Friday, August 11, 2017

the Color Continues



Hendrick's Head Lighthouse has been a favorite subject for me over the years.  After a while, though, any subject can become an exercise in repetitive and trite expression.  But in this, my summer of color, I am expanding my choices of colors to include hues that are more inventive and less literal. 

I used masking tape to protect the white areas of the lighthouse and the structures on the bell tower.
I chose to make the sky and the water areas warm in color, while contrasting them with the more neutral colors on the rocks.   

Once again the wet-into-wet blending of colors was the fun part of the first wash, both in the sky, the water and then the rocks.  In the past, I would have been timid about the values and the colors, but this summer, everything goes! 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Color Change



The background color of the actual scene was green.  Instead I decided to enliven the background with other colors.  First, I chose a turquoise green for the sky so that the blue of the trees wouldn't repeat the same color.  Once I decided on the blue, I went to the orange as its complement.  Then I transitioned to  warm reds and then violets.  It was all about gradation of colors while moving around the background.  I stayed with the same four colors for most of the painting.

Once the blue was there, I put the complement of orange on the mailboxes and changed over to blue again. 

I was then left with the white of the paper.  I decided to put down some neutral grays in those areas.

My point is, have a rational idea about color choices. 

 Employ a lot of wet-in-wet soft backgrounds.  It's rather like throwing your photo into depth of field and soft focus to keep your eye in the foreground.  It also keeps your eye coming back to the areas of harder edges.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Finding the Ordinary



Driving to town today, I passed this little scene with a couple of mailboxes.  I have been looking for a
way to incorporate some Queen Anne's Lace into a painting, and so I was focused on finding a setting for them. 

Two subjects:  Mailboxes and Queen Anne's lace.  The supports and the background became a way to highlight the focal point and the subjects.  I needed to use values to make the subjects to stand out.

Finally, I did the value/composition sketch.  I can't say it often enough;  do a preliminary sketch so that the hard work is done ahead of the painting process.  You'll have enough to do while painting without having to decide on placement of shapes and values.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Creating Circulation



Once in a while I like to create my own scenes.  This one consists of elements of a typical lobster shack:  lobster trap, barrels, picnic area, sign, boat, and buoys. 

To lead the eye around the painting, I concentrated on interesting shapes, light values, and broken lines.

Follow the light shape on the beach to the boat which points to the couple under the umbrella. It also connects to the light on the building.

Straight, unbroken lines become monotonous.  Study the dark line along the bottom of the building, and you'll see that it is broken by the legs of the couple, the protrusion of the bow of the boat, the lobster trap, the barrel, and the crates.  The umbrella breaks the line of the roof.

Most of the colors are neutrals, making the warm, pure red umbrella an immediate focal point, highlighting the figures as well.  The red is repeated in more neutral hues on the sign and the high-flying lobster.
 
Consciously design the elements of your painting to circulate the eye.  Keep most of the textures around the focal point, and relegate the softer textures to the edges and corners of the paper.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Studies



Yesterday, the Plein Air Painters of Maine (PAPME) painted at Shipbuilders Park in East Boothbay.  Not wanting to miss the comraderie of painting with my friends, I decided to go despite not wanting to paint at that location.  Instead, I brought the drawing of the birch tree and the day lily.  My friends were intrigued, because they said I was basically painting from memory. 

But the memory wasn't just of the actual tree and day lily.  The memory I was working from was the sketch I did of the scene.  A preliminary look at the object you want to paint involves doing a study that requires a detailed observation.  It also makes the painting procedure easier because you have already studied the shapes and made the compositional decisions ahead of time.

Study, compose, remember.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Studies




It's mandatory that an artist pay attention to what attracts his or her attention.  I've passed by this old birch tree on the edge of our cove for years, but the other day the sun was doing its magic, and I really saw it for the first time.  Maybe it was the appearance of a single day lily next to it, but the textures of the peeling birch bark and the contrast of the colorful, soft flower were so mesmerizing that I had to attempt it.   Luck and concentration to all of us painters!

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Break From Color



This is the Fisherman's Memorial in front of the Catholic Church on the eastside of Boothbay Harbor.  To keep your eye on the subject matter, I decided to make the church a silhouette without much attention to the architectural details.  The darker silhouette of the old dory stands out against that lighter shape of the church.

