Tag Archives: Watercolor

In Betwixt and In Between

The house is torn up.  The studio is empty.  The living room is filled with boxes, one corner for Josh, the other for me.  The shower stall will be done Monday.  The shower door will be measured and ordered on Monday, too.  The dogs will be boarded out Monday through Tuesday night because of the fact the flooring is going in on Tuesday day, starting at 730 a.m.  Thursday the painter starts.  Saturday the vanities arrive.  Wednesday next the painter finishes and the new toilets are installed.  Then the vanities are installed and the template made for the counter tops.  We will have a shower that works – finally!  hooray! – but we will not be able to use it until the door is installed.  We will be brushing our teeth in the kitchen sink (ewwwww!).  I go back to the doc on Tuesday to have my wrist and finger checked 3 weeks after my fall.

And . . . we have been packing, eating junk food, brewing beer, trying to have a life, and painting in between – pictures and samples of paint on the wall.

I will post photos of the new house stuff sometime later, but today, here are the things – little things, no bigger than 7×10 at the most – I’ve been painting and drawing, just to stay sane.  The painting of the barn needs a bit of help – the roof is too white, and it looks like the windows are some strange eye infection.  The meadowlark needs more contrast.  I could go on, but I need to go to work on my other stuff.

Click on a picture to start a slide show, and to see them larger.


Once Waitlisted Weekend Watercolor Workshop

How’s that for a few Ws or so?

This past weekend I spent immersed in painting and drawing and sketching, all focused on watercolor.  This lucky girl got in after being waitlisted to a workshop with Brenda Swenson, an excellent watercolorist, and as it turns out, a very good teacher.  Three days of organized to increasingly looser structure was perfect.

Day 1 began with continuous contour line drawing and lost edges.  At first I got it – and then didn’t – and then did again.  These drawings then led to watercolors using lost edges to blur and bleed color into color – wet working with deliberate movement of color.  This helps with reflected light.  The mind fills in what the brush does not.

From there, on the second day, we moved into landscapes from photographs, all of which were provided by Brenda, and from which all the landscapes in this post are derived from.  For some reason I couldn’t seem to think straight – I was restless and goofy and my mind was all over the place.  Somehow, I managed to survive and produce a few pictures of value.  The still lives I did sucked.  Structure of the day, if I recall, along with the first was draw, format, paint.  Formatting was finding a border for the image, where edges might break out of the line, and give an interesting look to the painting.  Good graphics!

And on the third day, structure loosened.  The focus was on painting vignettes.  A vignette, I knew, had white around the borders of a painting – a piece of a painting.  Brenda put it into a different perspective, on which I never had heard of – cruciform.  Don’t touch the corners with paint, touch one or all of the 4 edges of the picture’s ostensible borders, and focus on how the shape – the negative space of the corners – looks in relationship to all the other.

Lessons each day, thoughts for each day.  If I get another chance to attend here workshop, I will – if you get a chance, do it!

Now, a few things done during the workshop . . . click on a picture to see them bigger!

Ink, Color, Paper

For some time now I have been practicing “urban sketching,” which is a fun way to record what you see around you.  Sit down, have a cup of coffee, take out the ink, color, and paper.  Go to a park, visit a zoo.  The world is around you!

Ink and wash in Stillman & Birn sketchbook. Light washes are more successful than heavy washes as far as I can tell.

Part of the process of this style of sketching is to realize the essentials of what you see in front of you.  It is a good way to evaluate and decide what to keep, what to discard.  By the same token, you learn about your materials.  To me, one of the most important elements is the paper – how it responds, how it reacts.  After a bit, paper becomes like an old friend – you know its nuances, when it’s in a good mood, when you are having difficulties.  And, like people, you find you like some paper better than others.

Painted with multiple glazes in a Hand Book. There is some blooming, which can be annoying, but the paper holds up well to repeated washes.

I’ve picked up a number of sketchbooks, many with heavy paper to handle watercolors and ink.  Handling a wash is critical.  However, learning what a paper can and cannot do is also important, and part of that is just using it.

The Pentalic sketchbook holds up really well to repeated wetting. The sky is a good example of this – I went in about 5 times, just because I could, to see how it worked. There isn’t too much blooming with this paper. As well, the paper has a pleasant texture. Both wet-in-wet and dry brush work on this paper. I painted all of this with a flat water brush to get a sense of how to use it more successfully than I have in the past. Ink is both Carbon Ink and pigmented markers.

To date, I have a Stillman & Birn, Hand Book and Pentalic watercolor sketchbooks.  Stillman & Birn doesn’t respond quite like I would like it to for wet washes, but it holds lines well.  I need to practice with it more to get a sense of its personality.  Hand Book seems to have better wash-handling qualities.  Pentalic, so far, appears to be the best.  I also have decided I like spiral bound vs. signatures.

Spring Bulbs on Paper

Winter is leaving and the bulbs are emerging.  In my own yard, freesias are in bloom, their sweet scent greeting me as I come and go from the house.  Other bulbs are found in the stores, as cut flowers or in pots.  Daffodils and tulips are the most common.  Hyacinths are rare.  Where I live, there is never snow on the ground, and if we are lucky, we get rain and a cold wind.  Having grown up in the middle of blizzard country, I miss the bulbs – but I don’t miss the weather!  So, here are some paintings of daffo-down-dillies and one of some tulips.  None are great, but all were fun to do!

Studies in Two Colors

Over the weekend, I worked on numerous simple watercolors, inspired by the 2-color studies found in Ted Kautzky’s classic book Ways With Watercolor.  He suggests beginning with just two colors, Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue.  From his book, I did the exercise below.

The umber and ultramarine are considered to be “warm” colors from what I have read, but they work to make wonderfully cold winter scenes!  Here are some I did after the one above, to continue the study.

The beauty of using only two colors is there is little likelihood of making mud.  That’s a good thing!  Instead, I got to focus on value, which is not an easy thing for me.

Values are not just light and dark, but everything in between.  For instance, above, there is bright white, a light grey, a darker grey, and so on, moving into essentially black.

Besides working on value / contrast, the above painting was a work done with a lot of wet-in-wet, particularly at the horizon line, to blur the plant growth into a hazy atmosphere.

From there, another wet-in-wet, accompanied by a gradated wash, in the above painting.  I started with pure Ultramarine Blue, and then worked it lighter and lighter until I reached the bottom of the sheet.  Then, with a dry brush, I worked upward to remove the blues.  You can see some blue streaks left behind.  After the picture was finished, I used white gouache and a toothbrush to spatter snow onto the painting.

After all these umber-and-ultramarine paintings, I have moved onto ultramarine and Burnt Sienna.  The sienna is much warmer, to my mind, as long as it is not mixed with the ultramarine.  With ultramarine, the color can be as deep as you want – nearly black – as you can see in the trees.

The shadows across the snow, and the ruts, were painted with plain ultramarine, as was the sky.  It’s a great color for shadows, on snow or otherwise.  You will see that the dark colors, such as on the trees to either side in the foreground, are blackish, but of a very different hue than the darks in the paintings above.

This study has been worthwhile.  I may do more in just two colors, or add a green.  Varying just one color produces considerably different results.  I also did the same pictures over again, in different browns or blues, or both; this is also a good way to become familiar with colors and how they interact.