Friday, May 25, 2012

Bridge Scene and Cat from Life

 Bridge landscape painted in acrylics on Sunday, May 20th during Johannes Vloothuis online Paint-Along hosted by WetCanvas Live! I simplified the source photo drastically and used stronger colors than Johannes did, also made other changes. This is one of the best landscapes I've ever done in my journal, perhaps the best. Both this painting and the next are in my Stillman & Birn Beta journal, which has 180lb rough bright white watercolor paper. I love that paper. It stands up to everything I throw at it. The paper never bleeds through either, it's very easy to paint on both sides of a page.

I've been out of it dealing with medical issues and resting up from appointments. Chronic fatigue can get rough when I have to go out immediately after having gone out the day before, then it takes longer to rest up to the point I can do anything. Very frustrating, so this month's "as can" is a very slow daily painting attempt. However, I'm approaching 20 small paintings and already happy with my progress!

Below is today's watercolor life painting of Ari, my longhaired colorpoint cat. He's a "street Siamese" with no official papers but clearly has the markings. I did a quick gesture in pencil while he more or less stayed in that pose. He turned his head, but not till I'd gotten his face sketched. I decided the sketch was too light and so painted in watercolor.

I don't usually do pencil sketches under watercolor, preferring a purist look without guidelines showing. This time I just let it show and painted anyway. The final embellishment is white whiskers sketched in with a white gel pen because this is in my art journal and I don't need to be purist in a journal.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Flower and Furball, Yesterday and Today

The top painting, Bird of Paradise, in pen and watercolor, is the subject of my latest demo on Rob's Art Lessons.  You can see stages in the creation of that big folded sepal the flower springs out of on the other blog. It's from a reference in the "Plant Parade" challenge at where there's a reveal date on May 25th.

Today, I noticed Ari laying on the folded down white sheets of my bed and painted him very fast using the same Sakura Koi watercolors, touched in a couple of whiskers with a Pitt Artist Pen.

So even though these aren't stand alone paintings, I've got two more daily paintings in. This is a good thing. I have had a lot more sick days lately than not, also days when going out to appointments meant I was too sick to paint once I got back. Glad to get back in the groove again.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Orange Lily - Pastel ACEO

Just a small painting today.

Orange Lily is 3 1/2" x 2 1/2", an ACEO on gray ClaireFontaine PastelMat done with a 25 color Girault Landscape assortment supplemented with a red and a red-violet stick that I bought separately because the Landscape assortment lacked either a red or a violet. The photo reference is from the May Spotlight challenge on

Every month the Spotlight challenge includes a lesson, this month's topic is Edges. So in this small painting I focused on the soft to vanished edges in the background, softened edges on some of the stems and leaves with some linear accents to sharpen up edges on some buds, leaves and of course the main flower. It came out vigorous and lively.

One of the nice things about working small is that I'm forced to keep things simple. I can't noodle after details of veins and spots in the petals, have to focus on the important shapes and graceful lines of the subject. I like how it came out. The contrast between finger blended background and stick-blended or unblended strokes is a bit stronger in person.

Finger blending mutes and dulls pastels. It creates perfect loose soft edges at the cost of some vibrance. The pigment crystals get broken down and crushed to more of a matte look. That's something I use to advantage sometimes in painting so that the main subject pulls forward with more intensity and texture.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Page of Little Ari Drawings

Technically this isn't a painting - it's a 9" x 12" page of life drawings of my cat Ari. It's a serious project. I used an archival Pitt Artist Pen, black brush tip for its expressive line, on 100% rag watercolor paper. Every one of these little drawings is from life. The dates come in two clumps, back in November when I first started the project and then picked it up again late in April when I realized my winter slump had lasted that long.

This piece was difficult not because I don't have a lot of practice drawing my cat, but because I had so many little drawings of him and was determined to give the page a decent layout. The more of them I finished, the tougher it was to use the remaining space well, have everything leading in toward the others with a good eye path, create a good page as a whole instead of "cool little life studies."

I love my cat. I could and do draw him endlessly. I also don't mind having a lot of bad sketches of him crop up in my sketchbook. I lighten up when I do these gestures and don't worry so much about whether each of them is a good drawing or even an accurate likeness. This project, I wanted to do my best on them.

It's part of an art trade with Charlotte Herczfeld, my pastel teacher, a Swedish Colourist who heads up the Pastel Guild of Europe. She taught me how to handle color, how to handle pastels and depth and distance. She freed me from literal adherence to the photo and from sticking to local color instead of what I see. She also taught me how to create any hue I want with optical mixing and use a limited palette in pastels.

I've got several other artworks in the package. I'm nowhere near her level of skill, honored she liked so many of my works though. I'll be packing them all up this week to ship to Sweden and then wait for a wonderful, glorious package containing a painting that went right to my heart. I need to order a good frame for hers too, need to set aside that budget and not unpack it until I have a frame big enough - though I have mat board and can cut the mat for the painting myself just as I did last time.

I'm so thrilled about this and honored. I'm also vastly relieved that A Page of Little Ari turned out so well! I can't believe I managed, with all that care and patience waiting for good days and of course waiting for the cat to hold still in good poses, to fill the page just right. He is a great beauty of course, there was no question of the model's competence in this piece.

A long project completed just right! Nothing compares to that feeling!