Friday, June 23, 2017

Shadows




One of the hardest things to encourage my students to do is to go dark enough in the shadows.  Using the same paints as in the midtones of the painting, just eliminate most of the water so that the paint is not watered down which lightens the values.

Dark values create the feeling of sunlight.   Practice on the back of some old failed paintings to see how dark you can go with two colors combined.    Be brave!

Flower Paintings



I must admit, many flower paintings leave me impressed by their technical accuracy and technique, but as portraits they don't reach me.  I rarely paint them myself.  But today when I was down at Ocean Point, I rounded a sharp curve and looked at the house I had just painted.  The poppies were close to the road and were set off by the dark silhouette of the house.  It nearly brought tears it was so lovely. I snapped a quick photo and after lunch, set up the easel in my back yard.

Color choices:  Since the poppies were light pink, the foliage was the complementary color of green.  I loved the shape of the house in the background, but I didn't want details of the house to distract from the flowers.  So I used the shape of the house without all of its architectural details.  I also kept it to a neutral gray to highlight the colorful poppies.

I often remind students that you can create a "trail" of values once you have the color and paint on the brush.  I like to make a broken trail of darks near the focal point, leaving the outer edges a neutral midtone.

Happy summer solstice!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Wet-in-Wet



There are many ways to create contrast:   through color, through values,  through sizes of shapes and through edges.  I tried to keep those contrasts in mind while painting this depiction of a tugboat.

Color contrast:  Basically this is a dominantly cool painting   with hints of warm colors. Also  grays
                          and neutrals vs. spots of pure color.

Value contrast:  The biggest value contrast happens around the tug. 

Size contrast:     The white shapes are small while the largest shapes are in the sky.

Edge contrast:    The sky and most of the water was painted wet-into-wet, while the tug and  background trees are smaller, hard edges.


    Try not to just sail into a painting without thinking about these elements.  Once you have made the decisions about how to create contrasts, painting will become much easier. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Back in Maine




After a long, scary winter, it's good to be back in my safe harbor.  I'm still having a bit of trouble setting up my easel, but was glad to have painted my first painting in eight months. 

This is a sandwich shop called Capers in Boothbay Harbor.  I had to remember that putting down the first wash on white paper, your eyes will be fooled into thinking you've made it dark enough.  So I try to think of putting down a midtone which will dry lighter and form a light value when dry. 

When glazing the secondary washes, make the shapes simple and interesting.  Finally, the darkest shapes with authority so that you won't have to go back into it.  Use lots of paint and very little water.

Good to be back to my blog and to be painting again!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

St. Louis Watercolor Society


I am pleased and proud to announce that two of my paintings have been selected to be exhibited in the St. Louis Watercolor Society's annual exhibit.  The juror and judge was well known artist Alvaro Castegnet.  Last night was the opening reception, and it was fun to see so many artists in attendance.

Here is one of the two paintings that made the cut!



Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Black and White



The advantage of painting a watercolor in black, shades of gray, and white is that you concentrate your focus on values.  Sometimes, too, black and white is just the best choice to convey a mood or subject.

I wrote about this in an earlier blog when I painted a cemetery monument.  Garish bright colors do not convey mourning and grief. 

In this painting of a pianist, his formal attire suggested a serious mood.  Painting a background which contained color may have destroyed the unity of the piece, so I elected to keep the background quiet and in the same black and white mode.

I also used a spray bottle liberally to keep the lower portion of the painting fluid and undefined.  I hope your eye can fill in the blanks of bench, piano and piano legs.  Your gaze remains on the face, shirt, handkerchief and cuff, not only because they are the lightest shapes, but because they are the sharp edged areas while everything else is soft edged. 

Color choices that match the mood, and shapes that play up the focal point are necessary components of a good painting.  Be deliberate in your choices.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Power of Obliques



Obliques (which some people refer to as diagonals) create energy, movement and tension.  My old instructor used to ask, Which would you rather watch?  -- A soldier at Buckingham Palace standing statue still, or a drunk wobbling down the street?  You may not approve of his drinking, but certainly there is more action and tension in a drunk teetering on the edge of falling down as he weaves from side to side and forward at an angle that makes you gasp!

In the painting of two canoeists navigating some rapids, study the lines to identify where the obliques occur.  The feeling of movement and even possible danger comes from the slanted lines that create a feeling of movement. 

Decide what you want to say about the mood of the subject, and if it is one of tension, consider the use of obliques.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

I'mmmmmm Back!






