Hydrangeas: More Testing Fabriano Venezia Sketchbook

Hydrangeas in Pitcher, 9x11", ink & watercolor

Hydrangeas in Pitcher, 9x11", ink & watercolor

The first hydrangeas of the season provided an opportunity to try out ink and watercolor in the Fabriano Venezzia sketchbook I posted about yesterday. First I drew directly in ink and then tried painting the flower on the right by wetting the paper there, and painting into it.  I didn’t like the results and tried lifting off the paint with a tissue and was pleased and surprised that it came right off, leaving only a slight stain.  Then I painted back into the damp area and got the results I wanted and completed the rest of the painting working very loosely.

The painting was easy compared to trying to get the image in the sketchbook scanned or photographed for posting. The image above was the result of clamping the edges of the sketchbook to photograph it (see below) and then using Photoshop’s Clone Stamp tool to “erase” the clamps and then using the Levels and Dodge tools to clean up the shadows caused by the paper buckling and some reflections from the light source.

Ready to photograph

I also tried scanning the page in the sketchbook but encountered the same problems I had yesterday with severe blurring plus shadow from the seam. I (want to) like this sketchbook, but preparing the images for posting is really a hassle. Even if I wasn’t working across the spread and just painted on one page I’d still have the problem with the shadow and blurring since it happens on the righthand page.

Scanned version, after touch-up

Scanned version, after major touch-up

Have you had this problem and solved it? I’d be so grateful for suggestions!

Hydrangeas and sketchbook

Hydrangeas and sketchbook

How Maira Kalman (and I) Create Gouache Paintings with Ink Lettering

Why Are Flamingoes Pink? Gouache on hot press paper, 5.5x7.5"

Why Are Flamingoes Pink? Gouache on hot press paper, 5.5x7.5"

Why Flamingoes Are Pink (Hint: You Are What You Eat!)

Why Are Flamingoes Pink? Gouache & Ink, 5.5x7.5"

Why Are Flamingoes Pink? Gouache & Ink, 5.5x7.5"

I adore Maira Kalman‘s wonderfully quirky gouache and ink illustrations. When I’ve tried to use ink on my own gouache paintings, the ink always got sucked into the paint and blurred, or the pen clogged immediately (or both). I searched every way I could on the internet and finally found this link to India Amos’s blog. India, as Art Director, was responsible for preparing some of Maira’s artwork for print. In the post she wrote that Maira creates the painting and lettering separately. Then they’re scanned and layered together electronically using Photoshop.

So yesterday I investigated this approach. I painted the flamingoes above from a photo I took at Six Flags last month. Then I tried various pens and tracing papers. I also sent a message to India asking if she’d be willing to provide more information about the process. Read More

Artichokes in Oil (paint) & Color correcting in Photoshop

Artichokes, Oil painting on 8x8" Gessobord

Artichokes, Oil painting on 8x8" Gessobord

After deconstructing one artichoke to paint in watercolor (previous post) I decided they were too old and worn out to bother cooking them, so why not paint them instead. I’m finding how important it is to take breaks when I’m painting. Each time I took one (because someone came to the door, I had to go to sleep or have lunch) I was surprised at seeing the painting with fresh eyes. It gave me a chance to strategize, stop futzing around in one area that wasn’t working and just needed to be scraped off and started over, notice that the values needed strengthening, etc.

At a certain point I recognized that this is as good as I can do for now. I’ll learn a little more and be able to a better on the next piece. That is so much more satisfying than trying to bring the piece to the level of the bar I keep raising or trying to make it as  good as the painting of other artists’ work I admire.  As a good friend said to me yesterday, “Compare…and despair!” and he was so right. Another friend pointed me to this from Desiderata:

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Artichokes, easel & palette in the studio

Artichokes, easel & palette in the studio

The multi-colored card on my easel is a Gretagmacbeth ColorChecker that I use when I photograph art work. Sometimes I use the white square to set my cameras “white balance. I always include some or all of the card when I take the photograph so I can compare the colors on the card to the colors on my monitor to see if I’ve got it right.

With the card included in the photo, I can correct the colors in the photo using the Levels tool in Photoshop:

  1. Select the “white” eyedropper in the Levels menu and click it on the white square. This sets the white level so that white in the photo is pure white, not greyish. Sometimes this is all that’s needed.
  2. If the black square doesn’t look black enough, I do the same with the black eyedropper in the black square. Setting this range of black to white really helps, especially when there is no black or white in the painting.
  3. To remove a color cast (e.g. when the gray square looks greenish pinkish) I use the grey eyedropper on various spots on any of the gray squares until the color cast is gone and gray is gray.
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