Painting Paris

As I said in an earlier post, I recently had the good fortune of traveling to Paris to meet up with my sister and to visit some good friends who are living there.  I have been enjoying doing watercolors of some of the photos I took.  

One of the things we did while I was there was visit Giveny, where Monet lived out the later part of his life.  We visited his home and his spectacular gardens and famous water lily pond.  This was on my bucket list and it was every bit as magical and inspiring as I had hoped.  I expect to be painting from the photos I took for a very long time.  

Below is a shot of the garden followed by my watercolor interpretation.  I tried to capture the bold color of the sky and it’s reflection in the water. It took two attempts to get this. I’m still learning the watercolor process and the approach to painting.  I after a blue wash I painted the lilies followed by the water reflections and then the trees in the background.  That seemed to work well.  
Monet Water Lily Pond Photo

Here is a photo of me in the garden standing on one of the famous bridges looking and feeling awestruck.

Me in Monet's Garden

I’ve been trying to do some watercolor sketching of the many flower photos I took.  Here are two from my sketchbook.

Finally, I took some lovely photos of Paris in the evening while on a dinner cruise. I only had my iPhone with me, but it does have a pretty good camera and is quite good in low light.  I have attempted a watercolor cityscape from one of these photos.  Unfortunately, I don’t think I captured the evening light well at all. It’s hard to get the richness of the colors as night falls in watercolor. This one begs to be done in oil, so I am going to do that soon.  I will post when I’m done.  

Paris in the Evening Photo

I Sold a Print!

We picked up the mail today and there was a check from Falls Church Arts.  I didn’t have anything in a show, so it could only be for one of my prints in the print bin they have in the lobby of Art Space.  It was!  Someone bought a print of Monarch on Yellow.  I’m pleased to know that someone liked one of my butterflies enough to buy it.

The original for this is hanging in my office.  It was done in gouache and ink.

EPSON MFP image

For anyone else who happens to be interested, my prints are also available for sale in my Etsy shop.

I had a great weekend painting in the mountains.  I even did a new butterfly — it’s been a while.  I also have something almost finished here in my studio in Northern VA.  I will be posting some new things soon!

Class with Christine Lashley

Last Thursday I played hooky from work and took a plein aire workshop with a local artist named Christine Lashely. I found her because she was one of the chosen artists for the Bath County Plein Aire Festival, which I’ve been following because there is some overlap with artists that I know from classes at Nimrod Hall. I liked her art and noticed that she was local to Northern Virginia, so I got on her mailing list.

The workshop was held at Ross Farm in Dickerson Maryland near Frederick. It was a lovely setting with a view of Sugarloaf Mountain and lovely barns and buildings. The leaves were pretty close to peak and it was a beautiful day.

We started off with a watercolor of Sugarloaf. My watercolor skills are improving, but still challenged, and I got frustrated and put it away to start on an oil painting. Christine got me to bring it back out and provided some very helpful critique.  One of the first things you learn about her is that she sees purple in everything, but she’s right! She got me to tone down the orange trees on the mountain with purple, which helped account for atmospheric distortion from the distance. She also got me to put on more layers of paint in general, making the work bolder and brighter and more complex. Below is the finished product.

Sugarloaf Watercolor

I say finished, but as it turns out plein aire painting doesn’t allow for perfect. That’s part of what makes it fun. You have to take what you get because you have a limited amount of time and the scene is always changing. Even with the challenges it has many advantages to painting from photos. You see colors that are much more vivid and the depth of the scene is not lost to the flatness of a photo.

After we finished our watercolors we moved out of the wind a little – which was blowing hard enough to blow easels over. I chose to paint the big red barn and the brilliant orange tree that was next to it. I don’t like the perspective of my painting, but once again, plein aire doesn’t allow for perfect.  I do like the colors and the rest of the scene. Once again, Christine provided critique that much improved the painting. Of course we added some purple which once again improved the scene more that I would imagine. She also helped with a new brush technique to smudge the paint in places.  Below is the result of the oil painting session.

Barn Oil

Even a bad day plein aire painting is better than any day at the office. I need to do this more often!

Reflections in the Tiber

I just finished a painting I’ve been working on for a while.  I painted it from a photo I took walking along the Tiber river in Umbertide, Umbria, Italy during my Spring visit there to see my sister.  It was early Spring and the leaves were just barely coming out on the trees.  The mountains in the distance were still brown. There was a row of evergreen trees and their blue-greens contrasted with the yellow-green of early Spring. It was a still day, so there wasn’t much movement in the water.  The reflections were clear and sharp.  I’m happy enough with the result and I enjoyed painting it.

