Monday, December 6, 2010

Rod Lawrence, Tim Ernst, Two Artists' Nature Journals

There are two web journals I'd like to share with you that I really enjoy reading.  I guess one could call them 'blogs', but the way they are written without using blog platforms such as  Wordpress or Blogger, they seem more intimate and therefore more intriguing to me.  Both of these guys are good writers, both have a love and respect for nature (they actually live in the wilderness), and both are great, well-known artists in the area of their specialty.

Rod Lawrence is an author and acrylic wildlife painter.  I came across his journal one day as I was thinking about trying some acrylics and wanted to experiment with creating bark textures, fur, etc. and remembered that I have his book, Painting Wild Life Textures Step by Step (just noticed when making this link that this book is now out-of-print.  You might try Alibris or Amazon - can view inside book at Amazon - or one of your favorite used book sites to locate it if interested in getting one).  After reading a while, I thought I'd look him up on-line to view his website and was pleasantly surprised to see that he occasionally writes about happenings in and around his home in a journal format.  Although his postings are sporadic (like someone else i know), he states he only posts when he finds time and is just trying to give readers a feel for what life is like at his wilderness home in Michigan.

Tim Ernst, a nature photographer,  is very well-known in these parts and throughout Arkansas, as well as outside the state.  He lives close to the Buffalo River which he calls Cloudland.  His Cloudland Journal is very similar writing to Lawrence's - about living with nature, but with many more photos and posts.  Although I have a tiny patch of woods and hollow behind my home, I don't live at all in a wilderness area like these two men, which is why I so enjoy reading their journals.  And because I respect the ruggedness of the Arkansas wilderness, I have a great appreciation for the way they live.  Their writings reflect a simple, quiet but sometimes rugged life, yet I'm sure these two men lead very busy lives with such successful careers and can only imagine that they relish being home from their many travels on the road.  I had a chance to attend a slide presentation given by Ernst a couple of weeks ago, promoting his new coffee table book, Arkansas Autumn, and his trip to Iceland with Iceland nature photographer, Daniel Bergmann, but I missed it and of course am now regretting doing so.  I'll just have to catch him next time around.  I came across his journal because I've really been concentrating on my photography lately and wanted to view his recent work.  I hope to some day take one of his workshops.

So sometime on a cold winter's day, like me, you might like to curl up with a hot cup of coffee, tea, or cocoa by the comfort of your own fireplace (or electric space heater) and go into the wilderness via Tim and Rod's writings.  Happy reading, and if I don't get around to posting again before Christmas, Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Strange Summer...

This has been an allusive summer for me due to unforeseen events, so my apologies to those faithful followers who are probably wondering if I fell off the face of the earth.

I did manage however, earlier this summer, to paint the plein air picture below.  I  had decided to just strike out on my own and really get into painting, as I love doing this. 

Sometimes when I strike out on a venture,  I tell myself, Okay, no just riding around in circles.  Today, I'll make myself find a spot and paint!!  The fear of utter disgust with myself if I don't live up to this commitment fuels my determination to, like Nike says, 'just do it'.   I found this spot, overlooking quiet pastures with the Ozark hills as a backdrop, one of my favorite scenes to paint.  The short gated drives along roads and highways that farmers use to access their pastures offer a perfect set-up spot, which is what I used for this scene.  Just pulled my car onto the little turn-in, unloaded my gear in front of the gate and began painting.  This way,  I'm not down an isolated road, passers-by can clearly see me, yet my car is completely off the road or highway.   Knowing people are passing by and can see me gives me a sense of security, and because I feel safer, I can concentrate on the task at hand, which is painting of course.

Ozark Hills, near Westfork

I still need to add some of the purple darks to the right foreground and try to 'break up' the strong horizontal darks of the tree line shadows across the middle plane of the painting.   This was a quick study, evident in the brushwork, and my goal is still to get values as near correct as possible without getting caught up in the subject matter, and to capture the mood at that moment in time.  I'm also still struggling with getting my pigments the right strength.  It seems I either pick up too much pigment or not enough, but I think that will come with time and painting.  I've tried both methods of: using dried water colors vs. squeezing fresh pigment.  When using dried watercolors in my palette, even if I keep my wells sprayed with a mister, it just takes too long for me (like waiting on a microwave!) to pick up my pigments when painting outdoors. Squeezing fresh watercolor on top of previously dried pigment works best for me.  Whatever floats your boat, I guess.

