31 March 2012

back to my sketchbook

It seems like I've been away for a long time, working on things for both the Strathmore watercolor sketching class and the small watercolor class I've been attending on Thursday nights. My regular sketchbook has been neglected.

And of course, our tulip thieves are at it again with the blooming of our late tulips. This time they didn't even carry them to the next block (as was done with our early tulips) --- after picking them, they just threw them down in our yard.

I was so angry . . . . I came right in and sketched them before they wilted anymore, and in the process lost my anger. Sketching is a wonderful antidote!

28 March 2012

Strathmore Workshop, week 4

The final week was on collage techniques in watercolor sketching. I've never really enjoyed collage but wanted to do this anyway -- it's good for me to get out of my comfort zone!

I had no idea really where I was going with this when I began. In fact, there is a black & white photo of a stone cross I planned on putting in this and totally forgot until the moment I'm typing this!

book paper, tissue paper, ink, rubber stamps, and watercolor

26 March 2012

what to do with old color charts . . .

In 2005, a friend encouraged me to come to some informal watercolor classes where I tried it for the first time. The instructor had us make color charts to see what our 12 paints could do. Since then, I have loved making more color charts when trying out new colors -- it's oddly very relaxing to me.

This led to quite a collection of color charts stacked on a shelf, not being used. So one day I grabbed a stapler and put my favorite charts on my bulletin board as "wallpaper". I often tack things I'm working on over them, but the rest of the time I just enjoy looking at the colors.

Many of the paints in these charts I no longer own. I have tried so many colors as I read books and blog posts by one artist or another! But in the last few months I have become more settled in what colors work for me personally, reducing the paints that I own to those in the upper right corner. Even on this chart, there are some that I seldom ever use and will probably not replace, cadmiums among them. Not for any environmental or safety concerns --- I simply don't like them much.

The large chart in the upper left is all the paints that came with my largest Schmincke tin. I keep the tin for my "studio" palette, holding those paints in the upper right chart. But many of the Schmincke paints have long since been used up or given away.

There is also a magazine article pinned up below the tree painting -- an old article by Cathy "Kate" Johnson on mixing greens. She is one of the best at that!

And the painting of a tree? It's a journal page I did years ago following a demo in a book. At the top of the page is my favorite quote by J. R. R. Tolkien. The tree reminds me of one of his short stories, "Leaf by Niggle", which I can relate to -- often getting so bogged down in one tiny detail that I miss the big picture.

If this blog entry has held your interest this long, maybe you are curious as to what the quote is? If so, here it is:

"So it may be said that the chief purpose of life, for any one of us, is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God, by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks . . ."                                                   -- J. R. R. Tolkien

24 March 2012

more exercises from Strathmore class

I'm a week behind in doing the exercises from Cathy 'Kate' Johnson's free Strathmore class on watercolor sketching. These are exercises from week 3 on multi-media sketching. I painted the salt & pepper set first in watercolor alone, then added some ink for definition.

For the earthen pot of flowers, I pasted a piece of toned watercolor paper in my sketchbook. Sketching from a photo in a book, I first painted the pot and flowers, then after that dried, I added ink and a bit of white gouache.

Here, I sketched the same object in three different ways. First, using watercolor only. Then, pencil guidelines before watercolor. The last one was lightly sketched with pencil, details inked in, then watercolor. This is a knife our son brought back from Alaska. He takes a group of his students on missions trips every year the week before spring break. This year, they worked with the Boys and Girls club and helped set up for the Iditarod dog sled race.

There are still several more exercises from week 3 I'd like to try before moving on to week 4's lesson on collage. But the class site will be available until August so I'm in a hurry. Just trying to learn a few new tricks, or learn to be more confident in things I may have tried but not used enough.

23 March 2012

Jill's eggs

Last night's watercolor class was a bit more relaxed --- only 5 of us were able to come. We spent the evening studying ovals and color-mixing subtle colors.

These are all natural eggs, not dyed. Jill (owner of the chicken purse seen HERE) has several pet chickens in her backyard. There is a high demand for buying her eggs --- she hopes to apply the money towards a trip to Ireland.

22 March 2012

abandoned water tower

This old water tower sits in an old farm yard a mile or so north of town, surrounded by dense undergrowth. At one time it supplied a private family with all their water needs.

