Cloud Illusions

Ah… the ability to paint believable clouds… that’s my ultimate goal, but for now, it’s a struggle. 


As you can see… the frustration was getting to me. 


It’s important to just keep working. 


Clouds are all about the mix of hard and soft edges and decreasing their size as they near the horizon.

So… I’ll keep practicing because… with apologies to Joni Mitchell… I really don’t know clouds at all.


(I may be concentrating on clouds but this might just be my best tree yet!)

Sunset Series Saga

It’s February and even though it’s been fairly warm here, we have had just enough cold and snow to remind us it’s still winter.

I’ve been dreaming of warm sunny days, walking the beach, and watching the sun go down over crystal blue waters. A vacation or holiday… I don’t care what you call it… realistically, I have months to wait before that’s even a possibility. 

Several years ago I found myself in the same situation and found Laure Ferlita and her online classes where I took her watercolor class: An Imaginary Visit to th Beach. Fortunately, I’ve been following her blog, Painted Thoughts, and saw a link to her online watercolor sunset workshop at a very reasonable cost of ten dollars

So began my sunset quest.

My first… painted along with the video. 


Then a few days later I thought I’d try going it alone. I used different pigments and tried to be faster. It’s okay but I see too much color blending (the green) in the water. 


#3 was better but I didn’t leave enough skips as I painted the sun’s reflection in the water. 


I thought I had enough but all these masked off rectangles were just screaming rigidity. I needed to try one more… fast and loose in a vignette style. I made too much use of my Signo Broad white ink pen for my liking but I’m still pleased.  I’m less sure about the vignette style.  Now that I’ve done it I think I prefer the masked rectangles instead. 


I enjoyed my practice and now feel comfortable enough to try these methods on some of my own sunset photographs in preparation for the days when I again can paint plein air as I wriggle my toes in warm sand. 

Seeing Double

So what’s a double fold out called?

A gatefold. 

It’s when both the right and the left pages fold out and you feel as if you’re going through the gate to the scene beyond. That’s what I wanted to achieve here, but first I needed to deal with the closed spread. 

When all other ideas elude me, I paint my favorite models… pears. 


I love how the plate and shadow bleeds off the spread and how the border stripe echoes the pears’ coloration. 

But now it was time to tackle the fully open spread. When totally opened it measured 32 inches across, so wide that it was too daunting for me to just simply dive in. I took out my gridded notebook for some planning, and of course, more thumbnails. 



I didn’t use any of these designs but you can see how I calculated the best focal points using the rule of thirds. 

I mined one of my previous sketchbooks for a suitable landscape and as I painted I placed the skyline to blend with the edge of the plate. I may have been overthinking it but it turned out well. 


32 inches of panorama. 


Now that it’s done I’ve thought of a few other ways to handle a gatefold. Maybe next time I’ll handle each of the 4 panels separately, but unified by a single theme, like the seasons. Maybe I’ll draw a progression across the spread, like how a rose bud opens, blooms and finally withers. 

So many options for me to try next, I know there’s more sketchbook modifying in my near future. 

Oddly Comforting

After this week of upheaval I again tried to put my life and these times into perspective. Enter Carl Sagan and his Pale Blue Dot speech.  Just hearing it again inspired me to reflect, revitalize and create a journal page honoring my… and I hope… our resilience.

Thank you Ken Takahashi and YouTube for this wonderful video.

 

That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

Thank you Carl Sagan.

Some Days are Better than Others

I am not a confident landscape artist.

That’s exactly why I continue to go out with my plein air group Thursday mornings! These days I’ve been working on losing my dependence on ink line and using real watercolor brushes. 


Even with the drought our rivers are lovely and have plenty of water. A perfect spot to enjoy a summer morning. 


When painting, some days are better than others. 

I’m One Lucky Lady!

Sometimes you’re lucky!

No… I did not win PowerBall!

Bur a few weeks ago, through an online giveaway, I won a copy of Richard Sheppard’s new book, Impressions of Wine Country.

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Just look at that glorious scene! Can’t you feel the warm sun on your back?

I first became acquainted with Richard Sheppard in 2013 when I saw his work in Danny Gregory’s book, An Illustrated Journey. Richard has a lovely, loose, atmospheric technique that nicely evokes a sense of place, particularly in this book about California, its wines, and their “terroir”. I’ve done a bit of wine tasting in New York’s Finger Lakes region and have always dreamed of doing the same out west.

Richard’s book reads as a monthly look into his wine experience as he visits vintners across the Sonoma and Napa valleys. Each page is illustrated with one of his fabulous watercolors. I particularly enjoyed seeing how Richard captured an iconic pear tree in each of the four seasons. Not only can I admire and learn from his artwork  but I’m learning about wine and its production to boot!

