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Tag Archives: New York


The above painting is a project I have been working on for about a month. Phew!  It is finally finished or as much as I can think to put into it.  I ventured into this via an assignment I gave to my composition class the last week of class. That was to do a painting of signs. They could approach it from a reference of street signs or design something abstract. My painting came from a photo my sister took quite a few years ago from her trip to Times Square in New York. She aimed her camera upward and snapped a photo that included the “Wicked” sign. I had just finished reading the book. I had to use a lot of liquid frisket to save the whites of lettering and light bulbs, etc. I had to approach each sign as if they were separate paintings and then push and pull my darks and lights to help it to read effectively. All the whites are saved whites, not paint.

Thankyou to my sister for continually challenging me and believing in my ability.  🙂


I posted this painting in an earlier post. It was a black and white sketch of an image that I wanted to eventually paint in color.

Since that time, we have discussed composition in our landscape class.  I realized I had not payed particular attention to where I had placed my center of interest which I wanted to be the Empire State building and the lit space that separated it from the other buildings that I took to be a street.

Knowing there are “sweet spots” located in each quadrant of my format I went back to the original reference photo and cropped it so as to place the Empire State building where I wanted it.

Image showing "sweet spots"

Image showing “sweet spots”

I divided my paper into three sections vertically and horizontally and circled where the lines crossed.  These areas are called “sweet spots” and are good places for a center of interest to be located in a painting.

The painting, in color, came out like this.


There were other considerations that went into this final painting, as well. I chose the sweet spot that ran from the lower left quadrant because the rays from the sun seemed to lead to that area and  created a rather nice pathway for the eye to follow. I was also intrigued with the long pathway of artificial light running across the dark back drop of buildings that curved around and led to the street running next to the Empire State building. The strong diagonal lines in the water in the foreground led the eye to the city, also. Prior to having studied composition, I would just select pretty photo references I wanted to paint and paint them as they were. I really had little understanding of creating a pathway for the viewer’s eye.  This is but one element of composition to consider but has made quite a difference, for me. I always examine my reference material for the best placement of a center of interest.

Other considerations for this painting were a primary color scheme and accentuating contrast (to enhance depth).

My techniques were use of liquid frisket, color washes, and using the primary colors to render black through wet-in-wet applications.

This was painted on Lanaquerelle 140 lb rough watercolor paper.

Thank you to Wet Canvas reference library for the photo used as reference for this painting.

Several years ago I was asked to paint a portrait of a friend’s two pets. One of them was a black poodle and I struggled both with finding a way to make the eyes appear from the black face and the fact that I had not used black watercolor before. I read about the use of blacks in books and found that much of what was said was to use black in conjunction with another color.  That is what I did, here.

Later, I learned about using primary colors to create black. That is what I did to create the above image of a holstein cow.  I allowed the three colors to mingle on the paper as well as mixed it in my palette to create the effects above.

Then I read a blog post about an artist who only worked in black and white watercolor. Try as I might, I have not been able to locate that post or artist through googling but he rendered incredible scenes using black and white watercolor. They were mostly night scenes, many of which were of highways and cities.  I forgot about this artist until Eva posted a watercolor in black, here. Thank-you, Eva. You sent me on a journey that has been very rewarding and informative for me.

I chose a the above blacks made by Winsor Newton, ivory, lamp, mars and neutral tint to create my black paintings. For white, I chose American Journey titanium white.

The first painting I chose to do was from a photo of clouds that I had taken. I learned that black watercolor worked very well to create a monochromatic painting. I was able to create depth and manipulate the different blacks to achieve just what I had in color, before. It did not look flat if handled like any watercolor.  I will say that had I only used ONE of the above blacks, I would not have been able to build up the values as well and this may have appeared much flatter. I also was intrigued with the difference of mood a black watercolor brought across. Very somber.

The next image I chose was a photo taken by Bigsurkate. Thank-you, Kate, for allowing me to work from your photo!  I had noticed that when I added the titanium white to the black, I came up with a foggy and opaque gray. I worked the background behind the crow in wet and wet with ivory and mars black (very diluted) and allowed it to dry. I then went back in with the titanium white, wet-in-wet, and created the foggy appearance.  I really like the contrast of that opaque white with the rail the bird is perched on as well as the whites I left on him.

