Sunday, May 17, 2015

2 new posts up on my new blog

Hi all,
I've made two new posts up on my new blog over the last few weeks- "The Hawk" and "Light-filled Shadows".  If you haven't do so already, please migrate over, subscribe, and take a look around!  :)

This will probably be the last time I'll update this blog, unless something special comes up.  Thanks so much for participating here.  It's been a blast.  I hope to see all of you over at the new site.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

New paiting up on my new blog

Hi all,
I've got a new painting up at

It's from out at the Napa River Flats, from a few months ago.  Come on over and take a peak.  If you want to get notices, subscribing is very easy and straight forward.  I'll be cross posting links like this for the next few posts, and then I'll be posting all content only on the new website.

Thanks for visiting!


Monday, April 20, 2015

I have a new website!

Hi everyone.  Exciting news!  I have been working on a new website and it is now live.  This blog, and all the old posts, have been ported to it, and I will be making all my new posts at that new address.  You'll be able to find me at-

Please come and subscribe to this new blog!  :)  Go to the homepage, and navigate to the blog.  From there, it's very easy to fill in your email address and get a simple email notice sent to you each time I update the blog.

The new site includes a bio, gallery of images, contact page, and a links page.  The gallery includes info on each image, as well as price, for those interested in buying.  The links page will be getting developed more over time, but it currently includes a list of active links to various watercolorists I greatly admire, as well as some info on my materials and setup (with appropriate links to buy some of it). 

Over the next month, I will be cross posting links here each time I post at the new blog, for your convenience, but in time this site will be abandoned, and all new content will only be available at the new website. 

Thanks everyone for your reading support.  I look forward to seeing you at the new website!  :)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Flower Studies and what not

I've been busy doing lots and lots of studies for a lake painting this past week-- I'm trying to get some control of various wet into wet techniques.  Before that it was various paintings of a snowy mountain using Raw Umber.  Before that it was various paintings building on the older Mare Island series.  So, lots of work, but not quite stuff ready to show.  I'll be sharing all that when I hammer out some 1/2 sheets I'm satisfied with.

In the mean time, I've also been doing some smaller 1/8 sheet studies of flowers.  I can see that I'd like to blow these up and get more wet into wet.

This first one is freesia-

This second one is from our plum blossoms-

Beyond that, what's a painter do when he's got 40 minutes to spare and wants to practice?  Use the back of bad paintings to practice straight lines I guess.  ;P  I did a set of lines, then attempted to do a second set of straight lines inbetween each of them. I then attempted to connect the tips of two specific lines (like telephone wires) over and over, using various ones.  One wants a consistent width too, so I tried different brushes with different volumes of paint, using different levels of pressure.  This is tougher than it looks! I still wasn't particularly satisfied.  Clearly work to be done. 

uNothing like screwing up a nice painting because you can't make a simple straight line.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Evolution of an Image- Barcelona Corridor

I'd been doing a lot of nature scenes lately, so I decided to get back to some geometry and try painting this scene from Barcelona!  :)  Who can't love those bold shadows?  I like sharing the original pic when I can, because I think it shows how the composition has had to go through some sort of alchemy in my mind, before it comes out a "painting."  I'm definitely not aiming for a literal translation-- otherwise, I'd just keep the pic!  I'm pushing to capture that mood (and have fun while doing it...).

I went through 2 preliminary paintings on 1/4 sheet (11 x 15).  Here's the first pencil sketch--

I drop my first wash in, and spit a little on it for texture.  The truth is that most of this will get covered later-- I'm just figuring out what my lightest lights will be, putting in a background color, preserving whites.  It's almost like I'm leaving notes for myself for the next few stages.

Start to lay in darker bits, and carve out some light.

This is the end of the first sketch.  The truth is that the archway was much lighter on this on my first go, but I then did my second iteration, which had much darker shadows.  I liked the "pop" it provided, so I went back into this one and darkened my darks.  The image notably improved.  That process of learning something on a second try and then doing a little touch up on an earlier version is something that happens now and then.

This is the 2nd painting- also on a quarter sheet.  Done the same day.  The darks were much darker from the get go, which was good.  I also put more variety into the shadows, and let them blend more into a block.

