Saturday, July 31, 2010

Leaf Printing - Ferns

This afternoon I got in a little leaf collecting and pressing, which led me to thinking about printing...

Winsor Green YS watercolor and Holbein Rich Gold gouache. In this first image, the fern sections were brushed with color, placed on sketch paper, and pressed with heavy cardboard. After trying various consistencies, it just seemed that the watercolor didn't detail, although the gouache was showing promise.

Switching to Oxide of Chromium seemed to improve detail. Was it consistency, opacity, or both? Not sure about that, but I did like the color combination. For these last two test, instead of painting the fern sections, paint was applied to cardboard and the fern positioned and pressed into the paint. I somehow accidentally switched over to Holbein Brilliant Gold Gouache (duh...) and those oversized sparkles reduced detail.

I liked the look of the overlaid gouache so dropped bits of gold gouache on the Oxide of Chromium before pressing the fern into the paint. There is kind of a nice sparkle on the printing that's missed here.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Pressed Petals

Here's my first try at pressing. A few days ago I pulled petals from my model roses and slid them between pages of my Moleskine. Now they are flat, colorful, and silky smooth. I sized the image a good deal larger than I normally do so that detail is available.

I'm thinking that having a collection of pressings might be fun to work with when the snow is flying.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Toning A Sphere In Color

Fascinating, mixing pencils, that is. Burnishing with Ivory color. I first dropped in the gradated bar. Only now do I notice that darker values were available for the sphere. ..

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Making A Circle Look Like A Sphere

This colored pencil seems to have a softness similar to a 4B or so graphite but the feel here is more oily than slippery.

This exercise takes the gradated tones of the previous lesson and applies them to an object. Next up I'll be bringing in a bit of color on these first two exercises. But really... isn't monochrome lovely?

I'm looking forward to some spare time to go over these exercises. I'm thinking there is a lot to be gained in relaxed repetition. I feel a bit like I'm heading back to the basics and I'm liking that.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Rendering Tones In Dark Sepia

Hey, hey, my next little project is underway! I'm now working through Wendy Hollender's Botanical Drawing A Beginner's Guide. From the introduction: "The purpose of this workbook is to learn to draw 3 dimensional specimens on a 2 dimensional surface and have them look real."

A couple of the early lessons will seem quite similar to early work with my Cornell drawing course. In no time at all, I'll be brought out of monotone and into color subjects. I'll be using Faber-Castell Polychromos for all exercises.

This is a good little exercise, one that deserves repetition. I'm using Dark Sepia here but have done variations of this with graphite.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Week 6 Wrap Up - Instructor Feedback

Today Marcia sent along her feedback on last week's submissions. I include below a small picture of the submission(s) for each lesson with her comments quoted to the right.

Warm-Up 6.1: Produce Sketches of the Final Painting

"This exercise certainly leaves me eager to see what you've come up with. Good job on the warm up. Simply, quick sketches to illuminate the possibilities. Not much more to it than that."

Warm Up 6.2: Getting Started with Painting

"Excellent progression from sketch, to color. This type of flower can be tricky, since you have layers and depth, and it means keeping lots of control over where the color is moving, in an effort to keep your highlights light, and the shadows deeper. So far, so good!

Warm Up 6.3: Deepening Colors, Moving Toward Completion

"Nice progression toward completion. You're keeping the color from muddying, it's remaining vibrant. I am going to hold my other comments till I see the end result..."

Final Painting

"Lovely work! Here is all that's working well, in my opinion. The color is vibrant, and as I mentioned earlier, you've kept it from getting muddy. I don't have any sense that you've overworked it at all. The light areas have stayed light, and the dark, dark, lending a nice sense of three dimensions.

"It's a good choice of botanical composition, classic in many ways. I especially like the way in which you are hinting at certain details -- the way the sepals trail off to little wisps, and the hint at veination in the flower. Some artists like to go even further with this, but I tend to err on the 'less is more' side of things.

"The only constructive commentary I might offer is a feeling that I get from this -- not so much technique, as the mood of the piece. For you and your style, so to speak, this feels a little -- what is the word? -- tight and a little formal, as if you were not loose as you were working. Curiosity question how much did you enjoy this exercise, really? I'm recalling an earlier exercise, in which you added a wonderful, original background. Somehow this doesn't have some of that kind of energy. From a purely technical perspective, it's terrific! Just more a feeling that I get from it, and I know that you like to stretch yourself, and you really seem to value this kind of feedback.

