Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Watercolor Ari Cat from Life

 Watercolor Ari Cat from life - a first!

Or at least a first success. I may have tried painting him in watercolor without pen work before, but this ime it really worked. I love my beautiful cat. He's been my favorite model from the moment I met him fifteen years ago. He was six weeks old and looked like a Hallmark card kitten. Although I long since lost his kitten pictures and any sketches I did from him at the time, looking at the enormous fifteen pound beast I can still remember when he fit in one hand, weighed nothing and had tiny paws no bigger than the tip of my little finger.

I've painted him in most of the mediums I own, usually from photos until a few years ago when I started a series of Ari Cat Gestures. He only holds a pose for two minutes at a time usually. So I was stunned that today by a moment's whim, I crossed the great divide into watercolor sketching by not even thinking about it.

I packed up a bag to take with me for today's clinic visit. I put my Zeta journal and some watercolor pencils into a plastic zipper bag full of small oddments and supplies, the bag from a Walnut Ink Set that I got at Daniel Smith. It was a good bundle with an 11" x 14" waterproof zipper bag, bottle of watersoluble walnut ink, hard bound journal, two bamboo pens, sepia Pigma Micron 05 and maybe a couple of other things for a good price. Though I used the pens and ink and journal, the bag has been fantastic. Good sized, more or less rainproof and limited enough that I don't haul forty pounds of supplies when I use it. More than once it's saved watercolor and pastels paintings from rain, tucked into the carry cache of my rollator.

So what I had left out was my 24 color Yarka Professional Sequel Set. I used to have a set of 24 Yarka Original full pan watercolors and loved them, but gave it to a friend on the basis that I had way too many pan watercolor sets. Then I missed it - and realized I'd really wanted Sequel, which included a Rose color. I've got better primaries in this lineup, plenty of saturated colors in the Sequel selection. Three reds, two or three purples, three or four blues, four greens, only the most essential neutrals but those include my beloved Payne's Grey.

I charted them into the back of the 8 1/2" x 11" Beta journal, 180lb rough white watercolor, just because like many artist grade watercolors, a number of them looked black in mass tone. Forgot the names and guessed. I think now that what I labeled Sepia is actually a warm mineral black with a Russian name.

Then I looked up and saw my cat curled up peacefully in a lovely sleep pose. An easy sleep pose on a gold brocade coverlet. I grabbed a pencil, decided to pencil him before inking because I was sure he'd move and I wanted the shapes of his body in repose.

Several swift lines and I almost shaded... then realized wow, he hasn't moved. I could try this in watercolor, maybe capture the nuances of his old man kitty markings. Siamese and colorpoint cats darken as they age. Ari has done so and he's done it oddly, with some unusual dark patches like middle of his shoulder blades and that gorgeous pale ivory ruff. I picked up the warm neutral and blocked in the values fast, then started detailing with Payne's Grey where he turns truly black with a cool highlight - his face mask except for the edges and his trademark black ears. His tail and paws are a smoky cool brown a couple of steps lighter than his face. He is unique.

Ari Cat watercolor in context under 24 color Yarka chart

I worked fast with a Niji waterbrush. I love round brushes anyway and am very used to the Niji for quick watercolor sketching. The page isn't full but I'm posting it anyway. I might finish it out in the clinic garden.

I unpacked the bag, took out my Zeta and a lot of the loose little things that got stored in it, I've still got the watercolor pencils packed tight in a 48 color Global Classic leather case, but that could go in my jacket pocket if I want them. Seems like today might be a watercolor day instead.

A dear friend accidentally got two copies of Perspective, Depth and Distance by Geoff Kersey. She gave me the extra one, so I've been happily reading and enjoying Mr. Kersey's lively, detailed yet loose watercolors. I might tuck that in too and just go with watercolor today. It feels like a watercolor day!

Soon though, I'll do the next stage on the pastel landscape demo that I started thumbnailing on the 4th. I've done a color study for it and even the previous watercolor was almost a preliminary, certainly an exploration of stormy skies. By the time I'm done the photo reference might be unrecognizable but that's all right. 

A photo reference is there for ideas and details, not true color or values or composition or anything. Composition is just copying the photographer's art. Color and values are almost never true and usually adjusted by the photographer anyway. So what that leaves is form and details, a little distorted although that matters most on straight verticals and horizontals. I changed a lot of things in it to suit my vision and didn't even stick with the layout I got in the color study, so it's turning into a demo on design! Should be fun when I get to it. This morning I don't want to even think about getting dusty though. Not when I leave in an hour and need to conserve energy.

Tomorrow I'll be home and hopefully feeling better after my treatment. That always balances against exhausted by going out sans elevator but last time I did pretty well. Wish me luck this afternoon!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Gesture and Pencil Portrait of Ari Cat

Pencil Portrait and Pen Gesture of Ari Cat
9" x 12"

Still working and ruminating on a pastel landscape with good preliminaries that I plan to turn into a good demo on my Art Lessons blog. Ready to do that on the sanded paper, but haven't started that yet. Paper is chosen though and so are pastels.

Tomorrow's another clinic visit day - and that means doing water media! Maybe some charcoal and pastel sketching too, we'll wait and see. Till then, enjoy the first serious pencil drawing I've done in a long time.

Ari posed today with the sun shining in early afternoon brightness, all the lights on and for once, his beautiful eyes weren't heavily dilated. My room gets pretty dark and I was starting to wonder if there was something wrong with his eyes. Nope. They dilate and retract just like any cat's, but he's fond of the low light and has no problem seeing anything even when it's too dark for me to see at all.

I meant to do pen and watercolor or just watercolor, but got going with an HB pencil and light shading turned into better shading. It was nice working that large for a change, the original is close to life size. My handsome model is now draped on the bed in a relaxed pose and I'll soon be joining him for the night. Sleep well, Ari Cat... your midnight crazies will probably wake me to laugh a little before I get back to sleep.

He already treated me to the Rowdy Cat Yell earlier and a thrilling pinball cat game all around the room ending in a triumphant trampoline tail chase on the bed. One of these times I need to start video on the first yell!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Floral and Botanical Watermedia

Orange Poppies
5" x 7" W & N Watercolour Markers on Bockingford WC paper

Yesterday, despite ludicrous physical overexertion, I did some pretty good sketching with different water media. First, in the waiting room at my usual clinic visit, I used a photo I took last month to sketch some orange poppies that grew out in the SFGH Memory Garden. They were done blooming, replaced by some orange and yellow daisies in the same bed, but I'd gotten photos as I do almost every time. That helps when I need to find something interesting to sketch in a relatively dull waiting room.

Botanical sketches in pen and watercolor

Outside in the garden I got plenty of photos. Then went to the patient pickup and dropoff zone to sketch some interesting plants from the bed around the big fern. I've come to know that little patch intimately too. Didn't get the azalea bush, it was bloomed out, but an odd little bush with leaves that turn reddish at the tips of clusters and little sprays of waxy cream-colored small blooms, plus the copious plant that's dark red on the underside of its leaves, the tree or large shrub with gray green leaves with cream edges, one leaf of a big-leafed ornamental plant with reddish edges and a small bright green weed that appealed to me. I don't know the names of these plants, but I did want to sketch and remember them. 

I don't need to have a yard as long as I've got access to that beautiful a public garden. I like it even more for not having to keep it up.