This is the end of the 2nd painting.  I had to go back in with some white on the lamp, as I lost my whites.  It was better, but a bit too "graphic" for me with the shadows.  I wanted more delineation of the form. 

This is the final piece, which I did a few weeks later.  This one is on a 1/2 sheet. (22 x 15).  I made the figure bigger and more chromatic, and later on, I added the lamp hanging from the arch in the foreground (there was an object hanging in the pic, but it wasn't a lamp), to help pull your eye around into different locations (figure up to lamp, down the slanting shadow, back up the shadow on the wall to the figure along the line of the street).  As the painting grew in size, it also began to call for a bit more detail in the central area.  So, I added the motorcyle and the wires, a bit more on the church window, etc.  That sort of stuff.  I lost a bit of the lights in the foreground that I would have liked, but all in all, I'm pretty happy with it.  It's very Barcelona!  :)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Evolution of an Image- A Mug with Marbles

I posted some preliminary paintings of this composition last Fall, but I knew early on I wanted to do more with it, and stretch the image to show something both very tight and glass-like, and yet also something loose and explosive.

The first go was on an 1/8 sheet.  Too small, really, to do the glass much justice.

The mug was much bigger on the second one, but it was still on a 1/8 sheet.

The third one was a similar composition, but on a 1/4 sheet.

By then, I felt like I had a handle on how to paint it, and so, around the new year, I expanded it a 1/2 sheet.

I wanted to get the paint to sort of explode, which I got, but, after the fact, I recognized that I was a bit more interested in seeing the "mug" dissolve, not the whole painting.  So, on the next iteration, I spent more time planning out the sequence of layers.

I wanted to keep the horizon line solid, to keep a sense of a ground plane, separate from the mug itself.  I also did a great deal more work with a smaller synthetic brush, instead of the squirrel mops, particularly on the glass. The dissolving marbles I did last, in one go.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Using Raw Umber, pt. 3- More Experiments (and some successes!)

After the last flurry of experiments, I decided that using Raw Umber was fascinating, but that it was always very richly chromatic, and therefore was only really useful for things in the foreground.  So I decided to about making some experiment with Chinese White and Lunar Black, with varying success.  I'll go into those below.

First, the Da Vinci tube of Raw Umber came in.  Eagerly I opened it up and give it a shot.  Sadly, no love.  :(  It must be manufactured in some slightly different way.  Who knows?  Either way, it disperses when applied wet into wet, and just wouldn't give me those rivulets I wanted.  Dang!  Only the top left of these 4 is with Winsor Newton's Raw Umber, and thus shows some of the rivulets I want..  The others were with Da Vinci.  So, I now have a tube I guess I'll give away to a painter friend.

Then I got a tube of Winsor Newton Burnt Umber.  In a nutshell?  Same issue.  What the heck?!?  Now I've got a second tube of paint that I don't really plan on using.  :(  Only the two samples on the far right (top and bottom) showed the rivulets, and they were done with Winsor Newton Raw Umber.  So, my final analysis on that point is this-- if you want to do this affect, you basically have to use Winsor Newton Raw Umber (and maybe some of those PrismaTek pigments from Daniel Smith?  I'm not sure about, as I haven't tried them and don't have the dough for it.)

However, I did have some success experimenting with Chinese White and Lunar Black.  I premixed a bit of these with Raw Umber, to tone the value and hue down a bit.  This worked pretty well. In this first pic, the version on top of the Dioxazine Purple is pure Raw Umber.  You can see how much darker and browner is it.  The others were mixed with the Chinese White. Still, I'm getting those rivulets and yet the value different. Yay!

In these next two, I  began to explore another new technique.  I put the first wash down, lay the Raw Umber/ Chinese White mix on top of it, ran the water through to carve out the rivulets, and then used the rivulets to "funnel" a new color through the painting.  In these examples, it was either diluted Cerulean Blue or a very watery Chinese White, as I was going for a beach-y feel. Some really interesting results!

In this one, I mixed Lunar Black with the Raw Umber down at the bottom, to pull the corner into the foreground.  I can see using three different mixes to get some real variety in tone and value.

I then took some of these results, and applied it a bit to a quick sketch of one of the mountain images I've been working on.  Not perfect, but some success!