For my last study I chose a photo reference that Carol and her husband sent  after I inquired about what a big snow looked like in New York City.  Kaiya, their dog, was not in the photo. I added that from another photo. Thank-you, Carol and husband, for the references!  What prompted my wanting to try this was a little original watercolor card that my sister had sent me a year ago. That artist had painted a snow scene in black of skyscrapers in the background and park bench in foreground. On the park bench was a Christmas gift and it was the only thing in color. I really was impressed with the contrast. Thus, the inclusion of Kaiya, in color, to see if I could achieve the same effect. I used no white in the city scene. The white is the white of the paper.

What this involved study showed me was that we are not limited, at all, by what to use to create.  Even though I like the richness of the blacks that other colors make, I also am intrigued with the somber scenes created in black and white.

To all my students out there that I have warned about black and white!  Have fun! See what you can do with it!

And Henn! That goes for Paynes gray, TOO!!!!!

This is a painting I have spent the better part of my evenings painting for the last three weeks. It is from a picture that Carol’s husband, Matt, sent me.  Carol’s blog is here.

I have been fascinated with “all things” New York. I have never been there so am inquisitive about how things are done amidst all that concrete and tall buildings.  I have asked numerous questions and both Matt and Carol have been kind and patient enough to answer them. Like shoveling snow? Carol sent me pictures of front end loaders loading the white stuff onto trucks and toting it off!

Matt’s team, above, is an NYPD  Apprehension Team.  I have learned that these men are trained in many different skills. All the gear they wear weighs beyond what I’d be able to carry for any length of time. Having learned a little about what they do and  their training, has given me a new insight on the special kind of person it takes to fill their shoes. Thanks Matt for letting me try to paint you guys and post it on my blog! 🙂

Initially I was going to paint them as an abstract but got carried away when I did the drawing below:

Told you I got carried away! 🙂

I began by liquid frisketing all little white areas that I wanted to save on some of their patches and the metal door. I painted the shadow shapes on the faces, the light areas of the surrounding truck, the helmets and then the blues. I wanted to set the blues down because the grays of the vests looked like a challenge and I knew they were a lighter value.

Next came the vests. This was the most tedious part of the painting.I didn’twant them to appear flat, so I mixed the grays on the paper instead of the palette.  I used varying shades of red, yellow and blue for the majority of the gray that you see and would occasionally drop in a light wash of green or violet.

By the time I reached this stage I put the finishing touches on by detailing the faces, painting the tools and removing the frisket to end up with the painting at the top of the post.

This is the most challenging painting I have ever attempted. I chose it because it was different and I didn’t have a lot of familiarity with the subject material. I have painted one or two people before but not a grouping. It was largely composed of grays and I also wanted to challenge myself with creating grays.

  New York

The above project is what we worked on the last night of watercolor plus class. It is a combination of using some gesso, found or purchased papers, and watercolor.

Here are the steps we used:

 step 1

We drew a line for the top and bottom of our skyline.

  step 2

We gessoed (acrylic gesso) the city and left the sky and foreground the surface of the paper. This would not have to be done, but I wanted to try this technique for future reference. I do think the gesso added a textural quality to the skyline area that wouldn’t have existed in these, otherwise.

  step 3

Wash in the sky and foreground areas with watercolor. The burnt sienna swish you see on the left was to demonstrate how you can watercolor on the gesso and then lift it out using water and also the different appearance of watercolor on gesso.

  step 4

We then cut pieces of pictures or print in the shapes of our buildings and glued them to the gesso using acrylic matte medium. The matte medium dries without a shine and is acid free. I used mostly different rice papers for this Chicago scene.

 step 5  Chicago skyline

We then painted in the remaining spaces of the skyline with watercolor. I also added a second wash to the water to darken it.

Other collage work can be found on Jack’s Blog.

Beth Parker has taken this a step furthur on her blog here….and here.