Saturday, May 31, 2008

The last of the orange tiger lilies.

Casting about yesterday for a subject, I drew my travel brushes.
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Wednesday, May 28, 2008


A what-was-at-hand study from last night. I wanted to paint the grapes without painting all the grapes, if you know what I mean! I painted this without any drawing, though, after the paper was dry, I did go in with a pencil and define a few individual grapes in the wettest part at right so I could put shadows on or behind them.
I'm happy with the grapes themselves, but wish I had arranged the cluster in a more a interesting way and given more thought to the shadows: such things should be considered even when doing a little practice piece; it should be part of the "practice."
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Sunday, May 25, 2008

today's back bays

Two pages done while fishing today--no keepers; a couple of short flounders. The top drawing was done with a new set of watercolor pencils; I lug watercolor pencils everywhere, but never use them, so I'm trying them out. (BTW, I don't like to carry the tin the pencils came in, so I bought a wonderful, inexpensive, unique handmade roll-up pencil holder on! Etsy's a great site, and many of the seller's, like the one I bought the pencil case from, will do custom work for you.)
It was a beautiful day; in one of the less crowded bays, I got some practice handling the boat--the little one, my favorite, Lulu!--and docked her myself today for the first time.

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yesterday's lilies

Yesterday afternoon I had some time to work on these lilies--good thing too, as today many of them are wilted.

Almost done. I'm consciously trying to keep the three lilies in front brighter and more defined, letting those in back fade away a bit, though they're every bit as orange in reality.
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Saturday, May 24, 2008

summer shakedown

Memorial Day: shakedown weekend of the summer. Everyone's been fed and taken off for the beach or to fish. (One of Peter's men, Stevie, caught a 50-pound drumfish last night. I hear they're delicious, and hope to find out later today! I'll post a picture if they took one!)
I find I have too many things to paint and not enough time. The frustration of having too many desirable subjects! Never thought that'd happen: when I first began to paint and draw I was always at a loss for subjects! Now everything's a subject. So it's a good frustration (maybe the only one).

Bristol board cover for my drawing day (June 7) folio. A few of these cherries may need a bit of sprucing up later ...

Drawing of a pot of orange tiger lilies. These aren't the "natural" ones that grow by the side of the road here--blooming in July with the Queen Anne's lace and blue flax; a beautiful roadside bouquet; I did get a few bulbs of those though, and perhaps I'll get lucky in July. Orange tiger lilies are my absolute favorite and made up my wedding bouquet!

BTW: Thanks to all my faithful blogger friends who have commented on my last few posts; I really appreciate your comments and apologize for not taking the time to respond individually ... yet. I'll post post-Memorial Day!

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008


(3.5x5 each)
For future painting ...

... and the bristol board cover for the small folio I'm preparing for Drawing Day.
I bought some bristol board awhile back and had put it in my pile for the Salvation Army, never having tried it (it's got a very slick surface; kind of like Yupo, with which so many are currently enamoured). It's a light card-stock weight and I thought a piece might serve as a folio for my Drawing Day sketches.
Maybe this'll be the back cover, and I'll do one with many more more cherries for the front ...
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Monday, May 19, 2008

cherries and my darling

I can't believe I've never painted a cherry before--they're so pretty. This attempt is a bit tentative--I wanted to get/keep the reflected light at the bottoms of the cherries, but these are maybe too small (slightly smaller than lifesize) to strive for such details.


A page of drawings of my darling Nanda (named for a Henry James heroine); she's 20-plus pounds of pure sweetness, and hair. "That's a lot to love," the vet says. (Double click on the drawing to see it close up.) The drawing on the upper left was made with a drying out felt-tip pen; I tried to blend some of the lines with water, but, alas, the ink's not water soluble. The other two are pencil, light and blunt; again, I had a problem using what was at hand: a piece of lead shaped like a seashell--a better curio than drawing tool!
Trying out some drawing materials in preparation for June 7--drawing day! Read about it at
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I'm not much for techniques or "process," as I usually take a more direct and spontaneous approach, but last night I was looking at a really great book, Ann Blockley's Watercolour Textures; the way she uses texture is much less gimmicky than what I've seen elsewhere.
I thought I'd give the use of plastic wrap a try; I thought it might be a good way to depict, without fussing, the sea grasses and marshes.
It occurs to me now, too, that if I had pulled the wrap in a more horizontal direction in the ocean area, it might make nice breakers.
Just apply a piece of plastic wrap to a wet wash, pushing and pulling however you want, then leave it to dry and remove the plastic. This is my result ... Now with this as the base, I can go back in and add more washes or lift, etc.
You can see I didn't have a big enough piece of plastic on hand.
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Sunday, May 18, 2008


