Bachelors Buttons (I think), ink & watercolor, 8x5"

Gone Wild With Wildflowers, Part 1

Bachelors Buttons (I think), ink & watercolor, 8x5"

Bachelors Buttons (I think), ink & watercolor, 8×5″

Just days before the city mowed down all the “dangerous” wildflowers on Carlson Boulevard for the second time, finally killing them, I walked along the narrow median strip with cars zooming by, and snipped specimens of each to paint. (I previously wrote here about why they were dangerous. They grew back after that first trimming.)

Pink Wildflowers, ink and watercolor, 5x8"

Pink Wildflowers, ink and watercolor, 5×8″

Pink Wildflower sketch with photo

Pink wildflower sketch with photo

I took them home and went wild, putting them in pretty bottles and vases, then sketching and painting them all day long.

Pink & Yellow Wildflowers, ink and watercolor, 5x8"

Pink & Yellow Wildflowers, ink and watercolor, 5×8″

Pink and yellow wildflowers with photo

Pink and yellow wildflowers with photo

My goal was to make free and fresh sketches of each flower that captured its personality while keeping composition in mind.

Little Daisy-Like Wildflowers, ink & watercolor, 8x5"

Little Daisy-Like Wildflowers, ink & watercolor, 8×5″

Little Daisy-Like Wildflowers with photo, ink & watercolor, 8x5"

Little Daisy-Like Wildflowers with photo

I postponed posting because of the time it would take to prepare the many sketches, scans and photos from that glorious day. I finally made the time; I didn’t want to be posting spring wildflowers in the Fall!

Lacy Wildflowers in Blue Bottle, ink & watercolor, 8x5"

Lacy Wildflowers in Blue Bottle, ink & watercolor, 8×5″

Lacy Wildflowers in Blue Bottle with photo

Lacy Wildflowers in Blue Bottle with photo

Do you know the names of any of these flowers? If you do, please leave a comment and tell me and I’ll change the captions with the correct names.

There are many more wildflower sketches to come, which I will post in Part 2.

Lucy, Watercolor cat portrait on Arches paper, 12x9"

Lucy: Cat Portrait in Watercolor

Lucy, Watercolor cat portrait on Arches paper, 12x9"

Lucy Painting #2, Watercolor cat portrait on Arches paper, 12×9″

I was asked to make a watercolor portrait of a beloved cat much missed by her family.  This post will be their first chance to see what I’ve come up with so far. I’m not sure I’ve captured her appearance or spirit yet as her family knows her.

(UPDATE 6/12/2012) Yay! They loved the painting and are getting it framed.

They sent two beautiful photos of Lucy in different poses to work from. I had to guess a little since the photos only showed one paw and the bottom half of her ears and I wasn’t sure how accurate the colors were. Below are the studies I made before the painting above. Read More

Dandelions and Wine

Dandelions and Wine, Oil Painting on Gessobord, 10x8"

Dandelions and Wine, Oil Painting on Gessobord, 10×8″

It was time to take a break from portraits and do some still life painting after ten failed attempts at painting a friend from a not-great photo. I gathered some dandelions from my neighbor’s yard (I’m sure he didn’t mind) and stuck a few in my favorite old French Cognac bottle (that I found in the street years ago). With the addition of a bottle of Spanish wine, I had a still life ready to paint.

Dandelions & Wine, Watercolor, 7.5"x5"

Dandelions & Wine, Watercolor, 7.5″x5″

But first I did this watercolor sketch. Even if I plan to finish an oil painting in one go, it always helps do a sketch first to get to know my subject. And since I’m eager to get started with the oil painting, I work quickly which keeps my watercolor fresh and not overworked.

It was a relief to turn out something I liked after my frustrating journey with the portrait. But I haven’t given up on it. There are still two failed canvases facing the wall, waiting for me to make them work (or smash them to bits!)

Bad Mood Cloudy Day at Borges Ranch That Ended Well

Borges Ranch Shell Ridge Area, ink & watercolor, 5x8"

Borges Ranch Shell Ridge Area, ink & watercolor, 5x8"

My mind was as cloudy as the skies when my plein air group visited Borges Ranch for a Saturday paint out. I was mad because a beautiful bookcase promised to me on Craigslist sold to someone else. I needed it badly. After I donated lots of books along with my rickety old bookcase I still had many I was keeping with no place to put them.