Oh, regarding a recent post, I did break down and purchase the Holbein 1000 palette from Art Express and I love it.  I probably would have been satisfied purchasing the next size down, because the 1000 seems a bit much for plein air painting, but this one works fine.  I use the thumb hole when painting on site, which is why I wanted the Holbein, to hold the paints closer to me and my painting surface and even though it's a bit large, it doesn't feel cumbersome, and has plenty of wells/spaces for paint mixing.

Well, I hope I get back to painting soon, and I hope you're painting too.  Remember,  just do it...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cows en Plein Air moooo...

I've been painting cows lately.  Both paintings were painted en plein air; however, on the second one, I made quite a few adjustments, which I'll go into below.

Study 1:  This was painted on a very bright morning.  I'm not happy with my greens in the trees and the background hills, which were out of my frame view, so I put them in the painting to create more atmospheric perspective. They're are too strong-I should have used a lighter, paler wash to make them recede more.  I'm usually better at painting trees, but when painting plein air, sometimes it's like I forget everything I ever learned up to that point.  I'm just trying to get it down on the paper.  Hopefully, the more I paint outdoors, the more confident  I'll become in getting it down 'right'.  I need to follow Mr. 'Z's (J. Zbukvic) advice and 'have faith' in myself more, that it will turn out right.  My 2 main goals in doing these paintings though are to 1) get better with rendering tonal values, and 2) improve my drawing skills in regard to scale and subjects I'm not familiar with i.e. things other than nature - buildings, cars, people, etc.  And of course to try to render atmosphere and mood in my paintings, but that's a given - don't think I achieved that very well in these paintings.  One thing I did notice immediately, in defense of this pathetic painting, was that this was Fabriano Artistico paper, and felt like it may even be hot-press, which I don't normally paint on, especially in plein air, as it is just too smooth for rendering drybrush to tree trunks, foliage, etc. I have nothing against Artistico paper per say, just not crazy about hot-pressed watercolor paper for plein air painting, or anything that does not require a lot of tiny detail.

Study 2: This was the second attempt at plein air painting these cows, which were enjoying some shade on a very warm and sunny morning.  I had my little dog with me and was painting from a pretty close proximity, so they looked at us fairly often, then would go back to grazing, scratching, or whatever cows do.  They are so much fun to paint!  I like the challenge of their foreshortened bodies and head shapes when standing at different angles and the joined shapes created when grouped together.  This painting had potential in the beginning, but after I got it home, I noticed that my weakness in rendering 'scale' stuck out like a sore thumb as the large cow to the far left was huge (yeah, he was even bigger than he is here in the finished painting).  Then I noticed a couple of other cows who were also too large/small in comparison to the others.  So, knowing that this painting MUST be improved and resolving to the fact that doing so could and probably would go past the point of no return for a watercolor, I began my 'experimental phase' of correcting the cows' sizes and trying to correct tonal values within the shading of the trees and cows themselves.  As a result, this painting is way overworked and not really a keeper, but I like to 'try all options' on a failed painting like this one to experiment on before throwing it in the 'been-there-done-that' heap in hopes that I can learn from it for the next attempt.   And sometimes, I'm actually able to save a painting.  Watercolor paper is just too expensive not to get the most out of my failures (and believe me, I have a lot of those) which turn into learning experiences if I maintain a positive attitude.  And it helps me tremendously, not only in learning how to get my scale and tonal values correct, but in experimenting also with color combinations and brush technique.  Well, I could go on and on with what I learn from doing this.  I'm just hoping that somewhere down the road of watercolor, the 'experimental' heap is gradually overshadowed by the 'keepers'.  For now, I'm just having fun painting cows...

Saturday, June 19, 2010


In loving memory of 'Layla'

This summer has really thrown a curve ball our way.  We lost our beloved Layla in May, due to a sudden illness.  Not sure what of, but at the time I didn't have the heart to have a necropsy performed.  Now I wish I had, as I think it would have given us some closure, but it was narrowed down to either tick fever, a toxin, or perhaps liver or some type of blood disease.  I had always suspected and mentioned to my husband a time or two that  I felt Layla may only be with us for a short time, as she always seemed a little frail and sensitive to illnesses.   She was so very special though.  Yes, all pets are special in their own way; however, I've never had such a bond with any pet in the way I had with Layla.

