Watercolor Sketches

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My morning start. If I work small, if I work quickly and loosely, I can stir up whatever creative genes I possess to pump up the excitement, pump up the skill set for a day of painting.

This is my current sketchbook. It’s filled with watermedia sketches created in a matter of minutes once I turn on the lights in my studio each day.  I start with watercolor and often add casein. The watercolor is transparent; the casein helps me resolve the image with some opaque color.

I use a coil bound Field Series Watercolor Journal with 140 watercolor paper. Although I haven’t tried this Iexpect the journal would also work well with mixed media technique. The size I use is 6″ x 6″ but it comes in a variety of sizes and different cover colors. Here’s mine:

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I use Qor watercolor paints from Golden Artists Colors and Shiva casein available from Richeson Art. And today, I seemed to be extra enthusiastic so here a couple more sketches from this morning’s start up session.

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Red and Blue Can Make Green

aftertheraiinlowres

I’m not fond of the color green. As a landscape painter that can be a bit of a problem. I’ve tried mixes of warm and cool yellows with warm and cool blues and I use some of those mixes in my paintings. I can’t say they make my heart sing.

So my challenge is to create peaceful, soft landscapes using as little green or yellow-green as possible. I push my greens towards blue-green ( or yellow, or orange, or…)!

A few months ago I painted a blue foreground that seemed a little strident. I toned the blue with a glaze of transparent red iron oxide and a whole new world opened to me.

Using red and blue (Transparent Red Iron Oxide and Phthalo Blue (green shade)) I get a somewhat transparent green that can range in value from very dark to soft and light. It’s a green that makes me happy. Add a little more blue to the mix and the color becomes blue-green, add a little more of the red oxide and the green becomes very dark, add white and it’s a softer, lighter green. Mix with other colors on my palette and it holds its own. It’s a rich color mix that keeps me interested.

Using this red and blue combination with some bit players added for contrast, I built the above painting, “After the Rain”, 12″ x 16″ on cradle board. And in the photo below, I present my latest palette for landscape painting.

paintsformarchblog
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A Quick Look at Painting with a Knife

Look quickly. This video will take you through a painting from start to finish in three minutes. I only wish I could paint that fast! I wanted to show you how I paint several of my images using a palette knife and shop towel, and I wanted to show that process from start to finish.

I painted the background an all over red-orange to begin, thinking the color would glow through in the final product. It doesn’t, but I learned long ago not to fall in love with any particular color or shape in the painting process. It’s all subject to change.

The video shows how I work back and forth between foreground and background and how I soften some of the sharp edges using a shop towel (with a little water if I’ve left the paint too long and it starts to set up before I can manipulate the color).

I mostly work from light values to dark values. I mix the color value with the knife then just kiss the surface of the painting with the knife to apply the paint. I work wet in wet when I want the colors to blend on the surface but I’ll let the colors dry when I want crisp, clear color changes.

The painting is an 8″ x 8″ acrylic painted on cradle board that was sealed and gessoed.
yellowfields8x8
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Mixed Media and a Print

Mixed mono

When I create a monoprint on a Gelli Plate I mat the finished print leaving a 3/4 inch border around all four edges. However, with this print, I trimmed the paper right to the edge of the image and therefore couldn't mat the print without losing a good deal of the image area.

Instead, I chose to glue the print to a cradle board and build from there. I gessoed the cradle board (8" x 8"), then adhered the print using Golden's Soft Gel Gloss. I spread the gel thinly over the entire board, placed the image on top, then, wth a piece of waxed paper on top of the image to protect it, I worked a brayer back and forth gently to ensure good adhesion.

I then put low tack painters tape over the entire image to protect it and then smoothly applied Golden's Light Molding Paste to create a raised border. (Remove tape before paste dries.).

Once the paste dried I washed Golden's new QOR Watercolors over the border to tone the color. I used a couple of different yellows and a soft blue. The watercolor tended to soak into the paste. Next, I taped some vertical lines and used a sponge to dab on strips of blue acrylic in the upper right and green acrylic in the lower left of the border.

Finally, I used a 2B pencil to create a tree line and some shapes on the horizon. I dabbed some acrylic highlight colors into the tree foliage and the horizon shapes…and I considered it a day!

I haven't varnished this, but you could. Just carefully apply a thin layer of gel medium over the entire surface (working gently so you don't disturb the graphite), then, when the gel is dry, varnish.

