I have been going absolutely crazy since Monday when I found out I had a serious computer problem. It took 10 hours or more to fix it. Add to that, I have to choose a new Medicare supplement plan. That means research, reading, deciding. And stress. All this has been making me crazy, cranky, and not a happy camper.
So, today things are winding down, and tomorrow dawns with all decisions made and the world will be a far more pleasant place. To de-stress, out came the watercolors, and a photo from our covid-cancelled trip. There is nothing like painting to relax and zone out. Here, a painting from a photo shot from the window of the car as we drove along Hwy. 395 and the world swished by.
It’s a harsh landscape, but one of subtle beauty. Vast open spaces, too, add to its grandeur. And, it makes me happy.
I started this painting a couple of months ago at least, but because of life and cataract surgery, I didn’t finish it until today. There have been several iterations of it. The subject itself was inspired by van Gogh, and I had thought to try to copy his style of painting, but found that it was far more difficult than I anticipated.
The painting itself is done on an 11×14 canvas panel by Arteza I gessoed over its primed surface, in part because I like the process of preparing a surface for a painting, in part because I never like something already prepared by someone else. From there, the surface was neutralized with a pale underpainting of yellow ochre and burnt sienna, very thinly applied.
One of my primary issues in painting of ay type is depth of field. Easy to do in photography, but not in painting! Thus, this was a goal in this painting. In general, I think I made it, but had to work and re-work the surface of the painting. This is the pleasure of acrylic – once dried, I can paint over what I don’t like.
I used a variety of techniques, one being glazing to dull own areas by using a cool glaze, and to bring others forward using a warm glaze. It worked, but I realized I needed to go further by using a dullish grey-green for the tree on the left, and a brighter, warmer green for the olive tree in the foreground.
This is the first painting – artwork of any kind – I have done since I had my cataract surgeries in July and August. With new lenses, in my eyes and in my glasses, my sight is much better. However, I may still need a newer prescription in a month or so as it was hard to see what I was painting with my new glasses. Time will tell with this.
Altogether, I am pleased with this attempt. First, I like the painting. I am going to let it stew a bit before I apply any varnishes. So, letting it sit is “second” – already I can see areas which are a bit illogical. Finally, the entire process was fun to do. Acrylic, as with all media, has its good and bad qualities or frustrations, or whatever, but the simple doing it is delight. Painting just removes the outside world and transports me into another dimension which is pure bliss.
This is a week for meeting up with old friends! After working in acrylic for several weeks, having eye surgery, and not doing much artwork of any kind, it felt great to do gouache yesterday, and this morning, watercolor.
It is interesting how some days just push me to the limit in frustration and dissatisfaction with what I do, and other days just move along in a calm and serene way. Why is this? My mood was patient and willing to wait today, whereas on other days, freneticism is the dominant emotion. I think watercolor especially requires a serene approach, more meditative than other media, simply because once the mark is made, it is there. With gouache and acrylic you can hide your messes a bit more easily!
Here is the finalized rendition of Tanglewood in acrylic. If you look closely, you will see highlights added to the trees on the left nearer the trunks, and along the trunks in the upper area of the painting. I did a few other things, too, but don’t remember.
It is always interesting to see what people think about a painting or drawing. My husband says this version of Tanglewood looks like Mirkwood, from that famous trilogy, and the darkly spotted foliage in the upper right makes him think of lurking goblins. Success? Hmm. But, the photo I used really did make me think of Mirkwood myself, so there ya go!
I always like to have an extra set of eyes for the “final” viewing of a painting before the “final” edition. I am too involved, so another set, or two or three sets, of eyes is a big help. My sister and my teacher both brought up the need to lighten up the trees on the lower left, and to add dappled light on the trunks both high and low.
No goblins were used in the painting of this painting of imaginary goblins.
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.
In keeping with yesterday’s quickies, today I present you with another timed study. This time I used only one brush to do everything. It was a 3/4 inch flat brush, rather stiff, and not able to hold a lot of water. It’s always a challenge to do a timed study, but also more challenging when one brush is used for everything.
Oops! I did you a fine line brush for some things, like the trees in the middle left, the windows in the buildings, and some of the grasses in the foreground. However, the flat brush did produce everything else, even the tree trunks. Practice like this is a lot of fun.
Another timed painting. This time the requirement was 37 minutes. I set my phone alarm and was shocked to hear it go off! I was checking it off and on, but suddenly it just rang, and here is the result.
This time I used Uart 600 grit paper, which is like a fine sand paper. It pulls the color of the pastels really easily so a lighter touch is required when painting than with the unsanded Mi-Teintes paper. I used a combination of photos for this one as I needed a creek, but I wanted some oaks and hills from around here. Not especially successful as far as I am concerned; the exercise was the point. I did get into the zone of painting even through I knew that timer would go off at some point.
Another painting done primarily with a hake brush.
This painting was done on the reverse of a previously painted piece of Arches 16×20 CP 140#. I wet the paper initially, taping it only in the corners, and was rather pleased to see how the paper relaxed once wet. I moved the tape as needed to keep the paper flat.
Anyway, the work here was themed on wet-in-wet, use of an excessively large brush (for me!), and standing up, rather than seated. The results were interesting – standing up allowed for more freedom of brush stroke. Getting the paper wet and letting it set a bit before starting the washes also helped.
Compositionally, I think it is a bit bland – really very little to lead the eye. However, this was not my focus here; rather, I wanted to use the hake brush to create sky and foliage as well as broader swaths of color. The nature of the soft brush allows for thin lines, rough splotches of color with white or underlying colors to show through, as well as washes of subtle beauty. From there I used a rigger to create branches, trunks, and some more calligraphic and suggestive lines.
I decided to use a study by the watercolorist Vernon Nye. He caught the back country of California perfectly – the hills and trees in particular. It was a fun study and I liked it because it pointed out to me how deceptively simple the hills can seem, but they really are not. The road, too, was another eye-catcher. I have driven along a number of back-road highways throughout the state, and you feel like you are the only person in the world. The perspective was a great challenge, too. Altogether, a good study of something in my own back yard, and I can take what I learned into future paintings.