Saturday, February 26, 2011

what's different?

"cogbill's find"

"morning cuppa joe"
yes, there is something different.  i hope it made enough impact that it is fairly obvious. i'm afraid that my artistic expression today was isolated to fooling around with the design of the blog rather than anything truly muse-inspired. i found a whole new section in the design part of the blog and decided to try out some of the fonts that i saw there.  i chose the new one's that i did because they more closely reflect the way that i actually write. does it work? let me know if you like it or not. i promise to get back to the desert scene soon.  i need to run up to the palm springs area tomorrow to replenish the pantry and do some necessary shopping. so, it maybe a day or two before the next installment of the actual painting. to satisfy any need you may have to see some actual paintings, i have included a couple that i don't believe i have posted before for your edification.  the one entitled "cogbill's find" of a derelict school house in idaho (?wyoming?) has a story behind it i will tell one of these days. be well.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

anza-borrego from palm canyon to font's point: about half done

"anza- borrego from palm canyon to font's point"
here are the next steps i took in painting this desert scape. the left distant mountains were too light in value so i darkened them. i put in a variegated wash from the base of the mountains/hill in the distance down to the top of the rocks and bushes in the foreground. i used various colors from raw sienna in the distance to alizarin crimson permanent mixed with a little cobalt blue near the top of the foreground structures and used most of the earth colors in between. i tried to get it to be a little more colorful and darker as i moved forward. the distant bushes and various bits of landscape were painted with a #4 round using ultramarine blue/quinacridone gold/raw sienna combinations mostly put on the paper in straight colors and allowed to mingle on the paper.  i then softened some of the edges more or less randomly. the bush on the left front foreground is ultramarine blue with quinacridone gold and burnt sienna at the bottom where i sort of negatively painted some of the branches and stems.  some of these latter were also scraped in as one can see. rock in the middle foreground painted in same combination of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. just as the sheen was coming off the paper i scraped off the top highlight leaving bits of the sienna in the hollows of the paper.  this is a new technique for me but i have seen it done to good effect and thought i would try it here.  the jury is still out on whether i will like doing this over the long haul. agave branches scraped out after the paint had just started to dry finished out this area for the time being.  i over painted the agave on the left with cerulean blue/cadmium yellow medium/oxide of chromium and then did a little more light scraping as it dried. i wish i had not left a hard edge at the site of the bush on the left front as i painted the reddish desert behind it but.....i will continuously try to remember these things next time.  well, i will let this dry and go out to play.  i need to check on the color of the ocotillo flowers while i am out as i think they may be more red-orange rather than rose-magenta.  i'll let you know.  don't succumb to the suspense in the mean time!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

anza-borrego from palm canyon to font's point (and further diddling on the portrait)

charles on break in jackson
for those of you who said, "he won't be able to resist monkeying around with this painting of charles reid," you were right. i felt there needed to be some darker areas around some of the periphery of the painting and the right (his left) collar wasn't finished. i even managed to get a rather reid-esque dribble on the far left bottom! i also succumbed to further manipulating of the mouth by moving the highlight on the lower lip down a smidgen by painting over the old one with a dark value and scratching in the new one with the small blade of my trusty swiss army knife.  okay i am finished now....really.  here 'tis.

photo for next painting, a desert scape
for my next project i decided that i really should do a desert scape as we are in the middle of the anza-borrego desert and it is starting to "pop" with blooms the result of the recent rains. on a hike up the palm canyon trail i looked east and saw this scene of font's point (the long low wedge rising from left to right in the right center of the distant hills that abruptly drops down at its point on the right) framed by a dark hill on the left and, what will be in the drawing, tall blooming ocotillos on the right.  i snapped a quick photo and this will be the source material for this next painting.