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What Three Colors Can Do

Blue on Blue

For a while, it’ll be three colors and three colors alone. The same three colors over and over to create paintings with rich and varied color. I’ve been focusing on teaching “limited palette” classes lately. So I decided I would try it myself.

I limited my palette to three colors plus black and white.

The three colors I’m currently using are Hansa Yellow Medium, Napthol Red Medium and Phthalo Blue (green shade) plus Mars Black and Titanium White. The painting above uses all of these colors. Each mixed color contains a little black to dull the intensity then as much white as is needed to create the tone/value I want.

The limited palette is a great exercise to force you to work with values. And it’s amazing how varied the colors can be.

I keep books of color mixes. This photo shows one of the pages of just one of my books

colour chips

with a toner added to the three current colors in my palette – Burnt Umber for some of the colors, Raw Sienna for others. The book is a great resource if I need a little nudge. Sometimes the color chips will be the start of a new painting.

And just to show you how varied your paintings can be using a limited palette, here’s a picture of a small still life painted with the same three colors.

Apples

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Stepping Out the Process

Mono print process - finished

Another 6″ x 6″ monoprint and this time I have a few stepouts to hopefully help explain my process.

These are the colors I used for this monoprint.

Mono print process colours

I almost always start with large shapes and work down to the smallest shapes. So, to get started, I roll a thin layer of paint over the entire plate. I use a registration board to keep each printed layer in line so I cover the edges of the board with tape while I apply paint. That keeps paint off the registration board and, when I remove the tape prior to printing, no paint will transfer to the print paper.

This image shows a single, transparent, layer of Indian Yellow Hue applied to the plate prior to printing.

Mono print process 2

Next, I usually work on the sky adding layers of different colors until I get the soft random value changes that I like. I work back and forth between colors until I’m satisified. I have a dry, clean brush nearby so after I print, if there are too many harsh edges on the printed layer, I’ll gently sweep some of those hard edges to soften them. And if the print starts to get too gummy, I let it dry overnight.

Here are a couple of shots of the first sky layer of soft green followed by a blue layer (shown on the print).

Mono print process 3

Mono print process 4

At some point, I’ll add an overall color to the land then start building layers of color letting some of the original yellow show through.

Mono print process 5

With the larger shapes filled in, I then start adding smaller shapes using a smaller brush. The green in the image above was applied with a three inch bristle brush; the highlights in the final print were painted on the plate with a #4 flat.

I use a lot of brushes – one brush for every color, and I don’t rinse or wash the brushes until I’m finished with the print. The only other tools I use are shishkabob skewers to create caligraphic marks (and to scratch back into shape an over-sized blob of color), and old credit cards for fine lines.

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It Starts With A Can Of Paint

Tray

Maybe it comes from looking in the mirror every morning when I’m brushing my teeth, but I’m becoming partial to old stuff.

Distressed, crackled, stained, antiqued, I’m on a mission to age almost everything I touch. I’m eyeing the dining room furniture right now. The set came from my wife’s grandmother so it’s old already, but it still has clean lines and smooth surfaces. I want to change that.

So I bought a can of Annie Sloan chalk paint in Duck Egg Blue. My wife’s first reaction was “who would ever paint their furniture duck egg blue?”. But with a little antiquing, a little distressing, I think I’ll be able to win her over.

I’m starting small to convince her.  I found this round tin tray in the same store where I bought the paint. I covered it with two coats of duck egg blue. Then, instead of ageing the tray, I added a contemporary stamped design on the floor and a wiggly black line of acrylic ink around the outside base. To create the stamp, I drew poplar trees on a piece of foam; cut out the foam and applied a metallic blue/green paint to the tree stamp using a sponge to create texture then pressed the foam, painted side down, onto the tray. That’s it! Real simple.

And my plan may have been successful. My wife purchased the bird cage at Michael’s and she made the table topper to match. Next step, the furniture.  I’ll start with the inside of the hutch!

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Blurred Lines

Valentines

I was so proud of myself. I took a photo of every step in creating this monoprint. Then I went to load them into my computer, pushed some random button, and now I can't find the photos anywhere. So we'll make do with just this one picture of the completed design.

This is "Blurred Lines" a 6" x 6" monoprint created using a Gelli plate and Golden Open Acrylics. This is my Valentines card to my wife. To me, the landscape is the perfect subject for a painting. Whether I envision that landscape large or micro, the subject always carries significant meaning to me. And I painted that meaning bolder this time by wrapping the landscape in a large heart.