This happened just after the loss of my husband's Aunt (who we are also still mourning) who passed away earlier that month and it just so happened that we had taken in her three cats (Layla did not get her illness from them as I had them checked out and vaccinated as soon as they arrived).  So, it's been a period of adjustment for all of us here in pet menagerie land. Now, we're home to 2 dogs, 4 cats, and a Cockatiel. Oh, and with 2 fish, we've got most every level of the food chain covered.

Samantha, age 14 (pardon the blurred photo) is
pictured below.  She's so sweet. She snores when she sleeps!

We're taking it real slow.  The kitties stay in my studio at night.  Of course Samantha's whole world seems to encompass just that room.  She mostly sleeps on Aunt Betty Jo's blanket under my easel in the corner and eats, but loves to be petted and purrrrrs up a storm when brushed.  Guess she'll become the main 'studio cat'.

Gracie (Layla's sister) is not so sure about this 'invasion', but she seems to be adjusting fine.  Gracie has really helped us in getting over the loss of Layla, although it's very hard getting used to no longer seeing 'double' as they looked almost identical except for the different lengths of their Manx tails and Layla had a small white 'spot' on her head.  

It was 5 years ago on June 10th that I first saw these two little ones.  I was out sightseeing in a little town in NW Arkansas when I drove by a lady's house who was having a garage sale with her daughter.  The kittens were in a cardboard box in her front yard.  I could tell immediately these weren't your ordinary mixed-breed kittens, their markings were beautiful, and their fur was snow white, with 'points' like Siamese kittens.   There were four in all, so I asked, "do you mind if I take two?"  "Not at all!"  the daughter said, as they were her kitties.  I picked each one up and looked carefully into their eyes.  Layla I knew instantly was going to be a gorgeous cat.  Even though most kittens' eyes are blue, hers were intense at eight weeks, and her little 'riser' Manx tail made her look like a little bunny rabbit.  So choosing Layla was easy.  I knew they were probably some sort of Siamese, but the Manx tails were throwing me.  "Are they a particular breed of some kind?" I asked the girl, although it's never mattered to us, we've never been picky (but after having these two, I must say I'll not be content without having at least one  Lynx Point Siamese in my life forever).  "The mother is full blood Lynx, but she's brown, so I don't know why they all turned out white," she replied with her hands on her hips.  Well, I didn't know what the heck she was talking about.  The only 'Lynx' I'd ever heard of was the wild kind, and when she said hers was 'brown', that really threw me.  I'll have to Google it when I get home, I thought.  I have always wished I could have seen their mother.  I'll bet she was beautiful.  So now for the second kitty.  I chose Gracie, because she was the only one left with a 'stubby' tail and the Manx tails were so cute.  Besides, we had never had a Manx cat before, much less two.  The mother and daughter gladly ran and fetched me a cardboard box to put them in for the ride home beside me in the truck.  They would have given me all four kittens if I'd asked, which I was tempted, but knew hubby would have a conniption, so thought I'd better hurry up and leave before I weakened.

I can't tell you how excited I was about these two kitties!  We had lost our latest beloved cat, Bosco, of 14 years that previous Christmas and we were now ready for a new one...or two.  We had never bought 'litter mates' before.  It would be so much fun seeing them grow up together (and boy, was it). All the way home, brave little Layla kept trying to climb out of the box, but not Gracie, she was just fine in that safe, dark space.  And their personalities have remained the same to this day.  Layla was always the adventurous brave one, always pushing the envelope.  Always jumping over the fence, just to prove she could.  I would clap my hands and say "Layla, get back in this yard, girl!" She would make her tiny 'kitten meow' (which must be a trait unique to their type/breed) and reluctantly jump back into the yard.  Gracie on the other hand, is content to lay on the back deck all day, and has never once even tried to climb or jump over the fence.

Layla is buried just on the other side of the fence, which was her favorite place in the world to be, now among our other pets who have passed on, and we can see her headstone from our back windows.