first washes of "anza-borrego:
palm canyon to font's point
close-up of ocotillo painted over droplets of water
i started by lightly drawing in the placement of the major shapes on a piece of 140#, rough, fabriano artistico paper measuring 14"X20". i moved some things around so it would fit neatly on the page. the first wash, for the sky, i painted with a #12 round using cobalt blue grayed with raw sienna graded to mostly raw sienna near the horizon.  i wet the sky area with horizontal brush stokes of pure water separated by areas of dry paper.  this allowed me to get a few broken clouds without everything running together.  just before the sky dried i put in the distant hills using the same brush and paint but accentuating the font's point area by a little more bluish hue. the closer hillside on the left was painted with ultramarine blue mixed a bit on the palette (but mostly on the paper) alternately with quinacridone gold or burnt sienna and then just as the sheen was leaving the paper, i scratched in the agave using the side of a thin palette knife. i pushed things a bit because i wanted to experiment with how i was going to paint the ocotillos. i tried spritzing some small to medium water droplets using a spray bottle over the area that would be the ocotillos and then painted the irregularly bent and interwoven stalks with mixtures of the same paints i used for the near hillside plus some oxide of chromium. i once saw a video of tom lynch doing this and thought it would work here. as you can see from the close-up this gave a nice "prickly" appearance to them that is reminiscent of the actual plant after it sprouts its "rain leaves".  it has a lovely rose/magenta flower at the end of the stalk that i painted at the same time as the stalk to which it is attached so that it ties in with a bit of a bleed. i didn't finish these now as i needed to put in more of the foreground first. that's all for now.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

continuing and finishing steps on reid portrait

charles reid portrait: next washes
i was able to finish (or nearly finish) the portrait i have been working on these last few days. this first photo shows mainly the addition of the large wash for the side of the face and cheek.  please note that it goes all the way down the neck and doesn't stop at the jaw line. i have been told innumerable times (by the subject of our painting especially) not to stop or make an otherwise obvious division at the jaw, so i thought it was worth reiterating it here. aside from this i strengthened the color in the medial side of the near eye socket, reestablished the line of the eye that had washed way during the painting yesterday and added a background wash behind the head that was similar to the one at the front of the face.

the small area of hair behind the ear was established but being careful to make sure it wasn't so prominent as to take attention away from the front of the face. midvalue shadows on the shirt with raw umber and cobalt blue were put in and the same colors were used to paint the hat. a cooler shadow beneath the chin and forming the skin fold at the front of the neck was added with mainly cerulean blue and the flesh colors discussed before. the glasses were added with a #4 round sable using quinacridone gold, cobalt blue, and some permanent alizarin crimson pretty much right out of the tube.

i monkeyed around with the mouth too much and clearly was having some trouble painting it with all the small complicated shapes that an open smiling mouth least for me.  i need to work out a better way to paint these or work with someone who has better handle on it.  that not withstanding, i think this turned out okay and will declare it finished. i enjoyed doing this portrait of this well known and loved artist and teacher charles reid. i hope you enjoyed reading and watching along.  if you are a painter and haven't had the opportunity to attend a workshop with charles, i have just one word for the way he handles paint, brush, and teaches students are legendary and will change your painting for the better. enough for now. be well.

Monday, February 21, 2011

first stages of reid protrait

placement of figure on paper and first washes
i transferred the drawing to the watercolor paper (16"X20", cp, fabriano artistico extra white) and thought that the width of his head was a little large compared to the length so i narrowed it about a finger-breadth.  because charles reid, every time i have seen him do a painting like this started with the nose and this after all is a portrait of him, i started with the nose as well.  the mantra for this type of approach in my head is "connect, connect, connect." one can always separate later. the colors were applied with a #8 round and the were cadmium red light and raw sienna and cerulean blue mixed a bit on the palette but mostly on the paper.

close up of first washes
okay, getting back to the basics.  i painted the dark shadow on the under side of the nose and over the tip.  after rinsing the brush and giving it a good shake (be careful not to have it too wet) i drew out the color with the damp brush over the nasal ala and side of the nose. i tried to leave a highlight just above the nostril on the side and all along the front/top of the nose. next i put  a dab of cerulean blue under the nose and drew it up into the previous wash for a tie in and to make the shadow on the upper lip. the medial edge of the near eye socket was started with cerulean blue and extended into the eye proper under the upper lid. the standard flesh colors were used for the lateral portion of the upper lid and side plane of the socket.  the eye brow was put in wet-in-wet with burnt umber. after drawing some of this color over the bridge of the nose i did the eye on the far side more of less the same way.  i am pretty sure the sockets are going to need darkening after all this dries but it is important not to fuss with this now.  it will only make a mess.  the forehead shadow under the cap bill was applied with a darker mixture of the same colors and extended across to the side burn area.  to define the top of the shoulder and give the face a bit of a tie in with the background i splashed a dilute mixture of cerulean, raw sienna, and perm.alizarin red onto the background and lightly manipulated it where i wanted it trying not to over fuss.  the under shadow of the cap bill was done last in this step by using a dark mixture of cobalt blue and burnt umber and  a little bled into the background which is okay.  so far i am pleased that i have resisted over manipulating the paint. i will post this and get out to play.  more tomorrow.  be well.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

