Sunday, December 10, 2017

Finished Barn Owl watercolor

Here's the finished Barn Owl painting.  I continue to enjoy this decorative motif-based style.  It's the only way, so far, that I've been able to make much sense of watercolor painting.  That may be because I like to use transparent colors only and no masking fluid.  Those choices make things a bit difficult with having to paint one object around, rather than over, another (unless you don't mind the first one peeking through the second one!).

This painting is different from my others in that I put in a fading wash around the edges.  I like it.  I also used one of Daniel Smith's duochrome watercolors around the owl's head giving a bit of a halo effect.  I love using metallics, even though it means that prints are not feasible.

As for my new palette, I like it very much and recommend it.  But there is one thing I would change.  For me, the paint wells are too deep.  When I have the palette on the table beside the painting-in-progress, I can't see into the paint wells.  I need to put the palette on a lower side table to see the paint colors very well.  I'm going to pass that comment on to Robax Engineering, the manufacturer of these wonderful paint palettes.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Using the New Palette

I'm painting a barn owl surrounded by foliage and floral motifs, using my new watercolor palette from Robax Engineering.  For whatever reason, I always seem to experience a bit of a block when I use a new tool or approach, but I pushed through it and got this far today.

I keep thinking how much easier this would be to do with acrylic, but I'm pushing myself to learn watercolor because I believe that the colors can be so beautiful, and I like the funky things the paint can do, like the "blooms" in the leaves.

The hardest part so far was the Indigo shading around the edges.  I made several passes at it, while I think a more experienced watercolorist would get the value correct the first time.

But as for the palette, it took a bit of getting used to.  Although it holds virtually the same number of colors as the palette I'm used to (19 vs 18) it's much bigger so I've had to rearrange my work space.  The mixing areas are also different - wedge shapes instead of rectangles - but I'm getting used to that as well.  By the way, even using staining colors, the mixing trays washed out beautifully.

There was nothing wrong with the palette I was using before, but what attracted me to this one is the well liners that allow me to switch out colors.  So far, so good.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Old Way and the New Way

My watercolor palette has served me well.  Not so many color wells, but quite enough.  From this many colors I found I could mix about anything.  And plenty of mixing space too.

But ever since taking an online class from Danielle Donaldson I've been fascinated by watercolor palettes from Robax engineering.  This engineering company somehow got into making watercolor palettes based on design ideas from various artists.  I've been scrutinizing them for over six months now and finally took the plunge.

The one I was initially interested in had wells for 85 colors!  But after using my old palette for a while I realized that so many colors sitting in front of me would just be confusing and in the end I got this one with 19 paint wells.  It's 12 inches in diameter.

The super cool thing though, is that you can buy liners for the wells (which I did) which allows you to easily switch out colors!

These are the colors I chose (all Daniel Smith):

New Gamboge
Quinacridone Gold
Quinacridone Sienna
Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet
English Red Ochre
Quinacridone Rose
Burnt Umber
Permanent Brown
Rose of Ultramarine
Indancrone Blue
Imperial Purple
Deep Sap Greem
Terre Verte
Hooker's Green
Sap Green
Phthalo Green Blue Shade
Prussian Green

- not necessarily an orthodox selection, but I really like these colors.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Forest Guides

After doing the collage with the young woman and ermine both wearing fascinators, I found that I enjoyed drawing people - something new for me.  So I decided to do a series of three such pieces, each with a young woman and an animal.  For this one, I chose a rabbit and wanted to make the woman a red head in a very green setting, suggestive of Ireland.  After completing theawings separately, I began the collage.

I had a beautiful magazine page with a mystical looking landscape and decided to use it as the first layer in the upper background.  As I always do, in an effort to avoid wrinkle when gluing coated papers such as magazine pages, I dampened both the front and back of the page before gluing it down.  But despite my careful preparation, it began wrinkling anyway so I kept smoothing it out with a brush.  I was completely focused on the wrinkle and missed the fact that the ink was beginning to smear, leaving the image that I liked so much largely obscured.  The lesson I learned was to spray these images with workable fixative before glueing them down.

I was discouraged, but continued with the first few layers of the collage. 

At this point I decided that her right eye looked wrong and tried to fix it.  In the process I pretty much messed it up.  I nearly threw the piece away.  I can't remember ever doing that before.  But I decided that I wouldn't learn anything that way and determined to finish it and hope for the best.

