Portrait of Kathleen for JKPP and Bonus Azalea

JKPP Gouche sketch of Kathleen, 7.5x5.5 inches

JKPP Gouche sketch of Kathleen, 7.5×5.5 inches

I painted Kathleen (from the Julia Kay Portrait Party) side by side with the flower below but decided to post them as separate images. I’m loving gouache but really struggling with the way light colors turn so much darker when it dries. I actually lightened the sketch above in Photoshop so that it wouldn’t look so scary.

Azalea in Gouache, 7x5 x 5.5 inches

Azalea in Gouache, 7×5 x 5.5 inches

I found this flower (I think it’s an azalea) growing along the sidewalk in the neighborhood and picked off a blossom to paint. The flower is too dark because of my lack of experience with gouache, but I had fun painting it. Gouache is so much fun and I’m especially loving M. Graham Gouache. Now to just learn to mix colors about 4 shades lighter than they look! I mastered doing the opposite with watercolor so I’m (almost) sure I can do it with gouache too.

Sketchcrawl 46 – Bernal Heights, San Francisco

SF Bernal Heights Sketchcrawl (original) ink and watercolor in XL WC Moleskine

SF Bernal Heights Sketchcrawl, ink, watercolor, gouache, 7.5 x 11″

When it was time to leave for the Sketchcrawl in San Francisco I couldn’t find my sketch kit containing all my favorite sketching tools. I scoured the studio and the house. No sketch kit. I feared I’d left it at my figure drawing class the day before at the community college where it had probably already been adopted by a needy art student. Sad and frustrated, I cobbled together some pens, pencils, brushes and paints, threw them in a bag and drove across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco.

Catching up with my friend Susan Cornelis who came down from Sebastopol for the day, and connecting with some other local sketch buddies helped me forget about my missing precious pens and paints for a little while. Since I was so late, after a quick walk around the neighborhood, I decided to sketch what I could see from a bench on the porch in front of the library where the final meet up would be. The lamp post in the sketch above was up on the porch too, which is a little confusing perspective-wise, being up about 8 steps from the sidewalk in this hilly neighborhood.

The good news is that I had a great time at the sketch crawl AND the next day when I was getting ready to go out to the studio I picked up the basket I use to carry things back and forth from house to studio and my sketch kit was in the basket! YAY! And I put a “Reward for return” note in the bag with my name and phone number on it in case it ever disappears again.

I think I like the sketch better broken into two separate ones (below). What do you think?

Julia Kay’s Portrait Party: Portrait in Gouache

Portrait of Jan Jaap for Julia Kaye's Portrait Party, gouache in XL WC Moleskine, 9x6.5"

Portrait for Julia Kaye’s Portrait Party, gouache in XL WC Moleskine, 9×6.5″

When I learned that Julia Kay’s Portrait Party (Facebook) (Flickr) was coming to SF in March for a weekend of live portrait party events I signed up. My goal for 2015 is to develop my portrait drawing and painting skills and this seemed a perfect way to get started, along with the excellent 4-hour figure/portrait drawing/painting class I’m taking at my local community college.

Since I’ve been experimenting and teaching myself to paint with  gouache (more about that soon, with reviews of paint and brushes for gouache). I thought it would be a perfect medium for my first Portrait Party attempt. One thing that I know about gouache but am not yet accustomed to, is that it dries significantly darker than it looks on the palette (unlike watercolor which dries lighter). That explains the very vibrant tones in the portrait above compared to the original photo (which I don’t have permission to post here)! Below is the original sketch that I painted over in my X-large Watercolor Moleskine.

Sketch of Jan Jaap for Julia Kaye's Portrait Party, graphite, 9x6.5"

Sketch of Jan Jaap for Julia Kaye’s Portrait Party, graphite, 9×6.5″

EDiM 8 and 9: Mirror Image (me in pitcher) and Shadow

EDiM 8 Mirror Image in Copper Pitcher, ink and watercolor, 7.5x 5 inches

EDiM 8 Mirror Image in Copper Pitcher, ink and watercolor, 7.5x 5 inches

This one was really fun to draw. It was a surprise to see that I was reflected twice, right-side-up and upside-down. I had to stack the pitcher on top of a box of kleenex on top of a box of rubber stamps.

EDiM 9 Mirror Image in Copper Pitcher, ink, watercolor, gouache, 7.5x5 in

EDiM 9 Mirror Image in Copper Pitcher, ink, watercolor, gouache, 7.5×5 in

I drew this in pencil sitting outdoors at a little round table in the sun.  I sketched in the shadow of the flower and painted everything with watercolor. By then the sun had moved and there were more shadows so I painted them in too. I didn’t like the way it messed up the composition so I brought the sketchbook into the studio and painted over table and extra shadows with gouache. It only partially hid the “mistake” but I decided I liked the way there’s a shadow of a shadow showing through.

I used rubber stamps for text on the page but got that wrong too (9, not 8) so just used the X stamp to cross out the 8. I love work that is fresh and just right on the first pass. This isn’t that, and shows a bit of the struggle. Sometimes that just makes things more interesting.

Spring Into Summer

John Muir Home and Orchard, ink, watercolor & gouache, 8x10"

John Muir Home and Orchard, ink, watercolor & gouache, 8×10″

After I filled the jumbo Moleskine watercolor journal I discovered I forgot to post several pages. From March! So here are a few of those sketches from early spring. Above and below are the John Muir home, with a bit of the fruit tree orchards and redwoods on the property. I sketched and painted these on site, with a little gouache added to the fruit tree blossoms at home.

