Iris Pond - Plein Air in Golden Gate Park. 9 1/2" x 12" / 24cm x 30cm Pan Pastels on Buttercup color ClaireFontaine PastelMat coated pastel card. The link is to my Etsy listing. Plein air in Golden Gate Park has been my goal from the day I first decided to move back to San Francisco. Heck, it's been a dream of mine since I first read about San Francisco and wanted to move there back as a kid. Yesterday, I actually made the trip.
A local artist friend Reba whom I met on WetCanvas met me in front of the De Young Museum. We didn't have far to go to find a wonderful spot to paint. A small memorial garden right next to the museum had paths running everywhere and a gorgeous natural planting in the central island in a round pond. Mallards swam in the water along with a turtle.
I did three pages of sketches, took 300+ reference photos and painted the best plein air scene I have ever done in my life. The composition almost planned itself.
Both of us noticed the balance of the area around that big rock. Reba's painting focused more on the water lilies and she has a larger area of water and rocks under water in hers. I focused on the stone and the irises planted next to it, though I moved most of them to the left of the rock replacing a clump of different plants.
Unlike all my previous attempts at plein air, I took command of my painting. I moved elements freely to strengthen the composition. I left out plants that I thought were beautiful and could have painted in detail. I have reference photos of them for later paintings anyway, I wasn't there to imitate a camera.
I was there to paint from life and that's what came of it - a bold, big, loose, colorful painting that almost painted itself. I spent three hours entirely with the Pans on it.
I had meant to use stick accents for small details but the corners of my Sofft sponge gave a better look to the irises. Otherwise I might have tried to detail them as if I waded right up to them to do a flower macro.
I could do that on another trip. Some of the same irises were planted in long grass near the garden, so I could roll up close to them and paint just the flowers the way I used to. But that's not why I went plein air.
I can find flowers in people's gardens, window boxes, supermarket stands easily enough. It's the outdoor landscapes shaped and maintained by the incredible gardeners at Golden Gate Park that I went there to paint.
I could go back every day for years and not run out of new things to paint. I could spend a lifetime just in that park.
There's a buffalo enclosure so if I want to do something with a cool Western theme, I'll roll out there sometime for life studies of bison. I remember the Japanese Tea Garden had that intensity - thousands of wonderful views each worthy of a painting every time I moved or turned my head.
In some ways Golden Gate Park is like copying masters. Other creative minds and souls went into crafting the beauty I visited to paint. The whole park is a massive collaborative work among architects, gardeners and donors.
I have yet to visit the botanical gardens or the pond or streams but the paths run everywhere. I've got a map of it now and both of us definitely plan to do this again. We might get into a habit of painting out there regularly as well as visiting the great museums in and around the park.
I've finally achieved a lifetime goal. This was one from the "bucket list" of things to do before I die - paint plein air in Golden Gate Park. It was so fantastic that I can't resist doing it again and again for the rest of my life.
Meeting a good online friend and hitting it off so well that we're now happily offline friends is wonderful too.
Some of our trips, we'll leave the city to visit some of her coastal plein air spots around Pacifica. We tested whether the two of us could manage to heave my power chair into her small convertible's back seat and it worked! So in future you'll see some plein air seascapes too, from every vantage point that can be reached by a paved path.
This is only the start.
Today I'm glowing with joy at the sight of it and feel much better than I usually do after a massive exertion. I got a little sunburned, just enough that I got enough sun to feel great.
I've got home care coming, so today's daily painting will likely be done in the evening by artificial light. I have all those photos to sort through and choose a good subject for today's painting though, so watch for a new post. I feel good and definitely ready to paint again! My home care worker just arrived so watch for a new post - today's post - in a few hours.
Yesterday I was a bit too tired to post after I got back but it was completely worth it! Big thanks to Reba for making the day such a joy!
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Small tree and bush study in Daniel Smith watercolors on my Robert Bateman spiral bound multimedia sketch pad. Not all paintings have to be framable or serious, like many plein air paintings this one's more a study for later paintings. I took some reference photos of the same cluster of trees and bushes next to the brick clinic building.
When I'm out at my clinic appointments or otherwise going somewhere that isn't planned as a plein air trip, I fall back on using a Niji water brush. That limits me to effects I can do with a size 7 or 8 nylon round brush but the convenience of not needing to hunt down water or find a place I can wash the brush afterward is well worth it.
