h1

Clouds Over Limestone Road

March 1, 2019

Clouds Over Limestone Road – Oil on Canvas – 12″ x 12″

Fall of 2017, I did a small plein air painting of this scene. The roll of the road along this farm is what caught my attention. The original painting stopped just above the trees. Soon after I completed the plein air work, one of the galleries requested this work for display. Unfortunately, the work sat at the gallery never to find an owner.

Rise on Limestone Road – Plein Air – Oil on Linen Panel – 8″ x 10″

I retrieved the original work late summer. I left the work on display in my studio where I could see it. I thought that the design might be interesting if I played with a more dramatic sky. I am currently working on a larger version of this for the galleries and have already thought up another idea for this design. More to come.

 

h1

From the Classroom Watercolor Color Charts

February 28, 2019

Most of the students enrolled in my Beginners – Level 1 class have little or no experience with watercolor. Others have had some experience, though not necessarily positive. To get the students started, our first assignment is to create a color chart. I find it interesting that the students that need the color chart experience the least, enjoy the assignment the most. Upon completion of the chart, the students will have familiarized themselves with the Arches 140# Cold Press paper, the twelve basic colors of our palette and the feel of their watercolor brushes.

Color Chart

Seems that the most stressful part of the assignment is drafting the chart onto a full sheet of watercolor paper. After that task is completed, we spend a two hour class session playing on the left half of our charts. The left side will help the student understand how to take the paint from intense application to a wisp of pigment. Some students are heavier with the paint. Others are a bit more timid. They also learn how to apply a glaze of pigment to alter a prior application of color. This also involves learning some of the strategy and patience required with watercolor.

Values

Color Glaze

The second week of the color chart is spent on the right side of the chart where we play with color combinations. This exercise challenges them to apply strong pigment from dry paper onto a moistened section of the Arches paper and then introducing a second pigment into the mix. There are two parts to this challenge. Where the colors meet, part is to be left butting up against each other without mixing and then delicately mixing the colors on the other end of the meeting. This exercise allows students to experience how the colors work with and against each other. They will generate understanding as how to apply more interesting applications of colors when we start creating paintings. It also teaches them to be swift and brief with some color combinations to avoid “mud”.

Color Combinations

Once in awhile, a student will squawk that they already have a color chart which they purchased at the art supply store and they don’t feel that they should have to do this exercise. Or they may offer that I should just print copies of these charts and not bother them with this exercise. My immediate reply is to challenge them. By the time the students have finished these charts they learn more than they think they did. They gain familiarity with the feel of the paper, the paints and the brushes. They learn about the sedimentary characteristics of some pigments and the high fluidity of others. They learn the colors. They learn how the pigments can work with each other to yield more exciting opportunities than just buying more tubes of paint.

As each student has their own “isms”, observing and guiding the students through these charts enables me to help them with their paintings as they move on to our other painting classes.

h1

East Field at Beaver Creek

February 27, 2019

East Field at Beaver Creek – Plein Air finished in Studio Oil on Canvas – 16″ x 20″

Entering the property at Beaver Creek, you drive about 100 yards through thick woods. As you clear the woods, the barn comes into view. This morning, as I cleared the woods, I pulled onto the tall thick grasses at the edge of the bean field. I trudged through the grasses, raising a few mosquitoes, and found this view. I set up my equipment and painted.

What I have identified as a red barn has actually been converted to a home and workshop for a ceramicist. The current structure has dark brown siding and numerous windows. You can still see indications of the original structure. I felt that this design would read better as a red barn. A bit traditional, but helps avoid viewer confusion.

 

h1

From the Classroom Advanced Watercolor – Lanark Farm

February 26, 2019

This week, I utilized the following reference photo for our watercolor landscape challenge.

Lanark Farm

I uncovered more than two dozen design possibilities. Winnowing the potentials to just a few compositions for the students.

Thumbnail and Value Sketch for Lanark farm

Using a few loose thumbnail sketches for ideas and a value sketch, I did a quick watercolor demonstration. The first demonstration is a design which links the building shadows to create an interesting shape to hold the composition together. Notice the light and lively application of colors to keep the shadows from being boring. The second demonstration took the first demo to another level by introducing the concept of atmospheric perspective to the barn in the background to enhance and give a better feeling of depth to the design.