"As always, it has been a pleasure! I'm eager to read your journal. "

Journal Entry

"Many thanks for your thoughtful feedback. I had to smile at this line... All this can happen at seemingly so glacial a rate as to be imperceptible.

"You have come so far, and I have enjoyed your enthusiasm and commitment in the class so much. I should put a little stickie on my calendar to remind me to occasionally visit your blog. I think since I use the computer so much at work, I tend not to think of it for enjoyment, and yet, between art and food blogs, there really are a number of good ones out there, that I should get in the habit of occasionally checking."

End of Marcia's feedback.

Okay, now it's me again! :-) Below is my response to Marcia's question on tight, formal, and fun:

Yes, indeed, I had fun, but it was cautious fun! :-) I found my first selection of Sweet Pepperbush too tough to handle. What I presented was my second cut at a rose. After laying down some color, I had become dissatisfied with my initial sketch work and so started over. Although I kept the roses in the fridge, I dealt with some blossoming and misshaped flowers. Towards the end, I was working from my tonal sketch as much as from the rose. All that together kept me tense, but I didn't mind walking the tightrope too much. I just kept telling myself, "No screwing around, Perry. Pay attention. Play close."

I am reminded of a dear friend who happens to be a fantastic artist... She talks about the soul of a painting. To that I attribute the ability to render the uniqueness, the life, of an individual subject. See, I didn't paint "my" rose; I painted "a" rose. I figure in time I'll get more comfortable and can then fly about a bit more relaxed and simultaneously precise. I guess this time around I was totally concerned with execution. All that said, ya, I agree with your observation! :-)

Oh! Here's something that I found so cool! The rose was done; I was looking it over closely under a lamp in a darkened room. I continued to view the painting as I turned away from the light. I then saw an afterimage halo around the rose of about a half inch of bright white with the rest of the paper fading out! I thought now how cool would it be to get that down right--and immediately squashed that thought. I couldn't take the chance of botching up my final work. I'll have to give that a try on my first rose, just to see if I can get there with something of a very light wash.

Okay, this is it. Class over! Movin' on! Sigh... Smile... repeat.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Odyssey 2010

I've had a blast at Odyssey 2010 these past two days.

In general, I met so many nice people! I seem to be continually receiving affirmations that I am on the right path. It's a happy and calming feeling, mixed with just the right kind of excitement.

I met the very kind and informative Virginia Sarsfield of Handmade Papers Gallery. Although she didn't have any of her lovely custom lampshades with her, she took the time to demonstrate process with a tipped over chair. She explained how she uses a backing paper overlaid with a translucent textured and colored paper and described just how corners are joined. Thanks, Virginia! :-)

Here are my paper choices in 11 x 17" from her extensive selection. From top to bottom, flax and Cattail fibers, dyed flax, Foxfire and cotton, carbon and flax, and linen with garlic stems. I revisted today to pick up a couple more sheets of cattail--I feel a cool project in there.

And here's a piece 5 x 7" calfskin vellum from Pergamena--just a little something for me to try out.

A couple of books from John Neal Bookseller:

A lovely spiral-bound book for beginners.

A fascinating collection of ideas with many pointers to other books and web sites.

A few sheets 0f 22 x 30 " cattail paper from Paper and Ink Arts. This is a roughly textured paper that may be suitable for ink work. I compare that to Virginia Sarsfield's paper above that is quite smooth and might lend well to a detailed botanical image.

I also visited with three vendors where no money was exchanged, although they were so very friendly and informative and their goods were way cool:

Deena Schnitman
works with a paste paper process that produces incredibly beautiful results with natural dyes. Here are her online portfolios. We had a great chat about online instruction and she offered this beginner such very kind encouragement.

Lauren Perlman of Paper Connection International showed me quite a paper selection and described silk screening process where designs are taken from kimono patterns.

Carol W. Nichols presented her Gospel of Thomas Manuscript book. She had the original on hand and demonstrated just how well the color reproduction worked out.