Today I began my pre-Memorial Day spruce-up. With all the construction projects going on here, cleaning involves hiding power tools and dusting literally everything for spackle dust. I currently have no furniture in the living room, so we'll be spending the weekend on the decks!
Between chores, I managed these wee dune scenes, trying out a new, very small pocket set of colors. These little sets are so ingenious; I can't resist them.
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Saturday, May 17, 2008


I hope you're not getting tireed of this subject! I have an idea that if I keep painting my imaginary dunes over and over perhaps I'll (eventually) arrive at some distillation: ur dune. I have a long way to go!
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Friday, May 16, 2008

A still life study done on lightweight drawing paper; I couldn't resist adding some color, but it was ultimately disappointing as the paints don't behave as nicely as they do on watercolor paper--they don't run and mingle so freely.
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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

two out of three

I wanted to paint on the deck today, but let it go until too late in the afternoon: the clouds are back. Nonetheless, I did manage to get in a 30-minute session outside painting an iris and a rose I picked in my yard today. (The rose is a McCartney tea rose; if you ever see this variety--get one! My plant is leggy--I'm an inept pruner--but produces huge, extraordinarily fragrant, velvety, Barbie-pink blooms.)
Irises I continue to struggle with--though the one in the middle here is my best yet. I think maybe I see too many: too many folds, too many shades of red-blue-purple, too many intricacies--looking in, through the petals ...
I need to do some Emil Nolde-ish irises to break out of my too careful approach.
I wanted to keep this sketchy, and not lose so much of the drawing, but, I overdid it ... I like the subject though, and with some adjustments, I think I can do it again.

I put the drawing in just because I think it's nicer than the painting; for some reason, the composition seems to work better when it's only lines ... BTW I drew this watercolor pencils, a small set I found in the closet (I lost my more extensive set--which was in a really neat canvas roll-up thingy I bought separately; but I haven't seen one in any of the catalogs recently, so if you know where I can get one, please let me know; so much easier that carrying those tins they come in) on my trip to NM; I think some TSA officer must be an aspiring artist!)

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

dunes and marshes

I painted this last night and wasn't too pleased; today I connected some of the shapes, adding more grasses and shadows, and I'm satisfied with it now.
In the workshop, Judi Wagner used a sheet of workable acetate to try out changes to a painting: she'd lay the clear acetate over the painting, then paint on it, doing things like darkening values and connecting shapes. I don't have the acetate, but since I wasn't pleased with the painting as it was, figured I had nothing to lose!
This one is wet off the block; did it this evening to distract myself after having yet another problem with my car! Back to the dealer, again, Thursday.
If it's nice out tomorrow I may paint out on the deck, and listen to the catbirds and yellow warblers; another salve to frustrations.
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Saturday, May 10, 2008

days 2 & 3: outside in Lewes

I missed the first day of the workshop, which was really a shame because the class was huge--21 people!--and I never really got everyone's names.
Disclaimer: I'm going to point out what I dislike these paintings (workshops are very critiquey) but I'm not taking my criticisms personally! ;-)
I'm not so attached to the results when I paint in a workshop; I've done a few and have learned that, for various reasons known and unknown, I, like many others, don't do my best work in them.

Tuesday was sunny and we went to the grounds of the Lewes Historical Society; the light through the trees was dramatic. All the grass and trees were overwhelming so I chose a simple subject to start. I'm disappointed with the clunkiness of this first effort, but--excuse #1: I was sitting in the sun: always a mistake--hard to see and the paint dries too quickly. But really, it's a pretty boring composition--too horizontal; I liked it better as a drawing (I draw trees better than I paint them).

