Sometimes the Simplest Things are the Most Fun

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I spend a lot of time walking in our mountain community, and one of the things that I always find striking is the fire hydrants. Of course fires are a big deal when you live in a forest, so I’m really happy they are there, but in our natural setting, I love the way the red contrasts with the green around it. Red and green are complementary colors, so when you put them side-by-side you get great contrast and the hydrant really pops! I’ve taken a lot of pictures of them but yesterday I tried my hand at painting one.

This is a watercolor and it’s approximately 5×7. Sometimes it’s fun to paint small. I’ve also been watching recent videos from my favorite You Tube watercolor artist Steve Mitchell. He’s been demonstrating negative space painting, so I got to practice that as well. I painted the light colored foreground leaves and did a wash for the grass first. Then I did all of the very dark background shading of the forest around them using negative space painting. Then I painted and detailed the trunks, the rock, and some of the detail in the grass. Finally, I painted the hydrant and finished the detail in the grass. I masked the hydrant with tape during the earlier steps just to keep it white so the red would be very bright. Here is the result. It was a lot of fun and I’m happy with the result.

Subscribe, New Watercolors, and a Return to Oils

Finally, some things are settling down and I’m doing a bit of painting. Before we get to that, I want to let you know that you can now subscribe to my blog. I’m thinking that if those of you who are really interested subscribe I will post less on Facebook and stop annoying those who have no interest in my art journey. So please…if you like this blog, provide your email in the “subscribe” box on the home page and you will receive notifications when I add a new post. I promise I won’t sell your email or post too often.

Given that I took a couple of months off to move and did very little painting, I felt pretty rusty when I got back to it. For a while, I felt uninspired and disappointed in the results. I’ve done a few pieces lately that I feel a little better about. I decided that the best way to get my confidence back was to return to a subject that is comfortable to me. With that in mind, I painted Three Ridges from the overlook. I used a photo I took on a pretty day a few weeks ago. I changed the angle a little from past works to give it a different composition with trees in the foreground on the left and the fence running away from the viewer rather than straight across the scene. There were some pink flowers in the foreground, and if there’s anything I don’t like about this piece it is my attempt at capturing those. In retrospect, I probably should have masked them out so they could be lighter pink, or left them out of the scene altogether.  This is 12×9. 

The other thing I’ve been playing with a lot is wooded scenes. A while back I did an oil painting of a mountain stream in the woods and I really like that painting. We’ve been doing a bit of hiking and I’ve been trying to capture some shots of sunlit wooded paths. I did this watercolor study from one of those photos on a hike to the White Rock Falls (off the Blue Ridge Parkway). It took a bit to get the path to look right. At first it lacked depth, so I darkened up the foliage on either side and it started to pop. This one is still taped to the board, so I might mess with it a little more. This is also 12×9.

I’ve been threatening to get the oils out again, and my experience painting this scene in watercolor inspired me to do an oil version. The last couple of oils I’ve done, I’ve tried to learn from my approach to watercolor to give my paintings a more impressionistic look. I may have taken that a bit too far in this one, but I like the result well enough to say it’s not bad for the first oil painting I’ve done in over a year. (Note that the photo is not the best. It is still very wet and difficult to move somewhere where the light is better.) I tried some new techniques I’ve wanted to try including painting with a palette knife. This painting is a combination of brushwork and palette knife. I did the original sky and some of the foliage using the palette knife and then used a brush for more foliage, the path and the tree trunks. Finally, I finished the sunlight on the tree trunks with the edge of the palette knife. I did this quickly, as I would a plein air. I went back to it after a day because I thought there was too much sky showing through the lower trees. I think correcting that was a big improvement. This is 20×16 on canvas. 

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my musings about my journey.  Comments are always welcome. 

 

Fundraiser

So, my high school reunion was last weekend…more years than I care to admit. It was great to see everyone. The organizing committee did a fundraiser where they asked classmates to donate items that they could sell in a silent auction. They reached out asking if I would donate a painting, and of course I said yes. I donated the small version of my painting of the houses on the isthmus on Tilghman Island. I chose this because I went to high school in Maryland, and I thought that a Maryland Eastern Shore scene would resonate with my classmates.

I’m pleased to say that it sold for a good price, and even more pleased (and flattered) that it sold to a fellow artist. Chris Bussler, is the wife of one of my classmates. She lives in Tennessee and after a successful career as a Navy Officer she is now a full time artist. She does wonderful work that can be seen on her website.