Thank you sweet Layla, for your love and unforgettable memories...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Watercolor Palettes - Homee, Holbein, Craig Young (Oh my)

I've spent the last 2 days researching metal folding watercolor palettes for plein air use and have come to the conclusion that what I have currently - a plastic 'Homee' palette which I think I purchased from Art Xpress, is looking better all the time!  I have the 'small' size.  It offers more mixing areas and has a small rubber 'seal' around the edge which keeps my pigments moist and also helps prevent spillage when closed.  The clear plastic mixing area that fits in the lid is removable for cleaning, so the white lid itself it can also be used as an extra mixing area if needed.

However, lately I've been toying with the idea of using a palette I can hold in my hand, as I sometimes feel I can't get to my colors fast enough when painting.  I've tried different ways to position it closer to my board while painting en plein air, but I still tend to 'hit' the easel with my brush a lot when going back and forth between palette and board.  Since my left hand is usually just holding extra brushes, thought I'd try holding a palette in it instead (and could still hold a brush or two/my small mist bottle).  So that would require a palette with either a 'thumb ring' mounted underneath the palette or a thumb hole, neither of which the Homee palette has.

I really like the palette used by Alvaro Castagnet, but after much, much searching to find the maker of this palette, I discovered that it is way out of my piddly little price range, not to mention that the waiting list to get one is months.  It's one of those little jewels that I can only dream of some day owning, if ever.   Craig Young is the maker of these beautiful watercolor palettes, and I literally mean 'maker', as each one is hand-made, signed and numbered, thus the high cost (approx. $400.00 USD for the 'Paint box' model which I like).  They are truly works of art.  You can see them on line at the Paint Box Company.  Drool away...

The following are threads that led me to Craig Young's Watercolor Palette:

Wet Canvas - This Wet Canvas thread is finely where I found it.  At the bottom of the page are images of the long anticipated arrival of an artist's one-of-a-kind Craig Young Palette which had just arrived to his home.  As your scrolling to bottom of page to view images, pause to view an image another artist posted of a Craig Young painting.

Painters Online - Artist 'Harry' describes going to Young's home and workshop to pick up his palette in person.

Well, in my dreams.  If I do purchase a palette, it will probably be Holbein's 1000 series which Art Xpress is offering for a great price of around $72.  A lot of artists seem to like this palette (I think it's what Zbukvic is using in his videos).   Be sure though, if purchasing one, that you get the Holbein brand, as there are some Holbein 'look alikes' out there.

Well I was thinking, there must be some way, since I like my Homee palette just fine for now, to rig something so I can hold it in my left hand while painting.  This is the ceramic artist in me, making one's own tools is part of the fun of being a potter (but I'm always trying to think of ways to 'fix' a problem).  I thought of a small plastic oil/acrylic palette that came with an old paint box I bought at a garage sale a few years ago.  Even though covered with dried up paint, I knew all it needed was a good scraping and it would be good-to-go.  It has the perfect shape - about 5" wide x 10 1/2 " long - perfect to velcro my watercolor palette to!  Using Velcro would enable me to quickly remove it for cleaning, storage, or to use laying flat.

I scraped the paint off and here's what it looks like:
 The thumb hole for this little palette is very comfortable, which is why I saved it. 

Then, I laid my open palette on it to see how it 'felt'.  It felt just fine on my arm, with the paints at the top, just like I prefer.  The lid, or large palette area rests perfectly against the inside of my elbow.  Now, where's that extra black Velcro tape I saved from my last hair-brain project..  then again, that Holbein 1000 sure is purdy...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Finished Snow Scene, Alvaro Castagnet's New Video, Rene Beeldendkunstenaar

I've been a bit busy lately with things other than art, but that should be no excuse for not painting! However, I like to be able to concentrate solely on my art when doing it. I'm now between 'projects' around the house so am anxious to get out and paint.

Below is the finished snow study I last posted, which was unfinished at the time.

I still have a couple of things I feel the need to correct, but for the most part it's complete enough - just need to tone down the moss covered rock in the foreground and add the same color a couple of places elsewhere.  Also the small burnt red 'roof' in the upper-right background is distracting; in hindsight, I should have omitted it all together. Of course it's close enough to the edge of the painting that it can be omitted when framed. Or I could 'lift' it out some with water and add more trees.  Also, there's  a tangent effect going on between the large and tall skinny trees in the left foreground, creating too much tension and drawing my eye away from the focal point (the fallen trees and ravine to the right), but not much I can do about that.  I just placed them too close together to begin with and I should have angled or slanted the smaller tree to the right instead of swinging it back to the left.  Adding a light colored limb with a couple of others at different lengths to the left side of the tall young tree that's in front of the larger tree, I think, would help break that up though.  Anyway....

