Monday, June 24, 2019

Thank you, Ravelry!

I don't have the energy to rewrite this, so this is nearly verbatim from an Instagram post of mine. But, basically I'm glad Ravelry has continued taking a strong stand against hate in all its forms. I am thankful that the owners of a community I love and have loved since sophomore or freshman year of high school have taken strides in standing against the white supremacy of the tr*mp administration in little steps, culminating in a recent outright ban of defense of him, his administration, and all forms of white supremacy and racism. Banning “build the wall” last year was a little thing, but for someone who is regularly affected it seems a big jump. Thank you Ravelry, for the way you support those in minority groups of all classes instead of twiddling thumbs and giving vague “slippery slope” arguments.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Nature Hike Sketches: New England

Ever since I seriously got back into art last year, I've become more and more interested in travel sketching and painting and plein air.  I love travel doodles and sketches, and do them more frequently now, so when I read in depth about plein air and heard watercolourists talk about it on their YouTube videos, I became enamoured with the concept.  I tried it a bit last summer, and loved it, but of course summers are short here, so I did it in spurts in winter.  When it wasn't so cold that I froze right away, I tried more taking my sketchbooks out to wildlife sanctuaries and popular birding and nature hike areas, and loved the sketches I produced.  I became comfortable with nature journalling- painting doodles with phrases and words scrawled alongside as they sprang to mind.  Once I was comfortable with that, I need to conquer plein air.  I've just started it, so I won't share too much of that juuust yet, but I will share some of my "nature spotting" pieces and early plein air pieces right now!  Early meaning before I decided that I loved plein air enough to dedicate a backpack to it, and not just move a sketchbook and field artist kit around in whatever I happened to be carrying that day.


Done in my Pentalic Aqua sketchbook.  Leaves are from a nature hike back home in Arizona, the rest is from Maine.
This was one of my first "true" nature journalings.  Sure, the item is manmade, but I didn't plan it out beforehand or anything like that, I just happened to be walking along a path, saw this structure with the words "solitary bee habitat" and was so intrigued by its look and the phrase that I sketched and painted it on the spot.  I did look it up after, and it turned out to be a bee hotel.  My educational background is in environmental science and ecology, so that was really cool to see!

 
Above: Sketches from an Audubon Center hiking trail.  Left are some sights I saw on the path from the top of a treehouse like structure, and the right is a lake view where I saw a great blue heron fly overhead.

Both of those are from the same location.  The mushroom and doodles were done on-site, with a field watercolour set, again in my Pentalic Aqua sketchbook.  The postcard was done after the fact, from a reference photo I took using my phone, and is on 4x6 Khadi Handmade rough watercolour paper.  With the postcard, I wanted to see how well I could suggest a vivid, detailed scene using only the most basic of shapes, so I chose a paper that would not allow me to go into a lot of detail, both because of its size and its texture and how it absorbs water and pigment.  The result is what made me love this paper instead of just wanting to get rid of it already.  This also began an obsession I seem to have developed with the line "A family of trees wanted to be haunted" from "Kids" by MGMT echoing in my head whenever I paint certain forest scenes.  Not bad, it seems appropriate.  But it only seems to happen when I paint trees in view of water.  Interesting.

And now, for a place that I find myself painting again and again: Great Bay, New Hampshire.

Above: The first time I visited AND the first time I painted this, in my Pentalic Aqua sketchbook again.

The first time I painted this scene I couldn't get it out of my head, so I followed it up with a doodle of the place in sunset, on an artist trading card:

Little doodle with a little song...

As you can see, that song quote makes an appearance again.  I don't know why I keep scrawling it on these New Hampshire and Maine forest sketches.  Because I painted Great Bay AGAIN (more pines, actual pine content exaggerated) on the Khadi Papers postcard sized paper, and behold:

Sennelier watercolours and Noodler's Heart of Darkness ink on Khadi Papers 4x6 rough watercolour paper.

And another, from when the summer was fading.
Okay, that last one was on Fluid 100 5x7 cold press watercolour paper.  Not terrible paper, not the best.  I'm shocked it's the price it is since it has the feel of a high-quality budget paper, but retail price is a little more than 5x7 sheets of Fabriano Artistico.  I bought the Fluid 100 sheets on clearance last year, and if it ever drops to that $10 or less price again I would snatch up large amounts of them.  But otherwise, I can't see myself forking over that much money for watercolour paper that doesn't lift well or take masking fluid when better quality papers are available for less per sheet.  But, back to the scene:  the summer was fading in New England and I felt compelled to paint the scene again because I went there and the water was just so damn blue.  I failed to capture the line of reflection dividing the treeline and marsh grasses from the bay, but I'm happy with the feel of the piece.

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.

The Amazon links here are affiliate links.  Purchasing through them will earn me a small proceed.

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: https://amzn.to/2PL7JSf

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: https://www.cheapjoes.com/khadi-handmade-paperback-books.html

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.

Please note that the Amazon links are affiliate links.  The Cheap Joe's links is not an affiliate link and I do not gain anything from it if you follow it.