Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Rain Clouds over San Francisco Hill

Rain Clouds over Hill
5" x 7"
Winsor & Newton Watercolour Marker, Ivory Black on
W&N Bockingford 140lb Not surface watercolour paper

I already reviewed the paper on Rob's Art Supply Reviews blog. But I had to post this here as well.

Some paintings don't get planned. This wasn't intended to be a good painting. I was on the Paratransit van going to my twice a month clinic visit and at the top of a very tall hill, saw dark rain clouds stop just short of a cluster of trees on top of a far hill which had no houses or anything on it. That took my breath away.

I scrambled to get a photo but the camera showed only white sky, the clouds I wanted the photo for were invisible. So I decided, heck with that. I'll sketch it. Chose the black W&N Watercolour Marker and sketched rapidly at a stop light, then swished my wet Niji waterbrush around scrubbing out the sky marks as thoroughly as possible, then swiped across the hills once each and jiggled it.

I wasn't even thinking. This painted itself. I knew what to do and just tried to get the effect. In under two minutes I stared at it and even wet, I knew. I even said "Stop now" or something like that. I had the moment's recognition that kept me from ruining it. 

This was the time the paint did the work. 

There are effects in this little monochrome painting that I've tried for years to get. They came naturally. I didn't think about it while I was painting. I told my nurse, who's fond of my art, that this one painted itself. It actually did, in under two minutes. Mind and heart and hand and eye were one, it happened on that nonverbal right side of my brain at the pace watercolor needs to happen for some of that kind of effect to happen. If I'd stopped to plan it I would have ruined it.

So this is something for anyone who struggles with watercolor to keep in mind. Keep striving. Keep learning. Keep wasting paper on paintings you hate and duds, keep turning them into pastel underpaintings or store them to see how much better you are a year later - always a good idea. The day does come when the things you learned move out of the right brain into the left, when the tools are at your hand and it's your fingers that know how to use them.

It was my favorite brush this happened with. The lazy easy one. Whether you lean toward flat brushes and blocky, painterly strokes or round brushes and thick-thin calligraphic strokes, there will come a time you can feel your favorite brush and give it exactly the right pressure and wetness, respond in the moment to what's there and let the watercolor guide the process. 

It is a lot of fun, like getting stoned on painting.

It does come, no matter how frustrating its long learning curve is. Usually when trying to do something else and not thinking about it. Watercolor and zen, go together a bit like paint and brushes, right?

Last tip - using good supplies increases your chance of the happy day. Cheap paint on cheap paper sometimes cockles and puddles, is too absorbent or not absorbent enough, gives you problems that mingle with lack of experience to cause disasters. Students learning watercolor are better off getting a triad of good artist grade paint like the Winsor & Newton Permanent Rose, Lemon Yellow and French Ultramarine, or Daniel Smith's Primary Triad set, than trying to get good effects with lesser paint.

Likewise, good paper 140lb or heavier that's adequately sized can make it easier to get those effects. Bockingford is the medium quality Winsor & Newton paper, their Artists' all rag paper is even better but this stuff performed uch better than most and my Stillman & Birn journals also perform brilliantly. Arches and Fabriano Artistico are great too. They each have character and as you try different papers you'll find their strengths and the way they affect your style. 

I don't soak and stretch my watercolor paper because my disabilities and small living space make that completely impractical. I would have to go down to the bath chamber (not latrine) in the hall, then staple it to a big wooden board or clamp it into a stretcher and bring the dripping thing back to my little room. This would throw my back with the carrying and bending and walking, so I wouldn't feel much like painting afterward. 

I like working with the gelatin sizing still in the paper. Other artists prefer stretched paper as it becomes more absorbent. I don't much care for unwanted soft edges in detail areas and like wet-and-dry effects like this, so my style is affected by my body the way it is in all mediums. Those who prefer stretching say it gets more absorbent, but I like paper to give me good sharp details when I want them and dislike that sense of working on a blotter that some papers give. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Do it your way. If I did ever stretch I'd get one of the clamp stretchers though. They seem a lot easier than tape and staples and all. I don't have the patience to wreck my back doing that and not get to use it that way. Nature didn't design me to do a lot of heavy preliminary work like stretching my own canvases either or grinding my own pigments.

What I learned from that applies to busy people too. Make it easy on yourself and you'll paint more often, thus learn faster. Years of practice with brush tip pens sketching just to record this or that or taking notes in art classes with brush tip sketches helped lead to this day too. 

I'm still that happy to get to this point. Purring loudly.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

More Winsor Newton Marker Sketches

Winsor & Newton Watercolour Marker Sketches
Ari cat, white daisy, pears with oranges and persimmon group
Stillman & Birn Zeta journal smooth watercolor paper, 7" square

All those sketches are from life, two from yesterday and one from today. I wanted to test the markers for color studies, for combinations with Niji water brush, for various techniques. I made this page for my review of these markers which I'll post on my other blog, Rob's Art Supply Reviews. Link is on the sidebar.

