Water Study

Another study with another excellent watercolorist, Eric Yi Lin, whose YouTube channel is called Cafe Watercolor, a very low-key but very informative channel about – what else?? – watercolors. His demonstrations are clear, and especially compelling, is his narrative. How, why, how come – so many answers to questions not answered in a lot of demonstrations. Truthfully, I think he has some of the best “explanations” or reasons why this, or how to consider that. An example is in the video below, from which the above painting is derived, is his statement that “water is a surface.” Have you ever considered that when painting? Suddenly it becomes more comprehensible.

The major point of this study is to look at water and observe how to paint it. In his video, Eric describes how water “works” in different settings. In fact, he demonstrates and explains different ways to look at water – smooth and glassy, foggy and still, and the ways in which the ocean is not at all like a lake or river. This is all in the first half of the video. Then, from a photo he took, he spends the last half showing how he painted the photo. Takeaways include that the first wash is the color of the light, simplicity in the distance, more complexity in the forefront. Order of working is light to dark, soft to detailed.

I’ll let you look at the video to see what I mean.

I expect I will be visiting his site a lot for now!

An Afternoon’s Study

After spending the last month working small – on 7×10 paper – and using both gouache and regular watercolor, I felt the need for something big and expansive!  This means broad strokes, rapid washes, focusing and thinking ahead at the same time.  That is what I find when I work with really wet watercolors, and much of this study was done with washes bleeding into another.

Not feeling especially original, and totally delighted that Edo Hannema uploaded another tutorial after a few months absence from YouTube, I decided to follow along with his video.

If you are not familiar with Edo Hannema, he is a watercolorist located in Holland. As Holland is a very flat country, he is much influenced by skies and extensive landscape. Water is also a strong element in many of his landscapes.

For me, it is a real pleasure to follow his practice videos, in part because I live in such a dry part of the world! Additionally, he is candid about what he is doing. For instance, if he doesn’t like a bit of his painting, he says it right out loud. As someone who struggles to paint and make my watercolor look good, it is so reassuring to find other painters get as frustrated or annoyed as I do when something doesn’t go the way I want it to. At one point in his video he talks about the tall tree in the left center of the painting. “I hate this!” I can understand that frustration. When the houses nearby don’t go as planned, he tells the viewer to make the best of the situation. That is what you have to do in watercolor.

As you can see, my sky is quite violent compared to his gentle one – I kept getting blooms for some reason, and struggled to get rid of them.  Another element of my own painting was my determination to keep my brushes clean!  World Watercolor Month 2019 really brought that point home to me.  I managed to do it pretty well.

Daily practice takes work.  Tomorrow, I hope to work on gouache color swatches, using whites to create variations in tonality of a given color, as well as working with complementary colors to achieve greys.  That should prove to be an interesting adventure.

The Art of the Written Word

This past week or so has found me wandering into another element of water-based media:  Ink.

Ink is used in drawing, but it is also used in writing, whether using the Roman alphabet, Cyrillic, Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, or any other form of an alphabet for any one of the myriad of languages found throughout the world.

Making ink is an art, and that means knowing something of chemistry (no matter how simple) and permanency.  Ink is black and ink is colored – as are paints.  This past week has found me suddenly distracted by the making of iron gall ink, also known as oak gall ink, and cutting quills from feathers.  You can read about my adventures here, here and here for starters.  You can return to Ink, Yarn, and Beer for more updates, too, if you want.

Consequently, I have not had much time to paint or draw as I have been spending a lot of time reading about ink and quills in particular, as well as watching videos on the same.  This morning, I came across one which rather blew me away as it is global in nature, but local in artistry.  Huh – what does that mean?  Take 30 minutes of time to be quiet and to watch . . .

“Waiting for Spring” – from a Rick Surowicz Study

This morning I went out and bought plants for the flower beds, had lunch and a nap, and then decided what I wanted to paint.  Rick Surowicz just posted a new video on his YouTube channel called “Waiting for Spring.”  On his personal website, he posted a sketch of the study as well as a photograph of the actual barn, and his final watercolor.  If you haven’t checked out his channel, you should.  He has so much valuable information.  When I am feeling more focused, I want to try out his two classes as they are more detailed than his YouTube presentations, although they are detailed enough for anyone who wants to learn.

This video appealed to me for a number of reasons.  One, perspective.  This is a frontal view, so the roof line is pretty much a straight line across the top, parallel to the top edge of the paper.  I got out my ruler and made both straight horizontal and vertical lines.  From there, I roughed in the trees and shadows and bushes.

The palette was pretty simple – Rick posts the colors he used at the beginning, as well as mentioned that his Cerulean Blue is PB36 as opposed to PB35 – PB35 apparently is more greenish than PB36.  This would be either DaVinci Cerulean or Daniel Smith Cerulean Blue Chromium.  Of course, if you don’t clean up your paints, you could have just about anything.

What I learned from this video were a few things.  One, mix colors on the paper as you move along.  Specifically, on the roof, I moved from one color to the next, picking up paint and working it into the paint on the paper.  This gave a nice effect.  Another important thing was to realize that while I have flat brushes, most of mine, if not all, are rather stiff.  Painting with them at times created problems as a softer flat brush would be a better choice in some areas.

