The Eyes Have It

These eyes are from the final image… notice the more rounded iris on the left… still a bit cross-eyed… but nowhere near as bad as in my first draft.

Over the summer I painted this fella from a photo in the Sktchy app on my phone. First I drew in a rough sketch in pencil and then painted a light base layer.

I’m using an Arteza Watercolor Journal – 9 in. X 12 in. This paper sucks up paint and I knew I needed layers to get the desired contrast and vibrancy.

Better. I even thought I was done. But no. I’m sure you can see it too… there’s something wrong with the eye on the left. His eyes aren’t tracking correctly… he’s cross-eyed in my journal but not in his photo. (I’m sorry I can’t show you the photo but he owns the copyright and I don’t have permission to post it. You can see it linked to my work in Sktchy.)

Anyway… it sat on my desk for months before I attempted the fix. It’s subtle, but I rounded the iris on the left hoping to separate the two irises and correct his focus. It seems to have helped… sort of… not entirely, but it’s time to move on, turn the page and select another victim.

When Do I Know I’m Done?

I thought I was done… scanned it and closed the book.

I was happy, at least I thought I was, yet I knew something was off. I studied it using what Roz Stendahl calls the “editing eye”. This isn’t some rash commentary from my internal critic but an honest review of technique and composition to determine what could be improved.

Although I lost the tilt of his head in comparison to the inspiration photo I could live with that. Instead I focused on how washed out my watercolors looked. Now that was something I could change.

Another layer of darker pigments for his hair and beard and a deeper orange glaze for his jacket and I was done.

Not perfect… but done.

#Arteza A4 watercolor book

2019 Hopkinton State Fair – Part 6

Auuuugh! No Tunbridge World’s Fair for me today. Instead I’m home dealing with a leaking kitchen faucet and sink!  Looking on the bright side, I’ll have more time to write this wrap up and I figure I can always sketch my kitchen instead.

I love going to the fair and over the years I realized my sketching success is inversely proportional to how much stuff I lug.  Carry less – sketch more is my motto. I pack two inexpensive permanent ink pens, a small watercolor set, one short real watercolor brush, a small nalgene jar of water, paper towel and my sketchbook into my extra small Timbuk2 messenger bag (I have an older version) and tuck my wallet and phone into the zipper pockets on my lightweight vest.

I brought my current sketchbook, the A5 landscape version of the Arteza Watercolor Book. Now this book has quite a few issues which may prevent you from liking it but its price may just be the best thing it has going for it. Currently Amazon has a pack of two books for approximately $20 USD. At that price I’m willing to overlook a lot of its faults precisely because it’s inexpensive and not precious… perfect for doing studies. Roz Stendahl published a series of blog posts reviewing the A4 portrait version of this book. If you think you might like to try the Arteza for yourself, I urge you to read the entire series. I think there are 9 or 10 posts and they’re well worth your time.

My own issues with this Arteza book revolves mostly around its construction. First off, I prefer portrait orientation to landscape but they don’t make the A5 in portrait. A few of the spreads don’t have matching surfaces across the gutter, although most do match. The book is not bound with the stitching parallel to the paper grain and the binding seems to separate where the signatures are sewn together. There doesn’t seem to be any glue on the book’s spine for stability either. And finally, watercolor takes a long time to dry. This must be due to its sizing and it’s not inherently bad… it’s just something to consider if you like to work fast.

But the good thing about the Arteza’s slow drying time is the watercolor has time to move, blend, and basically do its magic thing. You can see this effect in yesterday’s Nubian goat images and the images of the Porcelain Bantam Pullet from Tuesday’s post. Those effects are what allows me to overlook the faults and keep using this book.

But will I buy more of these books?  Probably not. There are other watercolor papers that allow those wonderful effects and I’m fortunate to be able to bind my own books. I guess I’ll be binding more watercolor books as one of my winter projects.

Finally, next time I must make time to sketch the other mammals at the fair… you know, the two-legged ones. There are humans, big and small, short and tall, young and old, all over the place but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at my fair pages over the years.

Next year’s fair.  You heard it here first!

Arteza A5 landscape watercolor book

Moving Beyond Adolescence

A few days ago my friend Bobbie Herron published “That Dang Adolescent Period” on her blog, Aloft with Inspiration. In it she describes the idiosyncrasies and unpredictability of watercolor and the importance of perseverance. Please take a minute to read it… I’ll be here when you’ve finished.

Finally I was inspired to revisit a sketchbook-painting I started… and abandoned… over a week earlier. It had hit the adolescent phase where inexplicably everything looked wrong. Not only were my proportions off but my colors looked pale and insipid.

It needed more layers… but where to begin? I was paralyzed. Instead I closed the book knowing it was unfinished.

The sketchbook sat on my desk all week mocking my indecision.

Then I read Bobbie’s post.

It took me less than an hour to add more hair to the crown improving her proportions. A few more layers of bold juicy watercolors and I called it done.