Odyssey is an annual event taking place in cities throughout the US. It last presented at Stonehill College some eight years ago. How lucky was I to find this incredible event minutes from my home!

I am waiting for feedback on my final week's course submissions and will share with you as it comes in. Marcia's been away on a seminar for five days; students can expect her feedback early in the week.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Gold Testing

Sometime after my Celtic foray, I picked up a few gold paints with plans to review. Well, one thing led to another and the gold testing went by the wayside. This evening I experimented with the following paints:

Brand: Winsor and Newton Designers' Gouache
Name: Gold
Description: Titanium dioxide coated mica/ synthetic iron oxides

Brand: Holbein Artists' Gouache
Name: Rich Gold
Description: PW20 PW6

Brand: Holbein Artists' Gouache
Name: Brilliant Gold
Description: PW20 PW6

Brand: Schmincke Horodam Aquarell
Name: Gold
Description: Yellow gold tone. No bronze, but coated mica with metal oxide(Iriodin).

Here's a scan that came out okay. Not a lot of sparkle but it does illustrate color.

And here's a photo with sparkle... and glare (sorry about that...)

Note that the first three rows (WN, Holbein) are gouache, the last (Schmincke) being watercolor. The first column was a wash perhaps a bit too wet. The second was straight from the tube. The third was just a bit of water. Do click on the photos for better viewing.

My favorite for color and application was Holbein Rich Gold; my least favorite for the same reasons was Holbein Brilliant Gold. Brilliant gold seemed to have large chips that left a chunky appearance. WN was decent and probably my number two pick. Schmincke, being a watercolor, seemed to go on lighter. I do like its distinctly lighter color that might come in handy in particular paintings. I absolutely love the Schmincke caps! They're huge with small threaded tubes. So much nicer that those WN beasts that make me keep pliers handy.

I visited Odyssey 2010 this afternoon, meeting vendors and spending money. I'm going back for more tomorrow! Details to follow! :-)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Looking Ahead

I've occasionally alluded to upcoming projects ready and waiting in the wings upon course completion. Here's where we're going next!

There is paint making coming up soon. A kit from Natural Pigments arrived last week. It's been sitting on a kitchen chair since then, waiting quietly for attention. I have six pigments with everything needed to make up tubes of paint. My friend and fellow student, Margaret, will be sending up earths from the Carolina Appalachian region. Here are a couple of photos she sent along detailing the rough and her grinding process.

Here's a example of the color range possible with her earths.

And here's the kit that recently came in.

Running concurrently with paint making will be working through the assignments in Wendy Hollender's Botanical Drawing. This book and the needed colored pencils have also been ready to go for a couple of weeks!

So, as I have been having a wonderful and somewhat challenging time working through the Cornell course, I have also been quite excited to get under way with these new subjects. And who knows, there may even be some around the lake photos mixed in! :-)

Second Cut - Final

Just a few minor tweaks here--enhanced the tails on the sepals, lifted out a few petal highlights, and added shadowing on the top of the stem. That's it! This image has been submitted; my course work is done.

Week 6 Journal

Here is the guidance offered for our last weekly journal:

You're coming to the conclusion of this course! Please reflect on "highlights" and "lowlights:" what have you enjoyed the most, learned the most, and which aspects of the course have assisted this process for you? On the other hand, where does the course most need improvement in helping you along toward your goal of drawing the plant world?

My journal:

It wasn't that long ago that a drew up a commitment to study botanical artistry. As I reflect back upon my process of learning, the Cornell courses weekly bite-sized lessons stand out as reinforcers for my confidence. My shining highlight is confidence; it is building my will to improve.

I recognize that learning is a process. It's not just the myriad skills that need to come together—perspective, shading, light, color, brush and water control, etc... Emotional skills to handle procrastination, unsureness, and fear build slowly. All this can happen at seemingly so glacial a rate as to be imperceptible.

To that, I find it is important to be able to step back and see the process over time, and blogging is my wonderful tool to aid that need. Having weeks and months (and soon years!) of material available in an online journal reminds me of my journey and lets me share it with others of like mind. (Please feel free to link up my watercolor posts for Cornell's use.)

