Friday, February 27, 2015

Cat Sketches

Three cat sketches from the 24th, 25th and 26th. The first is from life. The second, a street tree composed from several different street trees in life with a cat from memory clawing it, third is my Ari again from life in a different position.

All three are done with Winsor & Newton Watercolour Markers on Stillman & Birn Zeta 180lb hot press (smooth) watercolor paper.

I was tagged for the 30 Cats in 30 Days challenge on Facebook, so I'll be doing a lot of little cat sketches until March 5th. If I haven't completed 30 new cats, I'll fill out the number posting some previous cat drawings and paintings.

Till then, even when I'm under the weather it's often possible to do a cat gesture. Ari is usually a cooperative model, at least if I get the sketch in during two minutes. If not, I've sketched him so many times I can usually finish it from memory. I love him so much. The more often I sketch him, the more beautiful everything about him is. Right now he's laying flat doing a good impression of a fur rug with legs sticking out. I'll probably sketch him at least once today too.

#6, #7 and #8 of my 30 Cats in 30 Days. I need to start catching up though, so if I can I'll try to get more than one cat in during a day!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Colourful Rose aka Red Red Rose

Colourful Rose aka Red, Red Rose
6" square
Terry Ludwig pastels on white Colourfix Suede pastel card
Photo reference by DAK723 on WetCanvas

This one is another "Pastel Spotlight" challenge painting. This month's challenge theme is Red. DAK723 hosts the challenges and had already done blue, green, yellow and maybe orange, think orange was one. So I was very glad he put a rose into the lineup.

It was pink, a medium-dark pink like hot pink. And this rose is not quite it. I changed it substantially in the painting, abandoned the reference entirely somewhere around doing the middle of the sketch. In simplifying it I changed the interior petals to my artistic tastes. I made the light stronger and more directional. How that worked ultimately was that it looks more as if it's washed by a dapple of sun and implies a shade tree above the entire scene - an effect I love.

I also succeeded in two things. You can't photo a red rose. I've tried. What comes out is scarlet with black squiggles and no values in between. I've looked hard at some professional photos of red roses and seen the way the dark reds vanish suddenly, even after serious photoshop work. Well, it can be done with a painting! Yay!

And so the color was entirely from memory. I worked out both the rendering for bright scarlet roses and for the deep red velvety ones I always loved. Where the deepest darks really do sometimes go almost to black. I figured out how to do that by way of the underpainting colors, and so there will be more red roses to come as I play with the results.

I don't much like Terry Ludwig on Colourfix Suede as much as Pan Pastels or firmer pastels, but it worked better than plain paper. I would have preferred sanded, but now I know, use firmer pastels. This kind of experiment always helps. I also used an alcohol wash for the underpainting or I probably would have killed the tooth in the first layer.

Plain paper, coated paper, sanded paper of different grits - all pastel surfaces have favorite pastels and all pastel brands have favorite surfaces. The fun is finding out what the combinations do. If I did this again with Pan Pastels and accents in hard pastel or pastel pencil it might come out great - but would still be a very different rose!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Tree Study Lake Scene

Tree Study, Lake Scene
W&N Watercolour Markers on Fabriano Artistico
6 1/2" x 8" sample watercolor paper

Have been resting up, lost a few days lately to both the deep cleaning overexertion and going out for my medical appointment. Plenty of sketching on Wednesday, but otherwise been sleeping a lot. This time of year isn't great though not as bad as November and December for exhaustion. Just haven't done much. Today was getting my toe back in with a quick sketch and designed painting. I had this nice sample of good paper - a paper I've bought blocks of. Found it during the cleaning and thought it should get something in water media on it since it looked so fine.

It's actually cream colored, thus the warm colors of the main palette worked well on it. I half think I should have gone for the darker and slightly less intense Prussian Blue Hue for the water but this is all right.

