Friday, July 29, 2016

Watercolor Playdate or Watching Paint Dry CAN be Exciting!

  Learning Apple
various watercolors and a few watercolor pencils
on 140 lb weight “mystery” watercolor scrap paper
my own photo
Recently I “put on/presented/played at” a little Watercolor Playdate hosted by my local library Logan County Public Library. (Big shout out here to the lovely and very helpful staff).

I decided to do this 'cause I wanted to “play with” a few other local watercolor folks. I dreamed up an itty bitty program and gathered together a “kit”....(i.e. Anything to do with watercolor from my studio) and went to the playdate.
My basic aim was to show three simple ways to corral your watercolors so's each color is just where you want it. I showed off misket, wax colored pencil, and just plain ol' water surface tension.

At home, I made up a photo of a brightly lit apple, drew it out on a bit of board, and made a quickie template that I used to trace off the outline of the apple, and the bottom half of the apple with the shadow. I used that to make up two sets of watercolor sketches on paper scraps. One with misket separating the apple and table from the background, so's we could play with dark intense watercolor backgrounds. Rather than waiting for that to dry.....watching paint dry is normally a ton of fun for me......but not so much when you only have an hour for the project, I did a second set of watercolor sketches with the backgrounds already done.

We started off with soaking the prepared watercolor sketch scraps so's we could do the “soak and slap” method of wetting and stabilizing the paper on scraps of plexiglass. I showed off this method on this blog a while back here. Then everyone started laying in bits of the background yellow/red/blues watercolor from the three primary watercolors they'd brought from home. We used styrofoam plates for palettes.

After we finished with our backgrounds we set them aside to dry and take home later. Then I brought out the prepared samples where I had already laid in a watercolor background. I noted that the washes dried about half again lighter than what they'd looked like when first painted. I'd also used a bit of salt crystals....... just 'cause.

I let everyone put in a dot of misket on the apple's highlight spot, remove the dried misket for the background line, and trace off the bottom part of the apple and shadow with a wax Prismacolor colored pencil. I wanted to show that wax colored pencils can be very effective at corralling a watercolor wash. I did a blog post about this here.
After the highlight spot was dry, everyone set to painting the apple. We put enough of a wash of water on the apple that, surrounded by the dry paper, it bowed a bit. We “encouraged“ it to bow down so's the red washes would go towards the center shadow of the apple.


Finally when the apple reds were almost dry, we washed a bit of clear water over the shadow area of the apple and and followed that with a wash of blue over the white and over the shadow side of the apple. This was “corralled” by the white wax pencil outline. We “encouraged” the blue to pool at the deepest shadow point, the nexus of the apple and shadow point. We had left the end of the shadow just bounded by the water tension of the water wash. As we tilted it back and forth the shadow automatically graduated itself.


After the washes sorta kinda dried, we looked over each other's work and it was SO interesting to see just how much the color choices made each learning apple unique!
Best of all we all gave ourselves permission to “play with our paints”. If you are only doing something on a can try anything.....without guilt or pressure. You never know just what you might discover when you play!

Give yourself a “play date”, whether solo or with a few of your “friends in watercolor”. Grab some scraps of watercolor paper, some odd watercolors you've been dying to try, your fav watercolor brush, and an hour of your time. See just how much fun you can have “watching paint dry”!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Cover Reveal for The Blue Pool....or there was a Flapping Gull, a Flying Fish and a Fierce Pirate who........

This blog post is doing double duty......both a cover reveal for the latest middle grade adventure, The Blue Pool, by Rosalyn Rikel Ramage and a bit about some of the artwork done by yours truly.

I've been lucky enough to illustrate three other titles for Rosalyn,......The Tracks, The Windmill and The Graveyard. 


All are about the fictional adventures of a real family set in 1914 western Kentucky. Rosalyn weaves lovely fiction with down home details and a lively dash of fantasy adventure. This latest installment mixes together a talking fish named Jewel,

a helpful gull named Quoddy,

 with a dash of a treasure stealing pirate named Gustav



...and well you'll just have to read the story to see how they all come together!

The three black and white character sketches above, were tightened up and rendered in ink along with a couple of other black and white sketches of important scenes in the book. After inking in the lines, I scanned them in, cleaned them up, and they were ready to send off.

I really enjoyed the challenge of painting the cover. I used acrylic paints on some bristol board using strong brush strokes to give the foliage energy. I contrasted that with the stillness of the blue pool right before being disturbed by Little Will's dangerous slipping and sliding into the deep blue pool waters. This was done with multiple glazing to show the depth of the water.

I so appreciated getting to work on this was a blast to get to follow along with Emma Mae's latest adventures.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Vine Ripened Puppys for Sale

16 x 20 inches on canvas
acrylic paints (both standard drying and long drying)
reference: old family photo and my imagination

 This painting idea started out with an old sepia colored family photo. I'd seen it around for years, and thought it just SO filled with cuteness. I couldn't help but add my own “bit of the story” by adding the tomato crate that the puppies are sitting in, and the much chewed upon sign with “puppys for sale”.