I do have two suggestions where I think the courses could be enhanced:

Video is a wonderful medium that I think could be better exploited. I do understand that not everyone has the luxury of high-speed internet but it is a good deal more common these days. And for folks without fast downloads, a DVD could be offered. Regarding the watercolor videos specifically, I think that camera angles could be improved—the artist's hand often blocks the view of brush and paper. I found myself twisting my head to try to see around her hand. I wanted to see the paint being applied to the paper.

My watercolor class was unfortunately small—a group of three soon slipped to two—so it's probably not relevant there, but I'd suggest that the instructor seed the forums with starter subjects. Another option might be to actually place some of the instructional material as forum posts. I believe there is much to be learned with the exchange of ideas and images, and that some folks do need coaxing to come out into the open. I was particularly pleased that Marcia recognized my methods of initiating and encouraging forum participation, as that spurred me on to more exchanges.

Marcia, thanks for all your support and guidance. I am going to miss you and our conversations. I am surely not the first to say that I wish there were more courses or that each course extended out further than six weeks.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Second Cut - Further Painting

I'm closing in on it. A bit of work with the greens. Perhaps some highlight lifting on the petals. And, that's it! :-)

Last night I was completely lost to a meditative trance. Hours went by unnoticed.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Second Cut - Initial Painting

Last night I got down to initial washes and some shading. I need to submit an in-process painting and this will do. Tonight I'll try some selective washes and neutral shading. Perhaps get a start on the greens as well. I'm taking my time... Wrapping this up means the course is over.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Second Cut - Drawing

I was terribly excited over yesterday's rose. It looked so real. Note the past tense. :-)

Painting begins with good direction, and I need to find that with accurate drawings. Not some simple contour but a tonality map. At least I'm pretty sure that's what I need now, and I suspect many artists use this method regularly. In plain English, planning is critical.

In that spirit, here's a drawing with some detail. I'll create a transfer and refer to flower as well as drawing when I pick up the brush.

Odyssey 2010 is coming soon! Just a short ways up the road from my home, I will be visiting the vendors on Saturday. Some will be there only on that day whereas others will stay for an additionally two days, giving me opportunity to spend even more. ;-)

Monday, July 19, 2010

First Cut

I'm feeling much better with this rose than with the Sweet Pepperbush. (I am a bit sad letting it go but there is always next year.) A few large petals can work for me. Here's an experiment with color--Permanent Rose for a base; Permanent Alizarin Crimson for the shadows; Cadmiun Orange as a light wash to tone everything towards salmon.

Next up is some serious sketch work to pull everything into alignment and correct some details. After that, I can transfer and paint to my heart's content! :-)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Thoughtful Change In Direction

Sweet Pepperbush is off the table--my kitchen table, that is, where it all happens these days. I simply could not achieve satisfaction with drawing out the inflorescence. So today, like last week, off I went in search of who knows what. I'm back with a bunch of salmon roses that I feel happy and confident with. They're in the fridge while I work out composition.

I'm taking this process one step at a time. First, some simple layouts. I sculpted a kneadable eraser into a rose bud and stuck it on the end of a pencil. Laid it out all ways. Right off I noticed that simple object perspective studies would be most useful for me right now.

I thought about multiple flowers... I don't know... I think I'm going for a solitaire.

I'll rough sketch for a while. I'd love to begin exploring color but first things first.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sweet Pepperbush - Worksheet

The plan is to go with Sweet Pepperbush for my final painting. Here are my notes on composition, initial sketches, and color mixing. I feel on shaky ground with the initial drawing--the flower spike challenges me.

Sweet Pepperbush is now in bloom just a bit up the road and I suspect there will be good subjects all week long. I may take an extended weekend to wrap things up-- a fantastic excuse to get away from the job for a while.

This species holds special meaning for me here on Nuncketest. I discovered seed pods just before Christmas 2008 and spend a good deal of time identifying. Here's a link to all my Sweet Pepperbush posts.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Week 6 Begins

Here is the outline for the final week. I'll get into the details as I work through each component.

Lesson 6: Pulling it All Together
  • Lesson 6: Composition Resource
  • Warm-Up 6.1: Produce Sketches of the Final Painting Assignment
  • Warm Up 6.2: Getting Started with Painting Assignment
  • Warm Up 6.3: Deepening Colors, Moving Toward Completion Assignment
  • Final Painting Assignment
  • Journal Entry
I thought I was set with my project selection but I'm not confident I can pull it off. I will spend the rest of today exploring my possibilities.

