Friday, October 29, 2010

In The Spirit!

You may be wondering what in the world this is suppose to be? A new art form perhaps? An art project gone wrong? Day of the Dead a few days early?! No.................'s my husband doing his best impression of a hippie for Halloween!

Back when Sam (my muse) and I were going to the fabric shop in search of the perfect material with which to make a new purse, Chris accompanied us on one of our trips. He happened up on some material that he thought would make a perfect work shirt....skulls in batik!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Blue And Orange Makes.....

....mud!!!! And I know this. I know this. I know this. And I did it anyway.
Detail of Vignette Page in
Handbook Watercolor Journal
1.35" x 4.25" 
Actually, blue and orange don't make mud. I made mud because of the way I applied the color. Blue and orange make some gorgeous, textural browns and grays depending on the pigments used. However, if you try to lift after you realize you've made a mistake, expect mud! Or at the very least to overwork it.

You see, this is an image from the Imaginary Visit Through Autumn! that is currently going on and the image above is my "loose" interpretation of it. I started painting this on the vignette page you can see in full on this post. Since the background was already painted, I should have just left well enough alone  and used it as it was. But no. Oh, no, that would have been too easy! No, I decided to put blue back there was in the photo reference!

Have you ever found yourself doing that when you're working from a photo reference? Doing something that you know would look better if you followed your muse's suggestion or just didn't do something but felt compelled to because it was there in the photo reference staring you in the face?! It's almost like an out-of-body experience! You can hear your muse yelling, "Noooooooooooooo!!!" in a small voice far, far away.

And we do it anyway.

That, I think, is the biggest downfall (taboo?) of using photo references—our artistic sensibilities take a back seat. We go on auto pilot. I also think overcoming that downfall is a tough job. For me, it is an ongoing fight to raise my awareness to stay off auto pilot and not assume that the photo reference knows better than me. Ugh!

I often tell the "travelers" on Imaginary Trips, "Make the image yours! You have a photo—make this an artistic representation!!" And yet, we (and I certainly include myself in this statement) are compelled to be good little artistic beings and put in every color, detail and tree that the photo shows us.

As disgusted as I am with myself for how the piece above turned out (because it was soooooo much better before I added that blue into the background and then tried to remove it because I knew it was a mistake before I ever touched the color to the paper!), I will continue to fight the good fight. I will continue to listen to my artistic muse....BTW, Sam, my muse, was woefully disappointed in my choices, and in me, for not listening to her.

I will continue to struggle and NOT forget to make the image mine REGARDLESS of what is in the photo reference! And so, I will be revisiting that image above and I will make it mine! I'm gonna show that photo reference who's boss!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Confessions of a Color Junkie

Yes, I am a color junkie! Let me say that loud and proud! I have enough paint to last me another 137 years and that's if I painted everyday! If I paint at my current schedule I could probably stretch it to closer to 188 years. Maybe more. Yes, I'm definitely a hardcore color junkie.
Page in progress
Handbook Watercolor Journal
Have you ever walked into one of those huge makeup stores and just looked?! Oh my goodness, all the shades of color, sparkles and glitter! Not to mention the combinations of different pigments! My blood just starts to hum and I'm not into makeup at all! 

What about one of those candy stores where all the candy is in clear plastic bins?! Do you ever notice the "accidental" color pairings of a red next to a green?! Or pink and lime? And all the different shades of browns in the chocolate section? Too much fun! These are obvious color inspirations, but really, inspiration is just about anywhere you look! Nature is fabulous for pairing unexpected colors and Fall is a fabulous time to get out and look around....but I digress. Back to my confession...

Like many of the artists I know, I have some "tried and true" pigments that wind up on my palette no matter what. Oh yeah, palettes. Did I mention I'm a palette junkie too? Hmmm, that's probably too much information for one post so I'll leave that for another time.... 