John Muir Landscape, ink, watercolor & gouache, 10x8"

John Muir Landscape, ink, watercolor & gouache, 10×8″

Spring at Blake Gardens, watercolor, 10x8"

Spring at Blake Gardens, watercolor, 10×8″

Above is another spring sketch, painted directly with watercolor, of  magnolia trees and the pretty little flowers planted around the tree.

Loads ‘o Lillies and Winsor Newton Cotman watercolor review

"Lily White on White," oil on Gessobord panel, 8x8"

“Lily White on White,” oil on Gessobord panel, 8×8″
(AVAILABLE on DailyPaintworks Auction: CLICK IMAGE to visit auction)

I spent some time sketching and painting a calla lily that sprouted in my garden and while I was at it, tested a palette of Winsor Newton Cotman paints. Several of my friends have this clever, inexpensive Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketchers Palette and I thought it was worth a try so I ordered one.

I started by testing the colors, listing the pigments to match them to artists’ quality pigments I normally use (click to see larger with pigment numbers) and making notes about which ones to swap out (at that point assuming I’d continue using the others).

Test of WInsor Newton Cotman pan paints (FAIL)

Test of WInsor Newton Cotman pan paints (FAIL)

I was very frustrated with the results I was getting when painting and in the end, took ALL the Cotman pans out of the palette and replaced them with pans filled with artist quality paints from tubes. I put the Cotman pans in a large jar of water to soak so that I could empty and reuse the empty pans. After dumping and refilling the jar many times I ended up with a jar of tinted water with a lot of white sandy junk at the bottom: the nasty fillers and binders added to the pigments to make it cheap.

I know that for the same $17 that this palette AND crappy paint costs, you can only buy one or two tubes of full strength, high quality paint. But I’d rather have only a few colors than use junk. Most of the following sketches lack vibrancy, richness in color, and paint application was difficult and unattractive. Here they are in reverse order of completion:

Lily sketch #6, watercolor, 8x10"

Lily sketch #6, watercolor, 8×10″

I liked the drawing above, but not the grayed colors.

Lily sketch #5, ink & watercolor, 8x10"

Lily sketch #5, ink & watercolor, 8×10″

I liked the shape of the leaf above.

Lily sketch #4?, gouache, 8x10"

Lily sketch #4?, gouache, 8×10″

I painted over an awful sketch with gouache (above), just loosely trying to get the shape of the flower.

Lily sketch #3-4, watercolor, 8x10"

Lily sketch #3-4, watercolor, 8×10″

Two previous attempts at the leaf, on 2 other kinds of paper I taped into the 8×10″ Moleskine.

Lily sketch #1 with Snail, watercolor, 8x10"

Lily sketch #1 with Snail, watercolor, 8×10″

The first sketch. I like the composition but the colors and application were yuck.

I’m still using the Cotman Palette. I think it’s a great for sketching because it’s light,  compact and holds enough colors (12). And at $17 I don’t mind the price, even after throwing away the colors it cane with. It’s handy to have the now-empty, extra half-pans which usually cost about 50 cents each. So really, I got the palette for $11, and 12 empty pans for $6. Not too bad.

Flowering Crab Apple Blossoms on First Day of Spring

Flowering Crab Apple Branch, left page, ink, watercolor & gouache, 8x11"

Flowering Crab Apple Branch, left page, ink, watercolor & gouache, 8×11″

Happy spring (or autumn if you’re on the other side of the world)! Despite it being a rainy, grey day here, perfect for spending indoors in jammies (which I did since I was a bit under the weather) spring has definitely arrived in the Bay Area with blossoming trees and green things sprouting everywhere.

Out walking in Berkeley on a Sunday morning in a nice neighborhood, I spotted a beautiful flowering tree between two homes. I was debating with my walking buddy  whether to knock on the door and ask if I could take a cutting to sketch and paint from. He thought not, since people might still be sleeping, and suggested I take a photo. But I wanted to draw from the real thing. I was trying to figure out which house actually owned the tree and he was trying to figure out how to get me to keep walking.

Flowering Crab Apple Branch, right page, ink, watercolor & gouache, 8x11"

Flowering Crab Apple Branch, right page, ink, watercolor & gouache, 8×11″

Just then I heard people chatting, coming towards us on the sidewalk from around the corner. It was the homeowners who’d also been out for a walk. I asked if I could take a branch to paint and they said yes. This is the first of several pieces (two oil paintings and another sketch) I created from their branch.

I wish I’d thought to take their address so I could send a thank you card with the image on it. Maybe my friend will remember what street we were on since he chose our route.

Flowering Crab Apple Branch, 2-page spread, ink, watercolor & gouache, 8x22"

Flowering Crab Apple Branch, 2-page spread, ink, watercolor & gouache, 8×22″

This is the full 2-page spread in the giant Moleskine Watercolor A4 sketchbook I’m using now. It’s 8.5 x 23 inches when opened so rather unwieldy when sketching outside the studio but I’m enjoying it anyway. I drew directly with a sepia Sakura Micron Pigma Pen and then painted with watercolor and a bit of gouache.

I used gouache for the background on this sketch because I wanted a fairly smooth/flat background which I couldn’t get with watercolor because of the way the paper buckles and doesn’t lie flat because of the seam. My favorite part is the enlarged pure watercolor blossoms in the white circle on the left hand side, visible if you click and then click again on the top image. I’m craving some “real” watercolor painting on good paper.

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