I recently received Castagnet's new video and really like it.  He gives more detailed info as he's painting in this one it than the last one i.e. specific colors he's using as he's painting.  Yes, I realize that specific color being used is not important and that it's all about warm vs. cool, and value; however, I do think it helps us the viewer 'student' know, especially when working in watercolor, whether that warm or cool color is opaque, semi-transparent, or transparent, and even what brand is being used as brands do differ in color and other characteristics.  I just wish he would occasionally demo something other than paintings with architectural subject matter.  That's just personal preference though, I'm sure that he paints those because that's what he's 'passionate' about.  And I'm still able to glean from the demos what I need in order to learn better technique.  I'm hoping that Zbukvic will do some countryside landscapes on his next video. He probably will as he seems to really enjoy painting them.

There are a couple of artists' blogs I'd like to share with you, but will just mention one for now as I'm short on time at the moment.  His name is Rene Beeldendkunstenaar, located in the Netherlands.  His blog site is . When checking my blogroll updates,  I can scan like lightening through my RSS feeds and spot his work immediately.  I really admire this man's dedication to plein air, not to mention his paintings.  Rene's paintings truly capture the essence of plein air. My reaction to his paintings is visceral and I relate very strongly to his taste in subject matter. Enjoy, and 'til next time, happy living and creating...(and I'll try to post sooner next time!)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

In the Hollow

Looking across the hollow at the fallen trees from last year's ice storm.

I have always loved snow - to take a woodland walk in virgin snow feeds my soul, so I-for-one was glad for the small amount we received.  It's strange how the snows began exactly one year after the devastating ice storm of last year.   A group of small young bucks along with a doe or two have been passing through, proudly strutting their two-point racks, but I've yet to catch them with my camera.

I painted the scene below Thursday morning en plein air. After about an hour, I had to return to the house (which was very close by, just up the slope) to let my feet thaw out and to dry the watercolor paper. It just would not dry in the cold air. Then I returned to the site and finished painting it. I knew it was not a keeper, but was determined to follow through with the experience.  I then returned to the studio, and after seeing that there was no saving such a pitiful painting, pulled up this photo (which I try to always take for reference when painting on site) on my computer monitor.

My view for the painting.
I then flipped over the painting and re-taped it to my gatorboard, and started again.  I was using Sanders Waterford BTW, which personally, I'm not crazy about, although, as some artists claim, it doesn't seem to buckle as much as other brands.  The unfinished result is below.   I'm not after pretty colors and reflections on the snow, but a moody, dark woodsy effect, so I probably could have used even less warm colors and gotten closer to the mood I'm after.  I just kept glazing the background over and over with blues to get the needed value, but now probably need to go a shade darker with the middle-ground, right?  Snow scenes are so easy to mess up in watercolor!
My painting in progress...

So far, I'm pleased with this one, as I think I'm ever-so-slightly getting closer to being able to portray the deep woods the way I want.  Like I did when I painted the pines.  It has been my biggest struggle (or should I say 'goal', as there are way too many struggles to list) since going back to watercolor.

Now, I'm sure your asking, "hey, where's your original plein air so I can compare?"  Well  (conveniently) it's on the reverse side of this painting, taped to the gatorboard!  But believe me, it was bad.  I'll let you know how this second attempt comes out (or maybe not, depending how much I mess this one up).  Here's to learning...

Yep, I've changed my blog background yet again (the pains of being a Gemini). Gone to the dark side, gettin' serious here...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bill Guffey's Virtual Paintout, Douglas Wiltraut

Just wanted to share a couple of things discovered on-line this morning.

First, a great artist, Douglas Wiltraut, who works in egg tempera, casein, acrylic, and watercolor (I think mainly drybrush). I've really enjoyed this morning visiting his site, soaking in his invaluable knowledge of egg tempera and his process which is extremely detailed, even mentioning what brands of products he uses. I so appreciate artists of his stature who take the time to share their expertise with the world. I also learned reading The Watercolor Artist Magazine article that there's actually a name for the process I use in my watercolors which I discussed in my last post, where I described how I 'prime' an area first with clean water, then add a layer of color and manipulate it and its edges over the previous color. It's called the English watercolor method according to the author. Go figure. I'll be revisiting his site often to see what's new and to learn more from him. The attraction for me to be drawn to artists who work in similar style to my heroes such as Homer and the Wyeths is innate - an unexplainable emotional connection to their work. I so admire these artists. A site worth bookmarking for sure.