I used the Raw Umber/ Chinese White mixture for the mountains to knock them back some, and then applied a pale blue-grey wash over the top of them, for the cast shadows.  All in all, success-- although I discovered that the Chinese White rewets very easily, and mixes with whatever you put on top pretty readily.  Hmmmmm....  Probably going to need one more round of experiments to get the full tool set under my belt. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Using Raw Umber to acheive rivulets and granulation, pt. 2- My Experiments!

So, I bought a big 37 ml tube of Raw Umber for this technique, and that has been invaluable, as I'm no longer stingy about squeezing it out of the tube (which you can't be, if you want the technique to work).  I've not used Da Vinci's yet (got a tube on order), but their 37ml tube is only 7$ or so on Amazon.  An amazing price, if the product works as well as the Winsor Newton I bought.

The basic principle is that you apply the first wash of color as a sort "transit agent" for the Raw Umber.  It helps the Raw Umber move and disperse, and the two colors interact in various ways, pullin the Raw Umber around the color circle visually.  So, into the first wash you very thickly dab the Raw Umber, almost straight from the tube (opened up with water just a tiny bit).  Then, as you tilt the paper, you either gently spritz the page or you daub water into it with you brush.  The water pushes through, and you get these fantastically interesting affects.   Susan Murphy goes over it all in the video I shared in the last post, and I talk about it (and show some in progress pics) from this post on Bjorn Bernstrom's methods.

Below I used Burnt Sienna/Napthol Red on the left and, if I remember correctly, Cerulean Blue on the right.  Cerulean Blue clearly pulled the Raw Umber into green.

I applied a wet wash of Cad Yellow here on the left, and Dioxazine Purple on the right.  There was a throw away image on the page originally, and you can see how the red of it (dry when  I started) showed through nicely.  I really liked this effect, and think there's interesting possibilities to explore, where you could lay certain colors down first, then let them show through later.

Here I actually pre-mixed the Raw Umber with Neutral Tint very gently, then applied it as such in certain sections.  This darkens and greys out the Raw Umber, but still allows it to granulate and make rivulets.

This was a wet wash of Magenta (PR122).  It was a beautiful combo, but I couldn't think of anything to do with it...??

This was mixing Viridian and Yellow Cad for the base wash, then applying the super-thick Raw Umber as before, with the other samples, wet into wet.

What was fun was that I then found images in these, and pulled them out, just playing around- adding some Chinese White, or putting in darker shadows, etc.  Below are the samples.  Nothing earth shattering, all in all, but a lot of fun, and a good way to spend an afternoon using up the backs of "mistake" paintings.

I darkened some of the shadows, put the ripples in the water, and lay some very fine lines of Cad Yellow in there as highlights on the green.

I was playing with the idea of a mountain.  A very rough version of an earlier snowy painting I did.

Here, I was also playing with the idea of distant mountains- also from a different painting I did back in October.

After that, I thought, "Sweet, I've got it."  And so had a go at the mountain scene.  Nope.  Too dang dark!!!

The major things I learned are that-

1) Raw Umber makes everything a rich, dark valued brown.  It's hard to paint a distant object using this technique, because the color is just too dark in value and too high in chroma right from the beginning.
2) It works well in the foreground (much like Bjorn's images up top), or as a backround/ textural effect in images that lack heavy depth (like the Susan Murphy example).
3) How you apply the water, after you've laid down the Raw Umber, affects the way the final effect looks.  Take your brush in and dab the water/watery pigment in, and you'll get heavy "rivers" for your rivulets, as the point of entry for the water is in fewer locations.  Spritz the water on, and you'll more likely get tiny little rivulets like on a windshield.  The look is relatively different.
4) The visual "oomph" of the rivulets goes away pretty quick when you begin to glaze on top of it with shadows, etc.
5) I need to find some sort of greyer, lighter valued, opaque pigment to combine with it to stretch the values I'll have available to me when I use the technique.  I can already make it darker by mixing the Raw Umber with Neutral Tint or Lunar Black.  Now I need something paler.  Then I think I could really use it in a greater variety of compositions.

