Saturday, April 23, 2016

Red Rose and pastel landscape progress

Red rose in Derwent Graphitint on paper

Yesterday, my beautiful granddaughter Sascha came home from a walk with a lovely large red rose that was blown off a neighbor's bush with about half an inch of stem. It's still sitting in its saucer on my desk. I had to sketch it, so decided to use strong, soft Derwent Graphitint watersoluble graphite pencils. Dry, they're like 8B graphite pencils with a hint of color. Washed, that hint of color becomes a lot stronger but still has a subtle graphite sheen.

When I use pencil I love the softest graphite pencils, so these have been favorites for a long time. I'm not the sort of artist who shades by five or six or more delicate layers with a hard pencil. Scribble and smudge, give me sweeping motions and strong contrast right from the start! So these are a lot of fun and I've got quite a few of them - by accident at the moment I've got maybe 3 sets of 12 but can't find one of the sets of 24 that I acquired, so I need to replace that. But having an extra won't hurt! 

How I wound up with small sets was their inclusion in trades and gift sets. One of the small sets is in an awesome zipper case with watercolor palette, hardcover sketchbook, other sketch and wash pencils and a waterbrush all in an easily carried case. Can't find its native waterbrush but have so many Niji ones it'll be easy to replace.

Iris Hill and Oak pastel plein air

This is something I started day before yesterday, when the rain stopped and I hung outside with my farrier daughter while she fixed her truck. It was sunny and beautiful, the foreground in shade with this sunlit patch beyond the trees blazing behind the iris hill. The iris patch extends far to the right too and into the distance. I might be able to finish just from what I have done already... or I might go outside again to finish, which would be truer to the scene.

I used a complementary water underpainting, scribbled masses in pastels and then washed with a waterbrush. Paper is a tan Canson Mi-Tientes Touch piece, drawing board a battered aluminum clipboard with a box underneath that exactly holds my 60 Rembrandt half stick pastels. Might hold 60 Great American half sticks even though that box is slightly larger too, have to try that. Obviously not at the same time, but pretty handy for going outside!

In fifteen minutes I have Johannes Vloothuis class online so going out won't be till later. I'll see how I feel, if he gets me all wound up to paint I might amble out, but if the chronic fatigue or arthritis bites I might not. Pretty tempting though, it's sunny and lovely out there again!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Two Red Irises in Watercolor Pencil

Two Red Irises
Watercolor pencil on pocket Moleskine Watercolor

These are the ones my granddaughter got photos of. They looked violet in the photos, but in person they're cold pink over a deep cold red, clearly in the magenta range. Lovely flowers, two of them bloomed at once and they are so striking. There may be white or pink ones out there too just waiting to bloom.

So I'm having a lot of fun lately with my favorite flowers. These life studies will be good when I want to put together a garden painting. It'll come together with various flowers I've done from life brought together in a composed landscape whether or not they bloomed at the same time or even in the same state. I have some irises from San Francisco too in my photo collection.

Recently my Kindle overflowed, so I went in using my computer and started deleting photos of artwork while keeping photo references of cats and flowers and landscapes. I'm not tossing them out, just copying into a USB key and then deleting to make room on my Kindle.

Edit: Later, Sascha brought these flowers in from beyond the goats' field aka The Dry Lot (it hasn't got a spring or well on it for them to drink from).

Unidentified light purple flowers and red clover photo

So naturally I sketched and painted these as well, from the vase on my desk. The vase is great too but not at that angle half hidden by a plastic travel coffee cup and stuff. So today got two pages in the little Moleskine Watercolor journal. Good thing I bought a couple of extra ones right before the move!

Light purple flower sprays, pen and watercolor
in pocket Moleskine Watercolor book.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Light Purple Iris from Life

 Light Purple Iris from Life, pen-watercolor
in pocket Moleskine Watercolor journal

Hen, Goat, Cat, Rocks Page
pen-watercolor in pocket Moleskine Watercolor book

Missed posting the Hen, Goat, Cat and Rocks page when I finished it. Switched over to my other pocket journal, the sleek 3" x 5" Moleskine Watercolor one. Still has 140lb cold press paper but the grain is a lot finer than the Strathmore, allows more detail and smaller sketches with fine point pens. 

Everything's from life of course. There's huge patches of irises coming up in the yard across the driveway, under and between the trees and on a hill that used to have a fountain. The first to bloom was that rich red-violet. The second is a light purple, bluer, a good tint of Dioxazine Violet with touches of blue here and there.