Week 5 Wrapup

And there goes another week!

All my work has been submitted. All my feedback is in. And speaking of feedback, my instructor Marcia (read about her here) is graciously allowing me to quote her! Here are her comments on this past week's work:

Exercise 5.1: Complete a Painting, Discover Your Preference
(The all at once approach.)

My gosh, don't you feel you've come a long way since you started? So much about this piece that's working well. First, you've chosen a challenging subject. Excellent composition. True color, really deep rich purples, especially in the round petals. I especially like the flower bud -- soft green, with that hope of purple peeping through. Very nicely done. Honestly John, you could put a nice mat around this one!

My only suggestion is that there is something about the three pointy petals -- oh, I should remember the term for those! -- that feels just a tiny bit flat, not quite true. Do they appear flat, or is it my screen? Really and truly, it could be my screen. Somehow it feels as if you've captured the depth in the round petals, and the other three feel straighter.

And it could be, that's exactly what they're supposed to do!

Exercise 5.2: Discovering Your Preference, Continued
(The element by element approach.)

OK, so what did you think? In my view, this is the much more interesting painting. It fairly leaps off the page in three dimensions, it feels very true, with loads of depth. I've lost that sense of flatness that I expressed in the first piece. Just notice the way in which each piece has the hint of deeper color that makes it pop out at you. What do you think? I should check your blog...

Exercise 5.3: Painting Background

What a difference a few lines make, John! You've handled this exercise very creatively.

I have to admit that I held my breath a bit before opening it. I tend to use a lot of dark, bold backgrounds, but I sure wouldn't have for this orchid. I was worried you would go dark as you did the callas. Wise choice! This adds both a beautiful background, and also enhances overall the composition. Are you going to frame it??

Week 5 Journal

This week's topic guidelines:

Compare your paintings from 5.1 and 5.2, side by side.

Do you have a distinct preference, in terms of your approach? Do you think the results are any different? Any opinions about the progression? Use your journal this week to address these questions.

(note: 5.1 is the overall approach ; 5.2 is the element by element.)

My journal:

In a nutshell, and as a surprise to me, I preferred the element by element approach.

I entered this week's exercises with some unsureness. I've often read the advice of working a painting overall, not focusing greatly on any one element. The thought is that a feeling of all the pieces coming together as one can be easily lost. I'll admit it. I can be a great one for theory. I'm pleased to be pushed by my exercises to confront some internalized dogma.

That concept of losing the cohesiveness with element by element just didn't seem to apply. I checked as I went along and did make small changes to already completed elements. I did apply light washes to bring it all together. Something I will still consider is the fact that this piece involved only one flower, bud, stem. How will these approaches stack up in a complicated work?

Perhaps there is simply not one rule that fits all situations. For this beginner, for this lesson, I saw more detail and tried to work it in much more in the second exercise—that is, completing one element before moving on to the next. Could it be that since I was using the same subject that the second time through I was on more familiar territory? Quite possibly. Was I more relaxed because I knew I could get at least some approximation of that flower? Ya, sure. Will I always look more closely, irregardless of approach, based on this week's work? I think so.

This has been a fine lesson. I cannot in a six week class greatly increase my skills, but I can open my mind to how I approach learning. Experimentation is just as key (or more so?) to gaining knowledge as are my books.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Orchid Background Final

I grew up in a close and large extended family. My Aunt Sal was known as quite the eccentric but she truly had a heart of gold. Over a period of time, she took each of her nephews and nieces on an individual trip "downtown" to wander about a few stores and eat at the Woolworth's lunch counter. She would also have a small sum of money for each of us, to buy Mom a gift. I selected a little ceramic plaque that I am now so very much reminded of when I see this painting.

I reworked the bamboo repeatedly with tracing paper and a few times on the painting. Once drawn in, I lightened it up with a kneadable eraser. I'm not sure that I followed the spirit of the exercise, perhaps more closely followed if with a brush and wash or something or other--but, I did follow my spirit. :-)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Orchid Background

This week's third and final exercise involves adding a background to an existing painting. Here I dropped a sheet of tracing paper upon the painting and tried out some sketches. It's obviously rough at this point but I'll be pecking around with element size and composition and determining the medium. Graphite, or perhaps some very light brushwork with Payne's Gray.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Second Orchid Wrap

And that's it for the orchids!