I’m finally settling into my new life being mostly retired, but still much busier than I’d like to be. I am starting to finding some time to paint again. I hope to have some things to post soon.

The Next Phase…

So I quit my day job last week. I feel I’ve reached that phase of life where I can work at what matters to me, rather than just focusing on making a living. We plan to consolidate our two residences into one, our house in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Once we’ve gotten through the hassle of moving I am hoping to spend a lot more time painting.

I decided that a recent painting I did was appropriate for this event. It was painted from a photo I took last fall when we visited Tilghman Island. It’s 12×6 on Arches cold pressed paper. Sittin’ on the dock of the bay watching the tide roll away…wasting time…

Stay tuned… hopefully things will get interesting.

 

Catching Up…

I haven’t blogged much for a while, so I thought I’d catch up on several paintings I’ve done in recent weeks. I continue to do all watercolors these days. I will get back to my oils eventually, but watercolor brings new challenges and will ultimately make be a better painter so no harm in focusing on them. I continue to improve but I have a long way to go.

I recently switched brands of watercolor paints and created my own pallet. I had been using Winsor & Newton, which is an excellent brand. The color choices I was using were driven by the recommendations from Purnell Pettyjohn, who I took a class from about three years ago. I decided it was time for me to select colors that matched my preferences, which of course have been evolving.

I did a lot of research on brands. My favorite Youtube teacher, Steve Mitchell (The Mind of Watercolor), highly recommends M. Graham. They have a large following and one of their claims to fame is that they have honey in them, which keeps them a little bit tacky. I thought about going that route, but the honey made me nervous because it’s so humid in the summer at our house in the mountains. I was afraid they would mold. I found another blog, The Scratchmade Journal, where the author lives in the mountains of North Carolina. She had been an M. Graham user for years, but found them completely unmanageable once she moved to the mountains. She switched to Da Vinci after a lot of testing. I tried them and so far I love them. The colors are vibrant, and they lift really well when you want to lighten areas that you’ve previously painted. My new pallet colors are all transparent or semi-transparent. I’m tweaking them a little as I go along, for example, I chose two yellows that are too close to being the same. I’m having fun experimenting.

Now…on to some of the paintings I’ve been working on…

A while back we went to St. Michal’s Maryland for a long weekend. While we were there we drove down Tilghman Island, which is a fairly isolated and quaint community on the Chesapeake Bay. We took a lot of photos and one was of a narrow isthmus with a few houses on it. There were storm clouds in the background, but the sun was shining on the houses. It was a lovely scene. I painted a small painting (12×6) and liked it a lot. I’ve been itching to start painting bigger watercolors, so I decided to do a larger version, which is 24×12. I changed up the scene a little, eliminating one house that I thought was too busy and capturing another instead. I like the results of the second painting as well. I plan to frame it and enter it into the Falls Church Arts all member show that starts in late April.

Here is the original, smaller version.

Here is the large version.

A month or so ago I was at home in the mountains and decided to paint a scene from a photo I took one morning. The fog was lifting from the valley floor. There was a field in the foreground that had hay bales in it from a recent mowing. I actually took the photo with my iPhone from a moving car (my husband was driving), but I still managed to capture the feeling. I think I’ve already painted it a couple of times but this is the best so far.

This next example is of a painting that I thought I’d lost control of, but somehow it came around. It’s from a photo I took at Afton Mountain Winery. At one point the trees were just blobs, and it had no depth at all, but I kept fiddling with it and it mostly came around. The three trees in the foreground on the right I wasn’t able to bring out much, because the ones behind them were already too dark to get contrast. Now that I look at them, I probably could have lifted some of the color from them. The foliage in the big trees is a little blobby. I need to get better at painting foliage. Steve Mitchell is really good at it, but I can’t make it work. This is not one for the gallery, but it’s pleasant enough to look at.

Finally, I wanted to try a waterfall painting. I knew it would be a challenge. I was reading and studying the section on water in “The Watercolorists Essential Notebook: Landscapes” by Gordon MacKenzie. I knew it would be challenging, but decided to try a small painting of a waterfall. The reference photo is a waterfall in Vesuvius VA. The painting is about 4×10. Keeping the white and getting the texture of falling water was challenging, but I was happy with the result. I had to cheat a little in the pool at the base to get the splash. I used opaque white ink to do that. I will try it again and see if I can do better with the rocks and plants on the cliff walls. I may do it bigger next time too.

There have been others, but these are the ones that seemed most worth a discussion. Till next time…and I’ll try not to take so long.

