17 June 2019

A wet dry landscape

Today I attempted a landscape, and since I wanted to try painting wet-in-wet, I switched from my multimedia sketchbook paper to "real" watercolor paper (Fluid 140-lb.), because I knew the sketchbook wouldn't stand up to it. I can use quite a bit of water on this Bee paper, but it's not something you can pre-wet.

My Fluid paper is in a watercolor block, which means I can wet down the whole page without it buckling. People who paint mostly wet-in-wet would scoff at this method—Paul Jackson, my friend Colleen, others I know actually dump their paper into a bin of water and let it sit to soak through both sides for 5 to 10 minutes to make sure it's super-saturated. But since I haven't quite got the hang of this yet, I decided it would suffice to wet down the front side thoroughly.

The landscape I painted was somewhat nondescript, but what I liked about it is that it proceeded from pale distant mountains to closer ones with some discernible detail, to close-up brush and grass and road, so that you could achieve a graduated effect with the use of color, becoming more intense as you get closer in. It's also a dry landscape (Southern California, not much green on those hills for most of the year), so it's ironic to me to paint it wet to make it look dry.

Some of my machinations working wet really backfired on me, and while I was able to finesse parts of the painting to work, other parts were less successful. The far purple hills bled a little too much right away into the sky, so that I had to come back after and overwork them to give them more solidity. I put the clouds too high above the hills and left the whites in too-angular chunks, so they're not as fluffy as one would want.

On the near-distant hills, there were rows (corresponding to roads or trails) with the small dark dots of oak trees along them, defining their routes, but the paper was still so wet when I dropped them in that they became big bloomy dark dots! I had to pull them out into lines with my brush, leaving too many of them and not giving sufficient definition. Likewise, with the closer-up bunches of trees, they're a little smudgy. Finally, I wish I had left a lot more light and white in that dried grass along the bit of road in the foreground, to give the picture more punch and sparkle.

Oh, and finally, at some point I stuck my big fat thumb into the sky and had to paint that out as well!

Since this is one of the first landscapes I have ever attempted, and also one of the first wet-in-wet paintings, I'm going to say that it's okay, post it, and move on.


16 June 2019


I left painting until late in the day today, and was unsure what I wanted to do. It being Father's Day, I had been thinking of and missing my dad all day (and since 2011), but I looked through the few photos of him that I have and didn't feel inspired to make a painting from any of them.

Then I came across a black-and-white photo in my Reference folder that I had saved because it reminded me of Dad's family, the Wilmeths and Garrisons. The man in the picture was dressed as so many of my granddad Elmer's generation did for day-to-day work, in a white shirt tucked into overalls, and in the foreground of the photo was an old gray felt hat just like Elmer always wore. (I forgot to paint in the hat until too late.)

The man was taking his ease, reading his copy of The Progressive Farmer out in the yard in front of his clapboard house, and I had thought maybe I could fit him into my "People Reading" series. Elmer wasn't a big reader, but my dad, Joe, and his siblings certainly were, so this photo also gave me a feeling of legacy.

It wasn't until today, looking through my reference photos and suddenly focusing on this one, that I realized exactly why I had saved it. The man in the photo is holding his paper with his hand cocked at a particular angle that was so familiar to me from years of seeing my dad read, and it's a BIG farmer's and builder's hand, just like his was.

It was that hand that made me save this photo, even though I didn't know it at the time. Granddad and Dad had almost identically shaped hands, and I inherited them too (although not quite so large!). It was satisfying to be able to use mine to paint this, in memory of Dad.



15 June 2019


Today's painting is courtesy of Google, who chose to feature the Native American "Jingle Dress Dance" as its artwork today. The costumes were so colorful and the people dancing looked so joyful that I couldn't resist. If I had thought through how "itsy" was the detail on these dresses (not to mention the number and disposition of the metal ornaments), I might have decided to experience the video and then go on to paint something else! As it is, I got impatient waiting for paint to dry, so some of the detail isn't as precise as it was in life. (The woman on the left had a conch shell belt...)

The jingle made by the metal pieces clashing together as the women dance supposedly sounds like rainfall, and anyone in the vicinity in need of healing will apparently receive it by listening closely to the sounds generated by the dance. It's a lovely tradition.

My first dancer, on the right, ended up leaning a little too heavily to her right, while the second dancer is upright, so it becomes debatable exactly where the surface on which they are dancing should be; the detail was so intense on the two women that I purposely just did a single color vignette wash behind them, hoping the crookedness wouldn't be quite so apparent. Oh, well...