The adolescent had grown up.

A4 – Arteza Watercolor Sketchbook

#30x30DirectWatercolor2019 Part Four

Here they are… my last seven mini-paintings from The #30x30DirectWatercolor2019 challenge.

I loved this sweet bird. The coloration might not be real but sparrows really do stand with their feet in what ballet teachers call second position.

Chickens, on the other hand, don’t know ballet.

People in the park.

Salt n’ pepper shakers on the table.

Friday evening sunset.

Astilbe in bloom.

A lemon branch… not from the garden, but from the local craft store’s floral department.

Whew… it’s been quite a month!

I’ve decided I worked too hard to just give up and go back to painting with pens or pencil underlines but I’m also not prepared to keep working like this daily. Instead I’ll continue practicing direct watercolor off and on… maybe once a week or so. After all, I have many more pages to fill!


#30x30DirectWatercolor2019 Part Three

June was moving fast and I was still committed to creating daily paintings in my tiny watercolor sketchbook. Oh yes, there were some days when I seriously considered grabbing my pen or pencil, even possibly giving up completely but then I thought about why challenges exist.

If it was easy it wouldn’t be a challenge!

… and so the paint only challenge rolled on.

I haven’t seen any butterflies with this coloration but I loved painting her.

It was late and I had not found my inspiration during the day so these metallic horses became my muses.

Hummingbird first and the bee balm the next day. They’re always together in my garden!

Another busy day but there’s always a subject lurking in the mirror.

Much more time for this broken seashell. This really shows how lovely the watercolor blends and granulates on this paper.

I have struggled for a long while to paint my cats. Here’s our smaller girl.

Barred Owl at VINS, Vermont Institute of Natural Science, our local raptor rehab center.

By this time I could see the finish line. I’ll post the final bunch on Monday. See you then.


#30x30DirectWatercolor2019 Part Two

Now for the next batch of my small June paintings.

Bumblebee. Can you see how I attached her wings? There’s no way this fuzzy girl would be able to fly even if she were real!

And then to continue the theme I painted a Dragonfly . I always called them Dragonflies… only when I moved east did I hear them referred to as Darning Needles. ( … and I’ve been told Damselflies are a whole ‘nother thing completely!)

One of my favorite pair of earrings… but please zoom in on the lettering. See how the cobalt teal blue pushed the burnt sienna to the edges… it was pure serendipity. So cool!

Drawing an ellipse with ink is hard enough… negative painting one pushed me far out of my comfort zone.

The squirrels are always burying acorns in my garden…

and I’m always digging them out once they’ve sprouted into tiny oaks trees.

On the left… went to an artist meet-up where I chose to paint this small bouquet on our café table.

Thinking and practicing facial proportions I painted this young woman from my imagination.

Apatosaurus. Long neck… long tail. Ooooh… I love mixing greens!

We’re at the halfway mark of the challenge … much more to come!


Testing Another Sketchbook

Yes, another. This is the one I’m using for June’s 30 x 30 Direct Watercolor challenge… it’s the Arteza 5.5 in. x 3.5 in. landscape watercolor sketchbook that I purchased from Amazon. $14.99 for a pack of two… I believe they’re only sold that way.

Update: I just looked and they’re $13.98 for two through Amazon… at that price you can try them without guilt!

This small size is perfect for painting on the go. And it’s quite thick at 80 pages. As comparison the popular watercolor Moleskine has 60 pages.

You can see in this view of the bottom of this book that as of this afternoon it’s just over halfway filled.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the binding stands up when the book is full.


#30×30 Direct Watercolor 2019 Part One

Today is the last day of June which means it’s also the last day of the 30×30 Direct Watercolor challenge for 2019. Marc Taro Holmes created this challenge last year to prompt artists to think of shapes instead of line when painting with watercolor. Marc requested that when we posted our art on social media we tag it with #30x30DirectWatercolor2019.

I’ve painted a piece every day this month so I guess it’s about time I shared. These are in a very inexpensive 5.5 in. x 3.5 in. landscape format watercolor sketchbook by Arteza. This book has quite a few issues which I’ll go into later but I’ve enjoyed working with it this month as I adapted my painting style to work with this paper.

Poppies in my garden… I’m happy with the buds but the flower? … not so much. I forgot to leave white bits.

Whelk… I like how this more textured side of the paper allows for watercolor “magic”, a term popularized by Australian artist Liz Steel.

Poppies revisited.

Garlic done by starting with negative painting of the background, as I did with the whelk above… and only when that was dry did I go in to paint the bulb and roots.

People practice… something I should be doing at least once a week so it doesn’t seem so daunting.

Lucky bamboo. This turned out better than I expected… besides, it’s always fun to practice mixing my own greens.

Sunset. We’ve been decluttering old photos and this night I tried my hand at capturing the feel of of this before it was tossed.

That’s it for part one… stay tuned, there’s more to come.