Anyway. I have found that I'll buy some intoxicatingly beautiful pigment, try it, and then drop it into a box thinking, "oh, I'll use that later." Apparently, much later as it never seems to happen. So in an effort to use, explore and exhaust some of, I've been creating some smaller palettes such as the one above with colors I don't normally use. Blue Apatite, Quin. Fuchsia, Natural Turquoise, Mayan Orange, Trans. Brown Oxide, Gold Ochre as well as a few tried and trues....and this is all fine until I'm on location....painting along....not paying attention....and I dip into a well that I think is B. Umber and it's not. 

It's Trans. Brown Oxide, which is much redder than B. Umber! And sometimes I like what I get and sometimes I don't, but let me assure you that it wakes me up, kicks me right out of my comfort zone and into the scramble/learning/recovery zone! Someone recently forwarded me this quote:

"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." 
— Neale Donald Walsch

And I would add to that, "or inside an unexpected touch of color!"

Friday, October 22, 2010

Exorcising the Gremlins

On the Hunt
3.5 x 8.5
Handbook Watercolor Journal
Ink, watercolor & gouache
The gremlins are running amok in my life. They've gotten into my video equipment, the sound equipment, software, online services, my email account and things I've mailed through the USPO.....just to name a few areas where they're having a jolly fine time wreaking havoc! I'm not sure if they're stirred up because of the full moon or if the axis of the earth is off by some slight millisecond or it's just my turn. Whatever it is, I'm more than tired of it and ready for some semblance of what passes for normal around here.

The image above (assuming Blogger loads it as it seems to have had its fair share of gremlins, too) is one based in symbolism. The colors, the design, the items represented in the piece all have special meaning to me. Someone else looking at it may wonder what the point of the art was, but when I look back at this page, I'll know. No words need to be written on the page.

Using symbols in our work to represent things we don't want to give voice to or any more importance than it already has, is a wonderful way of getting them onto the page and out of our heads. Now that I've put the gremlins on notice, I hope they go back to wherever they came from!

Update on the Handbook Watercolor Journal....if you look at the very top of the page and along the left side, you will note dark and light splotches in the pigment. This was caused by very uneven sizing. Sloppy, really. Luckily, the paint grabbed darkest at the top of the page and is suggestive of sky with clouds in front of it. The side splotches just look like a bad wash job!

Since I don't often do full page washes, I'm not overly concerned with it; however, because of this and a few other things I've noted along the way, I would only recommend this book from a standpoint of pure experimentation and play or to test the long format. It is unfortunate too, as this book will not become a staple sketchbook in my world because I do like the format very much. I think it would be better to make my own, with paper I prefer than live with the unpredictability of when and where uneven sizing may show up.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

One Good Idea Deserves Another!

Jacqueline over at Art in My Heart, recently saw my looooooong goose neck in the looooooong format sketchbook and has shared a page on her blog from her Provence sketchbook! Go check it out!

I think I'm going to have to give this a whirl in my looooooong sketchbook! Be sure to note the random edges around the outside of the page as compared to the nice orderly edges within. (She even shares directions on how she did it!)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pear Play!

I've had these lovely pears sitting up on the counter for nearly a week now, patiently waiting for the tickle of the brush...
Handbook • Watercolor • Journal
3.5 x 8.5 inches
This was done in much the same way as the leaves in this post. I wanted them loose and easy. No pencil was used in either sketch. In the sketch above, I rendered the shape of all three pears as one shape. Once the wash was dry, I went back and added further washes to break the shape into separate pieces of fruit. Shading and shadows were added last.
Handbook • Watercolor • Journal
3.5 x 8.5 inches
I decided to have another go on the next page. Here, I painted the dark form shapes in one wash of Holbein's Mineral Violet. After that dried, I went back and added the various yellows, golds, reds, and browns. Last, I add a bit more shading to the fruit and to the table top. A couple of interesting notes I made to myself on this was that I was surprised to see how much I not only tightened up on the second sketch, but also decreased the size of the sketch.

