Thursday, April 29, 2010

Watercolor pencil update

I’m finding the watercolor pencils to be quite fun. Here’s an early attempt with them. It’s a study of a Nubian Goat from the Woodland Park Zoo. It’s done in a limited palette of: Dark Napes Yellow, Burnt Sienna, Red Violet, Dark Indigo, Warm Grey V, Black, and Light Green. I’m trying to get my hands on a Payne’s Grey pencil but so far no luck. However, I did get a handful of art goodies last Tuesday at the new Dick Blick store in Seattle (including a Payne’s Grey water-soluble Neocolor II crayon) and can’t wait to try some of them out too! Stay tuned for the results…

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Learning and reading

One of the great things about RSS feeds is that you begin to feel a sense of connection and community with others sharing your interests. I love the chance to read about another artist’s processes and be inspired by their work. Sometimes these artist/bloggers are also teachers and share wonderfully insightful information with their readers. The amount of information being shared on the web today is simply staggering! I am truly grateful to be able to share and learn with so many talented artists.

One of the blogs that I have been reading recently is by a painter named M.E. “Mike” Bailey. (M.E. Bailey Art Blog) Besides his art which I quite admire, I am also taken by the way he speaks about his creative process. In recent posts he has talked about the need to play with color, the value of experimentation, the principles of design, creating feeling in the viewer, stretching as an artist, composition, and doodling as a means to free and shift an artist’s perspective.

In my desire to enhance both the quality of my painting experience and my artwork I would like to quote Mike Bailey directly for a moment. He said recently, “It may seem like hard work to those who ‘just want to paint.’ But, I believe…the disappointment which most often follows rushing into a painting is a big price to pay. . . . .especially, when we artists put our treasured sweat and tears into the act of painting. It is worth the effort and time to work out the composition first, then set about getting it all on to canvas or paper.”

Here here Mike! I’m all over it. Now back to the brush!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The road home

Of late, I have been picking apart some decades-old artistic habits and taking some skills right back to their bare bones in order to rebuild from the ground up.  This is where my watercolor skills are falling right now. I feel like I have spread everything I’ve ever learned about this wonderful medium out on the floor of my study, tossed the pieces around, and now am taking a good hard look from a brand new perspective.

It was during the formative stages of this process that I discovered a watercolorist named Cathy “Kate” Johnson. She is also a writer, teacher, and clearly a lover of both art and nature. In fact, she seems to be having so much fun that it is truly a joy to witness. It is also a feature that I greatly admire.

Seeing how much she loves her “work” really helped me to get some needed perspective on my own. It can be astoundingly easy to forget why we take this fantastic artistic journey. Cathy Johnson’s enthusiasm helps me remember.

A friend of mine recently reminded me of a business model that takes the shape of a pyramid with a different word at each corner. The words are: time, cost, quality. The model explains that you can only ever have two of these things at any one time. I know quite well what it is like to produce art that is fast and efficiently done. Furthermore, art that also looks good. That’s what a commercial artist does. But a fine artist is quite different. They rely on the quality side of the pyramid much more than the time side. I am so used to speeding along to deadlines that it seems difficult to ever stay in one piece long enough for it to be ABSOLUTELY finished. Even when the piece is not a commission!  It’s a big, hairy deal for me to slow down and fully explore each piece that I create. In fact, I haven’t yet been able to do it to my satisfaction. But each day it gets easier. I feel like an addict to my old habits. I guess that’s why habits are so hard to break. Nevertheless, I persist upon a road that, hopefully, leads back eventually to the deep breath and the satisfied smile of a job well done.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Color Charting My New Watercolor Pencils

Having gleefully gotten my Dick Blick box o’goodies earlier today, I was eager to play with my new toys, hacking cough or not! I had heard how good the Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils were but had never found a single pencil anywhere to test. So going on the feel of the Faber Castell Polychromos colored pencils and the quality and reputation of the Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils, I decided to leap into a 60 count set. Wee hoo! So far I have not been disappointed! I began by making a color chart (as seen below), and then started experimenting with color palettes and mixtures. I have been liking Jan Hart’s book, “Watercolor Artist's Guide to Exceptional Color” and organized my color wheel with the colored pencils around some of her suggestions.

