Categories
Art Oil Painting Painting People Portrait Watercolor

Sadie and the Swim Trophy

Sadie and the swim trophy, watercolor
Sadie and the 2021 Swim Trophy, watercolor, 10”x7.5”

My granddaughter Sadie loves to swim (and play soccer, basketball and read books, too). At the end of the season, after winning many races and awards, to fundraise for her team she swims lap after lap and people pledge $ per lap.

Reference photo

Trying to paint Sadie from this photo led to me giving up on oils and going back to watercolor. As was my way with oils, I tried repeatedly, persistently (obsessively?) but couldn’t make it work. This watercolor isn’t perfect, but it captures the joy of the moment and that makes me happy.

Failed oil paintings
Abandoned Oil Paintings, 9×12”
L-R: Start of painting #2; unfinished painting #2; unfinished painting #1

With watercolor I’m able to paint to a certain point and then happily call it done. Watercolor doesn’t allow you to keep fiddling forever like oil does.

Final drawing for the portrait painting
Final drawing for the painting (after many corrections)

I again used a limited palette because it’s fun to see what I can do with only 3 colors. This time it was DS Hansa Yellow Medium, WN Permanent Alizarin and WN Cobalt Blue.

Limited palette color wheel of primary triad
Test of Limited Palette Primary Triad using DS Hansa Yellow Medium, WN Cobalt Blue and Alizarin Permanent

I used to think it was really weird that artists limited their palettes. I thought one needed every possible color in order to capture color exactly. But now I prefer the harmony a limited palette provides and don’t really care about capturing exactly the colors in real life. I’m not trying to be a photocopier.

Categories
Art Drawing Faces Painting People Portrait Watercolor

Quilt Lady in Watercolor

Quilt Lady, watercolor, 7×7”

While I drew and painted her I thought of her as one of the Quilters of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, women who were direct descendants of the enslaved people who worked the cotton plantation there. I saw a traveling show of their quilts at a local museum years ago.

Reference Photo from J Hunsung

I painted this after watching master Korean watercolor artist J Hunsung paint her on YouTube here where you can also see his finished version. He doesn’t credit the photographer or model for this reference photo, which I also used for my painting.

Quilt Lady sketch 7×7”

It took three attempts to get the sketch right. I’m learning to take my time and get everything sketched in. And if things don’t quite fit together, fix it, don’t pretend it will be ok as is. Looking at my sketch compared to the reference photo below, I can see I still didn’t get it perfectly, but it felt close enough to go for it.

How I checked my sketch against the reference photo, side by side.
Initial block in

I was so pleased with these perfect flat washes in my initial block in that I had to share them. In watercolor, getting a flawless flat wash is not easy.

Uncropped painting with limited palette colors in the margin

With each watercolor painting, I’m experimenting with a different limited palette and then adding strokes of the colors used at the bottom of the painting. For this one I used Daniel Smith Quinacridone Gold, Winsor Newton Perylene Magenta, Daniel Smith Indanthrone Blue and a guest appearance in the jewelry only of Daniel Smith Perylene Scarlet. (I know it says DS Perylene on the painting but that’s a mistake.)

Watercolor set up with limited palette

I’m enjoying using fresh from the tube paint in a little porcelain palette instead of the ancient dried up old palette I had been using.

Categories
Bay Area Parks Berkeley Building Landscape Outdoors/Landscape Painting Watercolor

Brazil Room, Tilden Park, Watercolor Painting Commission (steps in process)

Brazillian Room, Tilden Park, Watercolor, 22 x 30 in
Brazilian Room, Tilden Park, Watercolor, 22 x 30 in

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.

Brazillian Room, Tilden Park, Original Photo Reference
Brazilian Room, Tilden Park, Original Photo Reference

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.

Categories
Acrylic Painting Art supplies Landscape Life in general Outdoors/Landscape Painting Sketchbook Pages Virtual Paint-Out Watercolor

Virtual Paint-Out: Hawaii & Marathon Garage Clean Up Continued

Hawaii Virtual Paint-Out, Watercolor
Hawaii Virtual Paint-Out, Watercolor

I’m back on the blog after an intense week spent alternately deep in the bowels of a massive garage clean up/reorganization, and obsessively fighting the acrylic version of the watercolor sketch above. After finishing the garage on Saturday afternoon it was time to clean up in the house and studio and prep for my Sunday morning watercolor class (which went great with a terrific group of artists who left me feeling inspired).

Virtual Paintout: Hawaii

For the Virtual Paintout we went to Hawaii this month via the very cheap Google Air (just kidding—to participate you use Google Maps’ Street View feature to find your painting spot and all travels are virtual). Here’s the original scene:

Hawaii - near West Maui Forest Reserve
Hawaii - near West Maui Forest Reserve

The painting got off to a good start with Golden Open Acrylics. I was trying to work from both my watercolor sketch above in which I’d changed the colors, warming up the scene, and also from the Google photo which just has a blur for the foreground. I first painted the gate purple for fun, but nearing completion realized the gate was too prominent and acting as roadblock into the painting so I repainted it green.