Quick Watercolor Demos

After these demos were painted, I answered additional questions and then let the artists begin their versions of this idea.

h1

Grange Hall Fence Line

February 25, 2019

Grange Hall Fence Line – Oil on Canvas – 12″ x 36″

I started this work on site in the summer of 2017. The wide layout captures the feeling of the landscape in northern Illinois. I liked the start, but felt that something was amiss. It did not feel right. It sat in my studio until this past autumn.

One afternoon, while working on another painting, an idea came to mind. I had followed the actual landscape closely. The proportions of the farm elements and the road were correct. To aid the design, I moved the road closer to the farmhouse. Moving it to the one third margin made the design work for me. Although the rework lost some of the freshness of the plein air work, I believe that this was the move to make. I doubt that the property owners will make issue of losing some of their property in my painting.

h1

From the Classroom Advanced Watercolor – New Strategy

February 24, 2019

Basket of Blossoms 2 – Watercolor on Arches 140# CP Paper – 12″ x 9″

In the on-going challenge to sate the desire my advanced students have to learn more, I endeavor to move them from their comfort zone.

My advanced students are a varied mixture of experiences. Some are still working, others are retired. Some prefer Still Life, others prefer Landscapes. They each have their own level of understanding and each one has their own unique style. Some allow watercolor to be watercolor awhile others aim to tightly control the medium. The community interaction is enjoyable while their desire to learn more makes it a challenge for me to find new ways to help each one meet their next plateau.

I have attempted to help students understand how to work with reference photos. When your eyes are trained, you should be able to find at least six possible compositions in any photograph. This proves to be a challenge as too often the students will faithfully copy the reference photo which I offer as the idea of the week.

I am using a new approach this semester. The students will receive thumbnail sketches of at least six possible designs. They will not see the reference photo until we meet for class. It is their challenge to utilize their imagination and decide what kind of a scene they will paint. Season, time of day, colors, etc. It is recommended that they gather references to help them paint the scene in class.

At the start of class, I reveal the reference photo, all of the thumbnail sketches in my Strathmore Sketchbook and a four value marker sketch of one of the designs. I will do a quick, loose watercolor demonstration to help the students visualize a bright, lively start to their watercolor paintings. For those students interested, I will answer questions and offer ideas to help them learn how to see more in their reference photos.

 

h1

Before the Flair

February 23, 2019

Before the Flair – Oil on Canvas – 16″ x 20″

Decided to create a work with some dramatic color as well as a subject which might appeal to Woodwalk Gallery clientele. I utilized a plein air oil sketch of Anderson Dock, the boats and distant peninsula. I used a photo reference for the sunset. The boats at the left margin gave me a challenge. I needed the boats to read but needed to subdue the value of the reflected light.

 

h1

Birch Trees

February 22, 2019

Birch Trees – Oil on Canvas – 10″ x 8″

Late autumn and I was stuck in my studio. In light of a conversation with Woodwalk Gallery, I decided to create a small work that might have appeal to the Door County crowd. I love finding the birch trees along the less traveled roads. Each tree cluster has its own personality and design opportunities. I created this oil painting using a small watercolor sketch created last summer while we were in Door County. I will probably challenge my advanced watercolor students to paint this design prior to offering it to Woodwalk later this spring.

h1

McNally’s

February 21, 2019

McNally’s – Oil on Canvas – 11″ x 14″

I received a call a couple weeks before Christmas. The children of a former student asked that I create a house portrait of their parents home. They inquired about a watercolor but agreed to have it created in oil. They forwarded about two dozen photos taken of the home. Photos from about every possible angle, which was great. I suggested, and they agreed to let me design from the side of the home as a way to place emphasis at the front door as well as add depth to the composition.

The painting moved smoothly and I was finished several days before needed.

h1

Mill at Midway

February 19, 2019

Mill at Midway – Plein Air finished in Studio – Oil on Canvas – 16″ x 20″

Late August I ventured over to Midway Village. Between the entrance to the museum and a neighboring recreational path, is the pond and mill. Although this location has its share of passers-by, I managed to find a spot which gave me a nice vantage point for the mill and kept me somewhat secluded from viewers.

The mill and foreground were my start. The trough on the right and trees to the left were dependent on artistic license. I ripped through this and within two hours had everything well established. I did some touch ups in the studio.