Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"Uptown Mt. Lebanon"

One more in my Mt. Lebanon series...

10" x 8", ink & watercolor on 140 lb. Canson Montval paper

This view of "Uptown" shows Mt. Lebanon's bustling central business district, with shops, traffic, pedestrians, and people sitting at outdoor cafes.

As usual, I did my layout first in pencil, then inked the drawing and began adding watercolor. I painted the cloudy sky and the light washes on the streets and sidewalks using a wet-in-wet technique, then I began painting the buildings, applying my initial washes of pale tans, golds, and greys. 

I gradually layered on darker tones, building up the color until it was time to add the darkest darks.

That's what really makes a scene pop. You have to have the nerve to add those darks to make the contrasting lights look sunlit.

The curvy border echoes the tones of the cityscape and makes a colorful frame around the sketch.

Check back tomorrow to see another cityscape. But this one has something big, red and shiny in the foreground! (Hmmmm, whatever could it be...................?)

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Springtime on Jefferson Drive"

I gave you a sneak preview of this painting in an earlier post, but I thought you might enjoy a closer view.

"Springtime on Jefferson Drive", 8" x 10", ink & watercolor on 140 lb. paper

I drove up to Mt. Lebanon, PA, several times over the summer to scope out the town and the neighborhoods and get a general idea of where I might want to paint during plein air week. This scene along Jefferson Drive was one of my favorites. I took photos in early June when the rhododendron were in full bloom and painted this picture back in my studio.

The page border was designed and drawn before the sketch. I drew it with pencil, then inked the lines with a black Pigma Micron pen, leaving the painting until the very end, so I could coordinate the colors with my sketch. I think it's one of the prettiest borders I've ever done!

The houses were lightly penciled in, to make sure the size and perspective were correct, then inked with the same Micron pen used on the border.

The lightest watercolor washes were added first, with successive layers getting darker and darker. I just love painting these old tile roofs!

With winter just around the corner, it's nice to look at this sketch and remember the hopeful, expectant feeling of spring, when all the joys of summer stretched before us.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Plein Air Painting #4 - Gilfillan Farm

On the final day of painting during Plein Air Mt. Lebanon 2014, I left the city behind and headed out to paint at Gilfillan Farm, which was on our list of suggested painting sites. The farm sits right in the middle of suburbia, but is owned and maintained as a working farm by the Upper St. Clair Historical Society.
10" x 8", ink & watercolor on 140 lb. Strathmore paper

It was a beautiful October morning when I packed my painting supplies and took off on the walking trail that surrounds the farm. The path meandered through forests and fields, and I finally settled myself in a sunlit spot on a hillside where I had a perfect view of the big red barn and outbuildings, with the 19th century farmhouse peeking out from behind.

I did a quick five-minute pencil sketch to rough in where I wanted the image and the lettering, lightly penciling in the buildings and larger masses of trees. Then I went in with a Pigma Micron pen to finalize the details.

I painted the sky first, then moved to the foreground and applied the first wet-in-wet washes to the fields and grassy areas. The buildings came next and were painted wet-on-dry. The barn siding was indicated with both painted lines and lifted lines (where I used a damp brush to lightly brush over the dried watercolor, then blotted to lift the paint.)

Next, I painted the larger trees in the mid-ground. After they dried, I went in around the light-colored leaves and branches with darker greens, blues and purples to provide contrast.

Then I painted the background trees with slightly muted colors, wet-in-wet.

The last step for the farm sketch was to add some interest to the foreground with a combination of washes, painted lines, and spattering.

Back home, I painted the title with a combination of alizarin crimson and cadmium yellow medium, allowing the colors to merge and blend.

The hours I spent sitting in that field at Gilfillan Farm were the most relaxing of my long and frenzied week of plein air painting. Guess I'm just a country girl at heart!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Plein Air Painting #3 - "Mount Lebanon Doors"

My favorite painting from my week of painting en plein air is this one, "Mount Lebanon Doors."

8" x 10",  ink & watercolor on Canson Montval 140 lb. paper

It's laid out in a gridded design, just like the ones I use on my sketchbook pages. The subjects are four of the prettiest front entries I found on my wanderings around Mount Lebanon, PA, during the plein air event last week.