I also realized I need to sort out my brushes better – put rounds in one area, flats in another, and riggers and other specialized brushes in another.  I have a stand, and perhaps I shall use that next, or else I may just get individual holders – like jars or tins – to hold specific brushes in specific areas.  I continue to learn!

As I look at this painting, I can see my confidence in handling color has come a long, long way.  I plan to do a few more barns in the coming week, using photos from Pixabay.  This way, I can practice perspective, use my ruler, and try to paint more confidently than I seem to do when I don’t have a video to follow.

FYI, below is Rick’s excellent video:

A Dutch Landscape – After Edo Hannema

Today was a day of “firsts.”  I decided to paint a big painting for me – 16×20 inches.  I also chose to use a more professional paper than I have been; here, 140# cold press Arches.

I wanted to test out how Arches handles water – lots of water.  Hannema is the master of the wash and wet paper approach.  His current paper is Saunders Waterford, which is different, of course, from Arches.  I think the Arches handled the water really well.  I, on the other hand, still need to master my washes.  Blooms are visible here and there, and I need to learn how to control those or eliminate them if I find them later on.

The palette of colors I used was initially what Hannema used:  ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson, burnt sienna, and raw sienna.  Because I did not like greens I was getting, I threw in some sap green.  If I had used yellow ochre, perhaps my greens would have been more satisfactory – something to make a mental note of to try next time around.

I always learn from a video.  As I have mentioned, water is one thing I am working on, along with buildings.  Today, I wanted to just work with a new paper and a lot of water.  The study was successful altogether methinks.

Below is Edo Hannema’s painting tutorial:

The Inn at Brandywine – Another Study

This has been a busy weekend!  A lot of painting – certainly beats housework, I tell ya.

Here is another study from Rick Surowicz’s YouTube channel.  This is the “Inn at Brandywine” study.  Again, use of masking fluid, glazes, warm and cool greens.  If you like to paint and want to get better, you cannot go wrong with his videos.  They are detailed and informative – info on brushes, colors, techniques, thoughts on what he is doing.  All very helpful and insightful.

Using the masking fluid is becoming easier, as is thinking ahead.  Like painting in negative space, planning ahead is a different way of looking at a painting for me.  It’s hard to explain.  The thing is, while kind of frustrating to do, it is becoming more of a part of painting, if that makes any sense.

Below, Rick’s excellent video.


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  I am an impatient person, particularly when it comes to painting watercolor.  The look of spontaneous painting requires forethought and planning, even for the simplest of pictures.  I keep falling for that lie!  Therefore, in an effort to tame my monkey mind, I decided to work on negative painting, which is not an easy thing to do.  Looking through YouTube, I found a lovely example of negative painting by Krzysztof Kowalski, which you can view below.

This painting study requires the usage of masking fluid in addition to working up layers of colors.  My sketch came out fairly good, as you can see below, but the first layer of water over the masking fluid turned rather comical.

I didn’t dilute my dishwashing soap before dipping my brush in it, then the mask.  The result, when I began to wet the paper, was soap suds!  Okay, dilute it next time.  I think the density of the dish soap also may not allow the masking fluid to adhere properly – I’ll find this out when I begin to remove it.  I spent a few hours painting the layers; this is my afternoon’s work.

White = Snow

If you have been reading along, you know:  I make mud, I need lines, and I cannot get white space at all.  Well, in a moment of mad inspiration, I realized snow is white.  Let’s paint snow!  In my part of the world (California), we are in the midst of a hideous wildfire, which fortunately bypassed our neighborhood, but which could be visited by a fire any time.  Crazy winds and no rain make for dry and dangerous conditions, and certainly the last place where  you will expect to find snow.

Thus, snow.  I went to my favorite place (YouTube) and searched for “watercolor snow” and there we were!  Lot of them.  In particular, I found Peter Sheeler, whose videos are simple to follow, and quite lovely.  He uses a minimal palette, and just paints.  Subtitles let you know the colors and the technique.  Pleasant music moves you along.  Here is my version of his painting.

Peter Sheeler has another video that I used as well.  It was a bit more complex, but not only was it great for shadows on snow, he has very strong light – dark colors, another problem I struggle with.

And here is my version of it.  I was really intimidated by the dark trees and the rocks.  Besides using only Ultramarine, Yellow Ochre, and Burnt Sienna (even though Sap Green is in his video’s palette), Peter uses a 1/2 inch flat brush.  I have some flat brushes, and they scare the hell out of me.  I think people who love flat brushes are nuts.  No more:  I bit the bullet and pulled out my flats and did the entire painting in a flat brush, varying sizes as necessary.  And I used micron pens, too, as did Peter.

I am feeling a lot more confident now about colors, white space, limited palettes, and flat paint brushes.  I think I will continue to follow along with Peter Sheeler’s videos – he is a really good painter, I like his style, and am confident I will get a lot out of his videos.  And Peter, if you should come across this, let me tell you, “Thanks!”