Thursday, January 22, 2015

January Sketching - Days 10 & 12

Yes, I know it's January 22, and I'm ten days behind in the Artist's Journal Workshop January sketch challenge. That's the way these challenges often go for me, and I know I'm not alone in that. I've been so busy preparing for my upcoming classes that I haven't been taking the time to do a daily sketch, but believe me, I've been feeling plenty guilty about it. Does that count? :) are the two sketches I have managed to complete:

Day 10 - Draw a medicinal plant

5-1/2" x 8-1/2" Ink & watercolor, drawn with a Pitt pen, in a Stillman & Birn Alpha series sketchbook

Day 12 - Draw the last gift you received
We always open our stockings after all the other presents have been opened on Christmas morning, and my husband always gives me delicious chocolates and other yummies that I wouldn't buy for myself. If I remember correctly, these Venchi chocolates were the last gift I received Christmas day. I know they were the tastiest. I'm savoring them one by one, and I still have four left - what control!

5-1/2" x 8-1/2" Ink & watercolor, drawn with a Noodler's Nib Creaper Flex pen with Lexington Gray ink in a Stillman & Birn Alpha series sketchbook

I'm heading for Florida early tomorrow morning for a five-day visit with my friend, Judy. It's going to feel great to soak up the sunshine and dip my toes in the Gulf. I'm hoping to get some sketching done, but I might just be too relaxed to pick up a pen. I'll check in when I return to the frigid northeast.

Monday, January 12, 2015

January Sketching - Days 5-9

I'm always at least a day behind on this January challenge, but I've decided not to stress over it. After all, it's supposed to be fun, right? Well, here are five more sketches that I've completed...

Day 5 - Draw a bridge
This is an old stone railroad bridge that spans Ten-Mile Creek in Jefferson, PA, drawn with a Derwent Watercolour pencil, color: chocolate.

All sketches are done in a 5-1/2" x 8-1/2" Stillman and Birn Alpha series sketchbook

Day 6 - Draw seeds or pods
I dashed outside on one of those zero-degree days last week to pick a stem off my balloon flower plants to draw. The seed pods were a dusty purplish grey color, something I never would have noticed if I hadn't stopped to sketch them. Since the stem was so long and narrow, I figured a page border was in order, to fill some of that blank space.

Watercolor, ink, pencil, and gel pen

Day 7 -Draw your version of a favorite painting
I picked Andrew Wyeth's "Her Room", which I love, but jazzed up the colors to make it my own. The original is all muted tones of browns and greys - mine is definitely not muted!

Ink and watercolor

Day 8 - Sketch a tea kettle
One thing I like about doing a challenge and sketching every day is that it gives me a good excuse to try different techniques, materials, and styles. In this sketch of my enameled tea kettle, I zoomed in and cropped the kettle and cup, something I rarely do in my sketches. I always tend to feel compelled to include the big picture. I must remember that sometimes less is more.

Ink and watercolor

Day 9 - Draw coins or a bank note
Talk about trying a different technique....this sketch is not my usual style at all, but I wanted to try being bold and simplifying my lines. It doesn't even look like it was done by the same person who did the "Campanula" page above, does it? Using the "Fine" Sharpie pen (which really has a fairly fat tip) forced me to eliminate extraneous detail and gave it a more graphic look.

Sharpie pen and watercolors

While I'm trying to keep up with the daily sketches, I'm preparing for my upcoming class at WashArts in Washington, PA. Lots of painting going on around here! It may take me until the end of February to finish my January sketches, but I shall persevere!

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Very Chilly Morning

It's been absolutely frigid here for the past week, and it looks like it's going down below zero again tonight. Our house is perched on top of a hill, so we are buffeted by winter winds all season long, and it's really been shaking the house today! But we've had some beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Yesterday morning's was so pretty, I just had to pull out my nature journal and try to capture it on paper.

Ink & watercolor in a Stillman and Birn Beta series 5-1/2" x 8-1/2" sketchbook

Hope you're staying warm!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

January Sketching - Days 1-4

After a busy holiday season during which I took care of all the things I had to do, I thought it would be fun in the new year, to do something just because I wanted to. I didn't have much time for sketching in December and when I don't get a chance to draw and paint, I start to feel on edge, annoyed, and just plain nudgy. Sketching helps me to recenter and calm down. It takes me to my happy place.

So when I saw a January challenge on Palma Rae's blog, with sketching prompts for each day of the month, I decided to dive in and do it. Here are the sketches from my first few days.

January 1 - As I cast my eyes around for something to draw for the first prompt, "Sketch something you can't bear to throw away but should", I spied my golden retriever, Buckley's, raggedy old rope toy. It's grey with dried dirt and slobber, but the original colors still show through, and I thought it would be interesting to draw. I love how this page turned out.

All sketches are done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha series sketchbook, 5-1/2" x 8-1/2", with ink & watercolor

The whole process of drawing and painting continues to amaze me. How you can start with a simple line drawing, then add a touch of color here, a shadow there, a bit of darker color over here, and all of a sudden, it comes to life - it looks real! There's a lot of the in-between time when it doesn't look good at all, but if I keep plugging away at it, it usually works out. It took me awhile to realize that. I hope it will be an encouragement to those of you who are just beginning. Don't give up. Sometimes all you need to do is keep trying - intensifying colors, adding shadows, etc. - and things will work out in the end.

January 2 - Your favorite book
Of course, there's no way I could ever pick a favorite book out of the thousands I've read and enjoyed over the years, but Winnie-the-Pooh is a wonderful classic, and I've always loved the stories and illustrations, so it was my choice for this page. You can see how well-loved and worn our copy is.

