Yesterday, the woman who posed for our figure class brought costumes. For the second portion of the morning, she dressed as a dreamy romantic and leaned against the studio wall. I made more use of the acrylic markers in this one and added a background that I hope suggests a landscape suitable for romantic dreamers.
I really enjoy painting the models from our figure drawing group, especially the quick five-minute sketches like the one above. However, I am at a loss for what to do with the rest of the paper, that is, how to add a background. Sometimes I leave it blank, other times I draw the shadows on the wall.
What I would love to know, is how to compose a background that frames the figure and adds to its emotional message. Today I decided to do something about this and began going through my old sketchbooks to find sketches of people without backgrounds that I could use for practice. I have hundreds of these quick background-less quick sketches and think if I take a ‘sketch a day for 30-days’ approach, that I will soon be making better backgrounds. Anyway, that is my plan.
I painted this morning at Balboa Park, and this is a place I have to go back to soon. I stood under a shade structure, and the shadows it made were lovely. The cement pathways had patterns, and the greens against the adobe colors were striking. I want to go back soon and make some sketches in black and white, so I better understand the structure of the courtyard and how it all fits together.
This is a gouache sketch on a quarter sheet of paper covered with black grounds.
This was a challenging painting. It started off as a quarter sheet of paper covered with golden watercolor grounds. I have been wondering about the gold background for seascapes and today seemed like a good day to explore this, since I would be painting with friends. I began by blocking in some of the major big shapes of the view of Torrey Pines looking south from the north parking lot. Soon I had a gray scene that was not very interesting. At about an hour into this painting, I got out a pen and drew lines, trying to save the sketch by defining the edges of the mountain, foliage, and sea.
I left Torrey Pines thinking I would abandon this sketch but after putting it aside and then looking again, I wondered if the problem might be a lack of contrast. Because I used gouache transparently over the gold watercolor ground, the sketch was mostly middle values. I lightened the central area, brought in some blue to the trees in the upper left, added the boulders at the lower left, painted over some of the pen lines, and decided I liked the sketch after all.
At this point, I prefer the gold grounds for figures, but don’t want to give up too quickly on the golden seascapes.
This is gouache, gel pen, and watercolor pencil sketch on a quarter sheet of watercolor paper that was prepared with gold watercolor grounds.
Yesterday I did a series of 20-minute sketches of a wonderful model. She had a pensive air that was communicated through her long limbs and facial expressions. Although I had to work fast, choosing colors and brushes was intuitive because her body language was so clear.
This gouache sketch was on a large 20 x 15-inch panel that was prepared with watercolor grounds. Today I went back and cleaned up parts of this sketch by lifting off some of the color that seemed too intense to me today.
I painted with other painters Thursday morning. Our model seemed pensive and trying to capture this in a sketch became my goal for the morning. I got a good start in this twenty-minute sketch and left the studio with several sketches that I could develop further.
This is a 12 x 12-inch gouache sketch with white and black pastel lines.
The Colorado River is magnificent as it flows through Utah. It is stunning and I worked to capture its beauty in this sketch.
Most people know that the Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon and is an indispensable source of water for plants, wildlife, and humans throughout the Southwest. Fewer know how vital the health of the Colorado River Ecosystem is to our region, and fewer still how very fragile it has become in the last century.
Even with existing protections, most of the Colorado water is used up and very salty by the time it makes its way from Colorado, through Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California, and then finally crosses its last political boundary into Mexico. Recently the federal government removed over two million acres of the land that protects the Colorado River from the Bears Ears National and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. The Hopi, Navajo, Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni people have protested, along with environmentalist, conservationists, and recreational businesses, but other voices are needed too. I hope you will read up on this issue and lend your support for maintaining protections for this incredible river.
This sketch is on a sheet of 17 X 12-inch black paper and done entirely with gouache. I used photos as the reference from a recent trip to Utah
Last week we spent a night on a friend’s ranch in Utah. In the morning, I heard footsteps and looked out the window to see our host going out to start his day. It was really early. The sun was on the cliffs but the ranch yard was still dark. Although I went back to sleep, the idea that our host was up and working stayed with me. His dependability matters and it made me think of the many people who work long hours, doing the right thing.