 

 

Four Seasons in the Blue Ridge – Watercolor

A while back I posted about a painting I entered in the East-meets-West show. It was a watercolor of a stormy spring day on the Stoney Creek golf course. It was sitting) unframed on the shelf above my desk and it kept catching my eye.
I think if was the form factor and the color scheme. It’s 12 x 6 and very green.

I decided I really like that size so I started doing some other paintings in the same form factor. One that I did was a fall scene that turned out really nice. I decided it would be fun to do all four seasons, so I did.

I ended up doing winter twice. I really liked the second one. Summer is very pretty, but I think it’s a little too spring-like. I may try it again.

Now I need to get the other three framed so I have a complete set.

Holiday Cards

This year, thanks to a youtube video by Steve Mitchell one of my favorite online watercolor instructors, I decided to paint holiday cards for a short list of people who touched my life this year. All told I painted about 15. Each card was roughly 5×7. I had cardstock that was made from watercolor paper but the quality wasn’t good so I painted on Arches and cut to fit. Each painting was fixed to a card with small double-sided tape squares which raised the painting a tiny bit. The effect was pretty nice. It’s too bad that you can’t get good quality watercolor paper cardstock.

In Steve’s video he did what he calls spontaneous painting. This is a technique where he lays down some spontaneous washes and then adds details to turn the image into a landscape. (If you watch the video you’ll see how fascinating it is to see.) I started out trying this, but I’m just not good enough to pull it off. I fell back on my tried and true landscape painting process, which is still evolving.

One thing I was forced to do was to paint things that were different from the way they appeared in my reference materials. I wanted winter scenes, mostly snow scenes. I have some reference photos that are snow scenes but not enough, so I repainted some other scenes I’d recently done, modifying them to be snowscapes. It was fun and got me out of my engineer’s brain a bit, which is a challenge and is always good for me.

Below are photos of a few of the cards. Unfortunately I didn’t get photos of all of the finished products. Perhaps I’ll start earlier for next year.

Weekend in St. Michaels, Maryland

In September we had the pleasure of enjoying a very relaxing weekend on the Maryland Eastern Shore in the little town of St. Michaels. We actually stayed at the Wade’s Point Inn, which was a few miles outside of St. Michaels, and was extremely serene and relaxing.  I brought my watercolor gear with me and did some plein air painting on this beautiful property.  It was very inspiring and most enjoyable.  I did several sketches in my sketchbook, but I did camp out on the lawn two mornings with all of my gear to do full paintings.  

The first piece I did was the morning sun shining on a point where there was a house and a small dock. This piece is 12 x 6, a size I like a lot for small panoramas.  
Wades Point 1

The second piece I did was the front lawn of Wade’s Point Inn.  They had a dock that several of the guests fished from, and a comfortable looking hammock in the trees.  This piece is 9 x 12.  
Wades Point 2

East and West Art Exhibition

I entered three recent watercolor paintings into the East and West Art Exhibitions at Falls Church Arts.  This show will run from August 19th through September 23rd 2017 at the Falls Church Arts Central Gallery at 700-B W Broad Street, Falls Church VA.  This show was a curated show and based on the number and quality of the works they received they could only accept two entries per artist.  

The show opening is on August 19th. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend.  

Here are the three works I entered:

Summer Leaves

Summer Leaves (Selected)

Spring Storms in Stoney Creek

Spring Storms in Stoney Creek (Selected)

Butterfly 2

Butterfly (Not Selected)

 

 

World Watercolor Month

July was the second annual World Watercolor Month.  World Watercolor Month was started by Charlie O’Sheilds, creator of doodlewash® and a designer from Missouri.  Charlie had become enamored with watercolor and started a Facebook page called World Watercolor Month in July 2016.  He challenged artists to paint and post a watercolor painting each day of the month of July.  It was a great success and had thousands of members before the month was out, so he renamed it World Watercolor Group and maintained it as a place for watercolorists of all levels to share their work.  

In 2016, I was only an observer in World Watercolor Month, although I think I did post a few paintings.  In 2017, I decided to do my best to participate. With a demanding day job, I knew this would be a challenge, but every evening after dinner I’d get out my sketchbook and try to paint at least a little something I could post.  Some were better than others.  By the end of the month I’d painted every day but two (and I still posted something on the days I missed).  It was very gratifying and I think I did improve my skills.  Next year I will paint something every day!  

Below are a few of my favorites from the month.  (#worldwatercolormonth)

HibiscusAppleButterflyCowIrisHay Bales