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!
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.
As the Midwest and other parts of the world endure and enjoy subzero weather and snow and ice, it is summer somewhere in the southern hemisphere!
Where I am, it is neither; just a crisp and lovely day, with the winter light canted lower in the sky. I really enjoy painting landscapes, imagining myself in the middle of it all. I think I need to get into town, though – my hiking boots need replacing. 😉
It’s a pleasantly warm day today – bare feet and a nap on the patio kind of pleasant day. Still, I long for cold and gloomy weather, real winter weather. I know, I know – if I was living in the middle of it, I would think differently.
That said, a gouache in a more painterly manner than pointillism, up in the mountains somewhere, looking on to the distant dusting of snow. Gloom. Snow. Cold. Yeah! Don’t go wading in the river, either! Just enjoy it, and then return home to hot cider and a fire.
Our cold winter thus far has hit a low of 64F or so in the past several weeks. No snow, certainly; sadly, no rain, either. Perfect for the next fire season, which is becoming a longer and longer annual event.
So, I dream of snow, and pull up memories of living in upstate New York, hiking for miles across woodlands and farms in the early morning or early evening. The light slants, the air mists, and a winter wonderland becomes a magical world filled with rivers and creeks, trees, and trails left behind by others.
This is really unusual for me – buildings and people intimidate me. However, by painting nearly every day I am gaining confidence in my abilities.
Also, the use of extremes in light and dark are another oddity for me, as well as the limited palette, the colors of which were primarily cad yellow and violet of some variety. White, too, along with some sienna, ocher, and ultramarine.
Painting really means learning a lot of things: how to use color, composition, brushwork. It is here that using a wide, flat brush to paint the buildings rather than my usual preferred rounds that I was able to achieve 90% of the painting. I was rather surprised by myself, and the result.
As summer fades away, the fires are burning along the west coast, and the clarity of the air has gone murky. This is when I dream of being somewhere along a river, with sun, blue skies, flowers and birds. I’m a country girl at heart, stuck in suburbia! (But there are advantages of the ‘burbs, too.)
I used Arches Rough 12×16 140# paper. The texture is not as smooth as what CP or HP provide. There is a lot more “tooth” which is great for dry brush and texture, such as in the foreground grasses and middle ground trees. I used one of my hake brushes for the general grass shapes, and a larger, harder brush for the sky. Before I painted any large area, I used the hake brush with clear water, letting it soak in a bit to help the paint to spread more easily on this rough paper.
In general, I am pleased with this painting. DOF works fairly well. I put in a building, too! For me, the most flawed area is the squared-off top of a tree to the left of the building – maybe I will go in later to correct it, but for now, I’ll let it be, cuz it’s time for a nap!
Summer is not yet officially here, but the warmth, sun, birds, and wind all make me long for a quiet spot to sit and relax. No nothing except the sounds of the natural world. Here, all the things I love.
Pastels just feel so natural. Get your fingers into the colors, dust, papers, blending. So tactile. I can’t tell you how many times I washed my hands here, but more than I would even with Covid-19 lurking around . . . . !
More work with water and light. Here I thought about some of the exercises I have followed from Rick Surowicz’s YouTube channel – lines, curves, and dots to capture branches, light, and leaves. I think this painting worked out quite nicely.
Besides considering what I wanted in advance (a way of thinking that has taken a very long time to get to) by applying frisket, I also was determined to paint from light to dark and use glazing and blending. Areas of color were also considered, and rather than trying to paint each leaf, I painted blobs of color to represent the foliage. As a result, I built up layers of color throughout the painting as I moved along, and can say this is possibly the first painting in which I have done this.
I also had to be very patient! Frisket is not happy when you blow dry it – it gets all sticky and you have let it set up again. As a result, this 6×9 painting probably took a couple of hours to do. However, the results, for me, were definitely worth the time it took. Perhaps my impatience is lessening . . .