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!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

It's Here! Grab a Copy of "Sketchbook Journeys: Italy"

Ever since I finished my Italy travel journal, I've been wanting to publish it as a Blurb book, just like I did with my Ireland sketchbook back in 2011. But it's been over a year since I put the final brushstroke on that last sketch of Pisa, and this project just kept getting pushed to the back burner. Finally, a few weeks ago, I made up my mind to just do it...and here it is, just in time for your Christmas stocking!

The book has 70 beautiful full-color pages and includes every page of my travel journal from my two-week trip to northern Italy and Tuscany in 2013. It was a wonderful, amazing trip, and I fell in love with the country, so much so that I decided to go back in 2015 and share it with my sketching buddies. I'll be teaching two different workshops in Italy next year. Read all about them here.

Click here to order your copy of Sketchbook Journeys: Italy

If you're like me, you love to peek inside other artists' sketchbooks to see how they do what they do, so here's your chance to peek into mine. It's filled with ideas for page layouts, borders, lettering styles and interesting subject matter. The books are priced at just pennies over cost, and, if you'd like to purchase one, be sure to check for Blurb coupons online.  To buy a copy locally, stop by Artbeat gallery in Waynesburg, PA.

I hope you enjoy this armchair trip to Italy, but watch out! You might just find yourself on Travelocity looking up airfares to Florence. Give in to those impulses - come and paint Italy with me!

Monday, December 1, 2014

New Class this Winter: "Advanced Watercolor Explorations"

Over the past few years, I've seen that many of my sketchbook journaling students would like to build on what they've learned in my introductory classes and become more proficient with watercolors. They don't want to paint huge masterpieces, they simply want to be more comfortable with the medium and less frustrated when trying to put their ideas down on the pages of their sketchbooks.

One of my fall classes focused on painting colorful autumn leaves

So I've decided to offer a class called Advanced Watercolor Explorations at WashArts in Washington, PA, this coming January and February. Each week I'll share a step-by-step tutorial on how to paint specific subject matter such as snow scenes, skies, water, food, etc. (Mmmm, painting fresh chocolate chip cookies could be a delicious lesson!) There will be plenty of time to paint in class, with me there to help every step of the way.

This group learned layering & texturing techniques in a class about how to paint stone

Over the course of the six weeks, students should develop a good grasp of watercolor techniques and feel much more confident in their abilities. I'll have everyone tackling even the most challenging subject matter with a smile on their faces. With my guidance and encouragement, you'll be amazed at what you can do!

One of my summer classes featured a lesson on painting hydrangeas

The six-week class will be held on Thursdays, 1:30 pm - 4:00 pm, January 22, 29, February 5, 12, 19, 26. Cost is $75.00. Visit the WashArts website to enroll.

Step-by-step instruction makes the lessons understandable
Each person's style shines through, even though they all used the same approach

Don't let the winter weather scare you away. This will be a daytime class, so you won't have to be out on icy roads at night, and if the weather's bad, we'll postpone.

Come on out and join me for this series of classes! It's going to be a bright spot in that long stretch between the holidays and springtime. Let the snow fly - we'll be inside painting! :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A House Portrait with a Twist

A good friend of mine moved to Florida a few months ago (even though I tried my darndest to talk her out of it!) I guess icy cold winters and shoveling snow can't compare to beaches and sunshine.

Her husband and daughter wrote to me shortly after they arrived in the Sunshine State and asked if I would paint a portrait of the house they had left behind. It was to be a birthday gift for my friend, Judy.

What made this house portrait a little different, though, was that they wanted me to paint the back of the house and to focus more on the yard and the pavilion than on the structure of the house itself. I was a little taken aback at first, but then I realized that they were right, After all, isn't the back yard where most of the living takes place and the memories are made? 

After doing my preliminary drawing and inking the lines, I masked out the foreground weeds and flowers using masking fluid. That way, I could apply washes to the yard area without having to paint around a lot of fiddly little bits.

I spattered more masking fluid to suggest the fine spray of white baby's breath that was growing among the butterfly bush blossoms.

I painted the first light green wash on the yard area, then masked some leaves on the tree that extends into the left side of the painting.

The house was painted and shadows added.

Bricks and roof shingles were indicated with a few strokes of watercolor here and there.

The flowers were painted with the lightest tones, then medium shades, and finally the darkest accents.

A final spattering of paint in the grass and trees to add some texture..

and it was finished! I boxed it up, shipped it off and waited hear how Judy liked her surprise.

She loved it, and agreed that the backyard view was the way to go. It reminds her of morning coffee in the pavilion, family cookouts on a warm summer evening, and a lifetime of happy memories - a little piece of her Pennsylvania life hanging on her wall in Florida.
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