portrait time

drawing of charles reid for the painting
i did decide to do a portrait and chose as an inspiration a photo that i took of charles reid at the workshop in jackson hole in 2009.  i am a little concerned with getting things "right" in that he has taught me a lot about portraits and i don't want to make a glaring gaff.  additionally, i'd like it to be at least a reasonable likeness of him.  because i wanted the drawing to be darker to show it here on the blog than i would on the watercolor paper and i suspected that i was going to have to do more than the usual number of corrections, i did this drawing in a sketch book first. it is here on the right. i put more shading in than i usually would for just a drawing for a painting so that i could get a feeling for the structures around the mouth which were giving me trouble.  the next step would be to transfer this to a sheet of 140# fabriano artistico 16"X20" cold press paper.  to do this i will tape the sketch and the overlying paper to a large window and lightly trace the needed contour lines sans shading. this is not a perfect likeness but it is likely as good as i am going to get it with the current level of my drawing skills. for those of you who know charles i will leave it to your judgement as to the resemblance.  i will start painting this later today or tomorrow.  there are two ways to go about a portrait like this.  one is to put down a light flesh tone first all over the face and neck with cadmium red light and cadmium yellow pale (about 3:1), let it dry, and then start with the modeling shades and shapes.  the other way is to start right in with the shadow shapes using darker versions of those colors with or without cerulean blue (or raw sienna substituted for the cad. yellow).  i think i am going to go with the latter here as the shadows are strong and a male's face lends itself to this approach, i think, better than a woman's or child's.

bad painting, bad painting......
i have had a bit of a gap in posts as i saw some flowers at the local farmers' market on friday and thought it would be fun to do a still life. i got the flowers, set up the still life with fruit and various objects and started painting.  alas, i really didn't like the way it was going and decided to abandon the effort. i think i was getting a bit heavy-handed with the paint and was overdoing the flowers so that they were losing their freshness. i has been a while since i painted a still life, so i was definitely out of practice. about 2/3rds of the way through i elected to abandon the effort as irretrievable, but i will post it here for your edification.  i find that my good paintings are outnumbered by my bad attempts by about 3 to 1 and this i fear was one of the three. in pursuit of honesty here is the abandoned result:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"a few stragglers": finishing touches

back for the final stages of this project. very windy (not unusual) with threat of rain (very unusual) but a nice warm day out here in the desert.  the amount of airborne dust will probably preclude a lot of out there activities so gives me a great excuse to finish this painting and maybe move on to the next.

"a few stragglers"

i think that the wet-in-wet painting of the ducks did come out a little light in value and will need some strengthening in some areas (and having looked at some pictures of mallards, some color correction).  i want to be careful not to repaint the entire shape as that sometimes causes tired looking color. i will make these corrections at the end to make sure i get the right balance with the rest of the painting as these are probably as much focal point as i am likely to have in any of my paintings.

i decided to start by putting in the big washes representing the sky and other background reflections in the water.  this is just a matter of recapitulating that which is at the upper part of the painting in the lower being careful to get the reflections more or less right in line with the objects on the upper part. after that i strengthened the ducks in various places.  second, i added some ripples behind the ducks indicating some swimming movement.  lastly, i lifted out some lighter reflections in the water using a 3/4" flat synthetic brush dampened and "wrung out" so that it is thirsty enough to pick up enough paint to show a light line of the sky reflecting off of distant waves/ripples.  of course in counterpoint to these will be darker lines of reflections off the waves from the distant shore which i added with a #2 and #4 round sable and a dark mixture of ultramarine blue/burnt sienna.

done and on to the next project which i have decided will be a portrait of some sort perhaps with some associated activity in the background for a little more interest.  i have a number of photos from which to gain inspiration and right now i am leaning in the direction of using one of charles reid i took at a jackson hole workshop about a year and a half ago. we'll see if i have enough chutzpah to "paint the painter"!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

further progress on "a few stragglers"

next stages of "a few stragglers"
#4 round sable (for scale) and  duck
only a little time to paint today. i thought that the base of the mountain nearest to us the viewers was too light in value so i darkened it with a loose wash of cerulean blue, permanent alizarin crimson, and raw sienna with a mostly violet gray bent to contrast with the yellow of the bushes. this was graded from bottom to top to add a little depth. i then put in the ducks, which i did decide to change to mallards- two drakes and a hen.  i did these wet-in-wet using a #4 round brush with ultramarine blue and hookers green on the drakes' heads and most of the umbers and siennas on the bodies with some cobalt for mixing toward a gray.  these later combinations for the entirety of the hen.  when i work wet-in-wet i frequently don't use enough pigment and it dries lighter than i had intended.  if that is the case here (and i fear it may be) i can add some darker over washes to correct this. these were painted at the same time as their respective reflections to give a tie-in for each and i then softened the edges of both the ducks and reflections on the sides and bottoms (away from the light) so they would seem part of the painting and not "stuck in." i also tried to break up the reflections to make it seem they were affected by ripples in the water.

