorable and unmistakable. I found some photos, and hodge-podged one together. I am not really good at drawing animals, so birds are always a bit of a challenge.
The watercolor, without lines.
And with some inking done, for contrast and a bit of structure. I’m not sure if either really works well, or if there should be more color above the meadowlark instead of plain white paper. What do you think?
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!
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.
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 . . .
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.