After noticing the differences, I realized that I had not been sure how well the mineral violet would work out as the shadow color, let alone with the other colors added over it. Those "concerns" about whether or not I would succeed played a role in my decision making (to paint small) without me even being aware of it!

What might you be doing that holds you back?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Can I Have Some?!

Don't know what you've got, but I'm just sure I want some. 
Can I? Can I? Can I have some?
Canadian Goose
Handbook • Watercolor • Journal
3.5" x 8.5"

Meet "Blacflac," Aflac's cousin! This dapper individual decided he* had to have some of whatever Cris and her husband were having for lunch. Cris is the author of the lovely blog Cris, Artist in Oregon! Ever since I've started working in this journal with the loooooooong format, I've been "finding" some wonderfully fun images to capture, and I just loved this guy! Cris was kind enough to allow me to sketch it (thanks, Cris)!!

When painting a black subject, I find it very helpful to look at the "temperature" of the black fur/feathers/surface. If it's in the sun, chances are good it's going to be warm. Even to the point that it's a brownish black. If it's on the shady side, it's going to be cool. Maybe even bluish black. What you can't see in this scan is the greens, reds, purples, and siennas that are visible in person. You can see a bit of the browns and blues.

As this individual lives outside, the colors of the outside world would be reflected in his feathers...greens, golds, blues, etc. The reds and purples are thrown in for added interest and variety. If you are feeling a bit ho-hum about your current sketchbook, I encourage you to try switching to a different format—it offers new challenges as well as new ways of looking at/for things!

*I've no idea if this is him or a her. It just seemed simplest to call it a him.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Return To The River...

....and a visit with the wild things!
Cypress Reflections, Take II
Watercolor in handbook•watercolor•journal
3.5 x 8.5
As promised,  a return to the river to practice water reflections. This time, I decided to focus only on the water reflections rather than trying to include the tree above the waterline as well. This is closer. Still more work and practice is in order, but at least this looks like a water reflection!

It was a day for the wild things! Soon after arriving, we kept hearing an odd noise off to our right, away from the river. Turns out it was a doe. She'd become rather nervous and was making a huffing noise deep in her chest. Finally, she burst from her hiding place and boy, was she ever quick! No photo. I didn't even have the thought of a camera in my head before she was gone! Maybe next time, but not likely.

After sketching in the morning, Chris and I started to walk back towards the main part of the park. Strolling along, I hear "pssst!" I look around to see that Chris has stopped a 6 yards back....he's spotted a "small" alligator sunning on a rock out in the middle of the river.
Gator on the rocks!
Click to enlarge
The following photos are not some of our best as we had not brought the telephoto lens with us. (Isn't that always the way?!) However, you can make out the profile of the gator easily. His tail drifts off into the water. We estimated he was about 5 feet long. A little further up the river, we stumbled on this guy (or gal):
Can you make out the gator right at the water's edge?
Click to enlarge
This one was closer to 10 feet in length. What you cannot tell from the photos is about a dozen feet up the bank is the hiking/walking trail for that side of the river! There are no walls, fencing or other barriers between hiker/walkers and the beasts of the river.

I do believe this is next guy is the granddaddy of the other two:
Can you see the gator? Look at the water's edge!
Click to enlarge
This guy was huge!! The photo just doesn't not even come close to doing him justice. See the cypress "knee" just to the right of the gator? It's probably 5 feet in height. We figure he was closer to 12 feet long and probably more. He appeared to be a couple of feet wide through the shoulder/chest area:
Click to enlarge
Again, straight up the bank (and it is rather steep) is the trail. The gators were all content just to soak up the rays, and they usually will not bother humans unless provoked or it's mating season (in the Spring). But make no mistake, these are wild beasts. They are not fed or kept in any way by the Department of Forestry (that operates the parks) or the State Game Warden. They're as wild as wild can be! Interestingly, this is also a very popular area for canoeing......

I have to say it was an absolutely fabulous Fall day and the sight of such magnificent beasts enjoying the day only added to our enjoyment! Can't wait to go back!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A "100 Paintings Challenge" Champion!

