Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Week 7: Boats

I am so proud of my painting this week, it might be the best I've done.
There is an artist I really admire named Joseph Zbukvic, and I used one of his pieces as my reference.  Everything on his website is amazing and inspiring:  Paintings by Zbukvic

To prepare, I did a small study during my lunch hour.  I tried to do a slanted horizon, but it didn't work at all.  I'm so glad I did the study first:

This is how far I got during class.  I liked it a lot, but I wasn't getting the misty mountain effect, and the sail needed more detail.  I was pretty nervous that I'd mess it up, but I'm glad I made the changes.

First I used a scrubber to fade out the rooftops and shadows, and then I darkened the mountain in a few places, making sure to soften all of my edges. I added more masts, and some more detail to the sail and water, and that was about it.  This was my last class for this session, and I'm not planning on taking any more classes until after the holidays, so I might not be posting much for a while.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Week 6: White Flowers

It's crazy how much color goes into a white flower.  I'm not a fan of the background or the stems/leaves, but it's the first time I did a detailed flower and I think I did a great job with the colors and blending.

I used an amazing watercolor painting I found on google images as my reference.

Week 5: Flowers

For this week we were supposed to employ a loose, relaxed style to paint a vase of flowers.  For my reference I kind of cheated and followed a tutorial in a book by Charles Reid.  I wish I could come up with something like this on my own!

The first painting went so quickly I had time to start something else.  This next one took about 15 minutes and was done from a photo reference my teacher provided.  It needs some darker greens in the leaves, but I love how loose and easy it was.

Week 4: Moving Water

I haven't been doing much practice between sessions this year, but I did do a practice this week.

After I completely muddied up the left side shrubbery I decided to try a new fern technique.  I think it's kind of interesting, but not the right style.

With this second one I did a much better job with the foliage on the left, but there are still a lot of other issues.  The first thing that jumps out at me is how the waterfall isn't perfect horizontal across the top and is defying gravity.  There are also some gravity-defying rocks floating near the middle.  Oh dear.
Just look at the flowers.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Week 3: Building and Foliage

You may remember this house from a previous post - I painted the neighbor house to this house during the summer.  I preferred the shape of this house and have wanted to come back to it, so this week's assignment was a great match.

Again, I only had an hour to complete the painting below.  The biggest problem to me is the dark foliage on the sides which kept me from seeing the lines of the house in a few places.  I thought I could fake it, but I've ended up with a house that has obvious structural issues.

I am considering giving this a second go.  I'd like to fix the lines and perspective, commit to more shadows, and play up the complementary colors.  I think this could be a really pretty cottage-y type piece if I can loosen up a little, and if I can figure out how to communicate the blue of the house without it becoming overwhelming.

Bottom line though:  I was actually quite pleased by how this came out.

Week 2: Marsh Landscape

After the hot mess I painted the first week of class, I was really pleased by how well this turned out.  I got some really pretty colors, was able to save a lot of effective whites, my reflections weren't bad and I got some nice darks in a few places.

The class format only gives me an hour each week to try to get to a finished state, and after an hour this is probably only about 65% done, but I think it's tough to go back to something once I've put my brush down.

Week 1: Washes

It's kind of ironic that I just mentioned how I feel like I've made so much progress in the past year, and then I have to post my Week 1 in-class study which turned out SO abysmal.  

My teacher provided the reference, which was a close-up of some kind of plant foliage.  We were supposed to practice our washes.  I wish I'd used some glazing techniques and treated the image as a whole instead of a bunch of small shapes.

There is nothing about this to like, and I'm going to put it here and then walk away from it forever.  No looking back!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

One Year

In September of 2010, one year ago, I took my first watercolor class.  I had enjoyed an hour or two of watercolor instruction in a college class about teaching art to children, and 15 years later when my husband and kids gave me some art supplies for my birthday I knew I wanted to give it another try.

In the year since I started painting, I've taken 3 classes and I'm beginning my 4th.  Two of the classes were pretty traditional, and one was an outdoors class.  I still struggle with a lot of things, but what started out as a 10-week experiment has been very enjoyable and fulfilling.  Not only that, but as I compare my current work with my paintings from a year ago I can see a lot of improvement.

I'm looking forward to seeing where this next year will take me.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Plein Air Week 8: Lake Tahoe, Pope Beach

Here are a couple of watercolor sketches I did this weekend while visiting the shore with friends:

Friday, May 20, 2011

Plein Air Week 7: DeMartini Orchard

My next project is a colorful fruit stand not far from work.  It's a great subject, but the only place to really set up is in this tiny little corner of the curb practically in the parking lot.  I did a quick study of another fruit stand I found on-line.

Here's a photo of the fruit stand:


Here is the painting I did on-site.  It was a bright morning, with lots of people going in and out of the store.  I had some trouble figuring out how to do the interior of the store, so I put a car there, but I wish that I hadn't because it doesn't look right.