Highly recommended!  This would make a great gift whether the recipient is an artist, an oenophile, a Californian or just someone who dreams of getting away!

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Please check out Richard Sheppard online for more of his wonderful images including many from his travels outside wine country.  You won’t regret it.

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Disclaimer:  I won this copy in a blog giveaway.  I was not compensated nor was I asked to review this book.

Tunbridge World’s Fair 2015

Yes, another fair! The Tunbridge World’s Fair!

(Just a quick explanation… this book is made with 130gsm Gutenberg and has pre-painted pages which I just drew right over. They were prepared with dilute acrylic paint and acrylic ink so there was no fear of bleeding.)

Once I got though the mass of children on a school expedition I made a bee-line for the poultry barn… I have a real soft spot for those birdies… especially ducks!  These are Runner Ducks!  They’re known for dropping eggs everywhere as they go about their day!

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Poor page planning on my part… I hate it when the eye ends up in the gutter!

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There was a steady stream (no pun intended) of heifers and their humans walking to the river to cool off and grab a drink.  I was so excited to catch them I put my first sketch upside down in the journal.  Sheesh!  I had to do another!

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Lots and lots of cows!

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After a quick stop to check out the vegetables and the cake testers (no, they don’t spit it out after tasting like the wine tasters do… they swallow all the goodness) I stopped back in the poultry and rabbit barn. Don’t you love their topknots?

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Most of the children had gone so I had enough breathing space to pull out my paints.

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The chicks are only 3 days old!

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And no… I was NOT a participant other than visiting the fair but one of the volunteers was so taken by my journal that he gave me a ribbon!

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Put it in your calendar… it always starts 10 days after Labor Day.  If my calculations are correct that’ll be between Thursday 15 September and Sunday 18 September 2016.  I’ll be there!

Let’s Go To The Fair!

Hopkinton State Fair that is.

It’s the 100th anniversary of New Hampshire’s State Fair and you still have time to visit… It’s open through Labor Day… Monday, 7 September, 2015.

I arrived nice and early armed with my sketchbook and pen, watercolors and brush safely tucked in my left hip pocket. Come! …walk with me as I travel and sketch my way through the barns.

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The Avian Flu Virus has plagued the upper midwest causing the fairs like the Minnesota State Fair to cancel their poultry exhibit. We’re fortunate, so far New England has been spared, allowing the Hopkinton exhibit to continue this year.  Each year I’ve been able to sketch the fantastical variety of poultry breeds but this year was special.  I managed to paint my sketches as I stood before each bird… a major accomplishment in my art progress! No painting later at home this year.

150904-3150904-4Salmon Faverolles… Isn’t he gorgeous!

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I was on my way to sketch the dairy cows when I was hit by an incredible sneezing fit. Time to reconsider my next subjects.

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There’s shade and picnic tables alongside the duck pond and it’s my favorite place to regroup, relax and do one final page before packing up my supplies for the day.

In an hour I’m home… planning my next fair visit. I think it’ll be the Tunbridge World’s Fair in two weeks… stay tuned!

Saint-Gaudens Paint-Out

I consider myself fortunate to live near to two of New England’s small jewels in the National  Park Service. Both Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park and Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site are easily within reach. Saint-Gaudens in particular is a favorite location for my plein air group on a beautiful summer day.

We met there a few weeks ago and each one of us, although close in proximity, chose to sketch and paint a different view. I chose to sketch the Hermes sculpture standing along the edge of the garden, a particularly suitable spot for the god of transitions and boundaries.

As I started in I realized he wouldn’t fit on the page and I abandoned this page only to return to add the blooms and frame out what I had captured of dear Hermes.

Saint-GaudensNHS-1I fared better in my second attempt. Not only did he fit easily on the page, but I managed to capture his surroundings as well. By the end of this session I was quite hot from sitting in the sun, perfect timing to stop and see what my compatriots accomplished. Besides, it was time for lunch and I knew they would be off in search of nourishment.

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I got all the way back to my car before I remembered I hadn’t stamped the S-G National Park stamp in my journal. It’s become habit and I certainly didn’t want to break my streak. So… back I went. But the stamp wouldn’t easily fit on my previous pages and… I was getting a second-wind. After my landscape outing at VINS I was eager to try my paint only technique at capturing Ascutney Mountain.

Saint-GaudensNHS-3I’m quite happy with the range of values… getting my darks dark enough has always been a weakness.

But… still no place for the stamp! …just had to add another page to my day.

Saint-Gaudens7Saint-GaudensNHS-5Now there’s plenty of room for journaling and those coveted stamps.

Success… time to head home!