I pass it on the way to the turnpike entrance (on the way to sketchcrawls in MO) and have often wanted to stop and sketch it. But there is no place to pull over on the busy highway, so this was painted from a photo.

for Kate's Strathmore class, week 2 lesson

19 March 2012

sketching in the country

We drove north on Saturday, to Bill's brother and sister-in-law's farm south of Manhattan, KS. While Bill was installing new kitchen cabinets he built for them, I sketched a few things in the gorgeous farmyard. It was an overcast day with a fierce wind (which dries paint out quickly!) but still beautiful.

I took my Scottie, Ceilidh, with us. While taking a break from sketching, she and I walked about the place, exploring.  It's a lovely place that has been in our sister-in-law's family through 3 generations. She and Bill's brother live in Manhattan but are renovating the charming old farmhouse.

She was helping some family and friends who were working cattle in the corral. Ceilidh was fascinated by the new calves . . . until they wouldn't stop bellowing. They did not like getting inoculations and she did not like their noise! She quickly took off running away from the ruckus. One of the horses was very interested in her, but I kept her away from the animals, not wanting her to spook any of them as they worked.

These sketches are some of my "homework" for Cathy 'Kate' Johnson's current workshop given by Strathmore. The workshops are free and will still be available online until this summer. I think those interested can still sign up HERE and catch up on the posted lessons.

16 March 2012

thieves and orcs at it again

At some point in the past history of this small apartment building, someone planted spring bulbs along the sidewalk. Being very old, some years they appear and some years not.

These very short tulips appear every year. And every year they are stolen. Last year we dug them up, moving them to a planting bed near the building. Except this one, which we missed.

It first opened yesterday . . . . and today I found it had been cut at ground level. Gone again.

Until I walked Ceilidh, at which time I found it a block away, thrown into a hedge shrub. So WHY? Why cut it down only to throw it away?

09 March 2012

failed experiment

When I began my two current sketchbooks, I decided to try sticking to the same palette that was illustrated on the first page through to the end of the sketchbook.

Um . . . . . never mind -- I just couldn't do it! I love seeing how certain colors work together and got bored with the first set for this sketchbook. This new combination was inspired by Laura Climent Munoz' sketch on page 135 of Gabi Campanario's excellent new book, "The Art of Urban Sketching". I love the effect Laura achieved! At first, I only had one blue, as Laura did, but later added a cooler blue because of the rich greens when mixed with quin. burnt orange. I also added three more colors --- I'm such a color-addict!

For like-minded color-lovers or those just curious:
Laura listed cobalt blue, Naples yellow, yellow ochre, yellow-orange, burnt sienna, Hooker green, and Payne's gray. I'm wondering if she might have had a red also, for the lovely pink in the sky?
My set: quinacridone burnt scarlet, quin. burnt orange, yellow ochre, Naples yellow, terra verte, Prussian blue, cobalt blue, raw umber violet, sepia, and Payne's gray.

On the back of a color chart insert, I tried out the various greens mixed from these colors. I'm thinking this set-up will be great for landscapes and urban sketching. Until I get inspired to change palette choices again . . .

UPDATE: I'm thinking about removing the Prussan blue after all, along with the raw umber violet. More of a challenge with fewer colors!

07 March 2012

Strathmore workshop, wk. 1

Beware of Kansas wind in March -- you never know what might blow by. No houses falling on wicked witches (yet), but this wee pink bag blew into our yard yesterday.

The 40 to 50 MPH wind gusts also blew in a bouncy ball for Ceilidh, which she gladly accepted. It was a small consolation for the wind's blowing over two trash cans and scaring her.

What few crocuses we had in the yard were torn apart by the wind too.

04 March 2012

Strathmore Workshop, wk. 1

I'm one of a HUGE number (class enrollment is 2,665!) taking Cathy 'Kate' Johnson's free watercolor sketching class on Strathmore's Online Workshop website.

One of the first week's projects: a sketch done with a water-soluble pen with a variegated wash background. I had to take my car in to check out a windshield leak --- Not knowing how long it might take, I took my sketchbook along and drew the plant in the waiting room. Color was added later at home, letting the colors mingle together freely.
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