Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Scenic Practice: Trees in Winter

So, a couple months ago I got into this intense yearning to practice misty scenes and eerie landscapes.  There were a lot of winter landscapes up here in the northeast, but not a lot of incentive to paint them plein air since it was too cold for my desert blood.  I snagged a couple of okay shots on my phone, but they weren't calling me to paint, and I deleted most of them.  Eventually I saw a glorious winter sunset as I was driving home one day, and while I did not get a photo of that sunset, the image stuck in my mind. I wanted to recreate it, so I went looking around on Unsplash and found this image to base it off of, and combined it with a shot I took of the parking lot the same week.

I practiced the image a few times, because I have trouble with misty scenes.  So I did it in oil pastels, and in watercolours but with different palettes for each one.  Except for the oil pastel piece, I used a limited palette of 3 paints for each one.

Version 1- Watercolour postcard

The first version I did.  Watercolours I used were Winsor & Newton cobalt blue (PB28), Sennelier lemon yellow (PY3), and Sennelier transparent brown (PBk7, PR101).  Khadi Papers rough 4x6 sheet.

For this first piece, I picked mostly paints I was not comfortable with.  Mixing the black was REALLY challenging, and I could not quite get it, but I did love the effect of the odd purples mixed with alizarin crimson and cobalt blue.  I can't remember now how I got those darker blacks.  I may have thrown in phthalo blue or pthalo green to achieve them, but I'm not sure.

Version 2- Oil pastels

Oil pastel version, again on Khadi Papers rough 4x6 sheet.

So I have not used oil pastels since high school, and the only colouring media I've used since high school are watercolour and watercolour pencils, and every now and then coloured pencils for touch ups.  I've been interested in trying them again, so I bought a Crayola set of water soluble oil pastels and tried that.  It was okay.  I'm glad I did not aim higher than Crayola for this because I do not love the medium and only see myself using it for artist prompts.

Versions 3 & 4- Sketchbook

Top palette: Sennelier orange (PO43, PY83), phthalo blue (PB15:3), and alizarin crimson (PR209, PY83, PR179).
Bottom palette:  Sennelier yello ochre (PY43), Winsor & Newton cobalt, and Sennelier alizarin crimson (PR209, PY83, PR179).

At this point I realized I should just turn it into a full-on study and did two more versions of the same landscape in a Strathmore 400 series watercolour sketchbook, 9x12 wire bound pad.  I chose different palettes for each piece and painted them in the same manner as the others.  Since this was cellulose paper it was a little easier to move paint around, but I had to me more delicate with my layering.  It was easier for me to get a misty glow, though.  I need to get into more of these studies, they challenge me in a way that was stimulating but not completely uncomfortable.  I found it to be a good exercise.

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Friday, May 03, 2019

Belgium & France Travel Paintings and Sketches- Better late than never!

I often take photos when I'm travelling or just out, with the intention of drawing the scene later.  I took many such photos during my study abroad trip in spring 2014, although I didn't paint any later until just last year.  Four years after taking those photos!  But I did it, and painting them brings back vivid memories of the travels and the events.  I did do some sketches on location during that trip, though not as many as I intended when I bought a sketchbook for that trip, and that sketchbook is long misplaced.

Anyway, here are some sketches I've done from my travels, from camera or mobile photos after I've got home.  The reference photo, in all their unedited snapshot and hasty glory, are shown to the right of the sketch or painting.

Ponte du Gard I and II

Site visited March 2014, painted July 2018.

Painting info: This one was the first time I felt confident enough to tackle some of the study abroad photos I'd taken.  I don't really do architectural drawings, so I knew it would be a challenge, but I did it.  The perspective lines aren't matched, but I think it adds to the pen and ink charm and makes it look like it was drawn and painted from my memory of the visit.  It taught me that the best-looking photographs are not necessarily the best painting references.  I went with a limited palette for it: yellow ochre, primary yellow, phthalo blue, cobalt, and rose madder lake.  I love the vibrancy I was able to achieve on the bridge by limiting my use of the red.