Novel is still slow, I'm only at 20,000 words or so and should be at 30,000 or so to win on time. But it's a good one, it just takes more rumination than I expected. Might get some work in on it today. Weather is severely slowing me down again just like last year.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Monochrome Blue Skyscape

Monochrome Blue Skyscape
Winsor & Newton Watercolour Marker, Prussian Blue Hue
Stillman & Birn Zeta journal 7" square

The other half of this month's new art supplies arrived and so I could not resist at least getting in a test sketch. These markers are everything I hoped they'd be - artist grade watercolor in a marker form for quick sketching and underpainting. Watersoluble, they can be pulled out into midtones and light values with a wet brush or in this case a waterbrush for fast pen and wash studies.

So I goofed around with a familiar subject, imaginary clouds and ways of rendering them in pen. It worked. The loose lines and soft washes worked together and the Prussian Blue Hue has such a great long value range that I'll have no trouble getting darks either in watercolor painting or pen-wash or underpainting pastel field sketches.

I'll be reviewing the Travel Set in my Art Supplies Review blog soon, watch for more details about the product and how it handles. I may do some more tests but as an example sketch, this really worked! I did something I've wanted to do in pen-wash for the longest time - got the sky gradient in, even if exaggerated!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Autumn Shore - Blue Earth Pastels

Autumn Shore
8" x 7 1/2" approx.
Blue Earth "Land & Sea" set of 21
Canson All-Media paper, white

This is a test painting of the new pastels I just got. I finally gave in to the great assortment of values in the Blue Earth sets of 21. It became a real exercise in subsitution as a gorgeous orange tree could not be rendered with just the pastels in the box. Though the result of using the very pale pinkish color for it was interesting and I had fun with it. Not that happy with the big rock in the water, really could have left it out or done it blockier but I kept adjusting color on it to get it gray. 

For an experiment though, it is a great success. I love the range of values in the box, love the juicy impasto strokes and their super soft texture. They're fun to paint with and I can keep going when I thought I was pretty much done with them if I'd been using others. It will take a light hand to get the best out of these and after this I'll definitely also be using the dozen bright sticks I first bought to test the brand. They'll go into a combined box at some point for convenience.

More about them when I review the pastels. I'd like to do a better painting for the review, but I'm happy with this as a test. I love how some of the trees came out and how some of the reflections worked. 

Nothing is wasted. This is just my opinion of it too - others may look and go wow, Rob, you outdid yourself here. I know now what textures I can get on plain paper and the next step is using these on sanded paper - or as finishing layers in a painting done with firmer pastels. They'll shine for that.

Reworked it a little, unsatisfied with the big egg shaped rock in the water. I like it better now.

Autumn Shore, reworked
mostly by adding reeds and moss to the big rock

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Pine from Memory

Pine from memory
5" x 7"
Rembrandt pastels on gray Strathmore Artagain paper

Experimenting with sky holes, asymmetry, graceful shape and painting from memory, I wound up giving it dawn light and snow on the ground - but not on the branches, where it blew off in a strong wind. I've seen pines in a snowy area that lost their snow to wind or sun before all the snow on the ground melted.

I should have been doing my novel, but I painted first. Happily the book's going well now so I took a break to post this. Onward with both! Sometimes it's good to break away for a little while just to paint.

Sketches from Tuesday and Wednesday

Doorway sketched Tuesday afternoon on my way to my polling place. My home care worker was checking on his parking meter, so I settled down for a rest and sketch. Nothing else on Tuesday, too wiped out from the hike.

Wednesday went better at least for sketching. I had my semi-annual doctor's appointment so needed to leave early and decided to stay a little late. That turned into two more hours late because the Paratransit van broke down and then the replacement van broke down. Finally another driver showed up and I got home after 5pm while it was getting dark. Got 326 photos of the garden, clouds and so on though, lots of photos including some sunset skies.

Shadowed tree sketched from the van at a stop light. First of Wednesday's sketches, ballpoint in a pocket Moleskine.

Quick watercolor study from the window of my doctor's office, overlooking the spot I usually wait for the van. I had some Daniel Smith watercolors and a travel brush with me so did this in the watercolor Pocket Moleskine.

Still had some time waiting for the doc, so I penciled and inked another view of the same thing with the color study to combine with it. Same view, same scene. Then I went out to the garden for a little while and got some photos.
Sketched this gold leaf with its delicate brown veins, decided to wait till I got home to ink it so I could use the warm brown pen. It came out better with the pen inking, though I might have glazed over it again. The bottom is the actual leaf pressed into the same page of the pocket watercolor Moleskine.

Still waiting, many photos and some time later...
I sketched in pencil and pen, getting these snapdragons from the garden when I got told it'd be another 45 minutes for the replacement van. Painted it in the waiting area out back by the short fat palm again. By then I was exhausted and it started getting dark, so that was the end of Wednesday's sketching.

What a day! But I had gotten way ahead on my Nanowrimo novel, it's at 9,397 words so I'm still ahead of par as long as I get in some writing tomorrow to keep up. So far this month I've alternated. Beware, there may be gaps again on days I write but don't draw... still hoping to get a good day I can do both!

It's just this month, will be back to daily art in December most likely.