the only things left are to add the rest of the reflections on the water to include the mountain and sky which hopefully i can do later today or tomorrow.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

next stages of the current painting "a few stragglers"

i have been having trouble with the internet connectivity and went up to the "big city" for groceries yesterday.  along with that its a nice day today and i'm going out to play in the desert a little later.  the net result is that i only worked about an hour on the painting this morning and i am afraid that is going to be it for the day.

i began by adding a rather flat neutral wash to the distant mountain side. i kept it devoid of any real detail both because of the distance and the more complicated nature of the distant shore side trees and bushes and the foreground figures which have yet to be put in. i used raw sienna, a touch of burnt sienna, and cerulean blue mixed mostly on the paper after "splashing on " the colors.  i do this to try to keep things loose when i have a larger area to cover that hasn't much if any this.

next stages of  "a few stragglers"
the next and last thing that i did today which took up most of the hour was put in the pines/firs/spruce on the distant shore. i used various combinations of hookers green with quinacridone gold, cerulean blue with raw sienna, ultramarine blue with both the gold and raw sienna, and hookers with burnt sienna. it was  important to me to mix up both the colors and the sizes of the trees for variety and interest.  of course these trees are reflected in the lake and these were added recapitulating the shoreline patterns but in a lighter value.

Friday, February 11, 2011

new project: landscape/waterscape in the fall

for this next painting i have decided to continue with some landscapes. i almost always like to put some figures in these and have elected to include some ducks.  i took photos of some teals up at a lake in northern wisconsin (lost land lake) this last summer.  i may turn them into mallards...we'll see. the land/waterscape was adapted from a photo we took of a lake with mountains and scattered yellow deciduous (?aspen, oak?) trees and bushes amongst the predominant pines, firs, and spruce. the first picture i darkened somewhat so that you could see the drawing which was very simple. it shows only basic placement of the major land structures, reflections in the water and where i will probably put the ducks. i may or may not put some "vees" of migrating birds in the sky at the end but have lightly indicated a likely spot for them if i do. because of the darkening of the photo the colors are darker and bluer than actual.

drawing and first washes for "a few stragglers"
after drawing the scene on a piece of 140# rough fabriano artistico paper i  put in the sky with a graded wash of cobalt blue grayed with raw umber using a #12 kolinski sable round brush (kalish brand).  as i said the actual is quite a bit less "sweet" than i appears here. because i wanted to see how the paint would react i "pushed" a brush loaded with quinacridone gold into the slightly dry (but still pretty damp) sky and ended up finishing the yellow tree. i wanted to see if i would get a soft effect that still would stand out...i think it did.  from there i put in the reflections of the first tier bushes with mid value quinacridone gold and oxide of chromium.

next washes of "a few stragglers"
after that dried almost completely i put in the most distant mountainside with a slightly darker version of the cobalt blue/raw umber mixture that was also slightly grayer owing to the larger proportion of raw umber.  i softened this at the bottom. the next step was to actually paint the first row of bushes on the shore just a little darker than their respective reflections. lastly in this step, i painted in the darker pine/fir forest that makes up a large part of the mountain top with a mixture of cobalt blue and raw sienna, to make a gray green, softening those areas where i wanted to lose the edge as i went along.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"fishin' buddies" and an "ah-ha"moment

finished painting "fishin' buddies"
true epiphanies are rare later in life, but "ah-ha" moments are frequent enough to keep one's eye peeled. you can't find what you don't look for.  i had one of those "ah-ha" moments while looking at the sky in this painting and trying to figure out what was bothering me about it...and something was bothering me! when i describe this moment to you most of you will probably have a "well, duh" moment.  but here it is anyway. we all know that shadows on objects are away from the light.  if the object is white there is a rim of the object that is white with a fairly large part of it pigmented, frequently a gray of some temperature. clouds are objects....ta, da (time for the first duh) and, in the case of cumulus, are white to boot. in our painting the sun is up and to the right.  so the object (cloud) should have a rim of white on the right and upper surface (facing the sun) with a large part of it in shadow and therefore various values and temperatures of gray down and to the left (away from the sun). in the initial stages of the painting i have put the gray parts willy-nilly without much regard to the light source. if i had "seen" what the photo was telling me rather than relying on my mind's perception of what a cloud looked like, i wouldn't have made this mistake and the sky would have looked better to me. in this next and final iteration of this painting i tried to fix it as best as i could, but really to be entirely correct it probably needs to be done over. so my lesson for the day is to see what you are looking at and treat clouds as objects that light plays with just like any other.