Albrecht Durer watercolor pencil 60-count chart and color wheel

For my color wheel, I chose:

Yellow: Cadmium Yellow 8200-107 (high light-fastness)
Yellow/Orange: Dark Cadmium Yellow 8200-108 (maximum light-fastness)
Red/Orange: Dark Cadmium Orange 8200-115 (high light-fastness)
Red: Middle Cadmium Red 8200-217 (high light-fastness)
Magenta: Middle Purple Pink 8200-125 (high light-fastness)
Red/Violet: Mauve 8200-249 (high light-fastness)
Blue Violet: Delft Blue 8200-141 (maximum light-fastness)
Middle Blue: Ultramarine 8200-120 (high light-fastness)
Cyan: Bluish Turquoise 8200-149 (maximum light-fastness)
Turquoise: Cobalt Green 8200-156 (maximum light-fastness)
Green/Blue: Dark Phthalo Green 8200-264 (high light-fastness)
Yellow/Green: Earth Green Yellowish 8200-168 (high light-fastness)

I also chose a palette for easy access to animal tones. In this I chose the following three colors:

Yellow: Dark Naples Ochre 8200-184 (high light-fastness)
Red: Burnt Sienna 8200-283 (maximum light-fastness)
Blue: Dark Indigo 8200-157 (maximum light-fastness)

With these three colors I can easily mix Burnt Ochre, Van Dyke/Walnut Brown, and Dark Olive/Marine Green as intermediate colors. Giving me a really nice, basic, all-purpose animal color palette.

Some of my color mixing notes including my animal tone simplified palette

From what I can tell so far, these pencils lay down very smoothly and mix well dry. Their colors wet seem very true to their dry colors making it easy for me to tell what colors I’m going to be mixing. Having tried some preliminary mixing, I’ve quite excited to start playing with these fine pencils. Also in my goodie box was “Masterful Color: Vibrant Colored Pencil Paintings Layer by Layer” by Arlene Steinberg. This looks like a fabulous colored pencil book and I’m really excited to read it. I’m already contemplating layering my watercolor pencils and wonder if the same smoothing techniques can be done with water as are frequently done with solvents in wax-based colored pencils. If so, my allergies to solvent problems are solved! I can’t wait to see.

Finally, a new entry!

Alright, time to get back to the good stuff. Two items of note today:

1.    How cool is FEDEX? I was eagerly awaiting a package from the all-wonderful Dick Blick Art Supplies and thought I’d check with the tracking number and see how close it was. According to the FEDEX tracking site, it had already delivered been this morning and left at my front door (no signature required.) I checked and there it was! Like magic. Funny! And now I get to open my box. Yeah!
2.    Also speaking of Dick Blick, today is the grand opening of the new Dick Blick store in Seattle. I’m very excited. Between Daniel Smith and Dick Blick I am totally set! (Oh and Dakota Arts Pastels up in Mt. Vernon, WA in case I need a pastel fix.) I’m really tempted to go down there today but I contracted a horrible cold after my Mom passed away and I’m loathe to derail my recovery. All the same…yeah for Dick Blick’s new store at 1600 Broadway in Seattle!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rest in Peace, Luise Light (3/6/37 - 4/15/10)

My sweet mother passed away last night about 10 pm PST after falling into a coma for much of the day. She was 73. She passed quietly in her sleep after a very fast and aggressive cancer of the Gall Bladder laid her low. Her awareness of the cancer lasted a mere four months before she was gone. Spiritually, I know she has passed to a place of light and I rejoice for her, no longer troubled as she is by the breaking down of her injured and weakening physical body. I know she rests in peace so the traditional saying is not needed. My mother wore many hats in her lifetime and taught me many skills. She was mother, wife, nutritionist, teacher, writer, editor, health watch-dog, playwright, fabulous and innovative cook, radio personality, town trustee, and Thoroughbred horse breeder. She was kind and kind of goofy both. She loved Chinese food and sweet deserts and made the best darn bruschetta you've ever tasted. I'm not sure she ever made the same dish more than twice (except for the bruschetta which we asked for) and was always experimenting in the kitchen. She wrote one of the very first all vegetarian cookbooks in the United States called "In Praise of Vegetables," in 1966. She was my mom and I will miss her very much.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Visiting Riverdale

I just got back from seeing my Mom at the hospice in New York. She’s very sick with cancer and it’ll probably be the last time I see her. Here she is with my sister and I at the hospice.

I'm in the back row left with my sister, Orrea, beside me

While there I did a little painting and sketching while she was sleeping. Here’s a sketch of my Mom, very quick, but I think it captures her likeness.

Sketch of my Mom done while she was napping

Riverdale is a nice, settled, old community in the Bronx. It had some great houses. I sketched this one while standing up and realized that my hard-backed black sketchbook is a bit too heavy to hold open with my fingers for an extended period of time. I needed to massage my left hand to get the feeling back into it when I was done. :-)

I learned a funny thing about sketching in NY. Although people were really curious as to what I was doing no one came over to ask. Some people walked close enough to try and catch a casual glimpse but no one wanted to look like they were looking. In Seattle people would have just bustled over and asked me what I was drawing. *chuckle*

House in Riverdale, NY done in pen & ink  with pencil underdrawing

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Rushing out of town

With a planned post half-done, I'm being called out of town to visit my ailing Mom. I expect however to get in some good sketching opportunities while I'm away. When I get back I'll post anything I like right here!