I invite you to visit the 100 Paintings Challenge blog to read an interview between Teri Casper and I as Teri has just completed the 100 painting challenge in 9 months!! You can also visit her blog, Painted Daisies, to see all 100 paintings in a slideshow!

Again, Teri, congrats on a job well done!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Leaf Meditations

Leaf Meditations
in watercolor
handbook • watercolor • journal
3.5" x 17"
I looked up with a start when I heard Chris ask "Did you get lost? Again."

I was in the studio, but for all intents and purposes, I had been lost. In my own little world. Painting leaf meditations.....
Close up of image above
These were painted with an Escoda® Travel Brush (in the first image), Series 1214, Size 6. This brush came home from the trade show with me, and I have to tell you it is an absolute pleasure to paint with! The brush is only a size 6 but holds as much water as some of my larger brushes. It also comes to a razor sharp point (which I love) that allows me to get to the small details without having to change brushes.

These brushes are made in Barcelona, Spain and the company has been making brushes for 75 years. This is particular brush is made from kolinsky sable and is on its way to becoming my favorite brush. I recently read over on Wet Canvas that when someone had a question on an Escoda brush and emailed the company. Ricard Escoda replied with an the answer—I find that remarkable in the age of Big Business.
Bottom section of top image

All of the leaves were painted loosely without pencil. The pigment was allowed to move "outside of the lines" to give the impression of movement. To further the impression of movement, no cast shadows were added. For me, there is something very zen like in painting these little masterpieces of nature. If you're interested in learning how to paint this type of artwork, please join me for an Imaginary Visit Through Autumn! The trip leaves on October 21st! Please click here for more information.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Come And Walk By The River!

The rapids with the water grasses flowing around the rocks.

Looking upriver into the sun, just above the rapids.

Utter stillness.....

Lots of fallen trees in the river as well as small islands of rock.

Looking away from the river and into the woods.

Rather pre-historic looking, isn't it?

Oh, look! It's the rare Striped River Sketcher!!

All photos courtesy of Imaginary Trips' professional photographer, Chris Ferlita. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Superb Mediocrity

Cypress Reflections,
Hillsborough River
Watercolor Sketchbook,
3.5" x 17" 
Chris and I managed to get out to the Hillsborough River State Park on Saturday morning. It was sooooooo nice! It was in the mid 50's when we arrived and there was no one else about. We walked up along the river's edge, far off the beaten paths until we found an area that struck a creative note. I proceeded to sketch while he played with the camera, took photos, threw sticks in the river, aggravated spiders and just soaked up the ambience. The day was absolutely superb. Unfortunately, the sketching was mediocre at best, but on day like that, I didn't even care!

This was done in the handbook • journal • watercolor sketchbook. The majority of it was painted on location. This huge old cypress is in the middle of the river with a small island of flotsam collecting around it. After tackling this subject matter, and wondering why, I realized that I have a fascination with water. Especially moving water.

I have to say this is not a particularly good sketch of water, but I think that only deepens the fascination and I already know I'm going to try again. And again. And again. And probably some more after that until I can render this type of subject with a certain amount of satisfaction. Not perfection. Just satisfaction.

The satisfaction was definitely in the day and the opportunity to enjoy life and nature at a slower pace. Maybe next time, the enjoyment will also be in the finished sketch. If not, it will give me a great excuse (assuming I need one) to go back!

Friday, October 8, 2010

No Excuses Watercolor Sketch Kit!

Go no further and do not watch this video if your favorite reason for not taking your sketch kit with you every where you go is something like "It weights too much," "It won't fit in my purse/pocket/bag" or "I don't want to be weighed down with too much stuff!"

Here are a few suggestions for creating sketch kits that are slim, trim and as easy to carry as a piece of paper!

Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Art Supplies at the FWS Tradeshow

Okay, finally! We're going to talk about art supplies that were demoed around at the Florida Watercolor Tradeshow.....

