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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Today my Granddaughter and I worked on another painting idea from The Usborne Complete Book of Art by Fiona Watt.  We changed it up a bit, and added a watercolor wash to our paintings as well as a little wax resist but the technique with the acrylic paint came from her idea in the book. I highly recommend this book for anyone’s art library,  young and old alike.

The first thing we did was to draw a ground line across the bottom of our paper (140 lb Arches coldpress)  about one fifth up from the bottom.  We decided to include a moon or sun in our cityscape and traced a circle using the bottom of a small spray bottle. We then colored that in, applying pressure,  with a white crayon to act as a resist to the following wash. We then created our watercolor wash using two colors.  We thoroughly wet the paper, first, with a one inch flat brush and then fed in two colors. My Granddaughter used diox violet and cerulean blue in the wash pictured above. She stroked in her colors one next to the other (one inch flat brush) and tilted her board so the two colors would run and mix  together. We were careful to wipe up any water and pigment surrounding the edges of the paper so they would not run back into this wash, creating blossoms.

While we waited for this wash to dry we:

Cut out different widths of corrugated cardboard strips about 3 to 4 inches in length to be used as our brushes……

Chose to use our set of heavy body acrylics

and layed out the tubes on some paper towels with their respective caps above them so we did not mix tube caps when we went to store them away. She chose the colors brilliant blue, phthalo blue, diox purple and white.

In the next step, we squeezed out short ribbons of the four colors, in no particular order, along that ground line we had drawn earlier.  We then picked up a cardboard strip and used it like a brush, dragging the ribbon of acrylic upward.  We worked this way moving from the left side of the paper to the right to avoid getting our arm in the paint. Lefthanded artists may wish to work right to left.  As we did this, we changed our cardboard strips from wide to narrow to create variations in the shapes and heights of our future buildings.  We discussed things about light and dark, tall and short and if we needed to change a color or two in areas that looked too boring. 

We also pulled some of the pigment below the groundline.  This stage was then allowed to dry completely.

                                              Granddaughter’s Finished Cityscape

The final step was to take black and white acrylic and paint with the edges and corners of the cardboard to furthur define our paintings.  I was amazed at my Granddaughter’s creativity at this stage. She talked about what was the road and when she was painting windows. She created a walkway between buildings.  When she saw me put in a streak of white at a diagonal she decided she needed one, also, and reached for a wider section of cardboard and did it.  This was a  fun and creative afternoon for the two of us and I can envision so many other scenes that can be created this way. The book gives an example of painting a castle.

                                                      Grandma’s Finished Cityscape 

Grandma’s colors were bronze yellow, cadmium yellow medium hue and cadmium red light hue.  The watercolor wash was aureolin and halloween orange.

Gone is that chance to go to the Super Bowl.  Oh my……  so SAD.

But, thank-you, Bears, for entertaining me all season and climbing for your goal. I will be watching next year, “GO BEARS!”

Everything I know of football, I learned from my son who has followed the Chicago Bears since he first knew about the game.  This has been a marvelous season watching the Bears face their challenges and it has brought with it much conversation between my son and myself. This week has been horrendous as we  wait for them to face their rivals. The only way I could see through to quieting my anxiety was to paint something to honor tomorrow’s game. That helped.

So, to my son, as well as all Bears’ fans out there, “Go Bears”!!!!!!!

Remember Mr. Ed?  As I painted this portrait, I decided to change the color from the color of the horse in the reference material because his face reminded me of that famous talking horse.  I used to spend a lot of time with horses.  This painting was fun for me. I am still working with 140 lb hotpress paper and searching for ways of creating on it while playing in the paint. I used frisket on the mane.  I stroked it in, added color, stroked some more frisket on top of that dry wash, and a third layer. That gave the streaks you see in his mane. I used both flat and round brushes.  I limited my palette to yellows, reds, halloween orange,  june bug and sepia.  Below is my drawing and first washes for you to view.


    first strokes and washes

Wrick, from A 19 Planets Art Blog left a very interesting comment on the previous Biskit post. He talked about how much more realistic Biskit seemed using a photo reference and how some of the photo distortion actually gets into an artist’s work. He went on to suggest that it might be interesting to try a dog from life.  The above painting was  done from life.  This is Haley, a friend of mine’s dog. I had just read a book about using watercolor and charcoal together and had wanted to try my hand at it.  The book was titled “Painting People in Watercolor” by Alex Powers.  The drawing is done in charcoal.  I do more than just a line drawing when I work this way and continue on with it until I have areas shaded in. The next step is to paint with watercolor.  The watercolor picks up some of the charcoal as you work in and around it.  There is an interesting mix of opaque and transparent passages.  

Thanks, Wrick!

This is Biskit. My daughter recently asked me (6 months ago) if I would paint a portrait of her beloved Golden. I had tried about 5 years ago and was not able to come up with one that did him justice. I took pictures of him and flipped through them about two weeks ago and settled on the pose above. He is extremely hard to capture a photo of as he is an exuberant fellow and doesn’t quite understand posing. I have a lot of shots of him laying on the floor pouting as we would try to pose him and tell him to stay. He’d immediately lay down and pout because he  would prefer to have his head in your lap, nosing your hand and placing his paw on your knee.  I was lucky enough to get this picture of him later in the evening before he actually realised I was paying attention to him again.  This defines Biskit. Bright eyes, ears down and back and a huge grin on his face.