Since I visit the same clinic every Wednesday morning, the more often I sketch these trees the more I'll see in them. I can experiment with different colors and effects. In this one I deliberately muted the greens, didn't try to capture the colors exactly as I saw them in the sun.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Today was another sick day, but at least I kept my hand in doing some preliminary sketching in Pitt Artist Pens. I used a small 4" x 6" ProArt sketchbook with lots of thin pages and worked on designing an oil pastels painting I plan to do tomorrow or the next day. Above is the final color thumbnail for it along with a romping gray kitten from a photo challenge on WetCanvas.com.
This one is the penultimate color thumbnail, a bit larger. I wasn't completely satisfied with this layout but it was a color version of the previous gray scale one.
Notice the white gel pen scribble extending the light value mass of the aspen trees over some of the pines. I realized when I did this one that I'd made the dark and light tree clumps about the same size and both extending to the middle. One had to dominate, so I wanted the bright yellow aspens to dominate.
This page has a life sketch of Ari, my long hair Siamese cat. Also some saplings with ranches flicked in with a Pitt Artist Pen, practicing graceful twig and sapling forms. If you have a day when you don't have the time or energy to paint, it's good to visit your sketchbook and at least give a few minutes to the idea of painting. Planning can always improve your rendering skills and of course seriously improve the paintings you do from the plans.
I may not stick to these preliminary layouts. For all I know, I'll come up with an even better one when I'm sketching on the painting itself. But they're a start - and if I hadn't done them I might have come out with a poorly designed composition no matter how well I paint the trees.
I don't know if I'll have space to put the kitten in too. He might have to wait for a larger painting or one with fewer other subjects to distract from him. But he's cute and cat sketching always improves my day!
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Endive and Bell Pepper
6" x 8"
Girault pastels on gray pastel paper.
Today's painting isn't a landscape because I had a long and interesting day. This morning I got out of the house at 7:30am to volunteer at the Food Bank. Because I'm living on Social Security, I also qualified to get groceries.
To my delight instead of a random assortment of breakfast cereals and packaged foods like the other food banks I'd been to, this one had gorgeous produce and serious protein. I got six chicken drumsticks, a dozen beautiful brown eggs, onions, potatoes, a pear, two big oranges ... and the Endive.
I had never seen an Endive before.
I stared across the room while I was sorting giant bags of onions at this mystery vegetable. It looked like a rolled up morning glory bud with Alizarin Crimson edging on blazing white petals with a dash of greenish hue at the base. I had no idea what it was till I asked.
I'd read about Endive in various stories and novels, but I don't eat salads. So I generally don't bother with that side of the produce aisles or know what goes into them much. Lettuces and tomatoes and raw plant stuff with sour stuff poured on it. The sour stuff makes me sick for reasons I didn't understand for years and the raw plants were hard to digest so I just avoided the whole thing unless it was fruit.
I couldn't this time. That Endive was too beautiful. I had to get it and paint it. I'll have a go at eating it without sour stuff on it - maybe a dash of olive oil and some garlic salt will make it tasty and I'll find a way to enjoy salads without getting sick.
Still more still lifes to come because I can't resist those lovely brown eggs and beautiful onions either. Even the potatoes might be amusing. So this series is titled "Food, Glorious Food!"
Friday, April 13, 2012
Storm over the Hills, 8" x 10" Pan Pastels on light gray Strathmore Artagain pastel paper.
Yesterday's bright colorful sunset began as a storm sweeping across the land. I liked the way the orange paper set off the clouds and hills so I let the painting evolve into a sunset. I like it, it's cheery and warm. Today's is dark and dramatic. I used a reference from Johannes Vloothuis, in the General section of his Reference Photos pack (available from North Light Shop).
So this painting is tighter and more detailed. I deliberately split the area of the painting 1/3 land, 2/3 sky to keep it in my skyscape series but moved landscape elements and changed their relation to each other.
I bought the Artagain pad in curiosity to see how well it compared with Canson Mi-Tientes, my usual pastel paper. I love the colors - they all have flecks of darker fibers in them for a beautiful look. The biggest difference is that the surface is smooth, almost slick. I think the smooth side of Mi-Tientes is softer but the Artagain holds color just as well so it's toothier than it felt. Definitely a good non sanded pastel paper, available in pads or in full sheets.