The best part I think is the umbrella:

Here is a version with the car cropped out:

I am going to take a little break from the weekly painting.  There's a class I'll join again in the fall, and potentially one that starts in July, but I'm not sure about that one.  I will still do some painting this summer, but I want to spend more of my free time being a little more active, and maybe do some reading and bike riding.  I'll still post what I do paint, but it probably won't be as often.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Plein Air Week 6: Capitola Beach

Capitola Beach is a beautiful beach less than an hour from my house, so when some friends invited us to spend the day there with them it seemed like the perfect opportunity for some plein air painting.

I have pretty limited experience painting the ocean, so I watched some youtube videos to try to understand what makes a wave.  I was working very quickly (because it was getting late the night before the beach), so each painting only took about 20 minutes.  They're loose, and not fantastic.  My least favorite is the one with the boy digging in the sand because it's not very good AND because I accidentally gave him a great big sad frown.  My favorite is this first one, because it's the first time I've done reflections.  They were a lot easier than I thought they'd be and I think this one was the best of the bunch.  (It was also the best youtube tutorial.)

This next one is the painting I did at the beach.  There was a kite flying competition that day, and someone was flying a kite right on the part of the beach I wanted to paint.  It didn't come out that great, but it's one of the only paintings I've done where the person didn't come out looking kind of oddly scary.  Instead the scary part is the kite, which looks like a strange, giant bird about to attack the helpless little girl on the beach.  :)

I need to spend some serious time practicing beach paintings since I live so close and will probably have lots of opportunities to paint ocean scenes.  One fun part was having so many people come up and compliment me.  They were probably just being nice, but someday I'd like to paint something I think deserves the fuss.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Plein Air Week 5: Redwood City Marina

This first painting I did from a photo in prep for painting on site:

Then I did this one on site...

I think it's a stronger piece if I crop out some of the water:

I'm probably going to do a light wash over the water to add a little more color, and I wish I didn't paint the purple right up next to the green.  I may scrub it out, but it's not bad and I'm worried I'd ruin it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Plein Air Week 4: Byxbee Park

I didn't do any prep-work for this week's subject, and I ended up cropping off a couple inches from the bottom, but I still think it came out pretty nice.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Plein Air Week 3: Hamilton Avenue

I live near a street with a lot of really quaint old houses with amazing landscaping. 

For my focus next week I'm going to work on painting at least one of the houses from this street.

 I went during lunch today and took some photos of a couple that were especially nice so I can practice at home a few times before doing it "for reals."

I'm a little worried that at some point when I actually set up to paint right on the sidewalk in front of their house things could get a little tense with the people that live there.  I'm not sure what the etiquette is, like whether I should knock on their door and ask, or just go for it.  Hopefully if they're even home they'll feel flattered.

Maybe if any of my preliminary sketches go well I'll bring them along and give them one as a peace offering.  :)

I'm still working on cumulus clouds.  So far no luck!  Which means I'm botching most of my skies lately unless I leave them very plain.  The vegetation here is also overworked.  I think I put in the darks too densely, too near the top of the plant.  The green mini hedge gave me some trouble - I think if I took it more slowly I'd have better luck.  I like that I was able to keep the brightness of the side of the house.

I painted this doorway in less than an hour during a lunch break and I think the doorway itself turned out pretty well.  I think it has depth, and I like the white reflections on the door.  If I add a shadow to the wheelbarrow I think it'll help it, and if I faded out the path sooner, or did dark grass and a light path that would probably have been a better choice.  My white shutters in both paintings haven't looking very convincing.  For one thing, instead of the dark outlines I will try a pale gray next time for texture and indicate the shadows and edges with a darker shade of the house color.  

The big problem is really the plants.  I'd blame the trouble on lack of time, but my plants always come out kind of like this.

I'll probably just do one more painting of this house, I need to do the on-site version, and then I'm going to spend the rest of this week practicing shrubbery, trees and skies.

This is still a work in progress, I like the sky though.  Really, really pale colors are what worked, I started with a pale blue on the left and then added a little yellow as I went right.  Lucky I didn't turn everything green!  I still have more to do on it, but I couldn't stay at the site any longer (rain!) so I'll have to finish it up at home.

Oh, funny story - a bird pooped on it and on my hand!  Guess we know what the bird thought of my work.  :)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Plein Air Week 2: Rengstorff House

 This week I'm going to be painting Rengstorff House, which is the oldest historic house in the town where I work.  Tonight I did a small (7x9ish) from this photo:  Rengstorff House

I did a trace of the photo onto the paper so I didn't have to worry about the drawing skills (or lack thereof).  I wanted to focus on composition and value for this first pass at home.

There are lots of things I'd do differently, but I'm pretty proud of this effort.  It is the first building I've done that looked halfway decent.