Next I began to apply color.  One of my priorities was to eliminate the white halo around the rabbit ears.  This halo is a result of tearing out the rabbit drawing then gluing it against the dark background.  I also added more collage elements to soften the bottom edge of the drawing of the woman.

At this stage I really didn't like the piece and once more almost threw it away.  I also thought that I probably should give up on drawing people and stick to animals.  I also didn't like her looking straight ahead at the viewer - it felt sort of creepy.

Nonetheless, I pushed ahead.  I decided to push the characters back and add an element to compete with them visually, namely the collaged leaf spray in front of her.  I deepened the color in her hair and stenciled a few leaves over the top of her head.  Basically, I just kept fooling with it and added more color washes, widening the color range of the background.  I was also careful to add a few subtle areas of Burnt Sienna washes to repeat the color of her hair elsewhere in the piece.

I added a few bronze paint spirals - the beginning of the final decorations which are my favorite part of the collage process.

I decided to add something of interest at her forehead and, since this piece is supposed to suggest Ireland with all the greens, the red hair, and the rabbit, I decided on a Celtic knot.  I drew the knot on a piece of tracing paper then inked the lines and painted it with gold and bronze metallic paints.  I carefully ripped the motif out of the piece of tracing paper and glued it in place.  I was expecting to see a bit of the edges of the tracing paper as a translucent blur but, surprisingly, the tracing paper completely disappeared.  

By the way, I've had trouble in the past with tracing paper wrinkling when glued, so I brushed it with water first.  After dampening the front side, it spontaneously transformed into a tight roll.  I unrolled it and dampened the back at which point it flattened out and I could glue it down.

I got the vintage green glass jewel from the Etsy shop Yummy Treasures.  I originally was going to glue it in the center of the Celtic knot but then decided to place it where you see it.  I added more little decorations including the shards of foil (from various types of chocolates) and then was done.

In the end, I'm pretty happy with it and am glad I kept going.  But I still wish I had chosen a less startling pose for her.  Next time...

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Finished Crocodile Piece

To finish the piece I detailed the birds, strengthened the colors in parts of the reeds, added the foil stars and smaller bits of foil around the crocodiles, brightened behind the heron, added gold touches including the gold starts in the sky, and placed the inscription at the bottom left.  The inscription is supposed to mean "rain over the river."

I'm quite attached to this piece but can't fully explain why.  I like the mood, but there's more to it than that.  Something mysterious.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Putting it Together

I glued the three pieces - the two crocodile strips and the larger piece with the heron - together.  This was not easy because the paper was pretty heavy (Strathmore Mixed Media paper) and a bit warped.  The moisture of the glue (I used Liquitex Matte Gel Medium) also warped the paper a bit.  I had to keep pressing the three pieces together with my fingers for quite a while until the adhesive took hold.

At that point, I had a pretty wavy and warped piece.  So I spread a towel on my kitchen counter and laid the piece upside down on the towel.  I sprayed the back with water and covered it with a few layers of paper towels.  Then I topped the whole thing off with heavy books and let it dry overnight.  In the morning, it was flat!

Then I began the painting.  I wanted a dark stormy sky and used opaque paint, using a couple of slightly different colors, and a couple of graduated layers, one over the other.  I blotted the second layer with a damp paper towel for an uneven look.

The most fun part of this painting was the reeds.  It was exacting work with a liner brush.  I used photos of ancient Egyptian tomb paintings for inspiration, but added my own touches.

I realized I needed something more, so I painted (Daler Rowney acrylic ink dropped on a shape painted with cleear water)  the two birds on a separate piece of paper.  I tore out the duck and glued it in place.  I usually prefer tearing to cutting, but I cut out other bird because I wanted to preserve all the background around it.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Inspired by Crocodiles

I was watching a TV show about ancient Egypt and one of the visited sites was Seti I's tomb.  There was the most beautiful painting of a crocodile.  That inspired me.  So, using Tracy Verdugo's method of dropping acrylic ink into a shape painted with clear water, I painted three crocodiles. 

A page in a magazine about travel had a wonderful photo of a storm approaching over palm trees.  That gave me the theme of a storm approaching over the ancient Nile.  I researched several more tomb paintings, then painted this heron, again ink dropped into a wet shape..

I painted all three crocs on one sheet of Strathmore Mixed Media paper, then ripped them out, into strips.  The heron I painted on a full11" x 14" sheet.  After fiddling a bit with the composition, I decided to only use two of the crocodiles.  I glued the pieces together and let it dry over-night, ready for the next step in whatever might emerge.