Tiber in Umbertide

Since I have my new-found watercolor skills I decided to do a study of this in watercolor before I did the oil.  I think this was a good exercise and I might start doing it more.  It has several benefits.  First, it helps me keep practicing watercolor.  Second, I found that doing the watercolor first made me much more familiar with the nuances of the scene, allowing me to capture them in the oil painting, which I probably would not have done otherwise.  Below is the study.
Tiber in Umbertide WC Study

My Latest Butterfly

A couple of weeks ago I found myself in a painting mood with only a few hours left in our mountain house before having to return to Northern Virginia.  Starting something new – especially getting out all of my oil paints etc. seemed daunting.  I decided to paint a butterfly because I hadn’t done one in quite a while.  Below is the result of that exercise.  This is a swallowtail with blue on the wings, which presented an added challenge but I was happy with the result.  The paint is gouache and the black markings are ink.  I hope you like it!

EPSON MFP image

Falls Church Arts 2015 Plein Aire Competition

Every year Falls Church Arts has a plein aire painting competition in the Spring.  To be eligible, paintings must be done between April and June and they must be done outside on location, within the City of Falls Church.  Artists register to participate and then they must have their supports (canvas, paper, etc.) stamped by Falls Church Arts before painting.

Last year I registered, but I didn’t actually put anything in the show. The only plein aire painting I’d done prior to that time was in an “Art in the Parks” class I took with Jennifer Schoechle about ten years earlier.  I did one painting of my friend Susan’s house.  I was very self-conscious about painting outside among crowds, so I decided Susan’s front yard, which was protected by a hedge, provided the privacy I needed.  The painting did not meet my expectations, so I didn’t enter it.

This year I registered again.  The one big thing that’s changed since last year is that I’ve gotten over some of my self-consciousness. I don’t really care if people watch me paint now. That’s a big step. As a result, I’m starting to do a little more plein aire painting.

That said, there are many other challenges.  Falls Church is pretty urban.  I’m much better at painting nature thank I am man-made objects.  I have challenges with straight edges, corners, perspective, etc.  Nature is much more forgiving when it comes to those things.  Urban scenes also have people in them.  Learning to draw people takes a lot of practice.  I took a portrait painting class more than ten years ago, also from Jennifer Schoechle, but I haven’t drawn people since.

This year I have two paintings that I’m going to actually enter.  As it turns out, I don’t really like either one much.  They are very primitive (that’s my nice way of saying that the perspective is bad and the people are not very good).  I’m entering them anyway because I want to support my art community with my participation.

The first painting, is of the Mad Fox Brewing Company, a local watering hole on the first floor of a retail/residential building.  I wrote about this a few weeks ago, because in my first session I got rained on which took quite a toll on the painting.  I got a chance to do a second session where I first repaired the damage and then I finished the work.  This painting is 12 x 9 oil on canvas board.
Mad Fox

The second painting I did yesterday at the Tinner Hill Blues Festival.  This festival is held every year in Cherry Hill Park in Falls Church.  I started the painting early before there were too many people there.  I did try to capture this one guy who shows up and dances every year, along with a few other people sitting around watching the early acts.  I did this in oil pastel, which is not a medium I have much practice working in. It was a good choice on this occasion because it is not liquid, making it easier to transport and use in a crowded environment.  This piece is 10 x 8.
Tinner Hill 2015

These will both be on display with the show at the Falls Church City Hall and then at Artspace.  I’ve seen a few of the other pieces and they are lovely.  Next year I expect to be even better at this.  Now if we only had some mountains in Falls Church.

Butterflies

Butterflies inspire me.  They are delicate and colorful and beautiful.  When I started painting I had some photographs of butterflies and decided they would be great subjects.  I did my very first butterfly pictures in regular acrylic paints on paper.  Acrylic was all I had and I hadn’t really explored other alternatives.  They came out well, but the acrylic paint was heavy on the paper.

Old Butterflies 2 sm Old Butterflies 1 sm

Around the same time, my sister told me about gouache.  She had done a painting for me from a trip we took together to Germany and it is gouache and pencil. I’ve always loved the look and thought the paint looked sheer and classy.  I decided to try my next butterfly in gouache.

What is so fun about painting a butterfly is getting into the patterns on the wings.  The good news is that they don’t match exactly.  If they did, my engineer’s brain would obsess about getting them to match and I’d never be able to finish the painting.  I really liked my swallowtail that I did in gouache.  I scanned it in and still use it as letterhead for my personal stationery and cards.

Old Butterflies 3 sm

A few years ago after several years of not painting at all I was struggling to get my eye and my technique back.  I decided that I needed to do some butterflies.   The good news is that there’s not a huge time commitment.  The gouache is tidy so there’s minimal set up and clean up and you can focus your time on doing the painting.  For these more recent butterflies I used gouache but did most of the black on the wings with ink.  I recently entered these in the Loving Life show (October 2014) at Falls Church Arts.  They did not win anything nor did they sell, but they got a nice spot right by the door.  I was also proud that they were selected, as this was my first curated show.

EPSON MFP image EPSON MFP image EPSON MFP image