Learning to paint is such an interesting process. Naturally, one must gain competence with paint, brush, paper, and water. What I now feel is a greater challenge is to see and feel with all the detail that a flower offers. I call it "honest seeing". As a beginner, I can mentally gloss over details that I sense beyond my ability, or I can accept that I'm not working out all that I see--kind of a "I'll wait until I'm better" mentality. I play it both ways, for now.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Orchid Petal-by-Petal

This is the beginning of the second exercise where I am asked to complete a painting one element at a time. So hear I went, one petal at a time. Phew, three hours later...

I am asked to compare this technique with the previous exercise where I worked the painting as a whole and then offer my thoughts on my preferred method. Well, I think I saw more going petal-by-petal. But who knows at this early stage in my practice which I might prefer?

You will notice quite the color shift from the first exercise. Yup, it's the same orchid. I'm actually a good deal closer to actual color with this second painting. I am amazed at how far off I could be without noticing. Am I filtering out color as I struggle with wash and shading? I don't know... Weird...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Orchid Finished?

This post is titled as a question as I'm not sure yet. Maybe a bit of smoothing on some transitions. Perhaps better to stop now and call it a good practice. After all, next up is the same image painted petal by petal. That is, instead of how I worked the entire painting here a little at a time.

I'm a bit light on the anatomy here. I thing I need to get in with a bit of magnification and sketching. That will probably be for after the course.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Orchid Starter

About three hours here. In this exercise, I move from element to element with light glazes, feeling my way along.

Orchid Sketching

Here are snippets from the guidelines for the week 4 journal:

Sometimes I find that it takes me awhile to settle into painting, and then when I do, it's all I want to do. But getting there is a challenge.
Do you find that you have mental steps that prepares you for the creative process? Reflect on what happens prior to painting, and how to foster that sense of settling into your work.

I suppose that today's been a good example of my process. I spent a couple of hours poking about on the web before heading out for a model. I'd thought about a sunflower but had trouble finding one so I figured I'd just take a drive and see what showed up. Pretty loose, eh? :-) I hadn't gone far when I ran across a local florist, one that's been there forever but I'd never visited.

The kind owner, with closed sign in her window, kindly let me in. I explained what I was up to and she patiently offered suggestions. I noticed some lovely orchids in the back of the walk in and she helped me pick one out that might face well for my exercise.

I got it home and in the fridge and then spent an hour or so killing more time. Finally, I set it up with lots of tape in a vase and got down to sketching. I've done little sketching lately and it wasn't long before I felt that I was in over my head. Then I remembered my lessons... Block it in. Watch the angles. Negative space.

I simplified by scaling down to one flower and bud. I sketched and transferred a few times. Now I'll try a transfer to watercolor paper.

Well, that's the story. What I left out was the emotion. Doubt, unsureness, negativity. The job looks too big. A few lines appear and I feel a bit better. Hey, maybe I can do this. A rough flower appears and I accept it as that. Try again. I'll get closer. If I don't, I can erase. I can try again.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Week 5

Lesson 5: Progressing Toward More Complexity

This week we explore our preferred style of painting. That is, working the whole painting in stages (exercise 1) or working a section at a time to completion (exercise 2). The third and final exercise for this week is to take an existing painting and determine what kind of background might best enhance it.

The journal topic is to discuss one's preferred style of painting.

My week 4 journal will be coming along soon. No worries about that as Marcia is away for the weekend and won't be getting to recent submissions until early in the week.

I did earlier submit and receive feedback on my first three exercises. Good reviews, especially happy with the highlights and the fact that I'm pushing the saturation.

Calla Redux

After last night's post, I visualized this image. Rather than a patch-up of yesterday's painting, this is a new piece. About 2.5 hours. This one will be my last exercise submission for this week. (Not sure why the shading didn't come through on the leftmost lily.)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Calla Blues

This week's final exercise calls for laying down a very dark wash around the subject, preferably something light in value. Using a trace from an exercise in my Cornell drawing class, it wasn't long before the calla lilies were shaping up. Delicate veins, shadowed stems, and shading with neutral tint on the lilies.