Then I started fighting the foreground. Over and over I painted, repainted, scraped, repainted. Here it is in its current state with the foreground (and some of the fence) scraped off again .

Hawaii with Scraped Off Foreground
Hawaii with Scraped Off Foreground, Acrylic, 11x14"

Part of the problem may be the Utrecht Masters canvas panel that I was experimenting with. The canvas texture is too coarse and too absorbent so first I painted a layer of regular acrylic to smooth it out and reduce the absorbency (which is OK to do according to Golden). But then I had a paint adhesion problem, easily peeling off several layers where I’d painted thickly or repainted over not quite dry paint.

Since I wasted so much time messing with this painting and because I really love the top half of it I just didn’t want to give up. But to enjoy the second half of my vacation I’ve banished it to the closet and have gone back to working on a big watercolor of a tulip that is going great and makes me happy when I paint, not frustrated. I’m becoming convinced that I’m meant to be a watercolor painter and should forget about oils and acrylics.

The Garage

At the dump
Cody unloading and saying "Bye" to his junk at the dump

When I bought my house 10 years ago it had been a rental for many years before that and the standalone garage probably hadn’t been cleaned forever. Then for 9 years my son used it to dismantle and rebuild his 71 Firebird, leaving grease, car parts, tires, miscellaneous junk, and bondo dust on top of years of grime, cobwebs, and worse (we found a literal rats’ nest made of fluffy chewed up shop towels in one corner behind a piece of plywood but no sign of recent rodents).

After moving most of his stuff out and the initial trip to the dump above, the real clean up began. I hired the smart, hardworking 15-year old boy next door to help me clean and we worked together most of Friday and Saturday. He vacuumed the wood walls and concrete floors after cleaning out the Bondo-filled ShopVac, removed and cleaned all my storage bins from the shelving units and then cleaned the shelving too. Meanwhile I sorted my junk and took a carload to the recycling/donation center and made another pile for the dump.

Finally the garage is ready for its new life as studio annex and multipurpose room. And I’m ready for my last week of vacation which I will fill with art fun, rest and recreation!

Categories
Animals Art theory Landscape Outdoors/Landscape Painting Photos Places Sketchbook Pages Watercolor

Watercolor Study & Watercolor Class Openings

Study for Kaiser Garden II, watercolor, 6.5" x 4.5"
Study for Kaiser Garden II, watercolor, 6.5" x 4.5"

There are still openings in my watercolor class starting Sunday, June 27; click here for all the information. Ok, business done, now on to the painting above, another study from photos I took at the Kaiser garden.

I learned the hard way to do a study first, after time and again putting hours, days or weeks into a painting that was doomed from the start.

No matter how skillful the painting technique is, if the composition is bad (the viewer’s eye goes to a bright corner and then right off the painting), or you’re trying to work from a photo that doesn’t have enough information, or your colors or values are uninteresting, the painting isn’t likely to succeed. Sketching exactly what you see is great fun, but sometimes nature requires editing to make it a painting.

What made me want to paint this scene was the water feature and the bird sculpture but when I looked at my photo I saw big problems with the composition:

Original photo, Kaiser garden
Original photo, Kaiser garden

There is way too much going on, the two big succulent plants on the bottom left dominate, a big stem above them leads the eye out of the frame, and the composition seems divided right down the middle, vertically. You barely notice the water.

So I spent some time in Photoshop cropping, rearranging and revising things:

Revised Photo Reference, Kaiser Garden II
Revised Photo Reference, Kaiser Garden II

Before cropping off the left side, I cut out the bird, moved it to the right, tilted it and gave it legs. Then I darkened the remaining succulents on the left and bottom to use them as a frame for the water feature instead of competing with it. When I started sketching the composition in my journal I decided to get rid of the messy tree branches poking in from the right too.

Although Photoshop is great for preparing a photo reference, so are the scissors, glue, sketches and notes that I used pre-Photoshop. Along with learning Photoshop, I’m also trying to become a better photographer and compose more carefully. I can do that with my digital SLR because it has a viewfinder but my carry-everywhere little Panasonic doesn’t. In the bright sun it was impossible to see anything on the LCD screen, so I guess I’m lucky that I got something I could work from at all.

My notes for the painting are in my journal opposite the study, with reminders about colors and things that worked (or didn’t). I’ve transferred the drawing to the canvas and it’s just waiting for its turn at the easel. I have a feeling it’s really meant to be a watercolor, not an acrylic painting, so may do it both ways.