Also an experiment in combining textures. I meant to wash out the foliage but by the time I was done with it, I liked its effect as is. When something works, don't overwork it!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Three Fruits in Earth Tones

Three Fruits in Earth Tones
7" square W&N watercolour markers
Stillman & Birn Zeta journal

Today I have to go out for a medical visit, so I got in the day's art early and chose a medium I didn't need to clean up from. After the cherries I really wanted to do something simple. Reveling in the expanded color range of 15 colors instead of 8, almost doubling my palette, I decided to use the three new earth tones together. They looked like a harmonious warm palette by themselves. 

The results are pleasant. A little richer than a monochrome brown but still that same sense of old fashioned art, of time and mellow warmth. Raw Sienna is brighter, lighter and warmer than the Yellow Ochre in the medium so I was happy to use it to get a sense of tawny gold on the pears and the apple's yellow streaks. Without other reds in the painting Burnt Sienna reads true as red and fairly bright. Raw Umber made a nice cool dark. Overall I liked the effect together.

I might be adding more images later after my trip if I sketch outdoors. I'll be bringing all 15 of the markers, stick these earth tones in my pocket and the tin in my rollator stacked on my Beta journal. I'm thinking of using the Beta so I can work large if I want to or just put multiple images on a page or both. Naturally I'll also bring the water brush.

I have a pack of five Daniel Smith watercolor sticks in my pocket too so if I feel more like traditional watercolor, there's those and several pocket sets handy. Either way it'll be fun. Heh, I could stick with those but the markers are so fast and powerful the chance of doing something with them in relatively little wait time is higher.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Colourful Cherries in pastel

Colourful Cherries 
5" x 7"
Terry Ludwig pastels on Uart 400 sanded pastel paper
Photo reference by sirbonetta on WetCanvas 

This month's Pastel Spotlight Challenge on is themed on the color Red. I liked most of the references but the one that really sang to me was a bowl of cherries with these three off to the side on a white table. I left out the bowl and painted them larger than life in a very tight crop.

I used the four stage Colourist method as I've done before with Colourful Lemons and Colourful Bananas months ago. Once again the painting sings in person, the cherries shine with color and the whole piece has a lot of richness. Gradating the background eliminated the boredom of a plain white flat surface and also flattened it out, though the shapes of the shadows did that too. 

Shadows are nuanced with reflected color. The white surface reflects up on the shiny surfaces of the cherries along with some out of sight object to the far left that broke the reflection. The corner of the table is visible in those reflections. I loved the way they shaded and the nuances of the leaf. Some texturing strokes created lovely details and veining by accident so I kept all that and didn't do anything more to it after Stage 3. Even the stems came out well and the last bright highlights went on over what was probably 8 or 9 layers of very soft pastels.

I did use an alcohol underpainting for the bright first layer just as I did in yesterday's landscape and love that effect too. These super soft Ludwig pastels wear down faster than my medium-soft pastels but give a lovely glow and they do go on so opaque that I can get away with bright near-whites over dark near-black colors! 

I spent all day at this one, it was four different sessions each about two hours. So this would have been a full day's work in itself despite the small size. So worth it though when I look at the results!

To learn the Colourist method I recommend Capturing Radiant Light & Color in Pastels and Oils by Susan Sarback, who was my teacher's teacher. Charlotte Herczfeld aka Colorix taught me this method in "Exploring Soft Pastels: Still Life the Colourful Way" on WetCanvas starting November 2009 and it's changed how I look at color, how I organize my pastels, how many I need to paint anything I want to and everything about how I paint in any medium. That's how intense it was for changing my view of color. I finally understood things in color theory that never made sense before and didn't connect with my painting experience thanks to her course. It's free if you join WetCanvas, anyone who reads through and does the exercises will get help from those of us who took it when she was posting it every day.

