Today – clean up the house! I am still trying to get things organized after the repairs and remodels, which means getting rid of junk, boxes, and putting things back into some sort of order. It is funny how orderliness can equate with mental and emotional serenity. This messiness seems to be spilling over into painterly messiness and disorganization and directionlessness. The end of the school year is also to blame. Thus, something simple, with lines, and perhaps symbolically, something that can contain something else, but is brings new and pleasant surprises – like found in a gift bag.
Another day just painting! What a pleasure to be able to do it!
Today we did two different things. Actually, three. For warm-up, we returned to the quick three minute sketches, which eventually morphed into a still life with three objects. Mine were a piece of dried corn, a plastic mushroom, and a plastic artichoke. I was not particularly nimble this morning, but here is one I produced.
From there, we moved on to landscapes, but I will hold off for a moment on those. We did an exercise which I found fascinating: take one object and paint it 6 different ways. I chose a really lovely fake pear – golden and red, reminiscent of autumn. Take a look . . . they are in a gallery format, so click on one image to be able to scroll through them larger than they are here.
This was a lot of fun to do – nothing I ever have considered as an exercise. And then . . . we moved on to landscapes from photographs Brenda took, laminated, and brought to class.
The idea was to take a photo and modify it. This one is in the wine country of Northern California.
This one is, I think, in Carmel, but I don’t recall. All the speckles are from the fact that it is a ghost image from a wet painting. Truthfully, I was surprised it was a success at all. All day I felt restless and unfocused.
Finally, this one. I think it is the best of everything I did today. The mantra for the day was draw, frame, paint.
The other day, I came into possession of a copy of Marc Taro Holmes’ newest book, Direct Watercolor. In spirit, I am much of the same philosophy – little prep, direct painting, thinking ahead, seizing the moment, using colors directly, relying on imagination and happenstance and experience to create a painting. All this requires is just doing it! The “doing it” is the training – you do it, you think, you do again. Like anything, practicing it enhances your skills and brings the mind-muscle memory together in ways that, if you were to consciously thing about, you could never achieve.
Marc mentioned some things I found particularly useful. One is to create a silhouette of what you are working on – create the outer edges and then move inward. Decide if edges are going to meet so that colors can bleed into one another. Keep your edges dry if you don’t want things to bleed from one thing into another. Let the painting dry, but don’t go over it extensively. Other points he made is to work light to dark, large to small, but if you are working on something, do it directly – don’t dance all over the paper.
The silhouette appealed to me immensely, as well as the brushwork. Here are some examples of brushwork and silhouette working together. Once the edges of whatever I was painting were done, I then came in with varied colors to shade or define. The colors really please me in many of these little sketches – the blending, the bleeding, the hard edge against the paper’s white.
Flowers make sense for the silhouette and then move in to blend colors. Above, wet-on-dry. Also, working directly while everything is still wet – as in the tulip on the far right.
Below, some examples of trees to create the illusion of a building (left) and another silhouette then molded to create a shape with shadow (top right). Marc also mentions brushwork to show direction – and the importance to suggest. The grassy strokes on the top left. Finally, a bigger silhouette – here, Morro Rock – created and worked on first (bottom right) before moving into other areas, specifically the dunes and plants in the foreground.
Quick sketches with valuable lessons. While Marc’s book is not a “how to” book, it is a valuable resource for specific techniques. The fact he is such a talented painter makes it look easy, but the truth is, he went from precise lines, to lines and colors, to direct watercolor with a great deal of effort and an entire change of mindset.
Tired of being indoors, I pulled a bunch of stuff out to the side patio – paints, brushes, water, chrome book, water, palette, head phones, ink, pencil, pen. I played a bit and mixed up some greens using yellows and blues, and phthalo green. I don’t like having only phthalo green on my palette, but that is what I had. I like sap green and Hooker’s. I also like Payne’s Grey.
Being outdoors means being cramped on a really small table, so everything was jumbled up. The goal was to just be outdoors and do something. So, I used some photos of trees I have taken over the years.
The first tree was one I took the other morning when out on a shoot with my friend Tom. Here is the photo:
And here is my rendering in line and colors:
And then a photo from April 2015:
And the results – no lines, only the intention to paint light and dark, contrast, whatever:
I’ll tell ya, this last painting was painful! I noticed that most of my colors tend to be pastel – a lot of water, not a lot of paint. I felt like I was beating up my poor brushes trying to get deep colors with more pigment than water. Wetting the colors a bit before might help.
In my opinion, neither painting is especially sophisticated or elegant. I will say that despite its primitive quality, I am pleased with the lineless painting as I did accomplish something.
Does your head feel totally stirred up when you try something alien to your normal ways of doing things? Mine always does and it takes awhile to return to orbit.
Today I ventured out on my own, influenced by practice sketches by Peter Sheeler and his videos. This is from a photo I took in 2016 up at Bodie, California, when it was moving toward noon on a hot, hot day in August.
I rather like the composition, particularly the lines of poles marching over the hill in the distance. If you ever have been to Bodie, you know it’s a long drive down a long and bumpy washboard road. The telephone poles and lines emphasize the town’s isolation. As far as painting the subject matter, I started out with a line drawing, painted, and then came in again with the ink pen. It was so, so, so hard to not try to draw and paint every line and rock. Simplification was a big challenge for me.
As I painted, I worked hard to recall what I have learned doing the practice studies. Keeping things simple also meant keeping the palette simple, and the brush choice as well. I started out with sky in Cobalt Blue after wetting it down with a big round brush. Then I kept myself isolated to a dagger brush – first time to use one, too. The remainder of the palette included Quin Gold, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue, Sap and Hooker’s Green, and by accident, a tad of Indrathene Blue. The paper is 5×7 Arches Hot Press and taped down with a 3M painter’s tape with specialized edge-sealing qualities, which really worked to keep the tape from pulling up as it got wet.
Overall, I like the lack of mud and the contrasts I developed between light and dark. Pen and ink come to save the day again!
The second card in a series for my sister-in-law’s Christmas present. I used Peter Sheeler’s demonstration (below). I love his lines and color! Copying his style is teaching me a lot about simple color use, powerful lines, and particularly compositional elements I haven’t considered at all.
What I learned in this video was how to portray dappled lighting. This gives character and depth to white petals. What do you think?