I loved the green tile roof on House #1 (and the homeowners loved my painting so much that they purchased it on the opening night of the show!)

House #2 had lots of interesting detailing: a slate roof, unique brick work, an awning, flowers, stained glass windows, a flag, and window boxes.

The grand entrance on House #3 was irresistible. Just look at that gorgeous stonework!

And House #4 was just one of the cutest, most charming cottages I saw all week. A copper roof with a beautiful patina swooped up from the arched front door to a window box overflowing with dark red coleus and chartreuse sweet potato vines.The front yard was filled with exuberant masses of flowers, including an amazing elephant ear plant by the front door.

I'm glad this painting went to a good home!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Plein Air Paintings #1 & 2

I survived Mount Lebanon Plein Air 2014! The week was exciting, challenging, and exhausting, but a great experience for me. I made some new friends and was inspired by all the beautiful artwork that was produced. Because I had several prior commitments that week, my painting time was limited, but I completed four plein air paintings to enter in the competition. (I also entered six previously painted works as my reserve paintings. These were for sale, but were not included in the judging.)

The event schedule suggested that the artists paint in Pittsburgh early in the week, so I headed into the city bright and early Monday morning and sketched this scene of J&J's Family Restaurant in the Mount Washington area of the city. Lots of interesting people stopped by to chat as I sat opposite the restaurant, busily sketching away.

8" x 10",  ink & watercolor on Arches 140 lb. paper

The fall decorations in front of the store are what caught my eye, along with the nice detailing on the old Victorian.

The next day I stayed around Mount Lebanon and painted some of the beautiful old Tudor-style homes in a neighborhood just off the main street.

10" x 8",  ink, watercolor, and colored pencil on Arches 140 lb. paper

There are so many picture-perfect storybook cottages in Mt. Lebanon - it was hard to choose which one to paint. The pretty front walk lined with flowers gave this one the edge.

 The distinctive stonework was a lot of fun to paint...

For the slate roof, I lightly penciled in some lines with a grey colored pencil, then added more color and shadows with watercolor.

The initial washes on the trees were painted wet-in-wet, then darker contrasting shapes were added wet-on-dry. 

When I started this painting, the sun was shining on the houses, creating nice distinct shadows, but as I worked, the wind picked up and the sky darkened. I moved all my gear to my van just as the first raindrops began to fall. I set up my watercolors on the center console between the two front seats, raised the steering wheel out of the way, and kept on painting, pausing every few minutes to turn on the windshield wipers so I could see the houses I was painting. The life of a plein air painter isn't all sunshine and blue skies!

More plein air paintings coming up tomorrow!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Plein Air Mt. Lebanon 2014

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for good weather the next few days, because I'm going to be painting outdoors all week long. Beginning this Sunday, I'll be participating in Plein Air Mt. Lebanon 2014, a week-long event taking place on the streets of Mt. Lebanon, PA, and in the greater Pittsburgh area. Twenty-five artists from across the country have been invited, and I'm one of them!

8" x 10", ink & watercolor on 140 lb. paper

Luckily, Mt. Lebanon is only an hour or so from my house, so I won't have to deal with traveling cross-country to participate. I'll just load up my van each day and head out to paint. Not a bad way to spend a week!

Early last summer, when all the spring-flowering shrubs were in full bloom, I spent some time driving the streets of Mt. Lebanon, art supplies at the ready, and stopped to do a few practice sketches. The scene above is one of my favorites. I did the sketch on location, then painted it later at home from photos I had taken, but during the plein air event, all drawing and painting must be completed onsite - no exceptions!

8" x 10", ink & watercolor on Stillman & Birn Zeta series paper

Mt. Lebanon is filled with quaint old Tudor cottages, like the one I painted in the sketch above. And the main street offers plenty of urban subject matter, like this view...

I'm looking forward to a week devoted to nothing but painting. Wish me luck! There's a VIP Preview Party on Friday, October 10th, and ten of my paintings will be for sale, along with over 200 originals from the other participating artists.