The second discovery of the morning is Bill Guffey's (another person I did not previously know) blog and his 'Virtual Paintout' project. What a novel idea! Using Google's virtual map, Guffey (or sometimes his followers?) chooses an area, which can be anywhere in the world I suppose, and artists then zoom in anywhere in that designated area and choose a subject to paint from photos that have been mapped. And Guffey says he's checked with Google to make sure it's legal (read his instructions on right side of page). A great way to connect with others, not to mention greatly add to one's list of painting subjects. Also another way for artists to stay busy during the winter months. Artists then upload their painting to his facebook (or not, if they prefer not to have it on his facebook). I can't say too much about it as I only discovered it about 10 mins. ago and am still reading up on it. So check out this and the Wiltraut site if you're interested. Happy reading...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Process: A Watercolor Using Masking Fluid

Let me begin by reminding readers that I'm just an ordinary person that enjoys the creative experience and sharing it with others via blogging - I'm not an instructor nor am I an accomplished artist by any stretch of the imagination! However, because I enjoy learning and reading about other artists' art process, I feel the need to do the same. But this and blogging for me, is also self-fulfilling, as it helps me to critique my work and rethink how to approach a painting or project.

Dogwood leaves in the Hollow
watercolor, arches 140lb. cold press
11 1/8" x 7 5/8"
This painting is from a photo I've had for a while and have always thought it had good potential for a large watercolor, so I thought I would first do a small painting (7" x 11")and give masking fluid another try. I don't like using masking fluid for several reasons, mainly because it tends to leave hard edges and I don't like having to go back and try repeatedly to fix these areas. I then become overly fussy and end up getting disgusted with the whole process, not very conducive to happy painting if you get my drift. With that said, I tried it anyway because I wanted to shoot for a more abstract and 'free' expression of the image without getting caught up in detail. Also if I end up painting a large, say full sheet painting, the masking will come in handy when painting the sky.
First I masked in everything excluding the sky (I also used masking fluid for my signature-later regretted this b/cause I was unable to remove all of it for some odd reason), which would be painted first. I normally work from back to front when painting, but not always. With large objects such as this as the focal point, and since the painting is split almost evenly between sky and tree, I could have masked around the branches and leaves and painted the sky last. It's a matter of personal preference and habit, especially when painting landscapes for me to paint the sky first. Doing so creates a benchmark for my values. In other words, how dark or light I make the sky will predetermine my value scale for the rest of the painting, not to mention get rid of most of that annoying and dreaded 'white paper'! I can always go back however and change the sky to a different value or color if needed (which I did).

After making sure every thing was masked, I painted the sky, beginning at the top using cobalt blue. Working down the paper, I added a little yellow, alizarin crimson, and a touch of cadmium orange.

Next, I removed the masking fluid
using a 'rubber cement' eraser. Left-over masking fluid also works well for lifting, but I don't have enough yet to use, maybe after this project...
Notice I don't have my painting taped down. I wanted to be able to turn the painting around freely while painting. I've gotten used to working with the paper buckling and depending on the weight, brand, size and thickness of the paper, and how much water is used at a time, I can control the buckling enough for it to be manageable.

I painted everything, including the tree limb and branches with a light wash of yellow acrylic, Lemon Yellow Hue. All the other colors used in this painting were watercolors. I could have used a yellow watercolor, but wanted to try acrylic as the first wash to see how well it holds up to subsequent layers and my abuse without lifting from the paper. I took a workshop once where the artist uses cadmium yellow watercolor as the first layer everywhere that yellow will be in the painting because its opaqueness provides a partial barrier for layering. I personally don't use cadmium colors very often, call me paranoid, but I just prefer to use 'safer' paints in my studio, and I often use just a light yellow, like lemon yellow as my first color. That being said, although I have taken a course in color study, I do NOT claim to know color very well, so it's a personal choice.

