Radiant Rose – Daily Painting

Radiant Rose – 9.5″ x 7.5″ watercolor.

Almost every day for the past five weeks or so, my dh and I have been taking walks of a half hour or an hour – within about 5-10 miles of our area. The benefits of this extra activity is many-fold. Not only do I feel healthier and more energetic (if that was possible – I was a pretty high-energy person as it was) but it takes us through different neighborhoods where we take time to smell the roses. No, I mean literally. If we see some really great roses in bloom we take a break from our walk to admire them. Because it’s impossible for me to go ANYwhere without a camera, I can often be seen with my new little digital hanging around my neck, and grabbing shots of things that I see when the light strikes them “just right.” I figure if it catches my eye, it might catch others’ too, when translated into watercolor. This is the result of one of those moments – caught about 10 am in some lucky gardener’s front yard in Glendale.

If you’re not a walker, I strongly recommend it. I used to walk a lot when I was in college – not only back and forth to class, but I’d take a 3 mile loop every day through the hills of Bel Air, just a few blocks off the Westwood campus. But I got out of the habit due to busyness and a few scary encounters while out walking alone. I’ve walked on and off through the years, but I realize now how much I’ve missed it. I envy those in walkable cities like New York and San Francisco. Here in LA we are so car-focused and things are so spread out that simply walking doesn’t occur to us.

If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, spring has arrived and it’s a good time to get out and smell, shoot or draw the roses on your daily walk. You’ll return home both creatively and physically charged up.

This rose was painted with WN Bright Red, Holbein Opera and New Gamboge, with a few touches of cadmium orange and perm. alizarin crimson.

California Poppies

California poppies – 11 x 15 quarter sheet watercolor


Come April, drifts of poppies, our state flower, burst into bloom in everyone’s yard. These cheerful blooms start to close around 4 pm, but in the middle of the day they are glorious.

Art thought of the day

Edgar Payne wrote: ” If the student will adopt the habit of putting much time on the preliminary compositional pencil sketches – the preparation for painting – he will have gained aid that will benefit him for as long as he paints. Additionally, the pleasure derived from doing pencil skteches is second only to that of painting.”

Amen to that!

Dawn Fishing

“Dawn Fishing” – 11 x 15 watercolor – SOLD

After a landscape or two that were quite giddy with fauve color, here’s one in a quieter more contemplative mood. Fishing friends through the years have told me that dawn and twilight are the best times for fishing. Except, of course if there’s a mid-day hatch of damselflies or something else, and then noon to afternoon is best. I think what they were saying is that any time of day is great if you’re in the mood, the conditions are right and the fish are hungry.

Kind of like painting, I think.

A watercolorist friend of mine says that early morning and early evening are the best times because the colors are most intense. The arc of the midday sun washes the colors out – and unless you want that brilliant bleached out look you’ll find better plein airing at “golden hour.”

Today’s art tip comes from an article by Brian Freeman in Artist Magazine: “Artist Dan Goozee’s advice was that you should stop working when you think you’re about 80 percent done. At that point, he said, you’re actually 90 percent done. Stop before you’re finished. Goozee’s words resonated with me. A big part of art is walking away – then coming back and looking at the work with a fresh eye.”

Or as my wc teacher says – every art kit should come with a guy with a hammer – to hit you on the head when you should stop.

Yellow Rose sketch

Sketchbook Rose – 7 x 10

While I work on some larger projects to prepare some paintings for shows, here’s a page from a Canson Montval sketchbook with a full blown Descanso rose. I didn’t spend a lot of time working on the subtle turn of each petal and leaf – I just wanted to get the colors of the late afternoon light falling on the blossom and leaves.

In retrospect, I see that I need to push back some of the petals so the bloom doesn’t look quite so separate from the background (even though it did look crisp with hard edges in real life.) I could use some complements to glaze over and do that, but I think I’d just risk overworking it too much. I’ve made a mental note of what I need to do, so this sketch has served its purpose. I used a lot of new gamboge, bright red, prussian blue and mauve for this one, and too many other colors to recall. Look for this in a larger version, coming soon.

Art thought of the day from Frank La Lumia, plein air painter, as interviewed by Molly Siple in American Artist:
The way you see things must be different from the way the average person sees the world. It’s important to be able to mentally break down nature into patters of color and value relationships. Until you can think abstractly, you will be at the mercy of leaves, branches and other details of nature.”

Yup, that’s the rub … where is the sweet spot that’s right for me between abstraction and realism? This is my koan of the moment. If you’re a painter, it yours, too?

