Scottish Festival at Ardenwood, Part 2

Warrior in full leather (and kilt), ink & watercolor

Warrior in full leather (and kilt), ink & watercolor

Moving on from the bagpipers in the last post to some of the other characters I met at the Scottish Festival. Except for the kilt, this guy could have been in Mad Max. I asked him about his metal cup since nearly every person in character either was carrying one or had one clipped to their belts. I asked whether drinking was an important part of the culture. He said no, that when you were served beverages you were expected to have your own goblet or mug, they weren’t provided.

Sitting in the Clan Cian booth

Sitting in the Clan Cian booth

This old gent with the long white hair and beard was one of the most authentic-looking characters.

Mary Queen of Scotts

Mary Queen of Scotts

She behaved quite regally but seemed to be a kind sovereign.

Serving girl

Serving girl

She was hanging out and helping to serve in the beer garden. I added extra length to her skirt using Photoshop cloning after my sister pointed out she looked to be standing in a hole or missing feet because her skirt wasn’t long enough.

M'lady in royal blue

M

A tent was set up to demonstrate how the lords and ladies traveled in style, with full silver settings, rugs, bedding and furniture. They could only travel (to visit other lords and ladies) very short distances each day in their wagons because of the weight and all the setting up required for their servants to create a home away from home each day.

Romans waiting by a small fire truck for a parade to begin

Romans waiting by a small fire truck for a parade to begin

Along with Scots there were Romans, Vikings and even a couple of pirates. Read More

Thanksgiving Turkey Leftovers

Thanksgiving After Dinner Sketch, ink & watercolor

Thanksgiving After Dinner Sketch, ink & watercolor

Most of the year my sister Marcy’s dining room is her art studio, and the table is full of art projects in process. For thanksgiving dinner she graciously hauled all of her studio stuff into the spare room and set a beautiful table for ten, complete with grandma’s china, table cloth and candles. When dinner was over the table’s real purpose called out to me and I sketched and painted by the warm glow of the candles.

The next day in honor of our turkey feast, I painted wild turkeys from photos I’d taken last summer on an evening walk in Tilden Park.

Turkey, oil on panel, 6x6"

Turkey, oil on panel, 6x6"

I started with oils but found it frustrating, especially on the small panel (above) so I switched to ink and watercolor in my sketchbook (below).

Tilden Park Turkey, ink & watercolor

Tilden Park Turkey, ink & watercolor

The turkey guy above was strutting his stuff, showing off for a lady turkey. When she ignored him and wandered off down the path, turkey dude and his buddy followed behind, shaking their tail feathers, still trying to get her attention.

Stayin Alive' Turkey Walk

Stayin' Alive Turkey Trot

I imaged the turkey dudes strutting to the song “Stayin’ Alive” by the BeeGees that starts with:

“Well you can tell by the way I use my walk.
I’m a woman’s man; no time to talk…”

OMG! Those tightie whitie pants! Here’s last year’s Thanksgiving Leftovers post (same table).

Roof Garden Lunch at the Cathedral, Oakland

 

Lunch in the Cathedral Garden, ink & watercolor

Lunch in the Cathedral Garden, ink & watercolor

 

Every now and then I manage to get out of the office at lunch time long enough to eat and even sketch for a few minutes. Across the street from our office building is a huge modern cathedral that looks more like a concrete prison with an upside down glass ship on the roof.

Their roof garden follows the concrete theme, with a sort of maze of square concrete planters with benches that force you to sit straight upright on them. But there are trees, shrubbery, and perfectly maintained grass (a delightful treat to pull off sandals and enjoy on bare feet).

I keep wondering why I never see any birds in the roof garden even though it is across the street from Lake Merritt which is a bird refuge, full of pigeons, waterfowl, pelicans, egrets and more. And it is kitty-corner from Snow Park favored by huge flocks of Canadian geese and pigeons (and always covered in big slimy goose turds). Do the guards chase the birds away? Are pigeons Catholic?

Update: I wrote to the Cathedral’s contact person and she explained why there are no birds: “With regard to the birds, I think the main reason for the lack thereof is the cleanliness of the facility. Birds will congregate wherever there is food. Our janitorial staff is always sweeping and keeping the grounds neat and clean.” It’s true, the place is very clean.

Early Morning at Kaiser Garden, Oil Painting

Early Morning Garden, oil on canvas, 20x16"

Early Morning at Kaiser Garden, oil on canvas, 20x16"

I think I’ve finished this painting (but then I thought that several times before). The last time I thought I was finished, I looked back at the notes I’d written opposite my journal sketch about what interested me in the scene and my goals for the painting. I saw I’d missed a point or two and worked on it some more.