I used my 10 color Painters Set again, but also used the colors in the 5 Tints set and 5 Deep Dark Shades set. I've mentioned those are the most convenient of the convenience colors - three primary and two secondary colors each in tints and deep dark shades. It's pretty easy to blend a deep dark shade with the pure tone to get the original Shades, easier than judging exactly how much black to use to darken an area. I could have done this entirely with the Painters, but found I was right about the convenience tints and deep darks.
Because I bought an extra 10 color tray by mistake it was easy to pull just those colors from my full range set and keep them handy too. So I've now got the short stack of small trays nearby for a whole series of Pan Pastel cloudscapes. Each one should have a very different mood and feeling.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Sunset Cloudscape, 8" x 10" in Pan Pastels on orange Canson Mi-Tientes pastel paper. I used the smooth side, definitely didn't want to wrestle with the weave texture on this skyscape.
Once again I used just the 10 color Painters Set. I'm getting some practice in with the limited palette so that I can prepare to bring it with me when I go out to paint plein air. I'll be doing various paintings just using those 10 Painters colors until I'm completely used to mixing my tints and any hues not included in them. So far I'm very happy with the results - and happy with how small the 10 color tray is. It's reduced the sheer amount of stuff stacked up next to my chair. Nothing needs to be moved around when I use the small set.
This one is completely from imagination. I set out to create abstract shapes in the clouds, highlight around them and play with their shapes and colors. As I developed the cloud shapes, I decided I liked the orange color of the paper and brightened it with a sunset gradient. The net result is a lot of fun, very dramatic, expressive, colorful sunset that brings together the memories of thousands of blazing sunsets I couldn't paint at the time I sat watching them. Fat puffy cumulus clouds always fascinated me anyway, so this painting is an exploration of those shapes among other things, as well as the values and hues that shift and play within them.
It started out to become a storm and then turned into a sunset. Sometimes it's fun to just see where the painting is going and change my idea as it gets there.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Pastel Puzzle Painting #3
On WetCanvas, my favorite art community online, the Soft Pastel Talk forum has frequent challenges. This one, the organizer took a photo reference and cut it into 20 square pieces. None of us know what the final picture is until all of them get turned in and she puts together the final image. I participated in the last two Puzzle Painting challenges.
They're fun because I can focus on accuracy without knowing what the subject is. Capturing a texture and a color when I don't have that color is especially challenging. Today I did this with a limited palette of only 10 Pan Pastels. A friend of mine bought me the 10 Painters Set as a field kit. So I decided to test that by doing my Puzzle Piece using only the 10 Painters Set and only tools included in the 10 Painters Set.
Yep. I was right. For anyone who's used to mixing color with watercolors or acrylics, 10 Painters is a full palette. I'm going to enjoy using it as my field kit.
Sunday, April 8, 2012
This is actually yesterday's painting, a seascape using Derwent ArtBars on a 7" x 10" Stillman & Birn "Beta" journal. The heavy 180lb rough paper is wonderful for watercolor and for dry media.
Like many Derwent watersoluble products, the ArtBars come in a well chosen assortment even in the 12 color set. I built up some interesting combinations in the rocks and waves even if some of the variations dropped out in the scan. Should have posted yesterday but was having health issues. Still having health issues today, so there might or might not be a daily painting for Sunday the 8th.
Still, something to enjoy. Not all of these Daily Paintings will be finished works ready to post on Etsy. Sometimes I just do them for myself in my journal.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Fourth Daily Painting, done before dawn on April 5th. I might even paint again later today and catch up. 5" x 7" Pan Pastels on Buttercup PastelMat. Same reference as the previous two waterfall paintings, but this time I flipped the reference horizontally.
I used the 20 Painters set and 20 Tints sets of Pan Pastels, didn't get down into the trays of Shades and Deep Dark Shades for this one. Violet and Raw Umber provided enough contrast for my darks, while using tints over pure tones gave me some lovely darker tints on the rocks. Highlights have several varied tints in them, from spectrum tints to earth tints like Red Iron Oxide, Burnt Sienna and Yellow Ochre.
I usually work a stage larger with Pan Pastels, at least 8" x 10". So it was a pleasant surprise to rediscover how much detail I could get with the corners of a fresh wedge sponge and the tip of a small applicator for softer, more rounded small rocks in the foam.