Even though I don't have the stepped photos, here are the colors I used – Quinacridone Magenta; Cadmium Red Medium; Sap Green; Titanium White; Teal; Bronze Irridescent. 

And these are the applicators – a roller, a stiff-bristled brush, a small flat, a credit card and a bamboo stick. While most applicators are obvious, I used the edge of the credit card to create the smaller, horizontal shapes. The bamboo stick I used to create some vertical texture both by scraping off paint from the printed image and by adding paint either to the gel plate or the printed image. 

I started with red rolled over the entire plate then built values of red using additions of white and/or sap green. A little bit of pure white and pure teal finished the piece. I then rolled the gel plate with sap plus red; placed a heart cut from paper over the plate then pulled a last print.

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Keeping It Old

Bridgewater school

The school photograph is from 1890 so the challenge was to make the rest of the painting look old as well.

But first, I needed to create a photo transfer of the original picture. I photocopied the picture and applied a coat a day of Golden Soft Gel medium for about four or five days. I brushed the gel medium right over the image. Once the gel was set on the last day I wet the back of the image and started rubbing to remove the paper.  After two or three attempts at removing the paper I was left with a transparent image which I glued to the canvas with polymer medium.  You can paint the canvas first, and the colors you brush onto the canvas will show through the photo transfer. But I left my background white.

Next came Golden’s Crackle Paste. I applied this with a palette knife and made it thick enough that the cracks would develop. A thin application won’t show cracks. The product recommendation is that crackle paste be applied to a solid background such as Masonite or cradle board, rather than canvas. But I’ve found that if I don’t apply the paste too thickly and I varnish the completed painting to hold everything in place, then I seem to be able to use the paste on stretched canvas.

When the crackle paste dried (after a couple of days), I again used a palette knife and applied Golden’s Light Molding Paste. I applied the paste roughly to get some ridges and valleys.

When all the mediums were dry, I took sandpaper and sanded back any spots that were too thick or too rough. I paid particular attention around the edge of the transfer.

Next, I brushed Payne’s Grey acrylic over the entire piece and immediately wiped the color back using a damp shop towel. The objective was to leave a darker value in the valleys and cracks.

I brushed a glaze of Transparent Red Oxide over the photo transfer then added some stamped, stencilled and collaged elements to complete the piece.

This painting “Bridgewater School” is to be part of a group exhibition at a local gallery featuring many of the old schools of the area. The Bridgewater building still exists and is used as a community center but most of the others have disappeared.

 

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Do It Once, Then Repeat…

Hot

Enough of frost quakes, ice sheets  and layers of snow, I’m going Hot.

 No, I’m not going anywhere tropical, I won’t be taking a cruise, I’m simply changing my color palette. Time to bring out the oranges, reds and yellows to warm my heart while I ignore what’s happening outside the studio window.

 Here’s a start to my warm wanderings, appropriately titled “Hot”!  It’s a 6” x 6” monoprint created using a Gelli plate, Rives BFK paper and Golden Open Acrylics.

 With monoprints, I rely on serendipity to guide me to a final image. Seldom do I know where I’m going before I begin. And that means, often, a great many layers of color before I can say “finished”.

 To help ensure that each layer is printed on top of the previous layer, I built this simple registration system that I wanted to share. It’s my Home Depot art jig – a piece of Melamine board; lattice strips and angle brackets.  For the six inch and 8 x 10 inch Gelli Plates, I used a 12 x 14 inch piece of Melamine and attached lattice strips. Then I attached angle brackets to the lattice strips. The Gelli plate will butt up to the lattice strips. To ensure a white border around the print, I decided on the width of the border then measured that border distance from the Gelli plate and marked the spot several times along the top and side lattice pieces. I attached the  brackets so that the inside edge of the bracket lined up with the marks on the lattice.

 To use the registration jig, position your Gelli plate then tape off the lattice strips so you don’t get paint on them. Apply paint to the plate. Remove tape. Position the upper left corner of your paper into the angle bracket, making sure the paper edges also line up with the straight brackets.  Print the paper. Remove the paper without jostling the plate. Then repeat for every new color layer. The print layers should line up each time. To help with paper placement, place a pencil mark on the back of your print to indicate which corner of the paper fits into the angle bracket.

RegistrationRegistration

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