After the yellow had completely dried (very important when painting with water-based media), I re-applied masking fluid to the leaves and their stems and along the outside edges of the tree limb and branches. Before adding a layer, to test for dryness, I touch the paper with the back of my fingers. If the paper feels the least bit cold to the tough, then it is too wet to add a layer.

Then I painted the tree and its limbs with alizarin crimson and touches of quinacridone gold:
More alizarin was added to the under-sides of the limb and branches to show reflected light, even if in shadow. I darken the limb behind the leaf stems in the foreground, because they will be painted much lighter, causing them to come forward and the tree limb to recede, creating depth. This effect is already created by the stems' yellow under-painting:
I also added a touch of ultramarine blue here and there along the mid-section of the branches and main limb. Thinking many steps ahead (I guess some artists plan out each step for the entire painting, but I don't, although I do always keep a vision of my final painting in mind) is especially important in watercolor painting because there is a point of no return for retaining the light reflected by the white of the paper which gives watercolor its freshness.

Now comes painting the bark. Honestly, this is where I should practice what I preach, because I used a little of everything (without much pre-planning) trying to get a color I was satisfied with. I think I used both paynes gray and sepia to get the brownish color of the bark, with thalo blue and ultramarine blue added for the darker shades, mixing while paper was barely damp.
When I start to get flustered with the direction the painting's going I get away from it and let it dry, or work on another area of the painting while that spot is drying. When painting an area i.e. the bark, I do a combination of layering and wet-in-wet by first very lightly, applying clean water with a dampened brush; watching for the glisten of the water to turn barely damp, then painting the shadow areas of the bark pieces using a very light touch of the brush-tip to the paper. Because I like to do this combo of techniques on top of previous layers when trying to achieve texture i.e. bark, is why I opted for acrylic as my first layer. I've seen artists who, to achieve soft edges by truly 'layering', paint over a previously painted dry area, then immediately come back with a clean, barely dampened brush and run it along the edges of the painted area to soften them. Sometimes this works for me but most of the time it doesn't, so I say, do what works. I usually do a combination of several techniques. I think the key is to get in and get out quickly (working on one area at a time), with thorough drying before going back in an area.

Now I can remove the masking fluid from the leaves and their stems. I used quin. gold on the tips of the larger leaves and along the stems using a 'touching' motion with the brush tip.
Again, I played with the colors, so I can't say specifically what colors were used, but I do know I used cobalt turquoise and cobalt blue, sometimes pre-mixing with a little yellow if the blue was too strong. I put on a lot of layers, letting it dry between each application.

Painting the leaves was my biggest struggle in this painting. My whole objective was to say loose, and not get caught up in detail, yet I repeatedly found myself trying to paint individual veins and would have to stop and rethink how to portray just the essence of the sunlit leaves. I did end up indicating veins here and there but really tried hard not to obsess over them.
Detail of leaves, bark and leaf stems For those new to watercolor - notice how I left white here and there along the edges of stems and leaves - important to always save some white of the paper - it adds sparkle to a watercolor (skies, water surface, and dark areas are also good places for specks of white paper to add sparkle):
This is where I may have gone wrong with this painting (so glad I tested it on a small sheet). I decided to add a layer of aliz. crimson to the sky to try and make the leaves pop more, but I now think it was better without the extra red. My reasoning was, red and green being complimentary colors, would compete with each other, causing the green to glow more, but instead, I think the added alizarin dulled the overall painting. Maybe because alizarin leans toward violet? Maybe some 'colorists' out there would know the answer. Anyway, here's a comparison:
Painting with mostly blue sky:

Painting with more alizarin crimson added:
Strange, now that I see them side-by-side, I think the aliz. crimson may have helped after all. Well, you can compare for yourself. But I did learn a lot by doing this little study. I just may add another layer of blue to see what happens. Decisions decisions, 'til next time, happy creating...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Inspiration: Gerit Grimm

This is just a quick post for inspiration. I discovered this artist, Gerit Grimm, via Ceramics Arts Daily Newsletter and was so inspired by her talent and creative use of the 'wheel', I just had to share it. Even if your medium is something other than clay, her encouraging words of wisdom and inspiration on the subject of art in general are worth viewing. I was actually working on another post when I came across this so I hope to post that within week's end. It involves a step-by-step painting using masking fluid. Let me and others know who, or what, was your inspiration recently. Til the next post, good luck with your endeavors...