Now a third has bloomed with dark lower petals and light upper petals. I'll have to paint that one too, naturally! Kitten says there are bronze ones, white, pink, other colors, so I can't wait to see what blooms next. 

The jonquils are all bloomed out but there were so many of them I was thrilled. Bulb flowers seem to do well here! I hope my hyacinth survives to bloom again next year and maybe propagate itself.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Purple Flower ends a Visual Journal

Purple Flower botanical, pen and watercolor
3" x 5" Strathmore Visual Journal 140lb Cold Press paper

Well, this is it! The grand finale, a last botanical picked this morning and painted from life. These flowers bloom in great profusion right across the driveway, still on my daughter's land. The scale of the farm never ceases to amaze me, bits I think must be the neighbors' yard turn out to be still more of ours and the longer Spring blooms on, the more I see in these patches of unknown vegetation.

I liked the Strathmore Visual Journal. It has a whimsical lightweight cardboard cover printed with an example sketch and its information, which I didn't tear off but kept as a protector for the sturdy, glossy, heavy brown alligator print board. On the front cover I taped off a picture area, painted it with Daniel Smith Watercolor Primer and did a pen and watercolor rose on it - thus had a reason to keep the glossy whimsical outer cover to protect it.

It's been banged around a bit. I started it in 2011 and filled about a third of it, then left it behind when I moved to San Francisco. When I came back it was out on a bookcase with a few other supplies that hadn't been packed off into the attic. So it went through two moves without me, got handled and kept out and still protected its contents well. It has not yellowed at all, being good watercolor paper. It's 140lb cold press, probably cellulose or it would've listed a cotton or rag percentage, did not mention acid free or buffered but the evidence is there. Most likely because Pacon used a standard decent paper in it. I'll know more in a few years, but it is just as bright as when it was new.

The surface is a bit coarse. Cold Press watercolor paper has a range of textures from very fine grained to texture valleys so deep and large it might as well be listed as Rough. The sizing was just right for my techniques. I prefer not to stretch watercolor paper and to paint on the sized paper as it is. That gives me a little more control and less unwanted blurring when I want sharp edges.

Overall it's a good journal! I may replace it with another one, or get several sizes. The pocket size is very convenient and easy to fill. Big spiral binding did not get mashed or come undone over the years either, a big plus compared to some of them. It's got a double-wire spiral binding, not single wire, also the wire is coated. This is good if you don't want loose wire ends catching your sleeves or skin or scraping pages once they work loose.

Well made, reasonably priced, handy little thing. I'm happy with it and happy with all its contents. The strong paper let me play with a variety of water media and techniques and not one page leaked through to its following image, so that's a big plus for the full strength heavy paper vs. some other journals. 

Not the super quality of a Stillman & Birn journal but this was a good one and I did enjoy it. At its price, it's much easier to relax and just use it as a sketchbook! I've filled it mostly with life studies that I'll use for later reference in paintings.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Golden Barn Cat and First Iris

Golden Sutekh barn cat and first iris
3" x 5" pen and watercolor on 140lb cold press paper

Only two pages left to fill! I had to capture golden Sutekh, the long haired ginger tabby barn cat. He is magnificent! I love that cat, he's my outdoor friend just like Calcifer. Very friendly and easy going.

The first iris of the year finally opened yesterday. I knew it would be purple but the hue is spectacular! Not the blue-violet I expected but a rich deep saturated red-violet that I managed to capture by shading in Dioxazine Violet, then glazing over that with Permanent Rose. It didn't entirely come through in the photo but in person the color's a true match. I kept the green of the leaves a little muted and leaning toward Quinacridone Gold to keep the saturation emphasis on the flower.

This is a good page. I don't know what I'll do on the next two, but happily I found my pocket watercolor Moleskine after weeks of searching. It was in the art supplies bag that I had in the hospital when I had pneumonia, but slid to the bottom where a magnifying glasses holder clipped onto its elastic so when we searched before all we saw was the glasses holder. Took getting everything out of the bag to actually find it - so now I have something in hand to keep going with small pen-watercolor life sketches!

White Lily from Life, 3" x 5"
Watercolor pencil on cold press watercolor paper.