I was too grumpy to hang out with my painting friends so I hiked away from the ranch on the Shell Ridge trail, which is beautiful and quiet except for the sounds of birds. I set up my folding stool and sketched in ink with watercolor washes, facing one direction (above).

Borges Ranch Shell Ridge Open Space, watercolor, 5x8"

Borges Ranch Shell Ridge Open Space, watercolor, 5x8"

Then I turned to face the opposite direction and worked directly in watercolor. I was starting to feel better, enjoying freely painting all the gorgeous colors of spring.

Happy Ending

On the way home from Borges I passed an “Estate Sale” sign and pulled over. Usually estate sales just have a lot of crummy, over-priced furniture, ugly knicknacks, and icky used bathrobes. But this home was huge and completely remodeled, with a master bath better than any spa, a huge dreamy kitchen, and best of all (for me) a home office with TWO bookcases exactly like the ONE I almost bought for $100…and I got them for $20 each! The nice estate sales guy even loaded them in my car for me.

I learned a good lesson: Don’t waste time being grumpy! The second bookcase now holds my cookbooks and gardening books just outside the kitchen which makes them much more accessible than they were before and it looks nice there too.

A Walk By the Park, A Guy on the Roof

Putting Up the Xmas Lights by the Park, Ink & watercolor, 7x5"

Putting Up the Xmas Lights by the Park, Ink & watercolor, 7x5"

It was such a beautiful sunny day (our drought continues) I decided to go for a walk and find a spot to paint outdoors instead of in the studio. I walked the mile to Peet’s Coffee and then, with a cup of their dark, rich (decaf) coffee in hand, I turned towards home, still looking for inspiration.

I passed the little urban creek behind Peet’s, and considered sketching it but it was shaded by trees and very chilly.  As I walked by the little pocket park alongside Albany Hill, this little cul-de-sac called out, “Paint Me!” With a handy picnic table right there to lay out my paints, how could I resist?

Although I usually sketch directly in pen, this scene was so complicated I decided to draw in pencil first. As I was completing the drawing I spotted a guy on his roof with a string of holiday lights. Do you see him? I know it looks like he’s standing on top of a tree but the roof of his house is just behind the tree. I think I made him a bit of a giant!

Painting Pt. Bonita Part I: Watercolor

Point Bonita, watercolor, 7x5" in journal

Point Bonita #1, watercolor, 7x5" in journal

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.

Point Bonita photo cropped to 9x12"

Point Bonita photo cropped to 9x12"

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.

Point Bonita, Watercolor, 12x9"

Point Bonita #2, Watercolor, 12x9"

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.

Will You Accept This Rose? Yes, Finally. Watercolor, 7x5"

Will You Accept This Rose? (War of the Roses Part II)

Will You Accept This Rose? Yes, Finally. Watercolor, 7x5"

Will You Accept This Rose? Yes, Finally. Watercolor, 7x5"

After all the struggles of the previous day, I was determined to succeed in painting a rose and decided to give myself a break. First I rearranged the colors in the palette, putting them in my prefered, mostly color-wheel order instead of helter skelter as they were, and replaced several colors (see below for color chart).

Revised Schmincke Palette chart

Revised Schmincke Palette chart

(WN=Winsor Newton, S=Schmincke, DS= Daniel Smith, H=Holbein):

Top Row: WN Transparent Yellow, S Cadmium Yellow Light, DS New Gamboge, S Cadmium Red Light, WN Permanent Alizarin, WN Permanent Rose.

Middle Row: WN Violet, S Ultramarine, WN Cobalt Blue, H Cerulean Blue, WN Winsor Blue, DS Indanthrone Blue.

Bottom Row: S Thalo Green, WN Sap Green, S Yellow Ochre, WN Burnt Sienna, DS Indigo, S Titanium White (the latter will probably be removed since I’ve never successfully been able to incorporate white into watercolors).

Second to Last Rose Test, ink & watercolor

Second to Last Rose Test, ink & watercolor

The other thing I did to give myself a break was that after I made the second to last rose sketch above from life, I decided to work from a photo of the rose. Read More

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