Newport Vignette

This is just a quick and loose sketch based upon scenes from our Newport paintout day. I don’t know why, sometimes I like the fast and loose ones better than the ones I toil over for hours. But I just can’t bring myself to ‘dash off’ something I intend for a show. Which is the kiss of death, of course, and invites overworking , overthinking, just over-overing. Sigh.

There’s an Irish proverb, attributed to various people, that says
“Work like you don’t need money,
Love like you’ve never been hurt,
And dance like no one’s watching.”

And to that I might add … “Paint like it doesn’t matter.”

Now I’ve got to finish framing up a few things to take to a friend’s open studio tomorrow, for a group exhibition on Sunday.
And gather some things together for another library show on Saturday. Then back to the painting board!

California Farmhouse

California Farmhouse – Aprox 9″ x 12″ – watercolor

While I continue to work on my big painting (yes, I finally put brush to paper yesterday on that snowy white sheet) here is a painting I did a few weeks ago as a practice using warm and cool colors alternatively. The actual scene was rather lackluster with uninteresting lighting so I decided to spice it up a bit using a range of colors typical of the California scene painters of the 30s and 40s.

I might paint this one larger, too, some day.

OK, back to work for me …

Procrastination vs. Incubation

“Market Flowers” – watercolor on paper – About 8″ x 6″ – Fabriano Artistico 140# cold press

I’m working on a big painting project right now – a full sheet watercolor that incorporates most of the different techniques I regularly know and use and a few new ones. It’s an ambitious project and I’m dedicated to seeing it through, even if I have to paint it multiple times. Right now, I’ve done the design and color studies, I’ve tested the colors I’m going to use on a separate sheet of paper and labeled them all to know what’s mixing with what. I’ve even abandoned one paper surface in favor of another. Ordinarily I would call this hesitation to jump right in “procrastination” – but the more I wait the more I’m working out other design issues, coming up with new solutions and so on. I think it is more like a period of gestation as the ideas take shape. All the while I read voraciously; I review my notes from class and from demonstrations I’ve seen. I test different ways of moving paint; I practice watching the sheen leave the paper for the exact right time to scrape away a highlight or to drop in a dollop of thick pigment. . I am like an actor rehearsing my timing, watchful that I don’t make awkward entrance too soon or an exit too late. Or like a juggler trying to keep all the plates spinning. My brush is a tentative dancer, exercising at the barre, trying to develop muscle memory so the moves become both spontaneous and automatic. I wait. I think. I test.

So while my project is percolating in the back of my mind, I did this brief and loose wc sketch of a flower vendor’s booth at Sunday’s farmer’s market. As you can tell, I’m thoroughly enjoying painting negative shapes (such as around the buckets and umbrella ) … and alternating warm and cool colors in one continuous passage – and even throwing in a few calligraphic brushstrokes for umbrella poles and bucket details. Any minute now I’m going to return to that big piece of 22 x 30″ paper – perhaps charged with a few new ideas about lights and darks and linking of shapes and colors.

Casita Del Arroyo

Casita Del Arroyo – 7.5 x 10 (cropped) in Raffine sketchbook

This weekend I’m working pretty intensely on a couple of paintings – still in the planning stages – so I’m posting this sketchbook page painted about ten days ago at the Casita Del Arroyo in Pasadena. You can just see the top of the chiminea behind the lush foliage – my point of view.

This is another page from my Raffine sketchbook, now down to its last pages. I’m going to have to make the decision whether to order another, bind my own or go with the Bateman smooth paper sketchbook which just doesn’t respond the way I like . It’s great for ink but too slick for the way I like to work. Falling back to the Superdeluxe Aquabee is another option, but not the best one. Maybe I’ll try making a hot press sketchbook as some of my other painting journaling friends Kate, Laura and Roz have done.

What I like in a watercolor sketchbook:

The ability to move paint around on the paper and get the reflected colors of ground, sky and such. This means the paper can’t be TOO absorbent or the paint just soaks right in from the first stroke. This Raffine allows some movement of paint, which is good – but it’s not as bright white as I like.

Maybe I’ll gesso some index stock and see what that looks like – after I get these paintings, done, that is. I am SO easily distracted when I have a deadline, y’know?

This morning we went out to our town’s annual Memorial Day French Toast Breakfast, which was delightful. We met some other people, enjoyed some chatting, and I drew people for about a half hour after that. (I might post the quick sketches if I get a chance.) Then we took a diversionary trip to a few garage sales where I found some lovely props for some still life paintings and we met more charming people.