Now there's only one page left in the journal. Very tempting to finish with a sketch of Ari or Kyra or both of them together. Get back to my sweet loving fur buddy as I keep getting distracted by flowers and other animals!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Dried Leaf in Pen and Watercolor

Dried Leaf in pen and watercolor
3" x 5" cold press watercolor paper.

Only three empty pages left in this little journal! It's cool coming to the end of one. I don't know what I'll do on the last pages but I love its thick paper that doesn't bleed through no matter what I do.

This morning I looked down and saw this leaf. It's old, most of them are just a reddish faded brown - but this one had deep violet-blue areas and patches, some in shadow and blued still more by reflected sky. I know sometimes they turn black as they degrade into soil, this was a stage in that process. So I had to draw and paint it, the unusual colors and sharp dark shadows grabbed me.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Lily in pen and ink

Lily in pen on watercolor paper, 3" x 5"

Close to the end on that little Strathmore Visual Journal. I've got only four pages left but plenty of good life studies for reference in it. This lily came from my son in law's church, it had lots of buds and no open blooms when they gave it to him after the service on Easter Sunday. Now it's sitting out in the garden with three big white blossoms on it and I love it.

I've been getting photos but it's hard to get accurate values and details on a white object with a camera. The sketches are going to be a lot of help if I turn this into a painting. 

I'd like to get back to doing some pastels but need some time to rest up from all the medical overexertion lately. My knee got a sprain, ankle is starting to feel the stress, back is screaming including an area I didn't expect up by my neck because of the position I had to be in to get an MRI of my neck vertebrae. This is ugly and all I can do is ride it out. Tomorrow will be worse, second day after overexertion always is. I've got a bad feeling I might be stuck as a full time patient for some time due to overly proactive new doctor, and I'm skeptical about whether any of this will actually be worth it in the long run.

Enough grumbling for now. I'm still going to try for something in pastels as soon as I'm up to it, and I dearly want to start experimenting with my new Bombay India Inks and dip pens. 24 colors in lightfast pigmented ink should give me some spectacular results in pen-watercolor or just colorful pen work!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Cat Calcifer and Kid Couch Cushion in Pen

2 pen drawings, cat Calcifer and baby goat Couch Cushion
3" x 5" pen on paper.

I had intended these to be pen and wash, but once I finished Calcifer I knew I wanted to keep them pen drawings. He is an elegant brown tabby who curls up on my lap every time I go out to sit in the lawn chair in front of the house. He's very classic, a mackerel tabby with narrow stripes all up and down his body instead of the swirl on the side. Big green eyes and constant purring.

This started on cold nights or rainy days when I went out to smoke but now it's all the time. He knows he can get a good long cuddle, scritch and comfy lap every time I go out. I know every time I go outside I'll have a friendly barn cat come up, three out of four times it's Calcifer.

So he's the lawn chair cushion when I first go out, then I pick him up and sit down, put him down on my lap. He just relaxes at the lap transfer. Great cat friend, I can even draw over him without disturbing him.

Couch Cushion is a dark brown and black kid, the runt of the six baby goats born two weeks ago. He's gorgeous, the color of his brown fur is very rich and the black is shiny. Like all the kids, he's a meat goat so he gets a name that's a reminder not to get too attached. Other kids are named things like Parchment, Vellum, Lunchmeat and so on. I'm hoping at least one can be literally made into goat parchment instead of just leather or fur because that stuff is expensive and a pure joy to draw and paint on.

I've used parchment before with gouache and inks for SCA scrolls, but with a steady supply I might also turn to doing serious art on it. That and there's no reason I can't work small on parchment either. It comes out so smooth that it's a pleasure for miniatures, you can use the finest pen point you have and get good clean lines. Unlike paper though, a mistake can sometimes be carefully removed by scraping with a sharp craft knife or razor blade without destroying the surface. All this is reason to treat it like the precious art material it is.

But the fur on Couch Cushion is so cool that his hide will wind up made up into just that, for permanent comfort. They get slaughtered humanely and never see it coming, my daughter's done this before. We know where our food comes from and I can't believe how good it is.

The eggs from the hens you've seen me draw before are deep brown and inside the yolks are Cadmium Orange to Cadmium Red Light in color. When my son in law makes pancakes they're yellow. But the flavor is amazing. It's like eggs but more so, very rich and so wonderful. I'm spoiled from normal eggs and it's the same way with farm raised meat humanely slaughtered.

