Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More Flower Sketches...

"Anemone and Bluebells Sketch", 4"x10", Watercolor on Winsor & Newton Cotman 140# Watercolor Sketchbook

Very busy recently... Only had enough time to do some small sketches using a couple of minutes here and there. The first page showing here is done on Winsor & Newton Cotman 140# paper. It is a lovely white paper and is recommend by Siriol Sherlock, a botanical artist and flower painter I admire greatly. Wet-in-wet is easy on this paper, and granulate color shows a lot of interesting effects. Glaze is also easy, without needing to worry too much about lifting the underlying colors. I like how flower colors appear more vibrant on this very white paper, and it isn't too expensive, perfect for using as a sketch book. I did the line sketches and a little bit shading in front of the flowers, and only added colors later from memory. Good exercise for observation skills indeed, and I am suprised that I could remember them so well back home. Learnign to paint is also the process of learning to observe and truely "see". I start to get this idea more and more now... I might go back to the site I did the sketch and add a few details to the bluebells, we'll see.

The pansies were merely practicing brush strokes without drawing first and is not done from a real flower, only a copy from examples out of a book. It did allow me to try out another sketchbook I have bought for a while and did not have chance to use yet --- the "Liberte" sketchbook from Arches. I do not know whether this sketchbook is availble in the state or not now --- I got it from someone on eBay selling legacies from his parents. I loved this paper --- the texture is slightly rougher than cold-press Arches paper, and color is off-white, but it holds washes so beautifully! The paper is only 80#, very thin, yet because is is made of 50% cotton and 50% man-made fiber, it stays perfectly flat with small-sized wet washes like this, do not buckle even a little! What's more, the way it takes wet strokes and keep staying wet for an extending amount of time makes it so much superior compare to the Strathmore Aquarius II paper, also made out of sythetic fiber...

"Pansy Sketch", 4"x4", Watercolor on Arches Liberte 80# Watercolor Sketchbook

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sketches from the Holidays

"Eagel Creek Park Lake Sketch", 10"x6", Watercolor on Daler-Rowney Langton 200# Watercolor Sketchbook

It is a bad thing not to update at all for a whole week! Being busy is not an excuse... I did start a coupld of paintings and sketches but none of them are anywhere close to be finished or posted. This is typical me --- shifting attention every minute. I will try to finish some of these projects this week, I promise!

I had a very pleasant July 4th weekend, got some very good bristol board and pastel paper at 90% off price on a sale of Purdue bookstore. To celebrate this deal, I went with a dear friend on small sketch trips around town. We went to Eagel Creek State Park on Saturday afternoon and spend a lovely afternoon sketching near the woods and by the lake.

The lake sketch I did was whipped out in a hurry -- less than an hour from start to finish, and I did not have time to even do a line sketch on the watercolor paper! The sun is setting, the sky was a lovely light red-violet hue on the west side, and turned gradually toward blue to the east. I used a very diluted cerulean blue to start the piece, using a 3/4 inch brush to cover the whole sky area as soon as possible, and dropped in some cadmium red before the paper started to dry. I pulled the blue and red down for the lake surface in uneven strokes to add some interest, and used a mix of the same two colors to paint the cloud shadows wet in wet. Then I waited the paper to dry -- it did, actually, very fast, as a typical result of painting on this Langton paper, -- and painted the middle ground foliages using a #0 Isabey squirrel quill brush. I try to change color every two or three strokes, something I learned in a workshop with Mr. Jerry Smith that adds great intrest to relative flat areas. Then I used much stronger and warmer brown-green color to paint the forground trees and bushes, try to vary some edges but not very successful. Finally, I wetted the foreground water to drop in the reflection colors, and used a little dry-brush work to imply the reflected light on the lake surface.

One problem with sketching with very limited time is that all the brush strokes begin to be rushed and start to look the same -- no varieties in the brushwork describing the foreground trees. Also, the subtle color and value shifts in these foreground tree shapes are lost in my rush. Realizing this, I took several photos of the scene -- I would really like to do a studio painting planned out with thumbnails, value studies, color studies and the whole nine yard according to the photos and my on-site sketch, and see how it turns out. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed doing the sketch and realized even a quick study like this would actually allow a much impression and deeper understanding of the scene on the painter side, which can not be done with photo-reference only. Now I can still close my eyes and see the slight hinge of red on the east sky, which is not at all recognizable in my photo-refrences...

I also tried to make some nature journal style of studies of the woods in the park -- without pencil drawings, again, just playful and fun, getting more acquainted with my newly-acquired Isabey red-sable brushes (#6 and #8 here). I used a new color, oxide of Chromium, to mix with various siennas and umbers to mimic the mossy branch, and loved the resulted color mixtures very much. This color is slightly heavy and very opaque, yet great in discribing the rough texture of tree barks. Trying out something new is fun! What's more, drawing branches really trains the eye-hand coordiation and observation of negative shapes (in between branches). It is also a great way to get familiar with all the potentials of your brush fast. I'd like to do it more often...

"Nature Journal Page with Branch Study", 5"x8", Watercolor on Moleskin Watercolor Sketchbook

My painting buddy was also testing out new materials -- Canson 100# vellum bristol board and Isabey squirrel quill brushes. She fell in love with the brush immediately -- they leave a great variety of marks easily and holds a point really well, while in the mean time can hold a really large amount of water and paint. The softness of the brush did not bother her at all, and she did this cute little sketch of a car underneath the tree. I am amazed by her ability of capture the shape of a mechanical object so quickly yet accurately -- I can never get a car to seem right on paper! I also liked how the paints puddle and leave interesting shapes and marks on this smoother paper. It is not for large washes, but really wonderful for brushwork!

Plein air is surely fun... I wonder why I did not do it more often?...

"Accord Sketch", 4"x5", Watercolor on Canson 100# Vellum Bristol Board