Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Slippin' Lady Revisted

Lady Slipper 4
Watercolor and pencil
In 5.5 x 8.5" Canson Montval Watercolor Sketchbook

Well, I had to give it one more shot last night while sitting on the porch and listening to a storm rolling in. Tried to incorporate what I learned with previous versions
not too heavy on the line (I did use some pencil but look, Ma, no ink!), simplify the background, and keep it a little looser. I've tested a few people's opinions, and so far Lady Slipper 3 (the gouache version) is the favorite, but this one, Lady Slipper 4, is mine. 

But this fact remains: none of these versions touches my heart as much as does peeking at the real thing. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Slippin' Ladies

Lady Slipper 3
Gouache on 6x6" Fluid Watercolor Cold Press
For the third year in a row, we have five lady slippers on one plant in our back yard. The plant hides underneath a fern, which apparently provides the just-right conditions for this plant to survive, even though lady slippers are not common in Iowa. 

Lady Slipper 2
5.5 x 8.25" Premium Sketchbook
Epsilon Series, Stillman & Birn

Here's an earlier version, which I considered a quick watercolor-and-ink value study for the finished product above.

Lady Slipper 1
5.5 x 8.25" Premium Sketchbook
Epislon Series, Stillman & Birn

And here's last year's version. 

Each of the three versions has its  strengths and drawbacks.  What I learned from "Lady Slipper 1" is the value of simplifying the background even more in "Lady Slipper 2" and "3." 

What I learned from both the watercolors (1 and 2) is how icky I feel sometimes after adding that black ink, especially if I'm using the ink as just a short-hand way of representing something because I don't know how else to do it. Of course ink and watercolor sketches do have their appeal at times, but I still want to be able to get by without that ink if I'm going to call myself a painter. For that reason, the top image (3) is my favorite -- even though in time I might like the other two more. 

Or not. That's the value of beginning to paint more regularly. These individual paintings don't have to be so precious. I can do them, learn from them, and move on. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Before the Deer Ate Them

"Before the Deer Ate Them"
Gouache on 8x8" Fluid Watercolor Paper Cold Press

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Another Version

House in the Hood 2
Fountain pen ink and watercolor on 7x10" Stonehenge Aqua Hot press
I decided to try another version of the house across the street, and this time I allowed myself to use ink for definition and shadows, as opposed to last time when I was strict with myself re: no ink.

At one point with this one I wished I hadn't started in on the ink, but I followed a valuable principle I've learned lately from "process painting," about which I'll write another time. For now, suffice it to say the principle is "What happens if you do more of what you don't like?" So I applied more and more ink, and the composition got darker and darker...and then I discovered I kinda liked that darker-darker thing going on. In fact, this composition needed more dark. Surprise!  

Once again, the value of multiple versions. It's like the old days, practicing clarinet passages over and over again...but now it's practicing different techniques on the same composition. 

Yes doc, I know I could take a pill for this kind of obsession, but this is much more fun.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Thank you, Sketchbook Skool

House in the Hood
Watercolor and gouache on Fluid Cold Press Watercolor paper, 140#

This self-directed art learning curve can be tricky. You can put in those 10,000 hours, but without a mentor/teacher, you can unintentionally learning some bad habits. In other words, it might take 20,000 hours. Or more.

Over the past couple of years I've taken numerous online courses through Sketchbook Skool, an organization I highly recommend. I'm also a member of the Facebook Sketchbook Skool Community, where people post their work. But it only this week occurred to me that I could ask the community members for some serious help on the painting above (see below for the earlier in-progress version).

Wow, did they have some great suggestions after I posted the composition below, which I felt was not coming together, and asked how to "fix" it. I know my final version above is still overworked, but I learned so much from their comments, and I think I can take what I've learned and try it all over again....if I want to....or apply this new knowledge to new compositions. 

Here's what they suggested after looking at the painting below:
  • Add more detail to your focal spot. Everything has the same amount of detail right now, and the trees really draw the eye because they are the darkest things in the painting. Maybe make just the front porch your focal spot?
  • The house (especially the front door) is in the dead center of the page. It’s tough to pull off a compositions with the focal point dead center. Try cropping a couple inches off the top or bottom of the image. Then suddenly the house becomes the focus and the composition works. I love the colors.
  • I agree about the trees drawing the eye, so what about making them the focal point? You have some really good texture. Try darkening your shadows and using a fine line brush to add some thin branches.
  • Decide on your focal point and make that the area of highest contrast. The back tree needs to be paler than the front on. Right now they are the same. Depends on what you're going for. If all the values are the same, the picture becomes flat. Making your background less bright or paler will help it recede, and making your foreground more saturated will help it come forward. Same with the sky. Have it more saturated at the top, and paler as you go down, as that part (horizon) of the sky is further away from the eye.
  • I think your color use is excellent. The lighter tree in the foreground works for me. I'm re-learning color and it's fantastic to see this. It gave me a "YES!" feeling. Recessive colors, dominant class was so long ago; but it's coming back!
  • I often have the same problem again and again even though I know the reason (for me). There is more detail in the background (house) than in the foreground (grass, stairs, and path). Your eyes in the real scene would tell you otherwise. If this was my painting, I would add detail and texture in the foreground, reduce the sharpness of the house's roof, and make the far background (middle height of the picture, behind the house) paler. I like the way you've attached the trees to the ground. It's often a trick part, too.
Thank you, Sketchbook Skool peer mentors! 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Getting the Hang of It

Gesture Drawings, MacNider Art Museum, Uniball micro pen and watercolor
Stillman Birn Sketchbook, Beta Series, 5.5"x8.5", Cold Press Surface

Yesterday I had the privilege of taking an all-day drawing workshop with Richard Leet, the founding director of the MacNider Art Museum in Mason City. 

We did a lot of gesture sketching, and Richard talked abut drawing from the "inside-out," getting the form down. "Think in terms of wire sculpture," he said, or in terms of a skeleton and muscles...and "use controlled, reckless abandon, working from the inside out." 

Toward the end of the day he encouraged us to spread out in the museum and practice our gesture drawing. That's when I felt I sort of starting getting the hang of it. 

Gesture Drawings, MacNider Art Museum, Uniball micro pen and watercolor
Stillman Birn Sketchbook, Beta Series, 5.5"x8.5", Cold Press Surface
Richard worked at the museum from 1965 to 2001 and periodically teaches classes there. He says even while working there, he was given time and space to be an active artist. He showed us a book he has compiled of wonderful ink drawings done over many years' time, and I know he has quite a collection of watercolor paintings, as well. What a career! I feel so grateful that he still teaches in the community. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Calling It Done

The Stockman House
8x8" watercolor on Fluid Cold Press Watercolor Paper
It's not perfect, but I'm happier with this one over the last one. I kept my hand away from the ink pen and, instead, used a small, fine brush and a ruler for all that Frank Lloyd Wright-like trim. Oh wait, it IS Frank Lloyd Wright trim! This is the Stockman House in Mason City, Iowa -- designed by the man himself and built in 1908. 

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