Holiday Cards: Fallen Leaf

Once again, a demonstration from Peter Sheeler which I used for a card for my sister-in-law.

Peter’s is far more masterful than mine!  Who’d have thought a simple leaf could be so difficult?  I went in afterwards and inked in some extra lines and put a frame around the picture – the leaf looks like it is floating in space.

 

Under the Pines

Yesterday morning I met up with a friend, to chat, drink coffee, and sketch in the local botanical gardens.  The day was warm and sunny, and before you knew it, 2.5 hours had passed.  She did some wonderful pictures of cacti and tree branches, using only colors from a very tiny paint box!  Me, I need pen and ink to feel confident enough – I am still trying to make watercolors look like watercolors, instead of ink with colors.  I do like the ink-and-color thing, but I know I want to master solid colors.  So, after inking on site, I went home and filled in some colors, and more ink, and more colors, until I hope I got what looks like dappled light on rocks and cacti beneath some pines.

Being curious as to whether or not there is decent light / dark, I thought I would convert it to black and white to see.  Results are below.  I may go in and paint the bushes behind the rocks a bit darker in the center an to the right.

Cliffs at Mesa Verde

I had a brainstorm the other day:  Why not use vacation photos for drawing and watercolor subjects?  I certainly do have a bucket load of photos.  And, last summer we went to a lot of historical and beautiful places as we wandered through parts of the western U.S.  Here, a view from a cliff in Mesa Verde National Park.

Colors include indanthrene blue, quinacridone yellow, organic vermilion, burnt sienna, cobalt blue, phthalo green and Carbon Ink in a Pentalic watercolor book.

Frozen Creek, Dawn

This is an interpretive / impressionist sketch.  I may have adjusted the colors a bit much in Lightroom.  I did this at 6:30 a.m., barely awake, and without any light except what broke through yonder window.  Same with the scan.  I’ll check it out later today, when I am at work or something.  Interesting to see the white spots in the scan I cannot see in my gloomy room . . . .

Nikon V3 at Midnight

Last night I was getting ready for bed and decided to just do a quick drawing of something – anything! – before hitting the hay.  My camera caught my eye.  Instead of being blue, it is really black, and the strap is black, and it was on a copy of something in black and white.  Strong shadows, too, from a lamp on the desk.  What the hell . . . just do it and then paint it.  As I like the effects of lines – Sailor’s Carbon Ink in a fountain pen – I decided to just use primaries, and blue was the choice for the strap, red and blue (i.e. violet) for the strap, a green for the rest of it.  I wanted to catch the shadows – the light and the dark – more than anything.  And here we are, half asleep while doing it.

Book and Video Lessons for the Student: A Retrospective

I have picked up watercolor on a serious level, along with drawing and sketching.  I have neglected that side of myself for a long time, but have attempted to reconnect with that part of myself off and on.  Truthfully, it has been more off than on, but when I do delve into painting, it is such a pleasure.  Over the years, I have purchased video classes or viewed videos from a variety of people.  Today, I sat down and went through some of my notebooks and watercolor pads, and decided to scan what I have done to see if there is anything of value.

One person I have admired and enjoyed for a long time is Charles Reid.  I love his loose, wet, messiness in watercolor.  It works.  I have watched his videos and read his books, attempting to catch what he does – learning from the teacher by doing.  I have had some success, but I still tend to overwork and create muddy colors.

Another artist I have learned from is Birgit O’Connor.  Her approach is very different than Reid’s – not splashy, but controlled, thought out, and very disciplined.  The results are completely different, but valuable in that self-discipline and forethought are necessary to achieve results.  Reid’s discipline is from years of knowledge, such as how to paint negative spaces and create contrast.  O’Connor uses masking in varying forms, such as with contact paper and frisket to help preserve white space and create texture.

From both Reid and O’Connor, I have learned a lot . . . but without daily practice, it all is forgotten.  Besides needing to remember how to paint, how to manage color, I have also forgotten how to sketch.  Craftsy classes have proven to be helpful, with ones from Shari Blaukopf, Mark Taro Holmes, David Brody, and Kateri Ewing.  These classes range from urban sketching to an extensive, classical drawing class.  Each of these has proved, and is proving, to be very valuable.  Videos are some of the best learning tools when it comes to finding time to do and to learn.  Books with encyclopedic samples on how to do things are also great, such as Claudia Nice’s books on ink, pen, and watercolor, as seen below.

On YouTube, I have subscribed to multiple channels.  These range from using dip pens to lessons from extremely talented watercolorists and sketchers.  Of late, I have been working on negative painting – painting around things, rather than directly painting things.  This is in the hopes of learning to manage white space better.

It’s easy to use lines to compensate for a lack of contrast to define light areas in negative space.  The flowers are rather disastrous, but a lesson on YouTube (sorry, I don’t recall the video the trees are from, but it was fantastic!) was very helpful.  The key to that video was to paint from the foreground back, unlike in traditional watercolor, you paint from the sky down for the most part.

In addition to videos, books are an excellent resource.  I have a lot of books.  The ugly truth is that art books are damned attractive, but how many of them have I actually sat down with and gone through, step by step?  Not many.  In fact, none at all . . . until I came across a book by Jenna Rainey:  Everyday Watercolor:  Learn to Paint Watercolor in 30 Days.  Rainey’s painting style is not what I see myself doing, but what I do like is the “daily” approach and the short, structured lessons.  Thus far, I am up to Day 11, and have been really enjoying myself.  I’ve let go that nasty inner critic that expects perfection out of the gate, and have been loosening up, and doing some things that I like.

More than anything, I am happy to see I am not lacking ability – only self-discipline to work on painting and drawing when I have time.  Looking at what I have done is inspiring me to continue, despite frustrations and time.  Nothing like a retrospective to see what and where I have been, what I am doing now, and looking forward to what I might yet do.