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Monthly Archives: August 2010

This week I explored a new technique that I hope might help me with some of my students who would like a little more reality to their watercolors than the way I usually paint. In the spirit of understanding the process I wanted to share with them, I gave it a go. I first suggested they use a tool I introduce in my drawing classes. It is a clear piece of plexiglass with horizontal and vertical crosshairs drawn on it. You place it over your photo reference like this:

Next I drew the same cross hairs on my watercolor paper and used the quadrants to draw my line drawing as close to the original photo as possible for my skill level. Have to be careful to not draw the lines too dark as they must be erased before painting.

The following steps are not of my design but shown to me on Sandrine Pellisier’s Blog post here. If you have not visited her blog, you may wish to take in some of her posts. She uses many different media and demonstrates the steps she goes through when creating her art.

Here goes.

The first step is to lay in a monochromatic value study using yellows. Sandrine suggests yellow ochre. I used naples yellow, new gamboge and a touch of halloween orange for the eyes and hair and darks in shirt.

The second step is a layer of reds.I used permanent rose and cadmium red. I worked varying values of these two reds over my yellows and chose to carry them into the shirt. I used cerulean blue in areas around the skin tones such as the shirt and darks in the  hair, eyes and eyebrows. This helped me to see the skin tones a little better during this stage.

In the third stage I added cerulean blue for the shadows. I painted a layer of yellow, red and prussian blue for the background, allowing each layer to dry before adding the next.

  finished painting

For the finished painting, I darkened the background with more prussian blue, deepened the tones in the shirt and finished the details like shadows under the upper lid and upper lip and detailed the  darks around the eyes and in the darks of the hair with permanent rose and prussian blue.

Thank-you, Sandrine!

Recently, Richard from Artswebshow issued a challenge. He posted a beautiful portrait of a lion taken by photographer, Pablohoney2980. The above is my interpretation of the lion.

Thank-you, Richard. Animal portraiture is one of my favorite subjects to paint!

There is an owl where I have been working, on site, recently! No, I have not seen it but the owners offered me a photo they had taken of him/her. I have searched for what I think this owl might be and decided it may be a  short eared owl due to the distinct dark markings around the eyes and the bits of tawny color that showed through the downy white fluff. Maybe he/she was young or molting ?

Painting him was a bit of a challenge as I had not rendered many night scenes. The following was my approach.

 first washes

The above is the initial drawing and simple washes. The background was a wash of burnt sienna. I don’t know that I will use burnt sienna as a first wash in a night scene, again. It seemed to dull the background darks.

 branches and tree trunks

I then mixed a gray and set the tone for the background tree trunk and the speckling on the branches were created by leaving the white of the paper. Ibegan working the black mask around the eyes.

 working the background

This step was the most lengthy. It took several washes applied wet -n wet to create the dark purpley-blue in the background. The tree trunks were varying shades of burnt sienna, sepia and a little of the background color. I furthur detailed some of the facial features around the eyes and beak.

 final painting

The final step was to darken the branches and detail the owl.  In the end I used some white to accentuate the downy white that still covered him in spots. I believe he might be the tawny color I see poking through on his upper left chest. His eyes were yellow orbs and he had a dark and prominent beak.

Stephen Quirke painted an owl he snapped a picture of last winter (his summer) here. I think it was remembering his image that made me want to try this.

Ryan of Smalltowndad thinks there is a possibility this might be a barred owl.

  click to enlarge

I began this painting on site. Oh the drawing it required!  On and on. It was hot this day and I completed the drawing and painted shadows, lightly, in manganese blue throughout the woodpile and along the rail fence.  The sun was bright and unrelenting and I hope I have passed that on in this painting.  As I worked my lights and darks and the detail, I struggled with how much the woodpile became a part of the fence, in spots, and the colors of the tree trunks in the background blended  into the pile. It became a puzzle until I realised something very important. The wood on the woodpile is of those trees and the fence is of wood, also. Why would they not blend? Sometimes other gifts of thought are brought to artists as they work on something and this connection is one I began to contemplate. I had used a pencil made of wood, my paper came from wood. Even the paintbrush I had in my hand had a wood handle. The board my paper was taped to was made of wood.  As a result I changed my approach to this painting and concentrated on only the bright light and how it moved in and across the scene. It became OK to let the fence melt into the woodpile and the tree trunks to match and blend with the woodpile.  Perhaps I should have just titled this piece  Ode to Wood.  🙂

Ichabod just posted  about “tree stuff”.  Couldn’t pass up linking this post about wood to it.

  final painting

As I turn into the driveway where I have currently been doing some plein air painting, I cross over a small creek. It is as though I am surrounded by a fairytale forest. I painted this scene from a photo. I wonder what this scene looks like in the fall and winter and may re-visit and paint it again.  This is looking east and I was intrigued by the circle of light above the bend in the creek.

This was my first wash describing the light. I splattered the frisket, dropped salt and began painting in leaf forms.

I finished leaf forms and began describing the darks and the lay of the land that slopes upward to either side.

Adding the trees and working toward the finish.

Even though I did not paint this scene in a loose manner and this was an extended process over quite a few days, I am thankful to Chris Carter for posting quick and loose versions of landscapes, recently. They helped me to undersatnd that there is a flow and a pattern of values to any landscape scene. I admire her work.

  click to enlarge

On March 1st of this year, Eva posted a beautiful poem titled “wolf summer”.    Much of her poetry stimulates strong visuals in my mind’s eye.  Sometimes she encourages me to try to illustrate what I see. I struggled with this and set it aside. Everytime I tried to draw wolf paws, they did not satisfy me.  The other day, I felt a need to do something wildly creative and had read a post on Creativity Journey where Myrna used an eyedropper and ink to draw her image. I had already drawn many “Lucy” paws and elongated them until I felt they looked like wolf paws.  I could not find adequate reference materials to feature wolf paws only how their legs might look while running, so my composition was designed using Lucy paws in all sorts of running/moving positions.

The above drawing was done with an eyedropper, but I did not blot my lines with a tissue as Myrna’s post described. I drew very quickly so the ink would still be wet and spritzed the surface of the paper so the ink bled irregularly from the marks. My hopes were to create the impression of dirt being churned up by the running feet.  I wish I had quickly snapped a picture of the drawing prior to spritzing. I liked the effect the eye dropper drawing created in my line work.  After this dried, I flung frisket across the surface (rather than tapping) to  create white streaks and dots to emulate movement and create texture.

Once the frisket dried, I began painting the washes. It takes some patience and acceptance to work with watercolor and ink. Even though I used waterproof ink, there is still some gray residue that gets lifted into the pigment that tends to gray the image a little.  I always have to do multiple washes to achieve the color I want in these. To finish, I brightened the legs and paws with white gouache and removed the frisket after it dried.

Eva also creates beautiful art!



 finished painting

This is another plein air painting where I have been enjoying the out of doors while weather permits. I sat on the east side of the pond, “looking west”,  this day. There was a prediction of rain and the clouds were just beginning to move in giving this landscape a still and hugged feeling.  There was light and it played itself in and around the middle ground trees. Near where I was sitting on the east side of the pond, the frogs were talking and jumping around in the shallows. A deer ran through the upper left quadrant of this scene and hawks circled overhead for awhile. I hope the painting reflects a pleasant openess and the peacefulness of the afternoon.