The following is the making of the above portrait.  Please realize I only post these progression pictures in the event that they can help you in trying something I have attempted as I create. 

I chose hotpress paper again as I am still experimenting with it. My first step was to get a good line drawing:

In order to get the proportions correct, I used my clear acrylic crosshairs I talked about here.

You can faintly see in the above step that I used liquid friskit in tiny areas around the eyes, nose, mouth and to define the whiskers. I then began to paint washes of color onto the image by following the values I saw in the reference as well the countours that defined the roundness of his form or flow of the hairs of his coat.  I learned hotpress paper does not respond to my normal wet-in-wet techniques in the same way as the coldpress paper does. My images look a little better if I use contour  and paint more in a drawing mode on it. Approached, in this manner, I get a fairly good painterly feel as I lay color next to color or add a second wash.  I defined Biskit’s largest forms (head, muzzle and neck) prior to concentrating on the background and detailed areas of the features.  My palette consisted of  American Journey colors copper penny,  june bug, raw sienna, harvest gold, naples yellow, burnt sienna, burnt umber and permanent rose. I also used Winsor Newton quinachridone gold.

The above is the bulk or the “meat”of my painting.  I first described the eyes. I had an instructor tell me once that it helps to get some color into the eyes before working too much of the background. She said it helps to give some life to the image so you can see the balance between background and the image.  Notice, in this stage, the friskit has not been removed and the eyes don’t have too much definition to them. They just have the lights and darks of it.  I then layed in the background wet-in-wet. I wanted it to look a little broken up and mottled so I chose a large mop brush that holds a lot of water to lay the colors in. I mixed two large dark washes of the two dark colors I had used in the portrait. I chose these colors because I wanted to push the head forward so the golds could “pop” and  move forward in the format. Those colors were june bug and copper penny. I worked fast so I could get the mingling of color you see in the lower right quadrant. While the wash was still wet, I picked up the board and tilted it back and forth a little to help with the direction of the flow. Once the background was dry, I removed the friskit and furthur detailed the eyes and mouth.

The above view of the eyes show them after the friskit was removed.  Note the light tone in the irises of both eyes. I had layered quinachridone gold, followed by burnt sienna and waited for that to dry. I then layered copper penny, june bug and burnt umber on the pupil and waited for that to dry. Next, I took a small damp brush and lifted out some of the burnt sienna on the iris and some of the burnt umber on the pupils to create the lighter areas in them that give the eyes their roundness.  Note the friskit had covered some of the lid on the eye on the left as it faces you and I needed to touch that up and shape the white area nearest the nose to have a little warm tone to it more like the inside corner of an eye. This is detail work that can be crucial to some portraits if you wish to draw the viewers’ eye to them. I caution you to not add these highlights unless you see them in the reference material.  I did not see them in the Rudolph painting I posted here because his eye in the reference was soft and dark. Eyes can go wrong quickly and highlights and tonal differences look freaky if misplaced.

Above is the image of the finished eyes.

I then concentrated on tongue, teeth and lips. The above is an image before I detailed them.

I removed the friskit. I shaded the tongue and gums with darker washes of permanent rose so they showed the bends and folds of the tongue around the teeth and the darker pigment in the gums. I shaded the teeth with very light washes of june bug and lifted out some of the burnt umber along the upper curve of the lower lip.

  finished painting

  finished painting

I have had the photo reference for this painting for about a year after seeing it on wet canvas.  I have always wanted to try it. I hear so much about not making muddy colors with pigment and agree that they are not “pretty”.  However, there are some subjects that  almost beg for some degrees of  ” mud”.  That was my first challenge. The second was that I wanted to try to work something textural on the Arches 140lb hotpress watercolor paper I have been experimenting with.  I have not done many night paintings so this seemed like an adventure to me.

In the first step, I wet the entire surface of the paper and fed in my background colors of magnesium blue, permanent rose, a little lemon yellow in the center, and a mixture of halloween orange and magnesium blue to make the gray for the sky and strip of gray in the foreground. I dried that with a hairdryer prior to starting to paint the trees.

In the second step I mixed colors like hookers green, burnt sienna or ultrmarine blue and olive green to make the greens and warm tones I saw in the trees. I painted trunks, branches and  fir trees moving my brush in a way to create textures throughout. This was a very lengthy process as I had to move from lighter tones into darker tones. Oftentimes my strokes looked too defined so I would blot, while still wet, with a non-lotion tissue.  This created the effect of some of the trees being in the foreground and others distant. It also helped to make this appear more like a night scene that blurs together.

In the next step, I softened all the trees by taking a wet 2 inch flat and lightly blurring all the tree shapes together. I then darkened the night sky with ultramarine blue mixed to a blue-gray with a little halloween orange and washed a very light wash of  permanent rose through that gray while it was still wet. I softened all hard edges in the sky, as I went, by tickling their edges with a thirsty brush. I built up the darks under the trees with burnt sienna and hookers green allowing them to mix together on the paper.  I was careful to leave the little path you see leading into the woods in the lower right quadrant. I felt that created a little interest and mystery as did the warm light behind the trees.

In the final step I mixed sepia with hookers green and darkened the foreground firs. After that dried,  I used titanium white to indicate snow on the foreground firs and the trunks and branches of the deciduous trees.