Friday, July 29, 2011

Experimenting with Color Combinations

Mendocino Church - Ink and Watercolor - 15"x22"

This painting was the prompt for several exercises in color combinations. I was experimenting mostly with versions of the primary triad. The one above was done with a full palette of color added after the initial ink brush drawing. It was done on site and I did not exaggerate the roses in the foreground. During the time I was painting the fog rolled in and out, the sun played peek-a-boo and things generally changed every few minutes. Some of that memory will be explored in the following paintings.
#1 - Ultramarine blue/yellow ochre/burnt sienna

Each of the study paintings were done in a small format - 7.5"x11". When you are exploring it makes no sense to work in a large format. These are large enough to see what the color combinations can do but not so large as to be too time consuming. None of them are meant to be finished or to be presented for sale. They are just for my own use in teaching. The combination above is the one used by the California School painters when they worked on location. They are somewhat subdued.

#2 - Brights - Quinacridone coral/new gamboge/cobalt blue 
The brights used here create a very different feeling compared to the first example. I purposely left them in their hue, graying them only for the mountains in the background. Each sample took about 10 minutes. I drew and painted them quickly. Again, the purpose was to see what the limited palettes could do.

#3 - Quinacridone rose/quin. gold/ultramarine blue
The colors are cooler and the paint was applied wet into wet. The sky was dark making the forground plateau lighter. As the paper dried, the paint had a harder edge. Notice the pine tree behind the roof of the church.
#4 - Quinacridone gold/quinacridone magenta/indigo
This was the most surprising combination of all. I expected to dislike it and yet found I quite liked the tones it created. I left the color soft and light to emulate fog or early morning haze.

#5 - Scarlet lake/azo yellow/cobalt blue
Here is a different version of brights. No emphasis on the water here as it looks almost flat. By using the same subject and composition you can really evaluate the colors. I did some other small exercises with the emphasis on different elements such as the church, the pine trees, the water and cliffs, etc.

#6 - Quin gold/quin sienna/cerulean blue
A sequential series of washes was done before the images were painted. A full layer of each of the colors in the triad were put one after another while the former was still wet. If you use this technique be aware that the last color applied will be dominant. After the underpainting is completely dry, the rest is painted. You can also wipe out any area you want to be lighter before the underpainting is dry which will change it yet again.
#7 - Ultramarine blue/cobalt blue/permanent orange/green gold/black ink brush
In the initial painting, the ink was first. In this one, the ink was last but put on before the watercolor was absolutely dry. Different colors and different methods yield a completely different result.

Any series such as this can be very illuminating. All sorts of explorations can be done and by using an initial painting you have the advantage of having drawn it before. Each subsequent drawing will be easier and faster to do.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Watercolor Musings: In Defense of Drawing

Watercolor Musings: In Defense of Drawing: "I’ve always taken it for granted that artists drew from life, drew from other images, drew for fun, just plain drew and often! Seem..."

In Defense of Drawing

I’ve always taken it for granted that artists drew from life, drew from other images, drew for fun, just plain drew and often! Seems I was mistaken.

Recently an artist friend retired from her job as head of the art department of a community college in Southern California. I know her work and have been privileged to see her sketchbooks. Oh, this woman can draw and does so beautifully. She said the college had a very difficult time finding someone to replace her who could draw. Imagine that scenario in any other discipline. 

Puebla, Mexico - Church Bell Tower and Talavera Tile from my room
 Some teachers exhort their students to “just paint, you don’t need to know how to draw.” Others introduce them to the projectors where you can trace the subject matter from photos, drawings, etc. One projector ad boasts, “Stop wasting your creative time, draw accurately in minutes!” 

On the way home from a painting trip, we stopped in Moorpark CA for a last sketch.

