Enjoy life now... it has an expiration date.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Studying + Experimenting = Bluebells

4x6, Watercolor

I mentioned in my last post that I've been doing a lot of experimenting with both technique and color. My practice sheets look like someone painted them who was under the influence (I assure you I was not... honestly!). After intently reading (and re-reading) both Glorious Garden Flowers in Watercolor by Susan Harrison-Tustain, and Paint Watercolors That Dance With Light by Elizabeth Kincaid, I wanted to put some of the things I've been working on into one painting. I elected to do a small study because I didn't want a lot of time tied up in the painting... it was just for practice and I didn't want to feel that I had to turn out a "finished painting".

Pictured is the resulting study, "Bluebells". The techniques I was practicing in this study are: getting a handle on smoothly glazing multiple layers; using those layers of glazed color to mix secondary and tertiary colors optically instead of premixing on the palette; and some practice for dark, out of focus backgrounds. Oh, and the thing that has been pretty much eluding me.... saving that doggone white space!

I managed to overwork a few parts (old habits don't die easily) but not too much. This was a great learning experience. I'm finding out that what works for me is to closely study a new technique, try it out multiple times on throw-away practice sheets until I begin to get a feel for it, then tie it together by using the new technique in a small, no-pressure painting.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Day's Harvest..... and more

Not a lot to show as far as art.... although I have been busy with the paint brushes. Doing a lot of experiments and practicing with technique and color mixing in watercolor.

In the meantime, we're still in the grip of the awful heat/humidity wave (it's 97 degrees now and expected to hit 99 or 100) so I'm out in the garden almost every morning watering. Since we live out in the country we're fortunate to have a deep well so I don't have to worry about a large water bill. Plus, the water goes back into the ground .... where, after it filters down through a couple of hundred feet of soil, sand and rock that purifies it, it will eventually get pumped out again for re-use. Recycling at its best!

I'm posting a few pics from my garden. Everything is growing nicely. After I finish watering, I collect the day's harvest... which you see pictured in the basket. For dinner tonight we're having a fresh Green Leaf lettuce salad with grilled chicken breast, pecans, mandarin oranges.. and the following veggies:(which I grew myself! I sound like a proud Mom, don't I? ;-) cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and sugar snap peas. Yummy! Blackberries and ice cream for dessert.

When I get around to it I'll be posting most of these pics in the RIL (Reference Image Library) on WetCanvas as resource material for other artists. If you see anything you'd like to use in a painting, email me and I'll send you the high res image for clarity.

P.S. The last four pics (for city slickers and non-Southerners who are wondering what that strange plant is) are of a field of tobacco across from our house. Years ago you saw tobacco fields everywhere in the South. Nowadays, with the health risks associated with tobacco use and the influx of cheaper foreign tobacco, it's almost a novelty to see a field of tobacco. I wanted to record this while I had the chance, before fields of tobacco were, well, gone with the wind ;-). The first two pics are the blossoms on the top of the tobacco stalk (ironic that the blooms are so pretty) and the last two pics show the plants in the field. A whole culture used to revolve around tobacco - working in tobacco during the summer paid for many kid's school clothes in the Fall; and bought me my first car - but that's a story for another day.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Prairie Barn: An Exercise

This exercise from David Bellamy's "Developing Your Watercolors"- some really good information in there. I find doing these exercises extremely beneficial. Kind of like doing push ups to get in shape - except, thankfully, not nearly as strenuous!

This is not a faithful reproduction, was just going for practice. I was satisfied with the barn, but not much else in this one. Was tempted to go back and rework the parts that didn't work, but I've about decided that's not a good use of time. Better to leave as is and go on to the next project. One thing's for sure, regardless of perceived successes or failures, any time spent painting is time well spent!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Mud, The Bad and The Ugly

9 x 12 Watercolor on Arches

Let's see how many undesirables we can get into one painting:

- Didn't do thumbnails or value sketch? Check.
- Overworked? Check and Double Check.
- Didn't allow for background colors to lighten as they dried? Check.
- Lost my focus and defined center of interest along with it? Check.
- Changed my mind several times on some colors and altered them (after I'd already put them down = mud)? Check.
- Changed the design as I went along? Check.

But all is not lost. On the bright side the desirables are:

- Got some sketching practice in? Check.
- Got some painting practice in? Check.
- Found a background technique I like? (even though it did dry lighter than expected). Check.
- Found some new color combinations? Check.
- Tried glazing and some of it was successful? Check.
- Helped me understand some of the things I want to improve about my painting? Check.

Let's see.... that's six for six. So, even though this painting will never see a frame and parts of it don't work, there are other parts that I like and I learned a couple of things that may help me get a little closer to where I want to be.