Susan Sarback studied with Henry Hensche, and the Cape Cod School did a lot of this sort of work in oil painting. The method's a bit different in oils but the color principles are the same. The main thing in oils is to leave a white area around the color masses and not do edges till late in the process so they don't get muddied if they're supposed to be hard.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Wildflower Scene with Stages

 Wildflower Scene 
5" x 7" on Uart 400 Sanded Pastel Paper

Today I did something a lot like a painting lesson. It was an experiment in several ways. Would the palette of Terry Ludwig's 14 Best Loved Basics be a good landscape palette to do a scene with hills, trees, a wildflower meadow and a beautiful blue sky? I'm happy to say yes, the results are above!

And I took some progress photos to show how I did it.

 Stage 1 Alcohol Wash In Progress

I tried something I've seen in several videos and blogs by serious pastelists. An alcohol wash like the ones Karen Margulis uses. I've long admired her results and she's a mad expert for painting wildflower meadows. Mine's just a crude attempt in her direction, she is much more concise and has the practice to say in two strokes what takes me six.

From what I saw in her examples, it doesn't take much pastel on the paper to do an alcohol wash. The alcohol should be 70% Rubbing Alcohol, the kind you get at a drugstore. Not the drinking kind even if some artists use vodka. Put the vodka in the artist and the rubbing alcohol swished on the painting with as big a brush as you've got. If you can't tell the difference, stop drinking. Do not store these in unlabeled containers for that reason.

Just swish the liquid around over the pastels within the area to be washed that color. Really don't worry about edges. I was too careful here and treated it more like a coloring book but I wanted to keep the rough abstract shapes of my bands. Karen would've slopped it on and let it drip mingling some colors for cool effects down in the meadow. That's practice for you. This is my first go. It actually will still work done this way.

 Alcohol Wash Complete

Here's how it looks with the wash in all over the painting. Now I'm not using plain beige paper anywhere. The color has gone deep into the crevices of the paper and maybe soaked in between the sand grains. It's not going anywhere. Any flecks of paper that show between my strokes or in a broken color passage will be the color of the underpainting.

The trees band is brown and the meadow band pink because these warm colors will make the green sticks in my Ludwig set pop and look greener. Since those three greens are nearly brown, I thought that was seriously important to try to give an impression the forest wasn't dead yet.

Background areas done.

Work back to front, which in a landscape like this is top to bottom. I painted the sky first and forgot to take a photo of just the sky in. There are three shades of blue in the set plus a very pale yellow nearly white. I used all four of those colors to gradate the sky. I could have blended it more to give a smooth gradation but I liked that look as if wispy clouds were blowing up in the distance.

The hills were mostly the light and medium dusty violet in the set with a bit of sky blue in the shadows to lighten and harmonize the darker violet. 

The trees I used all three greens, the gold stick and the deep dark violet. Yay for the deep dark violet in the darkest shadows at bases of trees. It helps define them. They are too small and too far away for me to put in trunks and branches but in a larger painting I might have brought some trees and bushes forward into the meadow band too to help give scale and those might get shadows and trunks.

Here's the finish again so you can see the meadow up close:
Finished painting

I did not pick out any grass blades or weeds with leaves. Most of that area I just used blocky vertical strokes with the ends of the pastels, the shorter side. I put a little green in over the gold and a touch of brown then started adding flower passages with the corners of the flower colors. At the end I added some white and blue flowers. I deliberately scumbled over the distant ones with the pale violet to push the middle ground back into the distance and cut down into the meadow area with the forest colors again. Then signed it.

A cool little experiment that worked. I might try this again with a good photo reference and see what I get, since I still have the other piece of Uart 400 to play with. Small paintings like this are fun to use to try different things, you can always try again if there's something about it you don't like!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Ari Cat Life Sketches

Ari cat sketches from life 3" x 5"
Winsor & Newton Watercolour Markers
Pocket Moleskine accordion fold journal

I almost didn't even draw today, the cold came back and I felt completely drug out. But my beautiful fluffy muse came and posed right in front of me in compact folded position, all but one foot tucked neatly under him. I had to sketch my beautiful Ari. He moved into the top position twice, which was very good for getting his chest and one visible paw.