I would encourage you to think about simplifying shapes and reducing textures in background shapes.
And interesting shape doesn't require much texture or detail if the shape is well defined.  Keep your eye on the focal point by eliminating texture and details in areas that are secondary to the primary shape.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Joy in Painting

       

The summer of color continues.  I'm really enjoying the process of painting, especially the first washes where the colors mingle on the page instead of being mixed on the palette. 

        Compositional notes:  Take care when composing roads or paths.  Try to avoid having leading lines go exactly to the corner of the page.  Use gradation of values to keep eye away from corners.  Use objects that protrude (like the sailboat) to break up lines. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Don't Be Afraid of Color




          It was a foggy morning at Hendrick's Head Beach today.  It was so foggy that you couldn't even see the lighthouse.  Realism would  demand a gray and white color scheme, but I hadn't painted in a week and was feeling quite happy to be painting with my friends, so I chose  a wild and vibrant palette.  Again, my motto for the summer is, Life's too short for boring colors.

           My approach was to wet the whole sky area with two applications of clear water.  Then I quickly went into the shape with a turquoise, wild fuschia, orange, and yellow ochre.  While it was still saturated and the colors were running, I turned the board sideways to let the colors mingle in another direction.  I used the same approach on the beach and the water.  When developing the rocks and trees, I re-wet the area to be painted so the paint would again mingle on the page.

         The purpose of the sun-like orb was to break up the sky shape.  I chose the brightest turquoise green to depict the shirt on the figure to contrast the reddish color on the beach and the rock behind him to gain maximum impact in that secondary subject.

         Try wetting the big shapes and then flooding them with colors.  Don't brush them back and forth.  One stroke in an area will allow the paint to run together and avoid creating 'mud'.

         

Monday, July 10, 2017

Big Washes



A common mistake I see in students' work is trying to depict every leaf and every blade of grass.  By doing that, textures start to take over and the focal point can be lost.  Rather I try to find the big planes and shapes in foliage.  I also find that in the front of the tree shapes warmer colors prevail, and as the clumps of leaves recede, I make them paler and cooler.    In the foreground grass area, I suggest the textures at the edges rather than making stripes of each blade.  This way, the eye has a place to rest.  Whisper the grassy areas; don't shout them to the detriment of the more important shapes in the painting.

I painted the sky shape wet-into-wet with a couple of color changes.  The tree trunks were my focal point and rather than painting them a uniform gray or brown, I painted them wet-into-wet as well, making lots of color changes
along the way.  The two sailboats are there to break the horizontal line of the horizon and stop the eye from wandering off the page.

Big flat washes, painted wet-into-wet, textures around the focal point, and clumps of foliage rather than a lot of unconnected dots to represent the leaves.  Non textured sky, sea and foreground grass in sunlight keeps the color and values around the trunks interesting.

Please like if you find these tips helpful!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Big Color



This summer my motto is going to be:  "Life's too short for boring colors."

I've painted this scene fifty times, mostly in traditional landscape colors.  But after this winter I decided to get bolder in my use of colors.  I've sent away for some new paints, all colors that I've never used before.  I'm going to try to experiment with big, bold colors.  Paint Happy!


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The "Z" in Landscape Paintings



I spent my 4th of July morning painting at Boothbay Shores.  This is the causeway out to Ocean Island.  The stone gate is iconic and makes the scene instantly recognizable. 

I positioned my easel so that the rocky beach was prominent.  The driveway leads the viewer's eye out to the woody island.  The dark values and the dark midtones  take your gaze from the foreground up to the island, and then off to the left where the dark rocks are silhouetted against the sea.  This forms a classic "Z" technique.  Coincidentally, the gate breaks the more or less straight lines along the driveway and then interrupts the line of rocks.  Once you follow the line of darks, the bushes on the left stop your eye and lead you back to the gate.

This "Z" technique can also be used with light shapes as well.

A final note:  The pink tone on the roadway is echoed in the light rocks in the distance.  So the pink tone also forms a secondary "Z".  The pinks in the tree shape on the island break up the greens which could become unrelenting without the complementary color. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Limited Palette



I did this painting from my dock here in Maine last summer.  This was the image that I called up all winter when things got rough.  It is now on display at the Boothbay Region Art Foundation.

Local color is always a problem for me, especially isolated greens.  I often solve the obstacle by limiting my palette, in this case yellow ochre, burnt sienna and black, often referred to as the Velasquez palette.  Choose a few related colors from either the warm or cool side of your palette, and then concentrate on the values. 

(There are a few more weeks left for you to sign up for my annual Boothbay Harbor Workshop, September 4th - 8th.  Email me at      caroljessen@yahoo.com )



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!