so, aside from this, i darkened some of the washes because they looked a bit puny and insipid to me, added the foreground and finished the birds. the reflections of the sky in the water are not entirely accurate, still but give us a good idea that it is reflected in the water.  the birds could use a few more tie-ins with some more lost edges. all in all, though, i like the end result and it does feel like the day i took the pictures. 

just a note about water.  in a landscape most objects get darker as they come forward.  as a rule of thumb (which may have many exceptions), water that is more than a few feet deep usually gets lighter as it moves toward the observer.  if it is shallow water one can see through it and see the bottom in which case it may look darker.

Friday, February 4, 2011

new project: "fishin' buddies"

i did decide to do the land/water scape with a figure or two in the foreground.  i found three photos that i took two summers ago down in the backwaters of the mississippi.  there are always a large number of aquatic birds down there from green herons, through great blues, to great white egrets.  it was a picture- perfect summer day with abundant sunshine and a sky filled with cumulus clouds.  these are the photos of the egrets as well as the photo i am going to use for the setting.  in the background are the bluffs which define the east bank of the river and the eastern extent of the city of la crosse.  they are about 500 foot high sandstone bluffs. the one just to the right of center has a huge US flag flying over it and i am unsure at this time of including it in the painting but it is visible and would add a small speck of color.

great white egret poised to strike

great white egret looking for next victim
 bluffs over mississippi slough

initial stages of "fishin' buddies"

as i said last time, the trick will be to get the birds not to look like they were cut out with a cookie-cutter and pasted down.  the way to get them to look like part of the scene is to lose some edges.  this is what i have attempted to do with the initial stages of the painting depicted here.  i have tried to maintain a found, sharp edge out in the sun (toward the right and above) and lose the edge and soften it away from the sun in the shadow side of the figures (left and down).  i hope this will work.  so far i think that it you? more tomorrow.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"lean and lanky"

"lean and lanky"
here is the finished project.  it was going to be more of an exercise than anything else, but i kind of like it (despite some of the overworked areas) so think i will dub it a painting in its own right and move on.  i strengthened some shadows on the figure and added the cast shadow on the wall. i softened some of the edges at the bottom of the color on the wall as well so that they were not so abrupt.

i haven't decided on the next project yet but i think it will be a landscape with some sort of figure(s) in the foreground...perhaps some egrets.  they frequent the marshes near our home in la crosse and their stark whiteness will be a nice foil to the green/blue of the surrounding environs.  also, they will pose the interesting problem of not making them look like they were cut from white paper and pasted on, but rather a part of the scene.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

warts and all

unfinished painting "lean and lanky"
detail "lean and lanky"
transparency seems to be the buzz word for the 21st century and for me what i strive for in my watercolors.  so i am showing this warm-up exercise with some, to me, obvious blemishes. i'm not quite finished with my painting of the cowboy, but decided to get something out today so that there wouldn't too much of a hiatus in posts.  i have also included a close up of the face which shows, i think, the thing i really hate doing which is over working an area.  the shadow side of the face has turned to mud; dull and lifeless, not to mention a bit ugly.  watercolor just doesn't like to be fussed with, especially before it dries from the previous "fuss," and that is exactly what i did.  get in and get out and DO NOT go back into a wash to "correct" until it is dry. i know this and still.......  frequently i set a timer to limit a mini-session of painting to 15-20 minutes. then i get up, stretch, get clean water, let things dry a bit, and take stock for the next mini-session after a break of about 10 minutes or so.  for me that usually prevents overworking and keeps things fresh. i didn't do that here as i went for about an hour, used filthy water, and messed, messed, messed with the shadow until i got this lovely result.  sometimes time is my worst enemy. transparency(no pun intended, or is it?) and keeping it real is what you get here!

i'm going to add a few shadow shapes around the collar and add a larger cast shadow along the wall on the figure's left (our right) and call it quits.  will post tomorrow and decide on the next project.