Friday, September 9, 2022

The Joy of Painting Outdoors


Garden of the Gods 2
8" x 8"
in Field Watercolor Journal with Fluid cold press watercolor paper

When sketching outdoors, I often sketch a drawing in pencil or pen, take photos of the scene, and then add the paint in my office/studio. 

But last weekend while in Colorado Springs for a wedding, I visited the Garden of the Gods and took along my w/c paints, brushes, and folding metal palette. I settled into my folding chair in a shaded area just off a walking path. 

It was morning but getting hot already, so the shade felt good. I went to work, mostly oblivious of passersby.  

First I drew the sketch below in pencil and added color. (Later in our hotel room, I added the ink lines and the writing.) 

Then I drew in pencil the scene above and began to add paint. That's when I had the nice conversation, described below with the lady from southern India. 

Garden of the Gods1
in 5" x 8" Dylusions Creative Journal Sketchbook

The last painting, below, I created in the hotel room from a photo I'd taken that morning. Not quite the same as creating it on location, but by the time I spied this formation called "Three Graces," it was getting too hot and there was no shade near that spot.

It can be a hassle to lug the extra supplies for "real" painting when outdoors, but there's a real joy that immersive experience when you have the time. And sometimes you can have some great conversations about art, which can serve as a sort of social currency toward a meaningful connection.   

Garden of the Gods 3, "Three Graces"
5" x 8"
in Field Watercolor Journal with Fluid cold press watercolor paper

Thursday, August 18, 2022



10" x 10" watercolor
on Arches 100% hot press paper

I heard about an artist who paints a half dozen paintings at a time--same composition, step by step, layer by layer. I decided to try it today with two paintings, one on hot press paper (above) and one on cold press paper (below). 

The actual painting on the hot press looks better than this digital version, and I think it like it better. But in both cases I had the same issue, which is that it's tough to keep the transparency with the color red. Other artists talk about this--it's not just me. I need to do some research on how to work with reds. 

I like this multiple paintings approach. With watercolor there's so much time spent waiting for paint to dry before adding another layer. Switching to a different painting helps take care of the waiting--you can just work on another painting. 

And if you wish you had done something differently, this approach gives you another immediate chance. 

10" x 10" watercolor
on Arches 100% cold press paper

Thursday, August 11, 2022



Copy of Rick Surowicz demo
10" x 14" watercolor
Arches 100% cotton cold press paper

Finally, I think I'm getting something about watercolors that instructors have been saying but I wasn't hearing, for some reason. 

This week in my online class with Rick Surowicz, he talked about the importance of monitoring the pigment levels in our paint applications. "Too much pigment lessens the luminosity," he said, explaining that too much pigment doesn't allow the paper to bounce light back to the viewer, which is the special quality of watercolor painting. "Don't use the paint like tempora," he warned.

I believe that's exactly what I've been doing these past ten years with watercolor (check out my last painting, for instance). Not always, but much of the time. 

And it's a tough habit to break. Even so, I think I made considerable progress here. It's still a little heavy-handed, but I am hoping I am finally beginning to understand how to retain more luminosity with my paintings. 

As my caption says above, this painting is an imitation of a painting by Surowicz. I would never give it to someone or sell it, but I may frame it for myself to commemorate this important breakthrough. 

Sometimes these breakthroughs last and sometimes they don't. I sure hope this one does. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2022



Alameda Home
10" x 10" watercolor
on Arches 100% cotton cold press paper
I spent much of the day on this painting. Whether it's any better than the quick sketch I made a few days ago, I'm not entirely sure. I think it veered into the "efforting" territory I talked about with that post. But it does read well from a distance, unlike the quick sketch, and I do like the textures in the front bushes/foliage and in the roof. 

Therefore, I signed this one and I'm calling it done. 

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Once More to the Sketchbook

What's the panacea for the "efforting" mode you find yourself in occasionally as an artist? You know about efforting, right? That's when you're trying too hard to make a perfect painting or to show clear progress on your learning curve. An artist friend of mine coined the word--thank you, Kelly.

For me, the panacea is reverting to the sketchbook and just messing around in my 8" x 8" Field watercolor journal with Fluid 140# cold press paper. I sat in the car to draw and begin painting the house above (Alameda is full of really interesting houses, architecturally), and then finished it the next day in my studio.  

The second one is a little sketch of my husband and our youngest grandson, who loves getting his feet wet at the local beach. 

And this one is my initial color study for the Big Sur paintings I've posted recently. Wouldn't you know--I probably like it better than the "finished" Big Sur paintings. That's what tends to happen when you're just messing around.

Big Sur Again, Only Bigger


Big Sur 3
10" x 14" watercolor
Arches 100% hot press paper

A bigger version of the Big Sur coastline.  I do like the way watercolor behaves on hot press paper. 


Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Big Sur


Big Sur2, just south of Carmel
7" x 10" watercolor
Arches 100% cotton hot press paper

This carries some influence from a class I'm taking offered by Rick Surowitz, a watercolor artist from Ohio. Or actually the painting below does, which is the original version: 

Big Sur1, just south of Carmel
10" x 14" watercolor
Arches 100% cotton cold press paper

In both cases I'm using a color selection that Rick uses. The assignment was to paint a fairly simple water/shore scene. 

I wasn't so happy with the blah sky in version 1 or with the hard edges in the water, which made the waves look static. I did like the rocks, however.

In version 2, I like the sky and water better. I wish I could have the rocks back from version 1, but overall, I believe Version 2 is more my style. 

I highly recommend Rick for beginning or intermediate watercolorists. His 1.5-hour classes meet weekly for 6 weeks.  Each week he does a live demo with plenty of time to ask questions. Students submit homework (unsigned) weekly that he critiques with a recorded video. He also sets up a Facebook page for student sharing/discussion. At $130 for the 6-week class, I definitely feel I'm getting my money's worth. 

More About the Sally Project

I met Sally forty years ago when I was twenty and she was the one in her sixties. I was a waitress at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant on...