WWM #30: Wild Things

Today, when I was trying to figure out Wild Things for #WorldWatercolorMonth2019, I was really in a sourpuss mood.  I had to cancel a photo shoot with a friend and was not happy about it.  When you are tired and don’t feel well . . . you are absolutely crabby!  Hermity.  Crabby.  Hermit crab.  (How is that for subtle?)

I didn’t feel patient, and I didn’t feel capable of anything with a bit of subtlety.  I needed containment.  I wanted my shell.  I wanted limits and boundaries.  I wanted to feel safe.  Lines are perfect for that!  And as I have not done a line-and-wash watercolor for a month now, today I indulged.

And lets face it – hermit crabs are downright cute and fun with all their different colors and shells and homes.  Seeing them always makes me laugh – don’t know why, but they are such a delight.  And, as a result of this drawing, I, too, am in a much nicer mood!

Kingfisher (Drawn with Iron Gall Ink)

This morning I did a quick sketch of a kingfisher using iron gall ink using a dip pen.  As you can see, there is a bit better variability in lines than when drawing is done with a quill pen (see yesterday’s post).  Both have qualities I really like – expressiveness, boldness, delicacy.  As I am used to using fountain pens, a dip pen is no problem once I learned how to control the amount of ink on nib.  What must be remembered is how to load the nib, and as nibs are all different, a bit of testing on scratch paper helps.

At present, I am deciding if I want to colorize this drawing – which is why for now, it is not!  If I do, I want to use very dilute but vibrant colors.  It is my hope that the ink will shine through the paint without my having to re-ink parts of it.

Lines

Every now and then an outstanding artist and instructor shows up on the scene.  When they write books that are accessible and practical, it’s even better.  Alphonso Dunn is one such person!  He has a personal website, a YouTube channel full of information and wonderful tutorials, and two fantastic books.

The workbook was published after the simple guide, but is used in tandem with the exercises found in the workbook.  Besides using the two together, head over to YouTube for a really great set of instructions.

Today, rather than paint, I finally sat down and did some exercises from Dunn’s books.  The exercises were on lines – direction, shape, shift.  It takes a bit of patience and time to understand what may be going on.  I had to think about how I had my pad of paper, how far up or down my fingers were on the pen, whether to use my fingers, my wrist, or more of an arm movement.  In many ways, doing these exercises made me think of learning printing and cursive back when I was a sweet young thing.  Lines, repetition, thinking about how to do things, and doing them over and over.

Skill is bought with repetition – but repetition of itself is rather dull.  Rewards sure help!  Thus, a few drawings – one of a hat from Dunn’s book, and one of a Christmas cactus on my patio.  In each, I used straight lines, or slightly curved ones.  I thought about light and dark, repetition and straight or curved lines, or placing more lines over ones already laid down.  

To aid with the line studies, I ruled pencil lines onto my sketch paper.  It helped.  Sometimes I also drew vertical lines, or extra horizontal lines, either in pencil or pen.

Nothing like a pen in hand to make me happy!  Altogether a pleasant way to while away an afternoon.  I shall continue!

Field of Flowers

Up the coast a way is a town known for its flower farms – a big industry locally.  The climate is varied, so a lot of different flowers may be grown, both for florists as well as seed.  Agriculture isn’t all cows and Brussel sprouts!

This was a fun study – I did a lot of lines as a practice exercise (I forget about lines because I have color to use – in ink painting it is so much about lines) and decided to focus on lines as the raison d’être for the painting.  Wet lines, dry-brush lines, wash and lines, wet on dry, dry on wet, etc.  Dots, too.

 

94. Gift Bag

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.

Watercolor Workshop, Day 2

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.

Direct Watercolor

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.