Site info: This is the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct just outside of Nimes, France.  I visited this during a weekend trip of Aix-en-Provence and the surrounding area.  Easily my favourite trip of the entire study abroad experience.  I got to see sites and experience things I've dreamt of since I was a small child and barely old enough to read.  I read about places in France like Avignon, where a second pope was housed for a while, and Roman roads, and aqueducts, and I gobbled it all up.  Wikipedia on the Pont du Garde.

I couldn't get enough of the Pont du Gard.  Drawing and painting it brought me back to that place and made the trip feel like it was yesterday.

Painting info:  Watercolours on a pen and ink sketch on Khadi Paper from India- 4x6 Inch 140lb. (320gsm) Pack of 20 Sheets.  I don't love these sheets but they're fascinating to me.  The pen and ink always looks great on them, but they absorb just a tad too much paint and it's easy to overwork.  Simple pieces, like the one below, look fantastic on it though.

Site info: Same as above!  This is the view from the bridge itself.

Fontaine de Vaucluse I and II

Painting info:  Postcard doodled July 2018, pen and ink drawing on Khadi Paper from India- 4x6 Inch 140lb. (320gsm) Pack of 20 Sheets again.  Then I went over it in paint.

Site info:  Visited March 2014.  Provence again! I went here on a weekend trip during my study abroad, same trip as for the Pont Du Garde above.  This was Sunday morning, the last day.  I got to see so many things I had dreamed of since childhood- a Roman aqueduct, the Avignon pope palace, and I also got to see a natural well of unknown depth!  Wikipedia on the Fontaine de Vaucluse.

Painting info:  Watercolours on an artist's trading card.  Pen and ink with watercolour is my comfort zone, so I wanted to challenge myself and do it directly onto my pencil outline.  Not in love with it, don't hate it either.  It looks nice as an artist trading card.  Paper is Stonehenge Aqua, you can see it here:

Site info:  As above!  This tree is behind one of the boulders in the above photo.

Hingene, Belgium

Painting info:  Done in my Khadi Papers softback watercolour sketchbook.  The paper is interesting, much more temperamental than the Khadi Papers watercolour rough A6 postcards I did the first Fontaine de Vaucluse and second Pont du Gard sketches on, but although it's also not forgiving it's much easier to use.  It's hard to get deep values on the paper, but I like that because it's good for quick sketches and practice pieces, and work always comes out luminous.  I love the sketchbook.  Can't seem to find it on Amazon at this time, but it is available on Cheap Joe's:

Site info:  This is a park in Hingene, in the Flanders region of Belgium.  Nearby, in an adjacent park, is the D'Ursel Castle.  I mean to draw that someday too.

Church in Antwerp
Site visited June 2018, painted July 2018. 

Painting info: Very rough pen and ink sketch, with much the same motivation as the first Pont du Garde painting: practice architecture and get the contrast of the luminous stonework and building against the sky and vibrancy of the plants.  Pen and ink sketch with watercolours in a travel watercolour sketchbook.  I actually took that sketchbook to Belgium and painted in it, but nothing I saw there while I was there except for the hydrangea.

Site info:  I didn't actually photograph this one myself, so I'm not super sure what cathedral or church it is, other than it's in Antwerp and somewhere central.  My aunt sent me the photo a week or two after I visited her in Belgium, and I zoomed in on the tower and painted it for last year's World Watercolour Month.  I do remember seeing this cathedral a lot when she took me to Antwerp, but I didn't go inside it during my visit.

Middelheim Museum and Park

Painting info: This is a painting of Ai Weiwei's The Bridge Without a Name.  Watercolours with pen and ink on the Stonehenge Aqua artist trading cards again.  Love how this came out, despite the wonky perspective.  Actually, it's my wonky perspective that I like, because it looks like I hastily sketched it onsite.  The small surface forced me to keep just the details  I loved.  It's really striking to come upon in the park.

