101. 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.

 

93. Lines, Shapes, Shadows

I had to take a day off from painting as my head was swirling.  This seems to happen whenever I do a lot of any one thing.  My brain feels overloaded and I need to do something to break out of it.  Then it settles down with sometimes clarity or a nagging little sense of something different, good but not completed, if that makes any sense.

Today’s focus – this morning in poor light – I decided to look at white space and dark space.  Neither results are spectacular but what I do see is shapes in this pictures.  Corners outlines, curves, straight edges.  I also like the merging and blending and granulations I see.  Other than that?

85. Orange Lilies

After “getting” negative space yesterday, I decided to make a complicated drawing and “work” at negative space.  I have orange lilies blooming in pots on the patio every year, and they are brilliantly orange with piles of leaves in all directions.  What better source of light and dark, overlaps, medium shades?  And in the afternoon sun.  So, here you go.

59. Pen, Ink, and Watercolor with Claudia Nice

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!

51. Light Industry, with Nil Rocha

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 . . .

29.2 Mesa, Sunrise: Practice!

Every artist practices.  Pianists do scales.  Painters paint.  I, on the other hand, have never been fond of practicing anything because I always want to do.  However, I am finding myself rather stumped at the moment, and have decided I do need to practice.  I need to practice brush strokes and colors.  I realized this after I lay down this wash for the mesa and lower portions of the painting, which for now are at a standstill.

Looking at everything, I am thinking about two things.  What colors should I use?  What brush should I use?

Colors don’t require a brush choice, so I have dabbled with reds for the mesa, as you can see below.  There are combinations of Burnt Sienna, Quin Gold, Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber, Organic Vermilion, and Pyrrol Orange.  Doing these early in the morning, I didn’t label them.  That’s okay, because  I know the colors I used, and I will check them out during daylight.

Next, I need to decide on a brush.  I am inclined to go with a flat, so I can draw straight across to show the sedimentary layers of rock.  Those I will get to sometime tomorrow and then choose colors and – yes! – practice making some strokes and mixing the colors strong enough to make some good contrasts, too.

21. Negative Painting: I Wanna Scream!

Okay, negative painting is not, not, not easy.  At least for me.  Back to YouTube.  This video was a really big help.

The guy is really funny – and does a really good demonstration.  This one was probably the most clear of all the ones I have watched.  Simple in execution, but sophisticated enough to produce something useful at the end of the video.  This is what I got.

Then I watched another video – far more accomplished than I am at the present in execution, and once more, mud is the result and abominable flowers.  These are mutant flowers after some sort of environmental disaster!

Ugh.  So, back to monochrome – this time, pink daisies from some picture on the internet.  This is the first layer of many, but maybe I can just work on very simple things and follow the 1-2-3-4 steps and then get a bit more advanced in execution.

Practice is not always a pleasant experience – but you do learn!

16.1. Holiday Cards: Birch Trees & Snow

As a present, my sister-in-law asked for some hand-painted cards.  Given I have enjoyed Peter Sheeler’s videos, I thought I would use his exercises as a way to practice painting, and fulfill a family member’s request for a Christmas present!  Here is Mr. Sheeler’s video:

Birch trees are some of the easiest and most lovely trees to draw or paint.  The white trunks and white snow made for a good chance to work at keeping white space.  The other thing is that the palette was limited, which I am beginning to find refreshing – a lot of colors can be made from two or three.

15. Trees, Shadow, Snow

This morning, in a room only lit by the light of my monitors, and a half-drunk cup of coffee at hand, I decided to go ahead and watch Peter Sheeler’s video above, and try to do a painting.  I dragged out a bowl for water, a few brushes, and my travel palette.  I sort of know where my colors are, so what the heck – paint and draw away.

I pretty much followed what Peter did, but obviously his work is better than mine.  Despite that, I did learn a few more things.  One thing I have always liked – and will continue to like – is ink with color.  Using a limited palette is also fun as it really helps you keep yourself under control.  I think – remember, it was dark, and I was only half of cup of coffee into my morning! – I used yellow ochre, quin gold, a bit of viridian, a bit of alizarin, indathrene and ultramarine blues, and burnt sienna.  Some of these were just little dabs because I couldn’t see very well, but the main colors were the sienna and blues.

That said, below is a scan of my painting before putting in the final lines.

Objectively, it’s okay.  There are some nice areas, and there certainly is some white space (yay!  white space!), which is why I am focusing on snow painting practices.  Some good light – dark areas.  A nice bleed or two.  Other areas are dreadful, such as that greenish area on the mid-right side.

Below, the inked in version.

Frankly, I like the final one better as there is more definition.  Now – finish that coffee and jet off to work.

Have a fun day!

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.