After three and a half months of recovery from the open heart surgery and complications that followed, I finally had the desire to paint again!  I went out to lunch with a friend and fellow painter, and on the way back to my car, I spotted this scene in old Webster.  I took a photo, and to get back in the groove, I did my usual value sketch.  Then I did the drawing on the Arches 140 lb. half sheet.  I was nervous as heck about putting brush to paper for the first time in so long, but sailed into it anyway. 

I kept it to a limited palette and disregarded any local color.  That's why working from a value sketch is so.... well, valuable!  If you work directly from the photo, the tendency is to think in terms of local color and details, rather than shapes, values, and a color scheme that is of your choosing and imagination.

As I've said often, planning is crucial to any endeavor.  The plan that utilizes a value sketch to plot out your washes and layering will most likely give you the confidence to place that first brush-to-paper procedure!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Close Ups



Painting plein air can be daunting.  Everywhere you look, you see details.  The temptation is to include everything.

So sometimes I just zoom in on one object.  That one thing can say so much about the location without including all the surrounding details.  This old lantern was on a dock at the end of the harbor.  There were buildings, boats, a footbridge, and rocks, not to mention the old restaurant where the lantern hung.  But I liked the antique quality of the light fixture so I eliminated everything else.

Drawing is critical when you choose an outdoor still life.  Take care with the drawing, and the painting will be easier.

I chose a limited palette, not only because it was an aging rusty lantern, but also because it suited the mood of the subject matter.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Painting in a Series # 2



Yesterday I posted about my affinity for lacy things against the light of the sky.  Here's another painting I did that that reflects that attraction.  I was standing on the lawn of the Topside Inn in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, and couldn't resist the look of the masts and rigging of a ship down at the shipyard.  I consciously decided to blur the textures in the foreground foliage to keep your eye from focusing on it, detracting from the focal point of the rigging.

Again, once you identify what you like to look at, a series becomes possible.  I often talk about my annual return to Maine as the state of "getting my eyes back."  When hunting for subject matter, I revert to going back to some favorite painting sites.  But it's usually the case that I find a color, texture, weather condition, or some idea that I've had before that makes the scene new again.  Pay attention to your surroundings, and let your eyes tell your heart what you should paint.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Painting a Series



Knowing what you love is an important part of choosing subject matter to paint. Among other things, I love to paint fountains, statues, boats and bridges.  Identifying what you love about each subject is also important.  If you say "I'm going to paint a bridge", you'll probably get a rendering that is more illustration than a work that says something about that subject.  But if you can name what drew you to the subject in the first place, you'll be more likely to be able to communicate it to your viewers.

A while back I was fascinated with bridges.  Covered bridges in Indiana's Parke County, stone bridges in Acadia National Park, footbridges over rushing streams.  In this depiction of the bridge in Bath, Maine, I was taken with the lacy quality of the beams against the sky.  Such an industrial subject might not be as saleable as, say, a lighthouse.  But I was drawn to the weblike quality of the structure. 

A personal note.  I'm recuperating from my three month, post surgery complications.  Glad to be back on my blog.  Now if I can get back to the studio and sling some paint around, I'll be a happy camper!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

#50



I've had a rough two and a half months recuperating from open heart surgery.  All sorts of complications ensued.  I'm home for a while, but face more surgery in a month or so.  I haven't been thinking about painting or blogging until just now when I discovered that my blog is listed on a site naming the top 60 watercolor blogs!  I'm #50! Google    Top 60 Watercolor BlogSpot.

So maybe today I'll try to do a little painting.  Meanwhile, here's a tablescape I drew on my paper tablecloth in Apalachicola last winter.  I should be in Florida right now, but alas....There's always next year!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Making the best of a bad situation




A friend of mine who visited me in the hospital brought me a sketchbook and a set of watercolor pencils.  I have never used this medium.  I did some drawing, but it looked like a regular sketch in color.  Then I decided to soften certain areas.  I didn't have any water, so I used some diet Sprite!  It did the trick!

What to paint when there's not much to paint except a parking lot.  I love trees, so I eliminated cars and concrete.  I left one tree sketched, and softened the rest of the trees.  A few birch trees were also left as sketches.  The contrast seemed right and emphasized the trees I wanted to highlight.  I also resisted the temptation to resort to local color.

After a week long setback and second weeklong stay in the hospital, I am happy to report that I am back with my cousins at their house.  The main culprit was two LITERS of fluid that had to be drained so I could breathe!  Feels good to have my lungs working again!  Now the long work of healing.

Stay tuned!  I'll be painting again before you know it!