Site info: Middelheim Museum is an outdoor art museum/park in Antwerp.  It's a fantastic place- totally free, somehow!- and was one of my favourite places to visit.  The art there was so different from one another.  Some quirky and fun pieces, some lighthearted work, some dread-inducing work, some utterly horrifying pieces, and some faintly eerie ones.

Painting info:  This was the only piece I actually did while on the trip, in Belgium, that was also related to the trip.  I was fascinated by the textures on these flowers, so I snapped many photos and when I got "home" to my aunt's apartment and we had some downtime, I sat down and drew this.  Painting something white was good practice.  The figure that's cropped out is a doodle based on a woman I saw in Antwerp that day.

Site info:  This was the other half of Middelheim, more of a botanical garden.

The End!
And those are the artworks I've done so far from my travels in the Flanders region of Belgium and the south of France!  I mean to do more, I really do- need to add northern Italy and New Orleans especially.  But hey, in this case it really is better late than never, and the memories of those trips really do become more vivid as you work on the piece.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

World Watercolor Month 2018 Week 3 (July 16-21)

Continuing World Watercolour Month from my Week 1 post and my Week 2 post.  This is a little blog showing my progress per piece and inspiration - basically a more expanded version of what I've been posting over on Instagram.  Yeah, this is late, I know.  I had a beach day on Saturday so I had no scanner for my work and really, no inclination to take a break from a wonderful day.  I'm keeping this up for mostly personal reasons anyway, so I figured it could wait..

In all cases, clicking the image of the finished painting will take you to the full-size posting on deviantart.

July 16: More Maine coastline
Another photo from my Maine beach day two days before this.  It was a view from the parking lot of a wildlife refuge.  The houses are not accessible by car or on foot except during low tide.  I found the view quaint and vibrant enough to draw it.  Because I've been having problems capturing New England skies - so moody and gloomy compared to the vibrant Arizona skies I'm used to - I followed Scratchmade Journal's tutorial on painting skies and clouds.  Fortunately released that day!  I finally nailed that New England sky.

The paper, if you're wondering, is Khadi Papers paperback sketchbook (not the hardcover you've probably seeing all over watercolour instagram).  Paints soak in right away and colours spread all over if applied when it's not bone dry, so it's wonderful for these loose, wild experimental sketches and for more dry brush work.  I love it, but it's certainly not for everyone.

July 17: Plein Air - Great Bay again
I woke up very early, so I went back to the Great Bay Wildlife Refuge and painted some trees I saw on the path.  I also saw some birds, very close to me!  A white-breasted nuthatch, which I've only seen in pictures, two woodpeckers that may have been either the downy woodpecker or the hairy woodpecker, and a warbler that was so bright blue and yellow in colour I think it may have been a northern parula.

July 18: My friend's cat
A couple weeks ago my friend sent me a picture of her cat that I found highly amusing.  It looked like her cat was plotting world domination, so I asked her if I could (eventually) paint the scene.  And I did.  This was my first time using the Khadi Papers rough sheets, which I believe is the same as the paper in their hardcover sketchbooks that I keep seeing people rave about on instagram.

July 19: Seashell from the beach day
During the beach day last Saturday, my boyfriend found a cool, oddly textured shell and gave it to me.  It's probably from a purse or hat rather than something that would normally be found in Maine, but it was still cool-looking and I painted it.  I went for a different, tighter style than I normally do and this was the result.  I was not quite happy with it, so...

July 20: Seashell Re-do

...I redid it!  Went with my usual style, and I like it much better.

July 21: Goddess or Faerie
This, again, was loosely inspired by Eluveitie.  This time it was a combination of the songs "Rebirth", "Epona", and "A Rose for Epona".  This took a lot of glazing and patience, so I'm super proud of it.  I imagine she is is a fertility or nurturing goddess, coming out to a believer who called...whether or not they knew they called her, or were entirely sure of their belief. She may be the goddess of this place, this land, these people only, or she may showing a mere facet of herself in this form and place. I always envision some kind of goddess or otherworld spirit appearing like this when I hear the following lines from "Rebirth":
"In front of Antumnos' gate 
I beheld the mirror in the lake 
Recognize I did not 
Nor did I comprehend."