Illustration artists have used a projector for work for many years but it was not considered appropriate for fine art. Their obligation to produce work exactly and in a very short timeline made it a wonderful tool. Then the fine artists began to use the projector to trace an image on their watercolor paper. There are several problems with this as a common practice. First, it limits your subject matter. Spacing stays pretty much the way it is in a photograph – any adjustment is difficult.  Secondly, the line quality is vastly different from a drawing done free hand. And ultimately it is not the same as an artist’s direct take on subject matter. The machine is inserted between the two. 

Prague Old Town Square

 Once a student brought his projector to class and basically challenged me to use it. So I did, using one of my own drawings to copy to a larger format. Usually drawing is meditative for me. It is one of the ways I slow down my life when it gets too frantic. As I drew, I found that tracing made my arm very heavy, I got tired and the line quality was boring. No thick and thin. No lifts and connections. Frankly, no fun. I can draw all day but suspect that tracing would only be comfortable for 30 minutes, max. 

Duomo and Leaning Tower, Pisa

 So…what is a person to do while their skills are developing? The answer is easy – you draw! Draw on napkins, draw on placements in restaurants, keep a small sketchbook in the car, your purse, somewhere nearby. There is no shortcut for competence, no easy street to get where you can draw anything, anywhere and joyfully. That ad encouraging you to “stop wasting your creative time” is misleading at best. How can time be wasted if you are skill-building and enjoying yourself? I know a woman who has been projecting for a decade…still at it. How well could she draw AND how quickly if she’d applied herself from the beginning. 

Disneyland's Casey Junior Railroad Decoration

 Graphoanalysis is the study of handwriting, or brain-writing, as the professionals sometimes call it. The essence of “you” is divulged in your penmanship. What else is drawing but brain-drawing? We each have our own special approach and special marks. What an exciting adventure for all artists to find that and perfect it! 

Part of a float for Pasadena's New Year's Parade

 My painting buddy, Brenda Swenson, has a sketch challenge on her blog site:  In the search box just type “challenge” and you’ll find posts regarding this wonderful way to build confidence and competence in drawing. Check out the post,  “artistic license,” to find the photos of those who have taken her 75 day challenge and earned their own license. There are guidelines on her site. Do yourself a huge favor and accept the challenge!

Happy Drawing!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Watercolor Musings: Doing a Series

Watercolor Musings: Doing a Series: "Shortly after I opened the gallery in 1998, I found I needed to take a break and go 'paint-about.' I was planning on visiting my sister in C..."

Doing a Series

Shortly after I opened the gallery in 1998, I found I needed to take a break and go "paint-about." I was planning on visiting my sister in Central California and needed a goal so I would use my time away carefully. Since we have now 4 generations of teachers in my family I decided to do early schoolhouses. My grandfather was a headmaster of schools in Maine before moving to California, my three great-aunts went to Normal School and then taught and my mother taught in a two teacher school for her first assignment.
The project continues and I have collected, artistically, many tangible examples of early California and observed the affection that the communities had for these important structures. They served not only as places of learning but also gathering places for voting, civic events and other purposes. Here are a few examples:
Encinitas, CA

The schoolhouse was built in 1883 and has been moved at least once. It's very near the beach so sea sponges were used to clean the blackboards. The building is now used by the Encinitas Historical Society.
Indio, CA
Located in the desert, the architecture of this building included wide eaves for shade. By doing a general series such as this, I was able to observe changes in style according to the weather in certain regions. Also I'm convinced that some plans were shared. I saw one plan done on linen which was one of the more common styles of building.
Fallsvale, CA
Located in the mountains, the pitch of the roof is a clear indication that snow falls here! The logs were used with the bark still intact although it is now coming off. The building now is used as a community center.
Ranchita, CA
Looking more like a shed than a schoolhouse, Ranchita's school had windows on only one side which was necessary for stability. Located just outside Anza Borrego Desert, the schoolhouse served the miner's families. Because the schoolhouse was not used in one particular area, it was outfitted with skis so it could be moved as needed. I drew the side without windows to emphasize the unique structure.

The "hunt" for the schoolhouses has been a real treat and since the paintings are small I can do one quickly. Learning a bit about the history of the school and the area makes it all more interesting.