On to the next painting!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Water Lotus

A fairly quick (for me) study of a water lotus. Still working on keeping the white space while I paint... still a struggle. I get carried away with the lovely paint colors and forget about the white space ... must learn some self-restraint!

When I do a piece of art I like to ask myself what I learned from this piece. The big revelation with this one is - no surprise here for you veteran watercolorists - Arches watercolor paper is wonderful! I admit, a little sheepishly, that I've had Arches paper in my possession for, oh, about 15 years (yeah, I know) and for some reason, just never got around to actually using it. A few days ago I found the Arches 9x12 pads in Michaels craft store on clearance sale... and bought another Arches pad... just like the first one I had .... that I'd never used! So, it seemed like a good time to try out the famous, oh-so-talked-about Arches. It surpassed my expectations. I had thought it made good sense to practice on the less expensive paper before graduating to Arches. But it paints so much better that I realize now what I was missing. Hmmm.... now that I'm spoiled on Arches I guess I could use my supply of less expensive paper for trying out experiments with new colors and brushstrokes ;-)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"Old Sail Lofts" an exercise from The Watercolourist's Guide to Painting Buildings

Boy, was this fun!!

I've had this book - The Watercolourist's Guide to Painting Buildings by Richard Taylor for quite a while and never really done much with it - other than admire Mr. Taylor's beautiful paintings. Yesterday I was leafing through it looking for some color info and saw several projects in the book that the author recommends you complete to help learn the techniques he covers. I thought, "I should do one of these exercises". So I did.

I sketched it out fairly closely to the example and decided to go pretty much with the colors used by the author because I wanted to spend my time on painting techniques, not making color choices. Can you tell I've got a one track mind? Being able to focus mainly on painting techniques and the results of those techniques was so helpful and very informative. I thoroughly enjoyed doing this little painting. I did a minimum of reworking and even managed to save a little more white space than usual (yes!).

This was time well spent. I had several "Aha" moments while doing this exercise.... it's a little like having a mentor peering over your shoulder offering advice.

I've posted some WIPs. Photos not so great :-(

Hmmmm........ let's see. What shall I paint next?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"1,000 Vibrant Mistakes" and Pesky Rabbits....

This is one of the adorable (although I could think of several other less complimentary adjectives) rabbits that are wreaking havoc on my Black Eyed Susans. I get up most mornings to rabbits in the flower bed, and, invariably, where a tall Black Eyed Susan once swayed gently in the breeze, just about to open its bloom, there now sits one bare stalk - leafless, bloomless - and gnawed down to about 8 inches tall.

I'm torn between enjoying the playful antics of these furry, cottontailed marauders (they're SO cute, and they do have to eat too) and wanting to protect my flowers that I've lovingly planted, watered, fertilized and babied. Not wishing to harm the rabbits, I'm trying red pepper. So now if they nibble on a flower, it will no doubt be the spiciest food they've ever eaten. We'll see if it works. We live on a farm... there's vegetation everywhere, so it's not like there's a shortage of rabbit food around here.

In the meantime I decided to make the best of the situation and get in some painting practice using one of my furry little pillagers as the subject. This is not a "fresh" painting - I worked parts of it to death - but it's okay because I wasn't aiming for a pretty painting. I was aiming for some time to experiment, practice and just observe what works and what doesn't work for me in watercolor. I tried to completely suspend judgement - silence the inner critic - so I'd be free to experiment and enjoy. And enjoy I did!

What I learned from this little painting:

- I give up the white space too easily and too quickly. I don't know why I have a tendency to want to put paint everywhere, but when I do, I'm never happy with the result. I love watercolors that have little chinks of white scattered throughout the painting .... gives it so much life and sparkle. I want to discipline myself to keep that in mind when painting and keep more white.

- I need to stay focused on what I'm doing when the brush hits the paper. The more focused I am, the more likely I won't have to rework that area. When my mind starts drifting while the paint brush is still moving it's almost never a pleasing result. Focus, Teresa!

- It's good to allow myself time to "play" as I did with this painting. By playing, I'm gradually developing what Laure calls a "visual vocabulary" and, as with words, the larger the vocabulary, the easier it is to clearly express yourself.

- Learn to love the "mistakes" - they represent progress. Every scrubbed out and reworked area, every poor color choice, every spot where the paint was too strong or too watery, was welcome. I recently "met" a blogger, Keith, who left a great comment on one of my posts. He said,

"Mistakes are essential, they surprise and challenge you. It's how you learn. I would rather a piece with a thousand vibrant mistakes than one of dead perfection."

A thousand vibrant mistakes vs. dead perfection. I love it!

If you get a chance, drop by and visit Keith here. He's got some great people sketches and a quirky sense of humor. Love the name of his blog, "Lining a Drawer".... because, he explains, Drawing a Line was already taken!

In the meantime, I'll let you know how the red pepper works.
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