When I received an email from a woman in Switzerland, asking if I’d be interested in a commission to paint the site of her wedding (the Brazilian Room in Tilden Park) as a 10-year anniversary gift for her husband I said an enthusiastic, “Yes!” We agreed I would have the painting completed when she visited the Bay Area a couple of months later so that she could hand carry it back to Switzerland.
I visited the site, took photos and we agreed I would use the one above as reference for the painting. Since I shot the photo in late spring it wouldn’t really match the colors and light of her August wedding so I also used my imagination and memory of the park in summer to capture the warmth and strong light of August in the Bay Area. Below are some of the steps in the painting process.
The San Francisco Sketchcrawl was so much fun and had a great turnout of around 75 people. It was great seeing old friends and meeting new ones. This was actually my last sketch of the day, finished just before our 4:00 meetup.
Micaela and I were going to walk the hundreds of stairs up to Coit Tower to draw it but got distracted by all the other events going on along the Embarcadero on our way. We realized there a was a great view of the tower from inside Levi Plaza, a beautiful, somewhat hidden park that I’d like to return to for more sketching.
Since my end-of-year wrap-up blog post remains unfinished, here are a couple of autumn sketches that were waiting patiently to be posted. I have a good excuse though: my new iMac arrived last week and since then I’ve been immersed in learning the Mac after over a decade on Windows PCs. I’ve been transferring files, talking to both Moron and Genius-level tech support, and installing and learning Mac versions of my applications.
I’m finding the Mac to be quite delightful in many ways and a bit confounding in others. But little by little I’m getting the hang of it… And..Oh Crud! right after I typed that I made some kind of wrong move and instantly I was popped out of the blog and into an endless loop of…
Computer: “Are you sure you want to leave this page?” I click: “Stay on page.” Computer: “Are you sure you want to leave this page?” over and over until I finally give up, say OK and click “Leave this page.” And of course nothing happens. Had to force quit and restart.
But Yay WordPress; it saved the draft! I wish I knew what I did so I don’t do it again. It has happened a bunch of times and I have no clue why.
It’s quite humbling going from being expert on the PC to being such a beginner that I couldn’t even figure out how to turn on the Mac (finally found the power button hidden behind the screen).
I was too excited to sleep much during my week at the Scottsdale Artists School, despite my quiet, comfortable hotel room. One morning I woke as the sun was coming up, with the moon still shining brightly. Everything outside my window was glowing so I immediately grabbed my sketchbook and paints. What a great way to start the day, even if on only a few hours sleep.
I promised to share what I learned from Rose Frantzen but after typing up 5 pages of notes, I’m not sure they will be helpful to anyone without having been there and seen her working and guiding us. That said, here is a bit of my notes:
After I did the watercolors I posted yesterday, I set up the sketch, the watercolor and my iPad displaying the photo on the table beside my easel and painted the scene once again, this time with oil paint. After a month or two of being totally frustrated with oil painting, trashing everything I made and about ready to give it up, suddenly painting was easy and I was loving it!
The entire painting worked like a charm except the foreground mount of dirt and ice plant which was the last thing I painted and which I did over and over. It kept trying to call too much attention to itself. I think I finally successfully muted that foreground while still keeping the light on it.
Then I was looking at some delightfully free and vibrant oil pastel work on Aletha Kuschan’s blog which inspired me to try the scene in oil pastels too. I know nothing about oil pastels so I quickly read a few how-to’s on the web and dug in.
BUT before I show you the drawing, I have to say that I made a fatal misstep: I chose a sheet of the totally wrong paper to work on. Instead of starting small on a sheet of white or blue pastel paper, I chose a large sheet of brown Stonehenge drawing paper. What was I thinking? Brown under a turquoise sea?
It was impossible to cover all the brown paper because even though the oil pastels got really thick in some areas—so thick that no more could be applied—in other spots they just wouldn’t cover.
Although my Holbein Oil Pastels are very old, purchased for a small project I did more than 20 years ago, they were still in good shape. But I didn’t have the right colors, and I had trouble blending. I didn’t have blending stumps, didn’t want to use my fingers and was wearing gloves which didn’t work. I tried a paper towel but it just smeared and left paper towel lint.
Compared to paint, oil pastels seems like a lot of extra work, having to fill in so much area by scribbling over and over. And it was messy; my gloves and the pastels got dirty from colors transferring onto them.
But maybe if I knew what I was doing, or had used the right paper it would have been easier or less messy? (Not to say that oil painting isn’t messy! Everything I own has paint on it!) I like the look of oil pastels done well so I’ll try another experiment with them. But on the right paper this time! Any tips?
When I got frustrated with painting from life last month, I took a break and experimented in working from the same photo in different media. First I did the sketch above in my journal from the photo below which I took at Point Bonita in the Marin Headlands last year.
I took the photo during a very cold and windy plein air paint out where I did a plein air sketch (posted here) and planned to eventually paint the scene in the studio. As you can see, I did what I call “imaginating” (a combination of imagining and exaggerating the colors I see in a photo or a scene) instead of rendering the photo as is.
After I did the little journal painting at the top of this post (which I like very much), I tried it again 4 times bigger on a 12×9″ Arches watercolor block (above). It was fun to get back to painting in watercolor on something other than a small journal page. I didn’t use any masking on either of these, just painted around areas I wanted to stay white.
I enjoyed working larger on a watercolor block–I could work at a slant, mix juicy washes, and not have to worry about trying to keep the pages flat and the journal open. I’m falling in love with watercolor painting all over again.
Stay tuned for the oil and oil pastel versions tomorrow.
When I was hiking with a friend in the large, beautiful, hilly cemetery near my house, we discovered a small pond full of lily pads and flowers. That afternoon I drove back up to the cemetery with my sketchbook and paints and set up my chair beside the pond. It was such a peaceful spot; quiet, serene and green.
I took a break to figure out the shape of lily pads and flowers, filling up a page of lily shapes, first with my regular pen and then the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, until I understood the lilies.
The water was really confusing because of all the reflections of the sky, trees and shrubbery, and the quickly encroaching shadows since it was nearing sunset.
When the pond was completely in shadow, I turned my chair around to face the other direction and do a quick sketch of a meadow glowing in the sunset, surrounded by shadows.