Of course, she could be aloof (as in the case of "A Rose for Epona"), and I imagine the person she is approaching right now may have that same skepticism of her.

So that's Week 3 of world watercolour month.  I'm still posting these day by day as I go on my Instagram profile, if you want to check that out!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

World Watercolor Month 2018 Week 2 (July 9-15)

Continuing World Watercolour Month from my Week 1 post.  This is a little blog showing my progress per piece and inspiration - basically a more expanded version of what I've been posting over on Instagram.  Yeah, this is late, I know.  I had a beach day on Saturday so I had no scanner for my work and really, no inclination to take a break from a wonderful day.  I'm keeping this up for mostly personal reasons anyway, so I figured it could wait..

In all cases, clicking the image of the finished painting will take you to the full-size posting on deviantart.

July 9: Spontaneous Painting
Spontaneous painting, after watching a lot of The Mind of Watercolor videos in which he talks about or discusses the approach.  I just dipped crumpled tissue paper in yellows and greens and blotted them on my little watercolour block, let them dry, and added some blue for shadows.  Once it began to take shape I retroactively found a reference by going through my phone until I found a picture of a clump of trees by my work parking lot that had similar-looking shadows and highlights, and went for that.  Not thrilled with it because I just could not get good shadows vs. highlights, which is probably partially due to the paper.  It's that Michael's watercolour paper that's incredibly cheap but workable, so it can't take more than three layers, maybe four if you use a light hand,  But hey.  Another learning experience!  And I learned not to touch the lake too much and let the paint do its thing.

July 10: Ravens in the Fading Light - "light and luminous"
Had some time before work, but no ideas for today's piece.  Looked at the prompt, saw "light & luminous" and immediately knew I wanted birds silhouetted against a daybreak or sunset.  Et voila.

I may even do this one later on cotton paper!

July 11: "beautiful blooms"
Experimenting with salt textures.  Did the wash of blue, yellow, and pink and overlaid salt on it.  Loved the result and went to look at old pictures I'd taken, found a lot of water and trees from Vancouver and Melaque, and frankensteined the best parts together.  I think I did well!

July 12:
Got some new Chinese brush styles, and decided to practice.  My scanner eats all yellows, so I promise this piece is not this hideous, and those things actually do look like bean stalks in real life.

July 13: 
This one was difficult.  I saw the prompt was "Fast and loose", and that is a painting style with results I've long admired.  I wanted to tackle it, but wasn't sure how.  I decided a dancer or shaman would be perfect.  Here, I was trying to do a perspective piece, viewing the girl from slightly above so her body receded from the viewer, but I would up failing and that's why her head and shoulders look so large and wide compared to the rest of her body.  But I did get the painting style, I think.  I actually did the sketch and inking the lineart with a brush on Wednesday the 11th so I would be ready to quickly crank this out tonight.

I think I at least nailed the painting part, and got a decent swamp background.  Neverending stoooooryyyyyy...

July 14: Plein air and beach day!
I went to Maine Saturday morning to meet up with my boyfriend and meet his mom and his brother.  We started the day with breakfast and sat in the outdoor seating area of a restaurant.  I loved the view, so of course I had to paint it.  I used painting methods I've seen Teoh Yi Chie use in his youtube videos, because I love the vibrant results he gets from mixing paints on the paper instead of the palette.  I absolutely love how it turned out!  I have other sketches from this day - 3 total, all plein air, all my first true and complete plein air (i.e., completely done in-field instead of sketched there and worked on later) - and I love the result of all of them!

July 15: Tiny Monsters - on the beach!
I saw a picture of a coconut palm with a mound of coconuts below it, and the arrangement of the coconuts looked like there could be critters hiding in it. But instead of imagining creepy crawlies, my mind envisioned cute little fuzzballs with glowing red eyes and demon horns. Something more huggable than scary. I overdid paint concentration in the background and overpowered the whole thing, but I do like the concept, so I hope to do this properly soon.