I sleep and wake on a loony schedule, so painting at five in the morning is almost par for the course. I'll probably nap after my home care worker comes and then go to my afternoon appointment at the clinic.
My new dresser being inspected by Ari. He's such a Big and Tall cat! 15 pounds under all that fluffy fur.
I did mention in the first post that my daily painting is Health Permitting. All physical activity takes five times the body energy it would for anyone else due to my right leg being 3cm shorter than the left. That means anything involving standing up or moving around. Then the total amount of body energy I have to spend is limited by fibromyalgia, so my doing anything physical is a massive Olympics-worthy feat of stamina and achievement.
Yesterday, I got a new dresser from my hotel manager. Another tenant got in a beautiful long storage cabinet with shelves and a mosaic tile top - gorgeous piece of furniture. Once it was installed, he gave his dresser back to the hotel. I put dibs on the dresser when I saw the maintenance guy put it away.
So in the morning, Harry knocked on my door and asked if I still wanted the dresser. Of course I did! I went nuts pulling everything off that three shelf bookcase that's now sitting on the dresser and removing a big stack of art supplies from in front of the bookcase where it had accumulated. I'd take things out to use them, put them back on the stack so they'd still be in reach and bury the bottom shelf or two behind stacks of supplies. No more.
My whole bed and much of the floor got covered in stacks of books and supplies just to get everything out of the way to bring the dresser in. Maintenance guys moved the microwave and heavy but empty bookcase into the hall, then brought in the dresser, then brought back the bookcase to go on top of it and put the microwave on it. Since the microwave used to sit on top of the bookshelf, it's got a much stabler place now and the coffee pot's in easier reach.
I spent the rest of the day putting away everything I'd taken off the bookshelf and the floor, clearing off the bed and clearing the stacks on the floor. I had to move a small three drawer plastic drawer unit across the room next to the television. I had a whole lot of picking up and bending, not to mention sweeping where the bookcase was before the dresser came in.
It would have been a challenging task for someone abled. For me it was a marathon. I kept going when my back hurt, so I wound up pounding my bad hip and getting some knee and ankle symptoms on the short leg. That is what always happens if what needs to be done is more than I can do. I'll need to rest up from it.
Today, on the 5th, I've got home care coming in the morning and a weekly clinic appointment in the late afternoon. That leaves only a short window for painting. I suppose you're wondering why I threw my back instead of shoving all the chaos off the bed to get my home care worker putting it away on Thursday morning.
99% of it is art supplies. There are things I can't trust a home care worker to handle that would be very hard to organize if I wasn't the one stacking them. Think about your supply cabinet. Could you verbally describe exactly the order you want everything in it to someone else who's not an artist and doesn't know how to handle it or understand your priorities?
"That goes on the top shelf, left side. No, that's the middle shelf. I mean the top shelf. No, not on top of the book case, the top shelf, there, yes, no, the left side is the other side..." Try doing that for a few hours. You'll find that what you could have done in half an hour will take three or four and not be finished in the helper's scheduled three hours.
Anyone who's ever moved with someone else helping to pack will have an idea of what I'm talking about. Sometimes it's better to do it for yourself even when it pushes the edge of what's physically possible.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Third day of my Daily Painting challenge! This time I decided to go for my Daniel Smith watercolors. I love the rich intensity of their hues and the transparency of Quinacridone Burnt Orange. I've been using that much more often than my old standby, Burnt Sienna, because it's so completely clear and transparent.
Working from the same photo as yesterday's Dawn Waterfall, I interpreted it at a different time of day in a completely different mood. Reserving white for the foam was a lot of fun, so was swirling my brush loosely in the water texture below the waterfall.
I don't usually sketch under watercolor paintings. I prefer to do that with the paint, so the graphite lines don't show through the transparent color. I know that's a bit of a purist approach but it's something satisfying when I can show something in the paint alone and work that expressively. I used a size 12 round brush, the biggest round brush I had available - happily because it's so pointed a round, I had no need to turn to a smaller brush for any of it.
The background trees are wet in wet, first I washed the sky area with water, then with blue and then started painting trees into it letting them diffuse into the sky colors. That was a great success. I'll have to do some more wet in wet paintings before I finish this series of 120 paintings.
