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We had a fruit salad a couple of days ago and the collection of fruits looked so enticing that I had to paint them.
These are the same kinds of fruit that we had that night, but I had to go out and buy more fruit to be my subjects. My husband came into the studio several times while I was painting this and commented that just looking at the picture made him hungry.
It is spring here in Maryland and as we drive around our rural county, we see the fields being prepared for planting. We see tractors like this one pulling a cultivating attachment and followed by a small cloud of dust.
This tractor is owned by our marina landlord and has been sitting here for a couple of weeks, begging me to paint it. I drew the sketch yesterday, but before I could get to painting, the sky clouded over and I got cold. Today was sunny and warmer, so I got the painting part done.
“It takes 120 bad paintings to know something about painting.” - Larry Seiler as quoted by Jeff Mahorney in his blog
Each painting is small in format and should be completed in about an hour or less.
My goals are to improve my technique, to paint faster, and to gain experience with a variety of subjects.
There are numerous ways to change a watercolor wash from a flat wash to an area with texture.
I have used cadmium red as the base for these washes since it is a bright color.
In the top row on the left, I made a flat wash and left it alone.
In the top right rectangle, I sprinkled table salt into the damp pigment. Little star-like shapes appear in the wash and the salt may be brushed away after the wash is completely dry. Larger crystals of salt will leave bigger star shapes.
In the middle row, I sprinkled the damp wash with water (on the left) and alcohol (on the right). These produce “run backs” in the paint, with alcohol producing a more subtle result.
In the bottom row, the damp wash was covered by pieces of crumpled plastic wrap (left) and wax paper (right) which are removed after the paint has dried. The plastic wrap produces a more angular abstract texture than the wax paper.
Many other items may be used to introduce texture and are all part of a watercolor artist’s arsenal of illusions in turning paint and paper into a piece of art.
In another attempt to “paint music” I have put together this submission for the program cover for the New Score Chamber Orchestra.
My friend’s father, a retired college professor and inveterate music lover, has been intrigued by my attempts. One of the assignments that he gave his students involved drawing a picture of a piece of classical music. We have had a couple of long discussions about this, especially when I explained that in my attempts I have tried to avoid using symbols. I have employed some musical notation in this piece, but only in the “construction” aspect, not in the “sounds” one sees.
If you were to make a picture of music, how would you portray it?
What piece of music would you choose to represent?
I took my paints and went to the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. because the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Including the Washington Monument gives this watercolor a sense of place.
The weather was warm and the walkways around the Tidal Basin were crowded with pedestrians, bicycles, strollers, and photographers. I would have painted more, but my parking time had elapsed and I got stuck in traffic when I went to move to another spot. Being hungry, hot, and tired, I came home and will paint from the photos I took.
The challenge was to document a day in one’s life. It has taken me all week to even get this far, so here is my incomplete day, as recorded in pen and ink and watercolor in my sketchbook.
1 April 2013
My day usually starts in this chair with a cup of coffee, reading the Bible. It’s often dark when I sit down and I get to watch the light brightening the water and the boats on the creek through the windows beside my chair. Since the windows face west, the morning sun turns the boats and trees on the far shore yellow-orange while our side of the creek is still in shadow.
We had eggs and English muffins for breakfast. Rick commented that he’d never seen me cooking with a sketchbook in hand before! And, yes, the eggs were cooked a little too much, but not burned!
Morning found me doing further work on a program cover for the New Score Chamber Orchestra. My friend wanted more color and contrast than the drawing I had submitted previously. Here I’m working out a possible color scheme for some of the detail.
We had Easter dinner with my folks yesterday and my generous step-mother sent us home with ham for my sandwich.
Physical Therapy for my knee. The therapist thought my sketchbook was an electronic game! Not shown in this sketch are the two pads with wires attached that provide electrical stimulation for the muscle on my right thigh.
More work on the program cover in the afternoon. I’ve sketched with pen and ink and am starting to add the watercolor washes. The gray spots are masking fluid, and will become multi-colored shapes to represent the music being played.
I did also do laundry, take a walk, and make dinner, but those sketches are still in very rough form and the pencil lines don’t show up well on the scans. Thanks for allowing me to share my day with you!
It is hard to say right now how much effect Lee Boynton’s class in Impressionist Watercolor will have on my painting, but I wanted to do two paintings of the same subject, a “before” and an “after”, even though both are done after the class is finished.
I consciously tried to paint the picture on the left in the manner in which I used to paint, although I could tell that the recent class is having an impact on my choices of colors to use. I am grateful to Gwen Bragg for all the foundational skills I learned under her tutelage. She taught me to harmonize colors and to paint forms that have depth. She stressed observation of reflections and shadowed areas when painting whites. My husband said that he prefers the background and tablecloth in this picture.
I think one of the differences I can see here is that in the picture on the left I am painting oranges and a bowl. In the picture on the right, I am painting the light on the oranges and the bowl. It’s a subtle difference, a conceptual difference. (I also think I should have made the shadows on the tablecloth darker.) My thanks to Lee Boynton for expanding my ability to see and understand colors and light.
My husband has had his say. Which do you prefer, and why?
We continued painting white objects, adding more objects to make the scene more complex. Here we were presented with apples and a green bowl in addition to the white pitcher. A photo of the set-up:
I decided to paint a part of the scene in a small format before embarking on a larger painting, as we would be given two weeks with the same still life set-up.
Lee Boynton spoke at length about putting down information with boldness, knowledge, and single-minded clarity – in an unrehearsed manner. All of which comes about by practice and conviction.
In our last class, I painted the whole set-up. The lights are warm and sunny, although I seem to be getting the warmth on the tablecloth better with the smaller paintings. The shadows are dark enough to read as shadows, yet contain reflective lights. I was about to go back in to darken the background cloth, but Lee stopped me and advised me to let all of the painting dry and then evaluate. So, to keep myself busy for the last fifteen minutes of class, I turned to another set-up to paint the red bowl and clementines. This is as far as I got:
In this class we started painting white objects in a warm light. In other watercolor classes, I have been encouraged to leave a white object as the white of the paper, but Impressionists want to capture the effect of the light. A warm light will turn a white object slightly yellow, orange, or pink. Cool light will produce cooler tones in the light areas.
We were encouraged to paint a strong statement of the light area, and then to make the other values dark enough so that the white area appears white and warm. I think I went too strongly on the light area, but this one looks better than my second attempt.
I hadn’t finished this one in class so I completed it at home, but I didn’t achieve the impression of warm light, especially on the tablecloth.