Saturday, October 11, from 10 am to 2 pm, the plein air Paint Out will be held. This event is open to anyone who would like to try their hand at plein air painting, and there will even be cash prizes!

Click here for the week's schedule. There are lots of fun activities planned - an artists' market (with over 60 vendors), demonstrations, Art-A-Palooza and much more. I hope you'll check it out and join in the fun. I'll report back next week and tell you all about my great big plein adventure!

Monday, September 8, 2014

September Garden

With the cooler days we're having now, I was feeling a little sad to see summer on its way out. I really enjoy all the flowering shrubs and perennials that brighten up our yard in the summertime, and I'm just not ready to say goodbye to them yet.

Then I started looking a little closer and realized that even though the masses of daylilies are finished for the year, and the daisies and campanula are drying up and turning brown, there's still plenty going on in my September garden.

9" x 12", ink, watercolor, and gouache in Aquabee Super Deluxe sketchbook. Drawn with Noodler's Creaper Flex Pen and Noodler's Lexington Gray ink. Lettering done with Pitt Artist's Pen, size S.

I planted several packets of zinnia seeds in the the front row of my vegetable garden this spring, as I do every year, and they never fail to provide loads of bright, cheery color, up until the first frost. I like to cut bunches of them to bring inside, arranging them in antique stoneware pitchers and blue Mason jars. I set one on the kitchen window sill, one on the kitchen island, and another on the coffee table in the living room. They make me happy whenever I catch a glimpse of them.

Bluebeard or blue mist shrub is a never-fail fall bloomer. When everything else is waning, it's just hitting its stride. The lavender plants growing above the stone wall by the basement door are all blossoming now, too.

The coneflowers are mostly over, but I found a few fresh flowers on a new variety that I planted in July.

The little flower with the blush pink petals, above, is from the coreopsis shrubs that spill over onto the stone steps leading down to the lower patio by the basement walkout.

The flower clusters on my 'Pee Gee' hydrangeas have turned from warm white to a soft dusty rose color in the past few weeks.

Most of the hosta by the garage finished blooming weeks ago, but one stalwart plant still has its pretty purple flowers.

One packet of sunflower seeds planted in June in my garden has yielded hundreds of sketch-worthy, sunshine-yellow blooms.

Our butterfly bush is true to its name - it's filled with butterflies all day long. The hummingbirds seem to like it, too.

My roses have suffered mightily this year, trying to recover from last winter's harsh weather. They haven't done too well, but I'm hoping next year will be better, and at least there are still a few blossoms to enjoy this fall.

Most of the spirea bushes in our yard put on a beautiful show in early summer and then rest on their laurels the rest of the summer, but one dark magenta variety is blooming nicely right now.

My favorite 'Nikko Blue' hydrangeas also took a hit last winter and didn't give me their usual bounty of blue flowers in early summer. But a few of them finally sent out some buds in August and are blooming now. Better late than never! I'm enjoying every one of them, and they seem all the more precious for their scarcity.

And last but not least, the dependable coreopsis. These cheery little flowers by the stone patio just keep coming and coming throughout the summer and fall.

As I wandered around the yard yesterday with my sketchbook, pen, and three-legged stool, adding one flower after another to this page, I was surprised at how much life there still is in this late summer garden. I just have to look a little harder and take the time to notice it.

Soon these flowers will be gone, replaced by the bright reds, oranges, and golds of fall, but I'm savoring these remnants of summer, and they'll still be blooming in my sketchbook when the winter winds are howling around the house a few short months from now. And looking at this page, I'll remember a warm September evening when I spent some time just enjoying the beauty that's all around me, right here at home.

A little bit about the lettering on this sketch ...

I drew the lettering (inspired by the Antrokas font) by hand with a pencil first, to work out the size and spacing on the page. I then outlined it with a black Pitt pen, size S, and colored in the spaces to make the thick ascenders and descenders. A cool violet-blue watercolor shadow was brushed on, spaced away from the black lettering so the words appear to be suspended above the page.

I toyed with lots of different ideas for borders but thought this swirly one would add a lot of movement to the page while echoing the curving lines of the flowers. I wanted this sketch to be filled to the brim with color and pattern, just like my September garden.

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