Love my Ari cat. The markers are as good as any brush tip pen for capturing his gestures and I do love how it looks when I break the line to give his fur texture. Also always loved the way his knees puff when he lays down like that, sometimes sticking up higher than the middle of his back.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Pears, Cat and Istanbul Mosque Spires

Two Pears from Life 

Today was the grand finale of my 3 in 5 Challenge on Facebook. That's #artchallenge 3 in 5. It's a good thing I had so many artist friends on Facebook, since the challenge is so popular some of them might get nominated more than once. But I have done it! Four out of the five days I actually produced three new artworks too. 

Today's are all done with Winsor & Newton Watercolour Markers on my Stillman & Birn Zeta journal, which has 180lb hot press white watercolour paper. I love spelling it that way, sorry to the spelling nuts, but I generally prefer British spelling and it feels like typing with a British accent. Mildly pretentious but it started off as their language so we Americans are spelling it wrong anyway.

I reviewed these markers already, but I am still experimenting with techniques and different papers. I've also got seven new colours to play with, thanks to a friend who bought them and didn't like them. I was stunned and thrilled that she offered them to me and gratefully accepted. So now I've got double or triple on all the colours in my original set plus seven new ones I dearly wanted. 

I'd dithered on getting the 8 color travel set or 12 color tin (lost my British typing accent, whoops!) and she sent me the tin! Also nine other markers some of them duplicating the tin colors. So I now have Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna from open stock plus Cadmium Red Hue, Cerulean Blue Hue, Lemon Yellow Hue and Hookers Green Deep to work with! 

I used all of the new colors in the two pears. Lemon Yellow is so pale it vanishes under my warm indoor light or photography, but it blends other colors great. Raw Sienna is oddly lighter than Yellow Ochre but with Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber it really helped add to the progression of warm colors. Then I used a touch of the orange cast Cadmium Red Hue in them too. Ah, right, the green I touched in was Sap Green so yeah, that's just one new color I didn't use in the painting. But Cerulean Blue Hue got into the background with Cadmium Red Hue and a dash of Raw Sienna to make striped wallpaper from imagination.

 Ari Cat Relaxing

This of course is my beautiful fourteen year old Color Point Longhair, aka Shaggy Siamese, Ari. I caught a photo of him in this pose and meant to see if I could get his eyes better with Cerulean Blue. Most of all his fur color better with Raw Umber, which isn't as reddish as Burnt Umber. Wow. A total success. Cadmium Red Hue made a slightly warmer pink inside his lovely black ears, but the black cooled it again. His pose is a bit foreshortened. I added his tail twitching up because I've seen it do that so many times and wanted his tail visible, since I love his tail and wanted to capture the particular dark tail hue as well as his fluffy paws. 

Mixing colors in these is tricky. It takes putting down lines and marks, then sometimes washing them out completely and other times accepting there will still be a pen mark, a bit like pen and wash that way. So I tend to plan as if the marks will stay and then wash out of them into lighter areas. This worked really well on my cat portrait. He has a lot of areas where his brown hair shades grayer and smokier, especially on his paws, and has a nice soft sheen to it. 

The big white spots on his temples are odd - they really are very pale, his skin under them is dead white and they have very fine pale hairs coming up off them but the skin shows in between. Scritching him, he's soft there and fluffy. Some cats have a thin patch there and some black cats have bare skin showing to make a pale area, but his has got pale hairs coming out of the sparse temples. It's mostly Oriental Shorthair black cats that get the lighter balding spot in front of ears look. Makes sense, they're black cats related to Siamese.

Today is a special day for Ari, because every month when we get a new sealed bag of cat food he gets so thrilled. Little things make him so very happy! I used to get the giant bags for economy, but spending a little more to give him New Bag Day every month is more like buying him a treat than anything else.