So that's week 2 of world watercolour month.  I'm still posting these day by day as I go on my Instagram profile, if you want to check that out!

Monday, July 09, 2018

World Watercolor Month 2018 Week 1 (July 2-8)

So I've been doing World Watercolour Month.  I found out about it on July 2, hence why July 1 is missing.  But this week I managed to do a piece a day, even hastily on July 2!  This is a little blog showing my progress per piece and inspiration - basically a more expanded version of what I've been posting over on Instagram.

In all cases, clicking the image of the finished painting will take you to the full-size posting on deviantart.

July 1: Sir Not Appearing in This Film
I did not know about World Watercolour Month on July 1.

July 2: White-Throated Kingfisher
So Day 2 (my first day), I decided to tackle a white-throated kingfisher, for many reasons:
  1. I found out about World Watercolour Month via a watercolour group I belong to on deviantart around 6pm, so I had to finish and scan a piece ASAP;
  2. I'm most comfortable drawing birds and desert landscapes;
  3. It seems like the common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) is a super popular subjects among watercolourists, BUT...
  4. I've, uh...never draw or painted a kingfisher ;
  5. from the birders I follow there are so many kingfisher species, just as stunning as the common kingfisher, if not moreso; and
  6. kingfishers are fucking adorable.
White-throated kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) and Google images of the lovely beast.

The kingfisher piece didn't take very long.  30 minutes, maybe?  That's also why I messed up and have a band at the neck that doesn't exist on any photo I've seen of the bird, as I was trying to rush to get the piece finished, scanned, and submitted online.

July 3: Golden Marmoset - primary colours
This day was, in my opinion, a massive success.  The suggested prompt was primary colours, so I picked three colours I don't really think of as "going together".  I didn't know what my subject matter would be - perhaps steak? - but that day a primate-loving friend texted me AND direct messaged me on instagram, begging me to paint gibbons!  What's funny about this is that since I went to the Antwerp Zoo on a trip to Belgium in June, I'd been wanting to paint a gibbon, especially after reading an article about a two millenia old Chinese crypt that held the bones of an extinct gibbon species.  But the only animals I've ever painted are birds, and the only drawings I've done of other animals are doodles of my dog and of cats.  I never like to dive out of my comfort zone, so I decided to draw a golden lion tamarin, aka golden marmoset (Leontopithecus rosalia) to test the waters.  With its beautiful fur and mane, I knew it would be the perfect way to see if I could draw non-human primates, and also test out that primary colour challenge.  From the pencil sketch and inked version I knew I was doing well, and wow.  I was very happy with the final piece.

Process of the Golden Lion Tamarin painting.  Full size of the final posted on my deviantart page.

July 4: Wise Crow - saving an old drawing
This was a pencil sketch I did months ago that I actually hated.  I love the lyrics of the Nightwish song "The Crow, the Owl, and the Dove" and wanted to draw something inspired by it, but I detested the sketch I did back in March.  It just...I could not make it look like a crow.  I drew other crows in my journals...but it seemed this paper was cursed.  I got home late that night, so I decided to take out the sketch and see if I could salvage it.  The inking was...okay.  The jewelry looked right, even if the crow didn't.

Originally, I had wanted the setup to look like a Yu-Gi-Oh! card. So I looked up the Superstition Mountains outside of my hometown and added those in.  And perfect!  I did  go in with watercolour pencils for detail and deeper shadows at the end, but wow.  I shocked myself, especially with the colouring on the crow.

"A crow flew to me, kept its distance. 
Such a proud creation. 
I saw its soul, envied its pride, 
but needed nothing it had." 
From "The Crow, the Owl, and the Dove" by Nightwish.

July 5: Meh
I'm including it, but this one was a failure. I wanted to represent an Asian paradise flycatcher in flight, as I found them to be phoenix-like birds. I challenged myself to do it with Chinese ink and a bamboo brush, using simple brush strokes. I didn't plan much, and I believe that was my mistake. I would have scrapped it right away, but because of World Watercolour Month I made myself finish it. I'm glad I did, because I will try this again, with proper planning.

