Last Thursday was the first sunny day in the past week and a half, and the Plein Air group from the SCVWS went to Guadalupe Oak Grove Park in Almaden Valley. It's a beautiful park and well-used; we saw hikers, runners, dog walkers and a workout group. Someone asked if we were birdwatchers-I'm not sure that's a compliment! There's a wonderful rocky cliff face, but I didn't see it soon enough and rather ambitiously decided to paint the view across the valley. The deciduous trees have a warm glow about them right now, as their buds are beginning to swell. I was surprised by how many columns of Italian cypresses there were in the landscape.
Monday, January 25, 2010
The workshop lasted 3 days and the price was unbelievably low! Of course the 55 mile drive to Salinas 3 days in a row was tiresome, and I used most of a tank of gas, so that kind of balances out the cost, I guess.
The palette I used is his suggested one: Fr. ultramarine, cobalt, quin gold, quin red, burnt sienna, new gamboge, phthalo green, yellow ochre, and alizarin. He uses the yellow ochre primarily in very thin, uneven washes for underpainting. I haven't used phthalo green much before-it does mix well for greens, but needs dulling down. Also-all 3 pieces are half sheets. (15" x 22")
On day 2 we painted waterfalls and rocks. I used a picture I had taken myself several years ago in the Trinity Lake area, and that I have painted twice before. The rocks turned out interesting-the water not so much.
Day3 we all painted Dale's barn photo. I overworked this poor barn and the eucalyptus trees behind it so abysmally that it's shameful. I enjoyed seeing his demos and will try to put some of his techniques into practice.
I've spent the past 3 days at a workshop in Salinas. Dale Laitinen has an almost geometric approach to his subjects. He says that he paints shapes-triangles, rectangles and circles, not things. I need to put in lots of practice time, as I've neglected my work since Thanksgiving, but I will try to apply his underpainting technique and work on making each brushstroke count. The paintings I'm attaching here are all overworked to greater or lesser extents.
The first day we painted mountains-I used one of his photos. The mountains were very dark in the photo, covered with sagebrush.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
This day was warmer and dry so I sat on a bench at the waterfront with sister Ann. The earthen jetty has a trail on it and is a wildlife refuge. The houses at right are on the Tulalip Indian Reservation. At one point, there was a great blue heron perched on nearly every piling. Then a bald eagle flew over and they all scattered. The eagle eats fish, not birds, but I guess they weren't taking any chances!
Friday, January 22, 2010
Same day as last painting-we drove back across the Rainbow Bridge and found a place to park where we could see the whole bridge (still sitting in the truck, as the rain had stopped, but it was getting really cold as the sun went down.) This small painting (7"x9") was done wet-in-wet, then I went back in with black ink. The vibrant dark red orange of the bridge contrasts so beautifully with the very dark green evergreens- someone had a real eye for color when they selected the color for the bridge! I used brown madder-it was the perfect color right out of the tube. The sun was setting so quickly that I had to work quickly. Painting en plein air in that climate is very different than in San Jose. Here, the paper dries so quickly sometimes that it's difficult to get colors to mix. On the wet Washington coast, it took forever for the paper to dry. My sister, not a watercolorist, was becoming alarmed as the paint kept running, but I'm happy with the way everything blended.
La Conner used to be a little fishing village, but its cute quotient has been upped considerably lately as it has become a tourist mecca of galleries and antique and gift shops. My sister and I drove across the Rainbow Bridge to look back at the waterfront. The sky was mostly gray with a few blue patches coming through to the south. Can you still call it plein air if you're sitting inside a pickup truck in the rain?
We just returned from a week-long trip to visit family in Washington. My sister Ann and I, along with her friend Carol drove to Seattle to visit the Seattle Art Museum. We saw an exhibit on Michelangelo's Judgement Day fresco-the painting on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. There were a few of his small drawings among the pieces displayed; it was very interesting and informative. Also saw a Calder show-fun. We had a terrific lunch at the Dahlia Lounge, visited a couple of fabric stores (for them) and made a pilgrimage to the Daniel Smith store (for me.) In addition to his own line of watercolors, the shop sells many other lines and has pretty much anything an artist working in any medium could want. I bought 14 tubes of his Prima-Tek pigments. They're ground from pure minerals and have remarkable characteristics. Several are quite iridescent, some sparkle, and some granulate so actively that you almost see the pigment drop out before your eyes! I painted samples of 12 of them-don't know how well they'll show. Click on the picture so you can see an enlarged view and get a better sense of how these pigments behave. There were sets that combined several tubes for a price break and my sister had a 20% off coupon!
Monday, January 11, 2010
I bought a block of watercolor paper made in Amalfi when I was there 2 years ago. When I pulled it out to use for the first time a few weeks ago, disaster struck. After painting the crab, I masked it out with white "Easy Mask" tape so I could work on the background. When I pulled off the tape, a layer of paper came along with it, leaving white splotches on my crab. After whining about it for 2 weeks, I went in with pen and ink. Not a prize winner, but I saved it from the recycle bin!
The image is from a photo I took when I visited my cousin Candy, near Baltimore. She and her husband, Wayne took me out for an authentic Maryland crab feast. After 31 years in California, we still miss those spicy blue crabs thrown out on a brown paper-covered table!