We even get beef this way because my daughter shoes horses and sometimes gets paid in steaks and meat from local farmers. Wow. It was like I'd never tasted meat before. An odd thing happens when the animal is terrorized on the way to slaughter, literally all its adrenaline and cortisol affects the flavor. If it had a full happy life ending in a quick surprise too fast to really hurt, the meat is a lot better and richer. This is why sometimes hunted meat comes out really good (provided your hunter got it clean on the first shot).

Life's good here in so many ways.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Aerial Perspective and Lilies

 Rain Recession, watercolor 3" x 5" trees and clouds

Lilies and Stone Wall, pen and watercolor, 3" x 5"

I'm happily filling up the little Strathmore Visual Journal with its coarse 140lb cold press watercolor paper. It's small, it's handy and it's a good journal for wash techniques thanks to the heavy paper.

Rain Recession is what I painted on 3-29-2016, a view from the window over several layers of trees on a rainy-misty day. I loved the view and will probably do it many times, as Spring progresses it gets greener and greener. Living here on my daughter's farm in Arkansas, I'm surrounded by paintable scenes and almost any change in weather gives them new charm. I didn't add pen details because when I finished loosely painting, it didn't need them.

What I did though was condense trees from several angles into the painting. It's not a photo of the window view so much as an impression. I've gotten away from exact realism and even make small rearrangements on botanicals without losing the identity of the plant. It just has to be plausible. Removing a leaf or two in imagination or adding another flower that's on another plant but at an angle that'd improve the composition doesn't change that the plant can be identified by someone that knows it. It's not a portrait of that exact plant.

My son in law got that Easter lily in a pot with purple foil around it as a gift after volunteering at his church. This happens often to people who belong to big churches that really lay on the floral displays, many poinsettias go home with folks too after a big Christmas mass.

So he put it in the little garden patch in front of the house, where it tipped over and leaned against the short mossy stone wall defining it. There's stone-edged plots on both sides of the door and a pathway of big flagstones between them, which is very cool. I loved the way it looked and the day he brought it home, it hadn't bloomed yet. Now it's opening up.

So yesterday I sketched it in pencil, inked with a Pigma Micron size 01 and brought it inside to give it a watercolor finish. I do intend to paint it again later in more detail, the reflected colors on and inside the white blossom are beautiful and the inside trumpet has a smear of yellow that I thought was reflected but is actually pollen that fell off those stamens. I got a good long look at the structure and today got some more photos of it along with outdoor cat Calcifer.

He's one of three official Barn Cats who keep the rodents down around the grain kept for horses, goats and chickens. All three are sleek, well fed, perfectly groomed with silky coats and very affectionate personalities. I got a wonderful photo of him with the lilies today, one I may develop later as a serious painting.

The flowers seem to glow a bit due to the camera, but the cat's great and I can work on shading the flowers later after studying other photos where the flower's the main subject. The day is overcast, which helps!

Calcifer and the Easter Lilies

He's a sweet, super friendly lap cat. When I go outside to sit in the lawn chair and smoke, Calcifer is my number one lap warmer. Dampness, chilly weather, rain, anything inclement will guarantee a warm lap cat purring loud and cuddling. Calcifer likes it even when it's nice and sunny. Sometimes I stay out longer petting cats and talking with my daughter, the spot right outside the door has become our lounge area.

I like that habit. I'm smoking a little less because it takes a few steps and some effort to get out there, seeing a lot more of the yard and getting lots of sun on good days. It's also helped me get out of my chair a little more unless I'm really, really in bad shape. I didn't realize how much I stayed indoors till I moved here to have a good place in reach to go outside and good models always in sight. The chickens hang out there too on and off, which cuts way down on bugs. I may not need the Vitamin D supplements any more, unless it's winter and I get the winter problems that led me to take them in the first place. It's a good feeling.

Today I might be fooling around with colored inks and dip pens since my Blick order came in on the 30th. Twelve year old granddaughter got her birthday present early, a big set of Snazaroo face paints and the small set of six crayon face paints for drawing on her arms. I couldn't resist her excitement! The rest was all colored Bombay India Inks, silverpoint supplies and new dip pens, so I'll be experimenting with both period medieval stuff and modern pen-watercolor things with all those colored inks.

Crowquill dip pens give a very fine line like a Pigma Micron or Rapidograph but are as easy to clean as a brush and don't clog. Also even if I wreck a point, the nibs are so much cheaper! They also change colors as fast as a brush so I could really have some fun with the Claudia Nice style of pen-watercolor stuff!