Monday, July 28, 2014

Transfers and Collages

I am working on a new piece called “Invitation: To Proceed”. There is no one photo that captures what I wish to express. Often I will combine several photos into one image. The perspective is tricky at times; it is much simpler with one person or two as long as they are not too far apart. In this case I chose a lonely figure who was walking at a slightly different angle to the one I needed. So there were two problems to solve: angle and proportion. I decided a thumbnail sketch was in order so I could determine whether or not he should be dressed in dark or light clothing. The sketch gave me the tonal value and the proportion, now all I needed was the angle. With difficult problems such as this a preliminary sketch is a must. Trying to draw a perfect figure onto the watercolour sheet with all the necessary changes and without making any errors comes down to wishful thinking. It is much easier to make all the mistakes on a cheap piece of paper then using a light table I can transfer it by tracing. I cut a chunk of Mayfield to the correct size and began to draw. Changing the angle of the shoulders, hips, legs and feet proved not to be as challenging as I had first imagined. I am very thankful for all the hours I put into life drawing. They put flow into my work. Life is so good.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Preserving the Light

 This is really about negative space again. My initial washes are sloppy. I like soup and allowing the paint to do its own thing. Then I experience control issues… Developing lighter grasses against a darker, watery background contains several challenges especially if one wishes to include some sparkle in the water. Once the first layer of grass has dried I add strokes in different colours to encourage the illusion of grasses and reeds. I then take the colours of the darker water and carefully open spaces in the solid lighter areas to create thinner stems and seed heads. It is important to use the same value of the background and maintain the line of the stems. It does not have to look like the photo. It has to look like grass…. The glittering water requires a more horizontal approach reducing the white spaces sometimes to a few points, more often splitting the lighter area in two so there are two fine sparkles instead of one big glob. One has to be choosy. It is so easy to overwork this. Step back often and ask the question: is it working? If the answer is ‘yes’, leave it alone. Enjoy!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Clean Wet Brushes

So what did I mean by clean wet brushes, large and small in my last blog? These are essential tools to anyone doing watercolour. A large moist brush without any pigment in it can smooth out a hard edge, graduate colour into another area and sop up unwanted liquid. The handy paper towel keeps the brush moist rather than loaded, a quick wipe and the excess is gone. A good rinse in a container full of clean water helps to reduce any surprise additions of colour in the wrong place, again with a quick wipe on the towel. In the photo above you can see how a puddle of colour had accumulated in one corner of the area in which I was painting. If left to its own devices during the drying process a bloom would eventually occur. A bloom is like a small bush-like spot that has a pale interior with a very hard, dark edge. What happens is the excess water leaches the colour towards the drying area and collects the pigment on the semi-dry edge as it evaporates. Sometimes this is useful. Usually it is not. Dipping a dryish clean brush into the puddle siphons the water and the pigment away. Several applications of the brush leaves just the correct amount of water on the surface and it dries evenly. The small clean wet brush is very useful for filling in small areas along edges and perfecting the strokes. So much fun! Life is good.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Value Trays for Watercolour

Wet into Wet
Jar Lids

The surprises in watercolour are what keep me intrigued. One never has complete control over this media and as I continue using it I am less inclined to aim for complete control. Serendipitous blending produces the most magical results. The trick is recognizing when to leave things alone… To help create surprises I have happened on a system of value ranging that works very well for me. Value is the foundation for all colour and is therefore the most important. In the photo "Jar Lids" above you see a fine example of recycling: jar lids holding various liquids. I love jar lids. Usually the lightest washes are in the largest lids. They are the base into which I drop stronger and contrasting colours: wet into wet. The system works with the separation of three sources of value within each colour. The biggest lid holds the palest wash in each colour. Usually the largest brush is associated with this value. The smaller lid holds a much darker wash and the smaller brush goes with that. If I need even stronger contrast I can always dip into my paint tray which has been moistened with a water spray. So I have two lids, two brushes and three values for each of the colours I choose to use within each painting. The other essential ingredients are clean water brushes large and small and paper towel. So much fun! Life is so good!

Monday, June 30, 2014


There is some satisfaction in knowing I have more electricity in my studio than in the house. The other day the contractor was up on the roof installing the shingles when his stapler suddenly quit working. I opened the back door and apologized for deciding on toast for breakfast. Apparently the circuit includes the one plugin for the kitchen, the fridge, the furnace room and all the kitchen lights as well as the outdoor receptacle into which the stapler was plugged. We do have a hundred volt panel that is very much underused at the moment… I might try my hand at electricity sometime in the near future. I am sure I could do a better job. In the meantime the siding is done, the gas and the electrical lines with an extra something for an alarm system in case I get famous are all installed. It has even been inspected! So exciting! Now for the inside. It is getting so close to moving time. I am not sure I am excited about that, however. One must accept the fact there are benefits and prices attached to every decision… In this case the benefits far outweigh the price. I am so looking forward to my own space again. Life is good.