Tuesday, March 30, 2010

inspiration all around us

These were done from a reference photo on the challenge blog Inspiration All Around Us. It's a nice photo: the single white flower is a great subject--one that seems to hold special appeal for watercolor painters; like koi. Some of the leaf shapes were a little indeterminate; I tried to keep them that way by softening the edges.
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Saturday, March 27, 2010

daffodils again

Sometimes something intangible just "makes" a painting.
After being pleased with my previous daffodil painting, I thought I'd better begin another one right away. This one isn't done--I'm kind of stuck* and don't really know what to do next (other than stop futzing with the flowers). I like the jar and the Diebenkorn postcard, but I can't help feeling that the arrangement of the daffodils just doesn't work as well as in the earlier painting; but maybe I can fix it.
I noticed (after the fact, really) that there was one flower in the earlier painting that I thought was just right, and that became my focus: I need a just right one here.
Below is another daffodil start, with Van Gogh this time.

*I'm debating whether or not to do something to the background: the little Diebenkorn postcard area is so densely painted it seems to throw the picture off balance. And yet, I'm mindful of a teacher I once had who said if you're unsure, don't do anything!

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

the garland briefer

Here's a side-benefit of taking challenges: I had this vase of daffodils to paint and was looking for something else to put in the picture; Botticelli's youth was fresh in my mind.
I'm going to shock a lot of people when I say, I'm pleased. I love daffodils but usually feel my attempts to paint them are unsuccessful--I try to do it as if I were Emil Nolde, but I can't get anywhere close. So I took another tack and did them like Laura: somewhat methodical, not quite finished. This time instead of trying to draw each flower, I drew the outer edge and selected just a few throats to delineate.
Also I used Winsor & Newton's Turner's Yellow, which is a soft, mild yellow, akin to Naples but more transparent. (11x15)
I hope to get another painting or two out of these daffodils before the ones in my yard open--this year I'm expecting some with bright orange throats!--and before the magnolia tree blooms, which I think may be only days away: then it's nothing but magnolias until they're done.
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

more following the masters

Copy of Raphael's St. Catherine of Alexandria (5x7)
This is the other painting I selected for the Following the Masters challenge; what first attracted me to it was the gesture, her contrapposto. As I copied it I was struck by the opulence of her drapery and all the colors I could see in it the more I looked.
I had to wash out and repaint the eye several times: I got the upward-looking gesture but, in the original, something in the whites of her eyes makes me think of terror; perhaps Raphael meant to suggest she could foresee her martyrdom?

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

following the masters

Copy of Botticelli's Portrait of a Youth (5 x7)
On her blog, Late B(l)oomer Sherry has very cleverly and thoughtfully made a blog roll of challenges; this is in response to one, Following the Masters: the current challenge, 11, is to copy or do something in the style of the Italian Renaissance. I was going to wait for a more amenable challenge--Cezanne? Matisse?--but in just two minutes of browsing Renaissance images I came upon this well-known youth, who looks, right down to the golden-brown waves and curls, very like my brother John at around twelve or thirteen.
I overdid it just a bit--losing some Botticellean delicacy in a wrongheaded pursuit of volume (he didn't think it necessary, why should I!)--and wish I had stopped way sooner ... I kept smudging around trying to get this or that "right": always a mistake!
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Sunday, March 21, 2010

march virtual paintout

One of the many beautiful scenes I came upon while wandering around Stavanger, Norway, on Google Streetview for Bill Guffey's March Virtual Paintout.
Below, I started painting before realizing that I had (impulsively, how else?) cut a piece out of the paper that was above this one without removing it from the block first!
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Friday, March 19, 2010

life drawing

2-minute poses/pencil
Last night I went to a life drawing class. The model didn't show up, so the woman who organizes the group posed for us (in her long johns!).

5-minute poses/marker

10-minute poses/water-soluble pencil and watercolor pencils

20-minute pose/pencil and watercolor
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Thursday, March 18, 2010


A lot of people don't like them and it's true, if you're trying to eat something on the beach, they're a nuisance (and a hazard to your hair). My solution is to not eat on the beach.
We can be twenty miles out to sea fishing and the minute you pull a minnow out of the bucket, seagulls appear in the sky; then they come swooping down and you worry about them taking your hook or getting caught in your line. It's never happened to me and I really hope it never does. I think they're amazing, and beautiful, with their white, gray and black markings--they make me want to get out my sumi set.
And I love their cawing which even in a cacophony sounds lonely.

I was leafing through some art books and saw the watercolor below. It's funny how different things strike you at different times--I've had this book for years, but had never been so struck by this painting as I am now ... now I can't take my eyes off it!
Frank W. Benson, Eider Ducks in Winter (1913) 
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

happy st. patrick's day

The plan was to do a quick painting of something green; this stack of dishes on the counter seemed perfect. But I outsmarted myself: maddening attempts to get the ellipses right were followed by maddening attempts to get the colors right, until the poor painting became so overworked it no longer mattered.
Below: a photo of Winslow Homer's palette.
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

20-minute practice

(about 8x10)
Another subject I like but avoid. This jade plant's on my drawing table. I love the shape of the leaves, but the way you can see leaves behind others and the way the light hits the surfaces of the leaves, some of which are vertical, some horizontal, makes my brain hurt, to quote Monty Python. I started this with the decision that I wouldn't concern myself with trying to retain the whites, where the leaves were lightstruck; I'd just try to get the structure. I started painting on the left (no drawing), where, I think, structurewise, it works; but I ran out of steam or lost my concentration on the right, where the too-straight stem is not pleasing. By the time I got to the pot, I'd totally given up!