Now I’d really appreciate some honest feedback:

Do you think it’s finished or does it still need something, and if so, what do you suggest to improve it?

This was painted with Holbein Aqua Duo water-soluble oil paints. It’s such a joy to oil paint without odor, to thin paint to a wash without solvents, and to mix water instead of turpentine with the Duo linseed oil to make painting medium. The pigment quality, drying time and consistency is identical to regular oils.

Just Can’t Settle Down: Lake Merritt Sketches

Lake Merritt, ink & watercolor pencil

Lake Merritt, ink & watercolor pencil

After work Tuesday night we met to sketch at Lake Merritt which is across the street from my office. I guess I drank too much coffee that day because I couldn’t settle down and focus. There was a fascinating parade of people walking by, all talking to each other or on cellphones, leaving bits of conversation in their wake.

Warmup sketches

Warmup sketches

I warmed up with some sketches of the local seabirds and passing people, noting a few conversation snippets. That’s an old Chinese lady with a pole over her shoulders carrying huge garbage bags on either side that were bigger than she was. I assume she was gathering cans to recycle for a few dollars.

Lake Merritt apartments, mixed media

Lake Merritt apartments, mixed media

When it got cold and windy we headed up to my office on the 25th floor and drew the view out the window. I liked my sketch of the building and tall trees at the bottom of the page but instead of stopping there, I kept drawing until the page was full. I didn’t like that so tried various ways to hide the rest and finally pasted ruled tracing paper over it.

Happy Birthday Parrot for Robin

Birthday Parrot, ink & watercolor

Birthday Parrot, ink & watercolor

Today is my son Robin’s birthday so I painted this cheery parrot to print on a birthday card for him. I brought the card to his party tonight at Pier 23 in San Francisco, a waterfront “roadhouse pub” where we celebrated on their back deck right on the bay. It got pretty cold out there after the sun went down but their steamed mussels and clams were warm and delicious.

I originally downloaded the photo from MorgueFile.com (a great site for finding copyright-free images) when a student asked for a demo of bird painting and we did some planning for the painting.

Drawing the bird was fun and interesting. I’d never looked that closely at a parrot (or any bird) before and made so many discoveries, from his long, segmented “fingers” to his funny tongue and the varied shapes and colors of his feathers.

I have a friend with an Amazon parrot and I think it’s time for a visit and some sketching in person!

Watercolor Class: Remnants & August Class Registration

Watercolor Glazing Exercise

Watercolor Glazing Study, 10 x 5"

My Sunday morning watercolor class focused on glazing this week. Glazing is applying a transparent layer of paint over painted or unpainted areas. Like a piece of colored glass, a glaze won’t hide what’s below it but will change the way it appears.

I used the study above to demonstrate glazing with gradations. To make the design I printed the word “HAPPY” in big capital letters and then playfully added more pencil lines between and around letters to make more shapes.

Then I glazed each shape individually, adding more glazed layers in various areas until it felt done. I used only transparent primary colors, so that they combined to create secondary colors.  You can also use glazing to make colors appear brighter, duller, darker, warmer, cooler or in shadow or to unify an entire painting or a section of it.

Journal parrot feather spread

Parrot painting strategy sheet, converted to journal entry use

A student who takes individual classes asked for help with painting birds so I used the journal spread above to demonstrate doing a pre-painting strategy session. I tried out various techniques and pigments as I thought about how I might paint the parrot whose photo we downloaded from Morguefile.com (where you are allowed to “copy, distribute, transmit and adapt” the copyright-free photos). Doing this bit of preparation and note-taking really helps to avoid some (but certainly not all) mistakes and corrections during the painting process. LATER I used the spread to write a journal entry (which I’ve blurred here for privacy), right over the feather and color experiments.

I still have these “cheat sheets” for many of my paintings. Recently I came across the one for Cheerios with Strawberries and saw that I’d used a wash of cobalt violet light (a favorite color but very expensive) to make the milk look just like the non-fat that I’d had in that bowl of cereal.

Flat and gradated wash demo

Flat and gradated wash demo

I loved the colors so much on this demo for flat and gradated washes from the previous week that I hung it on my wall as if it was a finished painting (my own mini Rothko).

Watercolor Class Registration
My next 4-week class session begins Sunday August 8. You can register and get more information on my website here. It looks like this session will fill so be sure to sign up soon if you want to join in. I am also planning a new “independent studies” class for people wanting to paint with ongoing coaching. If you’re interested, send me a note to get on the list.

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