My husband and I recently drove across the United States and back again. The motivation for the trip was delivery of an antique grandfather clock (circa 1790) that has been in my husband’s family since about 1940. We felt that the time was right for it to become part of our son and daughter-in-law’s abode. So we drove across the northern part of the country in mid-October, as the leaf color was at its peak. We stopped at several places for me to sketch along the way, but most of my journal from the trip is something that I sketched while we were in motion, or a scene that I put down after my turn driving was over. So the following scene is not a specific place, but more of a compilation of several places I saw along the way.
The last time I painted this old Chevy truck, I was asked to paint it again, but this time showing the barrels that are stacked haphazardly on the back with pots of plants sticking out the tops. The weather was nice today and Greenstreet Gardens, where this truck is part of the display, is starting to put out the holiday decorations, so I thought I’d better get to work!
The changing colors of the trees has inspired me to paint some more “splatter trees.” Watercolor pigments are tapped off my brush onto the paper in a random fashion and then sprayed with water so that many of the droplets run together. After this is dry, I go back into the splattered shape and find where the trunk and branches of the tree should go.
The brightest colors are the masses of leaves in the sunlight and are closest to the viewer, so the trunk and branches go behind these shapes. Darker areas are leaf masses in the shadows and areas without color are the “bird holes,” (left so that the birds can fly through the tree without bumping their heads!) The branches go through these areas, making sure that they are connected to the trunk in a logical manner.
The Daily Post’s current challenge is “Nighttime,” a chance to display pictures from that shadowy time of the day, with “all the rich textures they can create, and of all the ambivalent, intriguing stories they can tell.”
To be able to paint this nighttime picture, I had my father make his fingers into pretend fireflies and had his three-year old great-grandson chase the fireflies. I took a daytime photo and was able to make the figure into the silhouette in this watercolor nighttime painting.
I am participating in an art show with the Muddy Creek Artists Guild this weekend at Greenstreet Gardens, a local nursery. One of their display props is an old truck, which was used last fall as a platform for a giant pumpkin and then a decorated Christmas tree. I have been intrigued now for almost a year by this derelict that has so much character. Today I took an hour and painted this truck in its current setting, covered with sweet potato vines and other plants.
When I was taking watercolor classes from Gwen Bragg I would often hear her say, “Value does all the work, but color gets all the credit.” Value, or how light or dark a color is, allows us to distinguish between shapes. Changes in value show us form within shapes. Think of looking at a black and white photo. Does your brain know which colors would be there?
Broken color is a technique Gwen taught us to illustrate this principle. Mixing up each color in puddles of different values and then dropping the colors randomly into the shapes while maintaining the correct value gives a painting with lots of color – not the “correct” color for each shape, but the shapes are still recognizable.
This is a one-hour study that I did recently while sitting in my booth at an outdoor art festival. I had a drawing of these barns in one of my sketchbooks, and was able to stop between painting the different sections in order to answer questions or talk to patrons about the art in the booth.
We had tree surgeons from Expert Tree Removal here this past week. They were cleaning up the “widow makers” or “hangers” as they called the large limbs of trees that had broken off but not fallen due to a storm earlier in the summer. I took time out to watch them and drew this picture.
I don’t remember being fascinated with machinery as a child. I think my interest started when my sons were young and they liked to look at all the trucks and machines that we passed while driving. Now, in addition to being distracted by the noise of the chipper and the chain saws, I felt compelled to watch as they lopped off branches and large sections of the trunk, calculating and making them fall between pilings, without hitting the electric light fixtures that were there.
The men liked this drawing and insisted that I show it to their boss when he returned later in the day.
My friend who commissioned this painting suggested that the sister wear a hat, so here are a couple of hats for her to wear. Which one do you think she would wear to a patio get-together with family?
The third model doesn’t look like the sister, but it is late and I’m not going to fight with it tonight!
One of my challenges with this grouping is what to do about the men’s feet. They were not included in the photo and, like hands, are so different from person to person. I think that since these four are going to be sitting on the patio that flowers in front will mask where the feet are missing.
I also decided that the father should be smiling a little and looking like he is glad to be there!
My friend says this family is tall and slender, so I have had to adjust all of the drawings. Today I tried a watercolor of the mother. I don’t know if the indistinct picture will make painting her the easiest or the hardest!