Cat Heaven

“Cat Heaven” 8in x 12 in – watercolor on 140# Fabriano paper


Auction will begin at 4 pm Pacific Time Friday – Click to bid

The theme of this months’ Nibblefest is “doorways” or “open doors” and I had the idea of painting a door open onto a beautiful garden. But it looked empty so I thought I’d add a cat for a point of interest. And after I painted it, it hit me: I was painting Mandu in what I hope is an environment she would like. (There would be mice and cream, of course, but that didn’t fit the theme. ) The watermark for copyright purposes is only in the scan, not in the artwork. There

Here’s a closeup of just cat:

Here’s a closeup of just the climbing rose:

Looks Like Rain

We’re hoping it will be rain, that is. Tonight we may see showers and tomorrow there’s a 90% chance of real, honest to God RAIN. This has been the driest winter in recent years which means the fire danger will be even more extreme as the sparse bits of grass and growth on the hillside dry out. The sierra snowpack has been less as well, so I’ve heard. Our water bills are out of sight so I’m hoping for at least one good soak before we head into the dry season that extends to November.

Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be posting a new painting for Ebay’s Nibblefest – that’s the one where we all try to get the highest number of very small bids from different people. Bidding will start at 99 cents and go up in 50 cent increments. They haven’t posted the winners for March yet, but I thank everyone who bid on the baby bird in the man’s hands and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it competed well. That painting went to a loving home and the collector is someone who raised a baby bird by hand, so it was quite special to her. I love to paint things that strike emotional notes, whether it’s one of joy, nostalgia, hope, even wistfulness or turmoil.

I guarantee that the painting to be posted tomorrow will be an emotional one, too. If you’ve been reading this blog for a year or so, you’ll know why the moment you see it.

Sycamore Creek

Sycamore Creek – 11 x 15 – watercolor on 140# paper

Now this is a little more my speed. Some abstraction and impressionism, but some realism, too. I painted this picture twice today. The first one used more glazing, more overlapping patches of color in the main tree. I put that aside and tried another where the leaf patterns were painted more wet in wet. This seasonal creek is really at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center. The trees are beautifully green now, but I liked them better when they were decked out in reds and golds along with the green.

Thanks to everyone for all your thoughtful and insightful comments about the abstract exercise and the experience of coming under the influence of a teacher, or a artistic friend with a distinctive style.

A propos of that, today’s art advice is a quote from Frank LaLumia, plein air painter, as quoted in the January 2006 American Artist magazine.

“When you are responding to the subject rather than painting in a preconceived manner, you will find yourself doing things spontaneously, differently. In this way, every year your painting will look more like itelf and less like that o your teachers or other influences.”

Abstract sycamore

This was an exercise in abstracting natural forms in my watercolor class. Our teacher, who paints marvelously, is encouraging us to think more in terms of abstraction and symbol rather than literally painting what we see in front of us. I ‘get it’ and am doing the exercises and such, but there’s still a part of me that wants a tree to look like a tree with all the leafy bits (although not TOO fussy.) I’m guessing that my style will even out somewhere between the two, under the influence of my own predilections, likes and dislikes and gentle influence of other teachers yet to come. I love the California school painters with their abstraction and wild colors, but I also love Sargent and his beautiful loose renderings that simultaneously reveal and suggest. And I adore the crisp geometric patterns of Dong Kingman and the sweeping emotional scenes of Emil Kosa and the controlled wildness of Charles Reid. All of them – they all touch my heart, much as I like early music like that of Talis as well as jazz (but only if it swings.) Must we fit in only one mold?

Synchronistically, I opened a random art magazine to a random page and came up with an interview with Tony Pro an oil painter. Pro relates how he had the opportunity to meet Richard Schmid (author of Alla Prima and many other outstanding books.) Pro says that Schmid was kind but honest in reviewing his work, and advised him to be true to himself and not to copy others. Pro concluded with what what is today’s art advice: “Don’t paint like someone else to impress someone – work only to impress yourself.”

Geometric trees may be sophisticated, but for now they just don’t swing. Maybe they will some day – I’ll have to wait and see.

California Byway

California Byway – 7″ x 5″ – watercolor

A peaceful country road in the Ojai area, a little northwest of Los Angeles.
There are still agrarian areas, even in Southern California, where the landscape still looks much as it did a hundred years ago (as long as you don’t notice the late model SUVs zipping by.)

When we take road trips we seek out these out of the way places off the beaten path where the late afternoon sun reminds us that it really is a golden state.

Art advice from watercolorist Rex Brandt:
“I advocate the study of other artists’ ways and indeed, I am suspicious of the student or teacher who professes neither knowledge nor concern about the ways of the masters of his field.”

High Desert Ravine

“High Desert Ravine” – watercolor – 8″ x 10″ – available

A roadside stop on the way to Idyllwild provided the inspiration for this watercolor sketch. Sagebrush, crumbing granite and the scruffy native bushes gave me an interesting variety of textures and colors to work with.

Good advice from David Millard on painting:
“Be a doer … don’t just talk about it. Talent is what your mother talks about. Work is what gets you around the bases and score!”