Since the photo was sepia colored or virtually black and white I got to invent all the colors on my own. I started out with my handy dandy home made color wheel and a slightly subdued colour scheme, you can see outlined in red. I picked out my paint tube colors and mixed up four little boxes of base colors for the colour scheme. I then did four “thumb nails” or itty bitty color try outs of which color scheme I wanted to go with.

 I then took my pencil sketch and traced it onto the canvas. I double checked my composition strategy of the “Powers of Three” with four stretchy elastic strings wrapped around the canvas....two going one way and two going cross wise. This gave me marking that divided the 16 x 20 canvas into thirds.....AND.....most importantly gave me the four “sweet spots” that suggested where I might locate my most important parts of the painting. One was the head of one of the pups, and the other was the top of the sign: “Puppys for Sale”.

With my idea firmly composed, I confidently set to work painting. I decided, after a bit of research, that this was a Model T car, approx 1900 ish or so. So that made it have to be black. The photo showed the spindly tires and the large running board that the puppies were sitting on. The front seat had no door, just a opening in the car's surface. For the composition, I luved the repetition of half circles broken by the strong dividing line of the running board. I had played around with cropping the source photo till I got an arrangement I liked.

 Once I had the relatively dull Model T black exterior finished with a few warm and cool touches, and put some mud on the tires and running board I was able to go onto the “ice cream work” of painting the puppies. Keeping in mind that so far I had just used the four base colors of red, blue,green and dark to paint the Model T and background grass, I thought I'd introduce a really warm brown to work with in painting the puppies. Both 'cause I wanted to emphasize the importance of the foreground puppy grouping using a new color and 'cause that warm brown was just how I'd always thought they'd look.

After finishing the puppies, I quickly painted in the tomato crate with the red“Vine Ripened” lettering. I had taken a photo of a bit of paper with “Puppys for Sale” printed on it. I had taped it to a box and taken a photo of's to get the right perspective. I had crumpled up the paper before taking the photo in strong sunlight, because I wanted to show the texture of the folds in my choice of paint colors for the white paper. (Yes, white paper CAN show colors)

Frank came up with the perfect final “bit-o-cuteness” for the painting. He suggested that I have a corner of the sign chewed off and a bit of the remainder hanging out of the mouth of the most soulful looking of the puppies.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Play in the Park – A Picture + Word painting (Work in Progress)

Detail from Play in the Park
18 x 24 inches, acrylic paints on gessoed masonite

 This time around I'm showing a couple of details from another Work In Progress, Play in the Park. The concept is how different groups of people, all watching a Shakespeare play performed outdoors in a park, can be in their own little worlds. All the world may be a stage......but in this case different plays are going on in different parts of the picture.

As is often the case with my paintings, I have the concept of the painting itself.....the visual story I'm telling, but I also have an artistic intent. Usually its a technique I want to try to learn about , thru actually using it in a painting. In this case I wanted to see just how little detail I could manage to include, without loosing the form I was painting.

In the case of the face and hand, in the section above, I really enjoyed using a broad brush stroke to indicate the mass of the hands, the cool lavender on the tops of the fingers with the warmer colored shadow strokes between the fingers.

In this crowd detail.......

 I tried really hard to see just how many details I could omit, and still have the individual forms and gestures read correctly. I did have fun smudging things back, every time I stayed true to my normal habits.....and added too many details. I tried, instead of adding details, to give quick brush strokes of a vibrant shadow color or a swoosh of a highlight of a colored T shirt.

Practice of a variant of my usual working habits takes a bit of getting used to......but is rewarding in the results.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Piecing Life Together – A Picture + Word painting (Work in Progress)

 Detail of Piecing Life Together

18 x 24 inches acrylic paint on gessoed masonite

My photo references and imagination

This painting is a bit of an experiment for me. True, it does have people in it, and it's an acrylic painting on gessoed masonsite,which is nothing new for me, but...... I've decided to add words to the mix. In the past I've often come up with titles for my paintings that add something to the meaning of the I finally thought I'd go ahead and actually insert the text IN the picture. As it's often done in another of my jobs.....children's picture book illustration.

I decided for my painting, Piecing Life Together, to show parts of an everyday scene and add in the text as a graphic element. The detail below shows a Saturday morning breakfast table, with cereal circles falling from an overturned box, the falling treat eagerly awaited by a gleeful puppy. 

 I painted the individual details with Golden OPEN Acrylics, that stay wet and usable for a lot longer period of time than standard acrylics. This gives me a welcome amount of time to mix colors both on the canvas and pre-mix them on the palette, either of which is a change from my usual working methods. It also allows for a pleasing amount of blending, which is great for skin textures. I'm really enjoying seeing just what a difference an itty bitty nudge of a dab of paint can make.

I worked on other areas of the painting then planned out the kind of text I wanted to use.
I printed it out and traced it off onto the painting. Then I carefully painted the text in changing bits of the letters as I went along.

Even tho' I've signed this painting, I still consider it a “Work In Progress”, and I may yet make some changes. But I do really like the bits I've got so far.......and the total concept.