Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Blue Study

One of the things I like to do sometimes is to review my colors. These are my blues. I feel like I have a nice range from cools to warms and even some leaning toward green. I also have a range of light to dark. Some are staining some not. Some are opaque. I don't really use a lot of blue but I wanted to review and see if there might be any I would eliminate.

These little exercises are fun to do. They get you painting and it's always good to keep learning about the characteristics of each color because they all are very different.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Some Thoughts on Plein Air References

Leslie on location at Point of Pines
Salem, Ma

About two years ago my friend Leslie and I started going out painting regularly. This was the start of my personal campaign to start making an art habit.  I soon found out, I painted too slow, or concentrated on too much detail or what ever the reason, I needed to also take a reference photo to finish up in my studio.

Today, I decided to try to paint the same scene again from that reference photo. I was interested in comparing the two paintings to see how I've changes, and how I am the same.

Change indicates growth where sameness indicates style.
Add caption
My reference photo

Painting From June 2015

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Plein Air Drawing is Enough for me

I decide a week or so ago to try just drawing when our Plein air group got together. This way I can focus on value and speed. I actually did not complete this drawing in our time frame, but we talked more that we made art this week so our work time was cut short. That's ok. It's also an inspiration group as well.

The waves were rolling and the ocean was churning. I believe for an artist to capture this plein air, they need to be experienced with the subject in general. I think next time I will photograph the waves and look at how they are structured. They roll, with a dark underbelly and splash a white spray then collapse into a pool of light. 

There's always something to learn. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


This painting started out as an exercise I read about in The Complete Watercolorist's Essential Notebook, by Gordon MacKenzie. The exercise uses masking fluid, and salt. There are lots of layers and drying time. I started it Sunday morning. All the trees were masked out in multiply layers, so the tree shapes are all made from masking fluid. Then the salt was applied to the foreground when the paint was wet. Here is a close up of the effect. I've used salt before but it generally goes agains my "purest" grain. It looks kinda cool though. It adds a unique texture making the ground look like fallen leaves.

When I pulled the masking fluid off and looked at the stark white trees, I had to let the painting sit for a few days. Today I finished it and I'm pretty please with the way it turned out.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Six Lessons I've learned so Far

I began my focus on watercolor painting in 2013.  Lately, I've been feeling a little frustrated. I feel like progress is slow to come. Reading the bios of some of my favorite water color painters, I realize most have been on the journey for many years.

When I get my new studio, later this year (building a house is another journey that can be frustrating at times) I will spread out all of my work and really evaluate my progress, because although I am not where I want to be, I have made progress.

I like to start with a sketch value study. It
helps me get familiar with my subject and
lets me workout the value range before I
start painting.
In the meantime, these are some lessons I've learned along the way.

ONE. Be patient. When it's time to give it a rest and let it dry, give it a rest and let it dry. Fiddling is the worst mistake you can make with watercolor. (Especially too soon. If you have to fiddle, at least war until it's dry.)

TWO. Don't rely on  the reference material too much. The reference is just for inspiration. It's a reminder of what inspired you about a particular scene, person or thing. Lately I've been sketching on location rather than painting. I am trying to use my sketches as references rather than a photo. My sketches remind me of the sweet spot that captured my attention. Plus I like my sketches. They are very loose, free and easy. This is my goal for my watercolor paintings.
I concentrated on the center of interest
painting much of the detail wet into wet

THREE. Use colors that work together and create the mood you want to convey. There are many beautiful colors in nature. I happen to love green and almost every shade of green there is. The green in nature inspires me to make my own shades of green and use them to create my painting, not reproduce exactly what I see. And sometimes I might use a color I don't even see at all. How about that? As long as the colors harmonize and complement each other on my PAINTING, all is good.

FOUR. Use good paper. Use good paint. Watercolor is hard enough and inferior "student grade" supplies are enough to make the student give up before they even begin the journey.

FIVE. Value study value study value study. I have the most successful paintings when I figure out the values before hand. Having that sketch as a reference really helps to keep me on track.

Cobalt background
SIX. Mix up plenty of color. I know paint is expensive, but you want your washes to be wet and juicy so you have time to work with them. If you don't mix enough paint, fear of running out will influence you to paint too dry. This really cuts down on the open time to make the paint move and do it's thing. Related to this is good paper, as mentioned in point (4.) I bought some Fabriano "studio" watercolor paper and it drys too fast, preventing an even wash. This painting was done on the Fabriano "studio" paper. See how the background of cobalt is splotchy? That is totally because of the paper.

Well that's it for now. I want to give credit to some of my recent teachers for some of this advice. Dewitt Harding and Russell Whitten specifically. Oh, most important point of all, keep painting.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Cerulean Blue

Today is Plein Air Tuesday. I am thinking I will draw today and not paint when we go to short Sands beach in York. Instead I played in my Pad Pad book. This is a tree I did–quick study, wet in wet. I was thinking about all the pretty trees in blossom I saw yesterday. I'm also trying to like Cerulean blue that everyone else seems to be mad about.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Cloudy Day in Spring

I did a painting today that I wanted to do for a long time but didn't quite know how to approach it. I decided to just go small and just do it in my Pad Pad book. I also used this painting as an opportunity to try out my new liner brushes. I also used the the Noodler's Ink that my friend Leslie got me for christmas awhile back. I like the way the ink dries flat and the only indication of close and distant branches are their sizes.