14 June 2019


I realized, this afternoon, that I was actually a day behind, and in casting around for something else to paint in order to catch up, I once again referenced Lynn's garden photos. Several members of the 30x30Direct challenge mentioned how much they liked her close-up of hollyhocks and wondered if they could paint it, and since she said yes to all of them, I figured she'd say yes to me, too. So I set out to study what it would take to paint these complex, ruffly flowers in pale colors on a dark ground—once again going for the "negative painting" mode, even though I don't do it very well!

These are overworked—in the effort to note every little shadow and dip, I got too heavy-handed, putting in too much color almost everywhere instead of leaving more whites to shine. There are parts I like and parts that don't look anything like what they were meant to depict. And in retrospect, I wish that I had been less literal about that fence in the background, because I think it would have been more effective to do a big dark wash on the left while letting the whites fade into the background on the right. But...it was a fun exercise and got me further into the reverse process of negative painting. Thanks, Lynn, for the reference.


I love stone fruits so much; when the first apricots and peaches and plums start showing up at the market, I can't get enough of them. Patiently waiting for them to turn from rock-hard to ripe and ready is tough, and I really must remedy that by replanting in my yard. I used to have both an apricot and a satsuma plum, but one succumbed to disease and the other to age, and I haven't replaced them.

Yesterday, Lynne CoMo (a Sketchbook Skool buddy) posted photographs of her garden, noting that her neighbors would be getting a fair share of her abundance of peaches. I really wished in that moment to be one of those neighbors; I would much rather have eaten these peaches than painted them!

But...here's the painting. I don't paint wet-in-wet, but with this one I did give it a try within the individual peaches or between pairs of peaches, to get that graduated color you see on peach skins. The greens got a bit messy here and there, because I didn't plan them as well as I did the peaches.

It also didn't really start out intending to be a negative painting, but once I started putting in the blue sky, the rest of the painting called out for some darks to be added, and kind of ended up that way. I don't really know what I'm doing re: negative painting, so I'm sure it could have been better/more defined...but I think the peaches themselves definitely convey the basic idea, which is JUICY.

Day 14: Lynn's Peaches.

12 June 2019

Café life in France

I subscribe to an online magazine and also "like" and "follow" a Facebook page called The Good Life France. It's written and produced by an ex-pat who moved to France and spends her time photographing it, from the city to the countryside, and publishing delectable photos of everything from bakery windows to ancient monuments in her magazine and on her FB page. I appropriated a part of one of the photographs for today's effort, "Café life."

It's kind of an odd little painting, vignetted on one side and washed out on the other, and I'm afraid that the "back" chairs feel like they're falling off the flagstones into the abyss...

After today, I have concluded that I'm going to have to just quit whining and break out my good watercolor paper. Since this is a 30-day challenge, I was hoping to contain it all within one sketchbook, but this multimedia paper just isn't up to what I'm asking it to do with some of these paintings. I need something that will soak up color, hold an edge, and maximize the effects of a bleed, and this ain't it. I guess I could cut the watercolor paper to size and simply stick sheets in between the others...?

Day 12, #30x30DirectWatercolor2019

11 June 2019

When you mimic a style...

Today, I decided to attempt to paint a mechanical subject, for two reasons: One, I liked the reference photo and thought it would be a fun experiment, and two, I wanted to try to do it the way Marc Holmes does his scooter demo.

He starts out by outlining certain areas with his brush, just to get their basic shapes, and then immediately goes in and paints those shapes; but he doesn't slather in the paint, he really watches out for the tiny highlights and edges and leaves those to shine. Watching it come together from nothing is a real experience in seeing a particular method in action. Here is an example, from paint sketch to finished object:

And here it is, with a background:

So first of all,  I picked a subject that was larger and more complicated; second, I quit looking at small shapes and also forgot halfway through to adhere to the "leave light" rule; and third, I put in a matt background, which doesn't work at all with this kind of painting! Also, the tractor got away from me and grew about a foot too long, meaning that the most important part—the dumper—was mostly off the page! (Hint: When your paper is square and your subject is a rectangle...um...duh?)

So...this is one of those paintings where you have to go in and pick out the few spots where you were happy with it, memorize those, and try again later. I felt like I captured Marc's method briefly with the roof and the seat and the figure; but then I lost the round shape of the tire while focusing on all the tiny shapes, and after that it became a whole lot of unrelieved red that should have been broken up much more definitively (and shortened in the body, as previously noted). I managed to sneak in a bit of the dumper, but a lot of that was lost to miscalculation. And the background? Nope.

But...having spent more than two hours on it, I'm posting it anyway!

DAY 11: #30x30DirectWatercolor2019.