July 6: Direct Watercolour Landscape
I lost the photo I used as reference.  I challenged myself again- just brush to paper, no initial sketch. This is a cheaper watercolour paper so it can't take many layers, so when the paper was done, I thought it still needed more. So I went over it with a fountain pen. I liked working on it and how it came out, and will try on better paper.

July 7: Great Bay Wildlife Refuge
Last Saturday I went birding and took a photo of a particularly striking view.  Even though the photo is an iphone snapshot and doesn't capture the magnificence of that view, it was still stunning.  I had to paint it.  Given how good my World Watercolour Month tries have been coming out (with the exception of Day 5), I decided to paint from the photo I had of last week's adventure.  I decided to do a primary colours challenge again, with a different set of primaries in my palette.  Came out fine!

July 8: Pink-browed Rosefinch
I wasn't sure what to do for today, so I looked at the prompts for inspiration.  Today's was "something flying" so, since I love painting birds and am now comfortable painting them, I hopped right back into my comfort zone with a pink-browed rosefinch (Carpodacus rodochroa).  I'd actually painted one of these in May, as a quick 10-minute sketch.  That one is shown here, just because.

And that wraps up week 1 of world watercolour month!  I'm posting these day by day and progress as I go on my Instagram profile, if you want to check that out!

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Inspirations from Music - Eluveitie

It's not even funny.  For whatever reason, I keep being really inspired in my art by the music of Eluveitie.  Even the band that three of the founding members formed has inspired me to do a piece of artwork so similar to their debut album promo images that I called it fanart:

This the Sound by NekoMarik on deviantART
Left: My drawing.  Right: The promo images for Cellar Darling's This is the Sound album.

Quick process of that above piece.  It's not really that good, overall, but I'm super proud of it because it was my first full watercolour on actual watercolour paper in a long time, and I got to see all my improvement in one go:

Above: "This is the Sound" artwork process.
Below: One of the songs from Cellar Darlings This is the Sound album:

It was also my first full piece with my new, proper watercolours (Sennelier), and they were so vibrant and easy to work with.  The boots came out pretty good, and the poncho overlaying the dress did as well, particularly the transparent part! So I'm quite happy with it.  I would like to redo this someday in a less drawing-between-conference-breaks-in-my-hotel-room pressure, with figures representing Ivo and Merlin (the other Cellar Darling members) as well.  I love all the songs on that album, but I'm posting this particular one as indicative of my overall inspiration because it's the one that repeats the album title in the lyrics.

Well, that's the main one.  There's also a concept sketch and a watercolour doodle I did to practice folds in clothing and facial hair (horribly failed at the latter).  Both art pieces are inspired by album artwork, promo images, and overall feel of the album, but not really faithful presentations of the albums.  Thus I'm not calling them fanart.
Slanias Song by NekoMarik on deviantART  Druid I by NekoMarik on deviantART
Left: Inspiration from Eluveitie's album Slania (named for this song).  Right: Inspiration from their debut album. Example song. 

I also did a knit stitch based on a tutorial on how to encode words into knitted lace.  I didn't do anything fancy.  Rather than convert the word "Helvetios" into any number system, I just did a straightforward cipher and converted each letter in the word into its number in the alphabet, and did yarn overs according to the digits.  For zeroes, I just skipped a space whenever I had a 0 digit and began counting again- like 0 was a skip or a reset counter.  Because lazy.  That results in this loveliness:
I encoded the word "Helvetios" into this lace stitch, naming it after Eluveitie's album Helvetios, title song posted next to the stitch.  

Sloppily blocked, hence weird cropping on a phone snapshot, but I just wanted to visualize the stitch.  I did have to play around with decrease type and placement, but not as much as I thought I would have had to.  I still need to work out what I want to use the stitch in - thinking a bottom-up crop top.  I love how it came out!  Captures what I get out of this band's music.  Which is not for everyone, but hey...I love it, especially with all the added layers of old myth, spirituality, and history, in addition to great blends of folk and metal.