Monday, April 2, 2012
Sometimes when I start a painting, it doesn't go the way I planned. My reference for Dawn Waterfall is a black and white photo provided by Johannes Vloothuis for this week's homework in "Essentials of Painting Rocks." He deliberately desaturated one of his waterfall references so that we would have to create the colors of the scene from memory and artistic judgment.
Johannes also specificed "make the rocks a muted reddish orange color." Well, this painting came out great but this one doesn't fit the "muted" category. I started from the sky, shaded in that beautiful dawn-sky gradient with silhouetted early morning violet trees... and from that point I could not put the foreground rocks around the waterfall in a muted noon light color. I had to bring the same violet into their shadows and gild their upper surfaces with the dawn light.
So I love the painting but I might be doing another from this reference. There's no reason I can't do more than one version of the assignment and I love this scene. I might try it in watercolor or soft pastels next, no reason I can't try multiple mediums either.
One thing that I've found improves my art is to do a series with the same subject. Try it in a different medium, change the mood or time of day, do it in different sizes, vary it enough that I don't get bored but keep working from the same reference until I have an interesting group of paintings that all share a common subject. This is a fun waterfall so I might come back to it again this week.
Enjoy! Just like yesterday, the link leads to the listing in my Etsy shop.
Sunday, April 1, 2012
This is it! After enjoying the blogs of several Daily Painters, I finally decided to take the plunge. Health permitting, I'll be posting a new small format painting in any of several mediums or subjects.
I've also taken some classes with Larry Seiler. He recommends doing 120 small paintings in a series to improve your painting skills. So instead of just doing daily drawing, which I've done successfully more than once - this cranks up the heat. Now they have to be paintings, though not always in wet mediums. I love doing pastel painting and I'm pretty sure at least half of these will be in pastels.
As I create these small format paintings, I'll also be listing them on Etsy. Click the link to see the price and listing details.
Yellow Daffodil was inspired by a photo in the April 2012 "Pastel Spotlight" challenge posted by Don Ketchum, who gave permission to paint of course since he's hosting the challenge. I was intrigued by the strong red in the background and the way it flowed into the blurred green foliage.
Pan Pastels formed the base of my painting. I used only the 20 Painters colors since I rearranged my full range 80 color set of Pan Pastels in their four trays. I used to have them organized by color across all four trays with each value of a color in a row. The new arrangement goes back to the way I got them in 20 color sets.
There's a reason for that arrangement. I've started doing value mass planning on my paintings and if I keep all the Tints in one tray, I can start with the light value area using just the Tints. Then shift to the middle values and use the pure tone Painters set, finally create dark areas either by mixing or by using Shades and Deep Dark Shades.
That new arrangement turned out to be a great success for painting in a small area. I don't have a large table any more where I can spread out all the trays in a row. The stack of them fits neatly on the seat of my rollator. It's a mobility aid like a walker with wheels and brakes that doubles as a side table for supplies if I'm home sitting in my armchair. I just move the supplies into the armchair if I'm going out.
If you haven't read my other Blogger blogs, I'm a 57 year old disabled artist and writer with mobility limits caused by a skeletal distortion from birth, along with arthritis and fibromyalgia that came along later. i live on Social Security and work towards becoming self employed again. Until I make enough to cover both my living expenses and medical care, every dime from art sold goes back into the business in supplies, website fees and other business expenses.
I live in San Francisco, which became my home of the heart in 1978 when I first moved here. I was foolish enough to leave for "a better job" in Chicago in 1980 and regretted it ever since until August 2012 when I came home. San Francisco is diverse, colorful, progressive, arts-oriented and most of all beautiful. I can't look out the window or go anywhere in my city without seeing paintable views and beautiful people.
Also the climate is better for my health than anywhere else I've ever lived. Here, I have more good days, weeks and months when I can do things than I ever did anywhere else in the country. The mild gentle climate mitigated by the Pacific Ocean currents and winds keeps it from getting too hot or too cold. It rains sometimes but there's no snow, just rain and sometimes the beautiful fogs that give everything in the city an eerie, distant beauty.
Flowers everywhere. I don't have any hair to put flowers in since I just shaved my head, but painting a flower seems like the San Franciscan way to start my Daily Paintings! Please follow to see what I think of tomorrow, whether it's wilderness, cityscape, wildlife or of course my beloved, beautiful cat Ari. He turns 12 this month on the 22nd, catnip toys are appreciated. He always knows what packages are his and opens them himself with much vigor!