In the next post, I share some more experiments and successes.  I did a lot of testers using Chinese White and Lunar Black, to varying levels of success, and also tried glazing Chinese White over things to push them back.  I'll share them in the next post.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Using Raw Umber to achieve rivulets and granulation, pt. 1- Bjorn Bernstrom and Susan Murphy

Last summer, as I went over in three earlier blog posts (pt. 1, pt. 2, and pt. 3), I took a class with Bjorn Bernstrom.  Amongst many techniques he employs, he uses Raw Umber to get these wonderful passages in his work, full of rivulets and granulation--

I began to experiment with this technique, only to discover that (gasp! surprise!) it's not as easy as it seems.  Yes... yes, I know.  Anyways.... :P

Fortunately, the internet came to the rescue, and I discovered another person who uses a similar technique.  For those who are interested, you should check out Susan Murphy.  Here's a link to her website.  Susan Murphy seems to have had a long career as a painter doing many different things, but she currently uses Raw Umber to similar effect, and then uses a stencil brush to pull back out highlights.

It's pretty interesting stuff.  This video is available online, so I thought I'd share it.  It's of a workshop of hers, and explains a lot of what I also do when I apply Raw Umber myself.  She actually has more than one video up, so its worth exploring her site. She has generously provided them free to stream, and there's lots to learn for those who are interested.

Having seen that, I've been experimenting, failing, and learning a lot.  Of course, this is the technique I used in the owl paintings (here's a link to the post) I shared back in November/ December of last year, but I've been playing with other applications too.  Here's an example of my production using the technique in a localized fashion (on the wing)-

In the next post, I'll be sharing examples of what happens when you combine Raw Umber with different colors, either with a different background wash (into which you apply the Raw Umber as "Butter" into the Wet wash, or by actually gently mixing a different color into the Raw Umber, and then applying them as one. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Exploring artists and techniques from the 2nd Biennial International Watercolor Show, pt. 4- Cheng Chen-wen and Herman van Hoogdalem

After my series of posts on the watercolor show, (links here-- pt.1, pt. 2, pt. 3) ) I was posting some of my unshared photos on wetcanvas, and someone else was able to identify one of the (famous) watercolor artists whose name I couldn't find.  Cheng Chen-wen (or Chen Wen Cheng, depending on how you approach it).  I also had a series of close ups on Herman van Hoogdalen's work, and so wanted to show them both, now that I could identify them.

Cheng Chen-Wen-
Here's a link to his Facebook page.   Lots more great paintings there.

I feel like a dunce, but I didn't take a pic of this artist's name, and for the life of me I couldn't remember it. Thanks to that wetcanvas poster who shared it with me!!  Cheng Chen-Wen's quite famous, so I really ought to have known. This one was also very big (bigger than a standard full sheet, again), perhaps 4' x 4' or more. I was obviously drawn to these large pieces, as they were so impressive, but there were also quite small pieces as well.

 Here's a closeup of the eye. The literature said he was using some sort of traditional brush with tines (sort of like a comb??) for some of the work. You can see it here, when you get in close.  Of course, this area around the eye was still something like 8" square, so quite big. He's obviously building value with it. He did the same thing for some of the very fine hair curling at the back of her head, which you can see in the second pic (pardon the reflections!)

Then, just to show the astounding detail he accomplished, below is a small 6" x 6" closeup of her collar!! Crazy!  Is it done just with some rough, textural brushwork? or some sort of very detailed stippling??  Considering the detail in the rest of the piece, I'm assuming it's some sort of stippling or minute work, but I'm not sure.

I really liked this piece, but would never want to paint like this. It's not me, but I can appreciate his skill. Wow!!!

Herman van Hoogdalen-

 This person had only a single painting in the show, and it was actually a reprint of an original. Not sure why. This painting was HUGE. Perhaps 6 or 7' tall and 4' wide. They actually hung it like a poster. From the text I read next to the painting, it was reprinted at the original size. Wow! It is supposedly part of a series of paintings he did of people suffering from dementia. While that subject made it difficult to view for some, I found it fascinating and emotionally revealing. I also thought his technique was stellar.

If you got in close, you could see that the brush work was loose and full of life, but totally legible and very accurate when you stood back. Much like looking at a Monet.

This section of the eye might have been 1' x 1' or so, to give you a sense.

Thanks for stopping by again.  For me, lesson learned- see art live and in the flesh.