January 3 - Draw something industrial
At first glance this sketch might not seem industrial, but look closer. This view from my kitchen window, which used to show nothing but hills and trees, is now the scene of a Marcellus gas site.

Twenty-four hours a day, tanker trucks and dump trucks weave their way up our tiny country road hauling water and sand for the gas well site just over the hill. Nighttime used to be wonderful out here in the country, with quiet evenings and dark starry skies. Now the trucks run all night long and bright lights at the construction site light up the night sky. When summer comes and the trees leaf out, I won't have to look at it, but I'll still hear them and see the nighttime glow in the sky until construction is finished and the drillers move on. I don't like it one bit!

January 4 - Sketch an animal
My daughter and I took Nicholas, 3, and Callista, 2, to the Lippencott Alpacas open house last summer, and we had a great time. I took pictures of the alpacas that day and ever since then I've been wanting to sketch this adorable girl.

 Her big beautiful eyes reflect the green grass and blue sky of a September day.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Step-by-Step Watercolor: Winter Farm Scene

My Christmas gift to you...a new watercolor tutorial! 
The Minor Farm, Greene County, PA, 17" x 10.5", ink & watercolor on Fabriano Artistico 140 lb. paper

Come on into my studio and look over my shoulder as I paint a rural farm scene from Greene County, Pennsylvania, where I live. This painting was done as a commission for the family whose ancestors built this pretty white farmhouse back in the 1800s. I visited the farm to take pictures back in November, but the sun refused to shine that day, so I had to make do with what I got...

The light was dull and flat, but that doesn't mean my painting has to be!

I did a fairly detailed drawing first in pencil. With commission work, I like to make sure that things are planned out in detail. I generally email the pencil drawing to the client to get final approval, before I begin to ink it.

I used a Noodler's Creaper Flex Pen with Noodler's Lexington Gray ink. For the fine details on the buildings and trees, I flipped my pen over and used the nib upside down. This limits the ink flow and gives me finer lines.

Here's the drawing, all ready to go!

When working on 140 lb. watercolor paper, I often stretch my paper. I want to make sure that the finished painting doesn't have any ripples in it and that it will lie perfectly flat when it's matted and framed. After my drawing is done, I soak the paper in water for about ten minutes, then staple the paper to a ceiling tile (the kind used for drop ceilings.) Then I apply painter's tape to give a neat finished edge to the painting. This shows my set-up...

The prep work is done, now let's start painting! Step one for me is always the sky. For this painting, I wanted an overcast winter sky, but I also wanted it to have some interesting color. I used Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue, Permanent Rose, Burnt Sienna, and a touch of a primary yellow. I like how the Cobalt Blue settled out and gave me some granulation...

Next I painted the foreground and the middle ground with wet-in-wet washes of Burnt Sienna, Cobalt Blue, Yellow Ochre, and Olive Green.

After the washes were dry, I masked out some of the tree trunks and foreground weeds and grasses with masking fluid. I used a ruling pen, rather than a paint brush, to give me nice, thin lines.

The distant hills were painted with Cobalt Blue + Burnt Sienna +Permanent Rose.

The trees on the far right were painted, along with an indication of a furrowed field.

More Cobalt + Burnt Sienna was used to paint the treeline behind the buildings, along with a touch of Quinacridone Violet.

Next, I worked my way along the treeline toward the left side of the painting.

This is what I had so far...

I masked out the cows (they're teeny tiny!) so I could paint the pasture without fussing.

The sheep were masked, too.

I used a fan brush to indicate masses of branches in the tree tops.

I added midtones and shadows on the fields and yard to the left of the house and painted colorful shadows on the house and outbuilding.

A watery wash of Light Red was applied to all the roofs, and the front yard was painted.

The barns were painted light grey, and some darker tones were added to the roofs.

In the historical photos that we had of the house, there was ivy growing up the porch posts, so I included it in the painting.

The house really started to come to life when I painted the windows and the shadows under the porch roof. It's all about contrast. Adding those darks made the house look sunlit. At this stage, I also added some details to the bushes on the left side of the house and some darker tones to the roof.

I tend to hop around to different areas when I'm working on a painting. This gives the paint time to dry and allows me to distance myself a bit from what I'm working on, so I can come back to it with fresh eyes.

I moved on to the foreground, where I did some spattering and sponging to add texture to the hay field.

 Lookin' good...

I removed the masking from the trees and roofs...

and the cows and sheep...

I painted the tree trunks and added some darker branches.

I also realized at this point, after zooming in on my photo of the house, that the roof was a red shingled roof, not metal. I had painted it with vertical seaming, which now had to be corrected. (Lesson learned: Don't assume anything. Always check photo references closely for details.)

Oops! Wrong roof style!

 It was a simple matter to lift most of the color off the roof with a damp brush and repaint it.

That's better!

 Then it was time to paint the cows...

and the sheep...

I love these cute little sheep!

Darker tones were added to the barns at this point, too.

I removed the dried masking fluid from the foreground weeds and grasses.

To make the stark white lines blend in, I painted more grasses over them with a rigger brush loaded with medium and dark tones of Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, and dark green.

All that was left to do was sign it!

I love how this painting turned out, and so did my client. She's giving prints of it to several lucky family members for Christmas. What a great way to honor their heritage!

I hope you enjoyed this little Christmas gift from me to you. Thank you for being such faithful readers and good friends throughout the year. I appreciate your support and all of your comments, and I look forward to sharing more of my art and life with you in the coming years.

Merry Christmas &
best wishes for a wonderful 2015!

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