Istanbul Mosque Spires
Photo reference by jlloren for 1-30-2015 WDE

This is another photo from the same online "sketch my photos" Weekend Drawing Event as the two cats from Istanbul. There were so many beautiful photos of historic architecture and beautiful scenes but I noticed this one the first time I saw the photo, loved the spires and domes going off into the distance and the loose clouds. I did it near-monochrome for a feel of it being a twilight or dawn scene, but got the gold spire in with Yellow Ochre and Prussian Blue Hue.

Again, experiments, mostly with strokes and values and washing. I liked how I got the two domes with bold strokes flicking up from the base. I got a little looser in the rendering and still kept to the general shapes of the scene but broke up the precise symmetry. It came out better than I expected!

So my experimental paintings with Winsor & Newton Watercolour Markers continue. I have yet to use them in a pastel underpainting but decided today wasn't the day for it if I wanted to do three - an underpainted pastel painting is likely to take a day or two in itself, especially if I put sanded primer over it. 

More to come! I feel a great sense of completion. Five days, twelve pieces... that's a big step up from daily sketching. I had fallen into a habit of putting it all away once I did anything, be that a good painting or a quick cat gesture. Now it's easier to think of filling a page with sketches or doing several pages in a day if the day is at all good. Like breaking a meniscus.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Fruit Studies in Charcoal and Pastel

 Charcoal pear studies 8 1/2" x 11"

My cold is starting to break up, so this morning I decided to sketch in something bold enough it'd be easy to get a photo. I love doing charcoal sketching. It's so easy to get good strong values and model the forms by sketching and smudging. I use a peel off the wrap charcoal pencil, so I don't have to bother sharpening it or getting charcoal stick on my fingers. When I feel like going to charcoal I want clean and easy.

Two pears, an apple and an orange
Pastel pencil on paper 8 1/2" x 11"

Still in the same plain sketchbook I got for a Christmas present, I got into color and sketched all the fruit I had left. I ate another pear, the big orange, the smaller apple and a banana. But didn't want to eat all of it before sketching, especially those quirky bumpy off-shape pears. The nice thing is that pear shapes don't need to be symmetrical. Real ones are lopsided, lumpy, bumpy and have strange hue shifts along their sides. They come in so many colors, sometimes all on the same pear from green to pinkish! 

Two Pears 9" x 12"
Rembrandt pastel on Bee Bogus Recycled Sketch Paper

After that, I decided to add one to my sketch wall. First loosely sketched in charcoal and then started using my Rembrandt half sticks. I layered them quite a it to get subtle color changes, especially between greens and earth reds and earth yellows with a touch of violet - yeah, most of it is complements. The shadow's been glazed over with a light violet but has a good five or six dark colors in it from gray and blue to brown and green and violet.

So today was a good day for playing around and most of all working large. For me anything 9" x 12" is big, when I'm used to using small journals or doing 6" square or 5" x 7" paintings. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Digital Skyscape from Memory

Digital Skyscape from Memory
Sketchbook Mobile App

I bought this app for my iPhone back when I first moved here and played with it a bit, got quite a few images done. But I forget its iconic commands fast if I don't use it for a while and once I got it onto my Kindle Fire with its larger screen making digital sketching easier, I could not fumble through getting the images saved and exported in a way I could offload them to my computer.

Tonight I figured it out. Today was a miserable sick day. I didn't do 3 in 5 with new art, just posted the three pieces I had up in the Vantage Points exhibition at Openhouse that were so inspiring to me. They really are my current best anyway. But just when I thought I wouldn't get anything in, not so much as a cat sketch, I decided to have a go one more time with Sketchbook Mobile.

Now that I can do more with the images than just store them on the Kindle and maybe lose them if I have to go back to factory settings, I'm more likely to keep playing with it and experimenting. I bought a Sensu Brush on sale from Dick Blick a couple of months ago and hadn't really tried it. That's the next experiment, that and finding the right brush tool that works with it for a gouache-like effect.