Friday, January 30, 2015

My Alvaro Castagnet Workshop Review, pt. 5- The Co-Conspirators!

This post is part of a series I did last year, but I've recently got back in touch with a number of people that I took this workshop with last Spring, and I wanted to share some of their info with others.  Many of them have participated in the recent 3/5 watercolor challenge on Facebook, so there's lots of beautiful work floating around that's worth exploring.

Here are links to the older posts in the series--
My Alvaro Castagnet Workshop Review, pt. 1
My Alvaro Castagnet Workshop Review, pt. 2
My Alvaro Castagnet Workshop Review, pt. 3
My Alvaro Castagnet Workshop Review, pt. 4

There was a lot of pleasure in meeting so many other great artists at the workshop!!  Alvaro attracts a great crowd.  Painting can often be such a private affair that one forgets the pleasure of actually sharing that creative experience.  We all learned from each other's critiques, which was helpful for everyone of course, but even beyond that it was invigorating to meet so many other artists, with different backgrounds and experiences, all of whom took the practice seriously enough to come to the workshop.

There were locals (from San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Rafael), but people also came from really very far away- Tokyo, Bermuda, North Carolina, etc. It was a privilege to paint with so many other experienced painters!  It was very invigorating.  We are all there because we loved to paint, and were willing to spend the time and money to try and improve ourselves.  That's an interesting community to be part of!

So, without further ado, I just wanted to share some links to the sites of those whom I met (and knew well enough to get their website info).  My apologies for anyone I missed!  There were over 30 people in the two sessions, combined, and I just didn't really get a chance to meet everyone.  If you read this post, went to the workshop, and want to have your info included, please contact me or make a comment.

Uma Kelkar
Uma Kelkar-
Uma is really a very good artist in her own right, and was easily one of the more advanced students in the first workshop.  Lives in San Jose.  She really took to Alvaro's instruction, and was producing wonderful work by the end of the workshop.  I really wish she had stayed for the full 6 days!  :(  Her website shows her ink work as well as her watercolors. 

Keene Wilson
Keene Wilson-
Keene was a real pleasure to meet as well.  Lives down in Southern California.  He clearly has a lot of experience with multiple mediums.  He also has a wonderful resource page on his website called For Artists, where he has links to many posts about workshops he's taken, books he's read, insights on different famous artists, etc.  I've read over a number of them, and it really is a wonderful resource.

Orin Carpenter
Orin Carpenter-
I met Orin during the second workshop, and we hit it off immediately.  I wonderful guy, and from browsing his website, clearly quite skilled in a variety of media as well.  He teaches art to highschoolers up in Marin.  A local!  Now if I can only get him to go out plein air painting with me.

painting en plaineir in Brandenburg
Lynne Haines-
Lynne lives up in Washington, and came down with her husband.  What a pleasure to paint visit with her!  Or squeeze into a taxi with with too many other adults!  LOL.  I was unaware of the extent of her watercolor experience though, until I visited her website. So she's obviously quite humble as well.  ;)

Efrain Ibarra Corral
Efrain Ibarra-
Efrain not only paints, but he also builds these fantastic little plein air palettes.  Very much like a Craig Young palette, but you can actually get one of these made for you and not wait years and years!  :)  Alvaro even posted about it on his Facebook page, I believe.

Bert Sult
Bert Sult-
From the Raleigh area of North Carolina, I believe. Bert has taken a number of other workshops with Alvaro, and it shows.  He's done some shows, and sold his work. 

Charles Knights-
I couldn't find a blog or website for this artist from Bermuda, but Charles was such a gentleman.  Quite an excellent painter too!!  Here's a link to an article about him, which shows some of his paintings.  Charles, why aren't you even on Facebook?  I really dug your work, and now you deprive us?  Phewy!

Anthony was soft spoken, but carried a blow torch!!  :)  Literally.  I laughed and laughed when I saw him whip that thing out, but it was incredibly effective.  We often didn't have a blow drier or outlet available for Alvaro, during the plein air demonstrations.  Thank goodness for Anthony's preparedness!  Of course, he also loves to paint, and runs the Taos Paintbox company, which produces beautiful handmade watercolor boxes, in the Craig Young style as well.

And that's it for now, folks.  Check 'em all out if you get the change.  A fine bunch of painters.