(Freddie's Barn, 11x15)

After lunch I started another, more complicated, subject, drawn by the shadows on the facade, but didn't have time to finish before critique. These shapes make me think of Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth; maybe looking at some of their works will inspire me to finish this one.
The next day was also sunny and the class went to Pilottown, a section of Lewes on the canal. All the houses on the road have docks and little boathouses, all enviably adorable.
This second painting has some perspective, scale, and value problems: I'm giving myself a pass though--excuse #2--because the gnats were out and biting and maddening. If I recall, we left early and went back to Shelby's for a beer before critique!

day 4: rain and "people-ating"

On Thursday it rained and we stayed indoors (someone brought a homemade shoofly sheetcake, which I ate several big chunks of). Judi showed us how to quickly and simply make little figures to "people-ate" our paintings. There are never any people in my paintings; it just never occurs to me!

For the rest of the day, we worked from photos. I didn't bring any with me, so I borrowed a couple of Shelby's photos from New Mexico. I think these were the best paintings I did all week. I went to Delaware to paint New Mexico.
This is a snowscene, but I haven't yet figured out how to finish it off along the bottom; I need more of those palmetto-like plants, I think, especially to break up the fingerlike formation plunk in the center! As Judi would say, not very thoughty.
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the last day; the deluge

Friday it blew and poured all day (and night, making for a roly ferry ride home), so we stayed in again.
Judi showed us how she makes light, bright-colored abstract underpaintings then, when the paper's dry, paints transparent scenes overtop them.

I was running low on resources to paint from but found a little vignette of the Mainstay Inn in Cape May in my sketchbook. I usually sketch, when I do, just for the sake of drawing, that is, not thinking of the sketch's usefulness as a source for future paintings. Consequently, my sketches are not of much use! Or at least I feel that I don't have enough information--or enough powers of invention?--to turn them into fully developed paintings.
I need to look into the different purposes, uses of sketches and work on identifying and including what is essential. Sketching for its own sake is certainly pleasurable, but it would be nice to have "source material" sketches too.
If anyone has any suggestion for books or exercises on sketching, please let me know. Although I suspect it has more to do with seeing than sketching.
For my second effort, I revisited a Pigeon Key scene, adding a section bridge this time (though this bridge looks more like the Long Key viaduct than the Seven Mile bridge, which is the bridge visible from Pigeon Key).
When the last class ended, Shelby, Carol and I went back to Shelby's where Shelby showed us her technique for painting dunes. It was fun and I got a little carried with my clumps of grass! One afternoon we went walking around Cape Henlopen park, where there are beautiful dunes; I got some good photos and will probably be practicing them.

Finally, I have to add that I had a great surprise when I got home: a beautiful new front porch, thanks to Peter.
Back last night from my workshop in Lewes with not a lot of great paintings, but with a beautiful hammock from Shelby, some ideas from the workshop teacher, Judi Wagner, and the phone number of a watercolor painter in Chadds Ford (Hi Lois!) who I hope to paint with again.
One of Judi's suggestions is to do a "placement" and a "pattern" (of lights and darks) sketch before painting. I usually draw right on the watercolor paper and plunge in, which may work or not ... And this method may work or not too, but I like the mental space it puts between me and the subject: like grinding your own ink in Chinese painting--it's a premliminary that gets you in the mood. As Judi stressed, these should be quick, not labored, becasue you don't want to use all your energy on them and dissipate your excitement about the subject before you even begin.
A "placement" and "pattern" sketch from the first day out, on the grounds of the Lewes Historical Society. It was a bright day with wonderful shadows cast by all the lovely trees; a little overwhelming (and hard on the eyes).

Above, I accidentally did my pattern sketch right over my placement sketch (oh well).
Below is a sketch from day 2, of a huge tree in a small, old cemetaryy in Pilottown, a section of Lewes on the canal. Theodore Parker's tombstone said that he died, in 1861, of drowning, aged twenty years, five months, and fifteen days.

A view of a boathouse on the canal in Pilottown.

A Pilottown boathouse.
Tomorrow I'll post the paintings ... Today is for unpacking, baking a cake for Mother's Day, and retrieving my cats from said mother.
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