Lessons learned:
  • I meant to have the three main visual elements be the chimney, the rosebush on the lower right, and the upstairs windows, in a kind of triangle.  I think I could tie them together better using a common color, which shouldn't be hard... I'll just use that chimney red in all three.
  • I need to figure out that tree in the center - it has taken over the whole thing!  And it's not very appealing for the main element to be right in the middle of the picture.
  • I also need to figure out the hedge in the front and the big shady area on the side.
  • The trees behind and on the left side should be a few values darker, and I'll probably eliminate the tree on the far right completely and make up a rose-garden there.
  • A more vivid blue sky behind the house would probably frame it really nice too, and then I could do the very top balcony part in all white with some dark blue for the railings... it'd probably make a great contrast.
I'm hoping to do a quick lunch time visit over there in the next couple of days and take some photos and find an angle I really like, then do at least one more practice sketch at home before I get out the new big paper.  I splurged and bought a big block.  And honestly, with paper that big I'm really going to need a bigger brush!

The next night I did another painting of the same scene but on bigger paper (not the big paper, just 9x12):

At first I didn't like it as much as the first - The tree in particular is not as good, but some of the shadows are nice, and there are less muddy problem areas.  I think with more contrast it could have been better than the first.

I took a trip to Rengstorff House today to check things out.  It was such a beautiful day!  After taking some photos I couldn't resist doing a quick sketch of a little garden shed on the grounds.

I ended up doing this painting with my little paints kit and waterbrush.  As usual, it doesn't have enough contrast, and I would have loved to have more time on it, but I really loved painting the flowers on the tree.

I went with a small group of people and did another painting of Rengstorff House.  I took some liberties with the landscaping, and my final result kind of defies the laws of nature, so try to ignore the pond on the hill.  :)  Another valuable thing I realized with this painting was that I need to use different colors, especially my greens, to indicate Spring.  Last, I regret using the brown tones for the house and not saving enough white.

I am going back to Rengstorff House again during lunch this week for another try and I'll post my progress here.  It is such a beautiful, peaceful location that it's a pleasure to spend time there.  I'm also going to start a new thread for another location I'm going to start this weekend.

Here's another attempt from the same angle as last time:

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Plein Air - Week 1

I'm going to spend the next few weeks focusing on loosening up my style, and painting outdoors. This will really force me to work on some of the things that I'm not good at, particularly perspective, composition, sketching, painting plants and buildings... pretty much everything!

Recently I've been using a lot of paintings or photos as my source, and it will be good for me to simplify real scenes.

This first warm-up I did at home, and I was just trying to paint loose and relaxed. I'm including it here because I think it may be the best sky I've ever done. I wish I could remember my trick! The rock and the figure are hideous, but you get to see them because I like the sky so much. :)

And here are a couple of things I did on lunch-breaks. The first one is at a park really close to work and I will probably continue to paint scenes from there quite a bit because it's quiet and quick to get to. This house is supposed to be a cube, with the front corner right in the center of the picture. It just looks flat though. The only thing I kind of like about this one is the lower left corner, which was just a fluke because there's no pond here in real life.

I don't think I'm going to ever finish the second.  I spent quite a while on it and it has a couple of nice things and some unfortunate things as well, but when you don't finish your outdoor painting and didn't bring a camera it's definitely challenging to try to recreate it from memory.

Week 8 - Lace and Cloth Draping

I wasn't too excited about the topic for the last class and having tried painting lace curtains I don't think I'll be adding them to my regular subject matter!  I think this came out all right, but I think it's a subject that is difficult to rush.

I did like the teacher though, and maybe next fall I'll sign up for her class again.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Week 7 - Fish

Usually I try to practice the class subject at least once before I have to do it in class. I think it helps me get more out of the class time. This week though, I just couldn't get excited about practicing fish paintings so my only fish are these that I did in class tonight:

And to tell the truth, I actually really enjoyed painting these guys and might try a few more.

The teacher gave us a specific technique for painting like this. First, wet the paper with clear water where you want the spots. Then add an opaque yellow to the water, followed by a wet overlay of opaque red. Next use ultramarine to add some shadow to the sides, letting it run into the other colors. Thin with water and bring to the face of the fish. Bring some more colors to the fins and add a light lavender. Make sure to leave lots of white paper in the fish. Once the face is dry add the eyes.

The water was interesting. It's the first time that I mixed up some puddles of color in dishes, got the paper wet, and the poured the paint on. It was interesting to see what happened, but trying to get the water to move nicely between the fish was impossible and I ended up glazing blue over the whole thing to try to hide the mess, and then dark-lining the fish to give them more depth.

The other thing I did this week was just a quick sketch of my church on the rainy day. I clearly overworked it in almost the whole thing, but I kind of liked the sidewalk. Plus I think I could do the steeple right now that I've tried it once. I wish I'd saved more whites!

My current class only has one more week, and now that the weather is getting really nice I think I might try to start doing some on-site painting. I'd really like to get better at painting from life.