If I get a break later tonight I’m going to do a little gardening – it feels like summer’s here already and I don’t have all my flowers planted yet.

Huntington Lilypond

Lily Pond Sketch – a small portion of a water lily pond at Huntington Gardens – painted on location last Tuesday in my Raffine Sketchbook.
Most of the lilies were white but there was one plant that sported a magenta/alizarin colored bloom. I saw this exercise as a way to just capture some loose colorful patterns – not to be too literal about veins and waterdroplets and such.

Cobb Estate – Hazy Morning

Cobb Estate – Hazy Morning 15″ x 22″ watercolor on Arches paper – half sheet

Today our paintout group returned to the Cobb Estate at the top of Lake Street in Pasadena where a light morning haze hung over the San Gabriels cast a veil of warm light over the scene.

My primary goal in this painting was to work on atmospheric perspective and to design the shapes and values of the painting, regardless of what the scene itself was showing me.

I heard a wonderful quote recently and I wish I had written down the author’s name immediately. When I come across it again, I’ll post it.
The gist of it was this: It’s the artist’s job not just to copy reality but to paint their emotional response to a scene.

I need to keep that in mind every time I feel the temptation to paint a rock or a branch just because it’s sitting there in front of me. The landscape is a source of inspiration but doesn’t need to be copied slavishy. Values can be changed, colors can be tweaked, things in the background can be faded back to suggest greater distances than actually exist. Drawing three dozen twigs on a tree may be accurate but it’s fussy and distracting – I remind myself to STOP before putting in a brushstroke, a symbol, another layer of glaze that’s not necessary.

Here’s a photo of the reality of the scene to give you an idea of how much license I took with it

Huntington Gardens Jacaranda

Huntington Jacarandas – 9 x 12 – Raffine sketchbook

The Best Laid Plans of Artists oft go awry (to paraphrase Bobby Burns.) Wendee and I arrived at the Huntington today and before leaving we both checked the website and discovered that the only way one is permitted to paint in the gardens is if you have previously registered with the Art Guild. So instead of doing a large size plein air painting as I had hoped, I used smaller brushes and painted this in my Raffine sketchbook in my lap. It’s still good 110 lb. paper but not quite the same feeling (to me) as a nice sheet of Arches. If you are in Southern California and are a Bank of America customer, many museums are open for free this month – you can get a complete list on their website. But there’s only a week left, so get busy!

This sketchbook painting represents a pathway near the Australian section of the gardens. The day was overcast and slightly cool so you’ll notice the lack of a brilliant blue sky. The periwinkle blue of the summer blooming jacarandas brightened an otherwise subdued green landscape. We have a jacaranda on our property as well but it hasn’t decided to bloom yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

Blue Cove

“Blue Cove” 9 x 12 watercolor

A few things I was experimenting with: lost and found edges, limited color scheme, interlocking edges, oblique forms, use of reflections, using suggestive brushwork rather than painting every little leaf and bush, using strong value patterns and so on.

This afternoon I’m looking forward to a paintout at a local botanical garden with artpal Wendee!

Sunstruck Rock – Daily Painting

Sunstruck Rock 9.5″ x 7″ watercolor on paper

Flintridge Eucs – Daily Painting

“Flintridge Eucalyptus” 11″ x 15″ watercolor on Arches paper

This morning’s plein air outing took us to the beautiful home of one of the members of our group. There were literally so many views to paint that I had a hard time choosing one, but I finally settled on this perspective on their neighbor’s villa, with our friend’s stately eucalyptuses in the foreground. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know how I simply cannot resist these beauties.

I thought you might find it interesting to see how this painting began. If I had faced the subject straight on, the sun would have shined directly over my shoulder onto the paper, which would have made values extremely difficult to judge. I prefer to paint with shade on my paper, but when that’s not possible, I will move my easel so there is less sun falling on the paper, and I’ll tilt it vertically as well. This also makes it possible for my preliminary washes to run and blend.

At the end of the morning, the painting was almost finished (see below) but the villa in the background and some of the lawn still had white showing. Rather than making a permanent decision about these whites that I might regret, I took it home to think about it for awhile. Using a piece of acetate film, I tested a few different colors in overlay, then finally added warm tones to the whites as you see above in the final painting. Overall, I’m happy with how this turned out – I’m tempted to paint it in oils also.

The biggest temptation here was to RESIST painting every leaf, bush, twig and detail, especially in the background. The idea is to give an impression of the scene – to capture the feeling without explaining every part. Wise teachers like Edgar Whitney, Frank Webb and others say that by not putting in too much detail (just enough) it invites the viewer to participate in the painting. I agree!