Then came that powerful wash. Well, I think it is, but we are asked to go darker. I've botched up my stems with all that Payne's gray. So I'm a bit put out over this, but really, there should be no worries. It's only a few hours work and the purpose is to illustrate how a dark background can can make a subject jump out.

In my case, this background seemed to negate the light shading in the callas. So, I will lay in a heavy wash to really darken the background. Then I will work in more shading on the lilies and try to fix up my stems.

So even if I'm not thrilled with the results, it's proving to be a darned good exercise. Also, it has now given me the thought that I have some material that I can transfer for watercolor.

Another thing, I figure that if in the future I want to work with a dark background that I will start with dark paper and use colored pencil or gouache.

Oh, and lastly, after looking over the course example for this exercise, I see that the image was a close crop and not floating in a sea of wash like mine. A close crop of the callas would probably be just the ticket. No matter. No worries. I'll wrap this up tomorrow and send it on its way. After all, week 5 is afoot!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Here are instructions on completing the third exercise:

Study your selections. How might you render one of them using the fewest brush strokes possible? Can you capture the "essence" of a tulip, or a banana --or the daffodil below -- in just a few strokes? Try it.

This is important. It can help break the habit of over-producing a painting, and can foster the sense that some of the most beautiful paintings are delicate and quickly rendered in nature.

Try this until you truly tire of it. Loosen up your arm, try not to be so invested in the results. Then make a selection, scan and submit. Of course, if you have questions, include them in the margins of your paintings, or in your journal.

A began on the left with some transferred shapes and then worked my way to the right simply making shapes with brush. I felt like I was picking up a nice easy method as I worked through the last few cherries, getting to the "essence" of cherry.

Permanent Alizarin Crimson with various amounts of Payne's Gray. Stems with good old Viridian in just one stroke by pushing into the brush for the abscission zone.

I like that thought about overlaying stems. Now I should try overlaying the fruit themselves. Hey, this could turn into a bowl of cherries! :-)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tomato Touchup

This is the same tomato from last night's post. Although I had trouble with this... I don't know, I still liked it, at least when I viewed it from a distance. :-) This evening I tried to kick up the tonal range and smooth things out a bit. (How come I don't notice botch ups until viewing them on a monitor? Strange, and consistent.) Toning in around the sepals seemed to add a bit of dimension. So, a bit weird, a bit fun, I call it done. I'll sit on it for a few days but it will probably be my second exercise submission.

I picked up another bag of cherries this afternoon after eating all my models. I did get in a few sketches and will go for more this evening. These sketches will be the basis for an exercise that calls for painting with the least number of strokes. Sounds fascinating and I'm excited to give it a go but I figure I better have the shapes down tightly before attempting to portray them with minimal brush strokes.

The last exercise has me dropping in a dark background around my subject. I have a few daisies from the yard that might work if they keep. I picked the last three good-looking ones; seems they're going by so if I'm lucky timing might work for me.

The weeks are going by so quickly. I've been holding off taking time from work, expecting that I might need a few free days for wrap ups. So far, it's been easy enough going.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Next Up, Tomato

Here's my first cut at a tomato in the same style as the previous exercise. I'll probably be up for another try or two with this one. Once again I'm working with a staining, Permanent Rose, and an easy-lifting pigment, Viridian. I love it when these two mix on paper.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Onion - It's A Wrap

That's it for the onions. I tried a third last night but my heavy washes just didn't work. Today I took my time with lighter washes and even tried masking a few edges to illustrate highlights. This last onion will probably be my course submission.

Next exercise is similar to this one, except that I get to pick the subject. I'm going to try a few tomatoes on the vine.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Onion Revisited

This evening, after taking critical notes for improvement, I took another try at the onion exercise. I'm pleased with cleaner edges, more even transitions (less blooming), and more accurately placed growth lines. Only thing is that I should have held back on the sienna washes over the blue. Instead, I ended up with overworked greens.

This is proving a fine learning exercise for me. By the way, this is the first demonstration exercise in Beautiful Botanicals by Bente Starcke King. We are asked to repeat this exercise until we are happy with our composition and colors. There might be another onion coming...