(2x3 each)
Then I painted a few ATCs: I thought it'd be nice to include one of these in the package when I return the jobs I'm currently working on ... A little spring surprise for the wonderful people in New York City who keep me busy (and in art supplies ...).

Speaking of art supplies, the three rows below are the colors that are in my little travel palette; the fourth row shows various blues I'm thinking of adding, if I can wedge them in somehow!

Rummaging around over the weekend I found two old folding metal palettes full of half pans. The two rows on top are from a palette I bought after seeing Winslow Homer's metal palette at the Boston Museum of Art (must've been 15 or more years ago!)--I got a palette just like his and filled it with colors myself: so these are the colors I used when I first started painting more--so many blues, so few reds, and no purple. How did I manage?

And the four rows on the bottom are from a set I bought--and augmented with a couple of extra purples and turquoises. But the set, like, it seems to me a lot of sets, comes with too many--or more than I can use--earth colors.
I made these swatches to see if any of the pans were salvageable--I think several are. I'll get rid of a number the earth colors and pans that are too hardened (this may not be an effect of age: some pan colors just never become moist enough to get a brushful of color from them: very irritating!).
Now to take them apart and reassemble them.

Colors in Homer's "two extant moist watercolor boxes": aureolin, cadmium yellow, Indian yellow, chrome orange, vermilion, crimson lake, scarlet lake, Indian purple, Antwerp blue, Prussian green, Hooker's green, green earth, Indian red, burnt sienna, burnt umber, warm sepia, sepia, Van Dyke brown, Payne'sgray, bone black, Chinese white (Susan E. Stricler, ed., American Traditions in Watercolor, p. 65).
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Monday, March 15, 2010

... and again

From being afraid to tackle this subject I've gone to thinking it's the best subject ever: it showcases my favorite complements and can be doen over and over with no drawing and no reference ... Although, if I want to get more realistic about I'll have to study some water surfaces to get effects that show both the reflected surface and the depths below.
But for right now, I'm just enjoying playing around.
Below are the two stages at which I stopped before proceeding to the finish, above.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

more than 20 minutes: too many?

Now that I've broken the ice, I think I'll do a few more little koi paintings. I began this last night--the picture below shows where I stopped last night; I should have perhaps left it there, but, for some reason I didn't like that two corners were light: it doesn't bother me now (that it's too late)!
I was looking down on the pond so the ripple was round, but that's no excuse (I can almost hear one of teachers' exasperation with students who would defend bad decisions in their paintings by saying, But that's how it was!)--it doesn't look right: I should have made it more elliptical.

I happened to glance over at my collection of Buddhas, Hotei, the Happy Buddha, last night; all the small Buddhas are temporarily gathered on a shelf there (I have larger ones around the house and yard). There's something perverse about collecting Buddhas, but, in my defense, I don't do actively--though I do buy them as souvenirs and have ones from LA, Chicago, Boston, and Santa Fe (the Santa Fe one is the tiniest, 3/4")--they just come to me; even the souvenirs--I don't seek them but see them.
Anyway, they're wonderful and make me happy ... and made me wonder last night why I don't paint them!?

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

another 20 minutes


I always love paintings of koi ponds (and koi ponds themselves, for that matter) but think of the subject as one I could never tackle: too complicated, so much going on--the surface of the water, beneath the water....
I thought about what I said in an earlier post about using the 20-minute challenge to plunge into an intimidating subject and remembered a couple of photos I took on Tortola on an overcast day--which I thought at the time was not ideal but maybe turned out to be a good thing: fewer complicating reflections.
Coming upon a set of Lukas pan colors with the most luscious and inviting oranges and orange-yellows further helped me overcome my fear: I couldn't resist those colors.
So I started this with the fish shapes, no drawing, and painted the water around them; I was trying to keep the shapes separate, but the bleeding worked out well, softening some of the shapes and toning down the color so those fish look deeper in the water.

I've been pulling out old palettes and pan sets and tubes ... making abig mess, in other words. On the sheet below, I made swatches of all the quinacridones I have, and then tried a few random mixes, and came up with a couple I really liked: rose madder genuine + viridian; Q pink + green gold; cobalt + hooker's + gamboge; viridian + alizarin; and an old standby, raw sienna + manganese blue.

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Friday, March 12, 2010


I took my first walk of 2010 along the bay yesterday morning; the timing was right for beachcombing--it was low tide. Here's what I came home with: shells, beach glass, a whelk egg casing, and three pebbles.
Whenever my friend Robin visits (use to be from Key West, now from Wisconsin), one of our rituals (we have several) is to go to Cape May Point, where the ocean and bay meet, and sift through the millions of pebbles on the beach there. We're not looking for Cape May Diamonds (quartz) like everyone else, but we discovered onetime that our pebble selection was not without design. It seemed to us that the pebble you have in your hand determines which one you'll pick up next; that you unwittingly make sets.
Maybe because there are so many you need some framework to make your choices or, as I prefer to think, perhaps you just can't help it.
(Wish you were here, Robin, for beachcombing and philosophizing, and, while we're at it, quaffing.)

Last year I bought the adorable bijou box at right for something like eighty bucks; it came with 8 pans of color, and I added 4 more.
Yesterday I got the empty box at left from Wet Paint--it has 12 small wells, not pans--for fourteen dollars!
Both boxes are metal and have a thumb ring underneath.
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