First up:
Fluid Watercolor Paper and the hand•book watercolor journals were spotted at nearly every vendor selling supplies. Interestingly enough, the hand•book watercolor journals are made from Fluid Watercolor paper though you won't find that info on the label. The paper has a finish similar to a laid paper finish. It is not as obvious as a true laid finish but the resemblance is there. Both the Fluid paper and the hand•book journal company is represented by Global Art Materials in the US. The web site is rather short on information about the products.

Fluid watercolor paper is a wood pulp based paper rather than a cotton rag. It has cut edges rather than deckled edges. [Life has been seriously cutting into my exploration time and] I have yet to put the paper through its paces. I did cut down one sheet to see what kind of fold I would get for bookbinding. Happy to say no cracking or tearing. Oddly, the grain ran opposite to most of the papers I have been playing with here lately.

The paper comes in 22 x 30 inches (55.88 x 76.2 cm) sheets as well as blocks and pads, all in various sizes. It is made in the US. More on this product as I get more time to play.

The cover on the hand•book journal is absolutely gorgeous! It has a wonderful touch to it and seems quite durable. Time will tell. I've read where a number of artists have had trouble with warping of both the cover and the paper. So far, I can't make that claim. Perhaps because of the humidity in Florida? Or maybe in spite of it? I don't know, but it's been sitting in open air for over a week without the slightest of changes.

Westfield Cypress and Pond
3.5" x 8.25"
This is my first attempt at sketching, plein aire,* on this paper. Let me preface all of what I'm about to say with a disclaimer—this was not a fair test to the paper. Why? Because I was out painting in much cooler temperatures than normal with gale-force winds (not really, just breezy, but when you're trying to paint the wind seems much stronger!)

The paper seemed to be resistant in places and not in others—uneven sizing or those crazy winds? There was a good deal of buckling when I was painting, but the paper has dried fairly flat with a bit of curling to the edges. No better or worse than other papers I've tried. I didn't really notice any oddities with the pigment or settling of the granulation, but then, I was fighting with the elements more than the paper so it's hard to say if there were any issues.

Two other sizes are also available, both larger. The hand•book journals are made in India. Whereas I am not thrilled with this book so far, I will continue to experiment and play with it to see what it can and cannot do.

More art supplies to come!

*This pond is situated between a huge mall and a 10 lane interstate just beyond those trees. I could see the glint of metal as the cars flew by on the roadway. It was more than a bit disconcerting to hear the sweet song of a Red-wing Blackbird against the nearly overwhelming roar of the cars, both on the interstate and behind me as the shoppers arrived at the mall. A small piece of paradise tucked away in an unlikely spot. These days, I find my bit of paradise where I can!

Friday, October 1, 2010

"Leaf Fix"

While at the trade show last week, I could not help but notice my surroundings. Lush landscaping everywhere you turned! Bird of Paradise, Canna lilies, and all make and model of trees and grasses. I also noticed these gorgeous leaves in the parking lot:
Scarlet Oak Leaf Watercolor Study
Pineapple Journal

This is a leaf from the Scarlet Oak, so named because of the vibrant scarlet color the leaves turn in the Fall. Of course, this being Florida, we're probably talking late December or even January before we see any scarlet! Even without the gorgeous color I was still fascinated with the textures and colors to be found within the brown sections of the leaf. It looks like something found it to be a rather delicious snack as well.

The leaf was painted on Canson Edition watercolor paper in the Pineapple journal I made a while back. I'm still getting used to the paper, but so far, I have to say that I do like it. This was painted in bit and pieces as I could grab 5 minutes here or 10 minutes there. It is painted fairly close to actual size. With Autumn arriving (it was in the 60's this morning—woohoo!!), I've been quite anxious to get a "leaf fix" as I love to capture these masterpieces in my journal each year. Hopefully, this will be the first of many.

Speaking of art supplies, I was introduced to some new ones at the tradeshow and I'll be talking about those next. In fact, one idea is so cool, I'm gonna do a video on it!