I did not get a photo but did my best to recreate the way I think the sun fell on the rancher, dog, ranch yard, and cliffs.
This gouache and watercolor pencil sketch is 17 X 12 inches and on black paper.
The sandstone rocks of Southwest Utah are stunning. I did not have time to paint there so I compensated by taking as many photos as I could. Today I began to look at them, especially the ones with strong lighting. There was one where the rising sun lit up the east-facing cliffs while the west-facing cliffs were still in shadow. I tried to capture some of this feeling in this sketch.
I missed a week of painting while traveling and it was wonderful to meet up with friends today at the San Diego Watercolor Society and sketch for a long morning. We did 5, 10, and 20-minute poses, this one was a twenty-minute pose. I like the energy that comes from working fast and letting intuition tale the lead.
Our model was expressive and gorgeous, with long slender limbs and lots of character. I enjoyed interpreting her facial expressions during each pose; it was a nice change from all the landscapes I have been doing.
This is 12 x 12-inch gouache sketch on black paper with watercolor pencil and pastel pencil.
Today I walked out to a part of my brother’s land that is usually a small pond ringed by a meadow and juniper trees. This year it is so dry that there is only a suggestion of green in the center where water would be normally. Dry or wet, this is one of my favorite places and I usually make a few sketches of it each year. Junipers have such an interesting shape and painting a whole line of them is a treat.
This painting is on a white quarter sheet of watercolor paper with a thin coat of gold watercolor ground. I expected to be able to lift color back to the gold ground to show the arid meadow. But something went wrong and the gouache adhered too strongly to lift, so instead I kept adding more and more marks with gouache and watercolor pencil.
We are camping on my brother’s land in the Colorado San Juan Mountains. I look forward to our annual family reunion here for many reasons, including the chance to paint this dramatic landscape. This week the skies in western Colorado are hazy with smoke from all the forest fires throughout the southwest, and hazy skies can make for spectacular sunsets. I really like how the evening sun illuminates parts of the landscape and dramatized the effect with this abstract plein air painting.
This painting is on a white quarter sheet of watercolor paper with a base coat of black watercolor ground. It gives a rough texture and allows the black to show through the gouache.
Among the many gorgeous trails in the Telluride area is the Galloping Goose. It was built along the old railroad tracks and descends down through aspen, fur, and flowers, from Telluride to Illium. It was a perfect choice for my last biking/painting trip in this area. Although I tried to include too much onto my small 12 X 12 sketchbook, I still like this sketch because it captures the winding path, its vertical drop, and the distant mountains.
This is a 12 X 12-inch gouache sketch.
Here is a photo of my Telluride set-up for plein air painting. It is about 10 pounds of equipment, including water, and works for both hiking and biking. The large rock that served as a table was a much appreciated bonus.
Plein Air Painting by Bike along the Galloping Goose Trail.
The sun was intense as I stood in the shade and sketched. Even through my dark glasses the shade from the pine trees that fell across the path contrasted strongly with sunny areas of the mountain path. When I got back indoors, I was surprised at the intense colors I had just used to depict this scene. Maybe I should paint while wearing heavy sunglasses more often.
This is a 9 x 9-inch gouache and watercolor pencil sketch on black paper.
During the summer, the Telluride Science Research Center offers a weekly talk of general interest by a visiting scientist. I enjoy these talks because they are provocative- for instance, today’s topic was, Geo-Engineering a Climate Change Solution. But even better, the talks also provide an excellent opportunity to sketch the presenters.
For years I carried a newsprint sketchbook with me but had gotten out of the habit when I shifted to painting in gouache. Lately I bought a new pad and have been enjoying live sketching with a ballpoint pen and then later using Procreate to add a bit of color.
These two sketches show the presenter during the follow-up conversations with the moderator. I liked their expressions as they thought, listened and spoke.
I went down to Elk Pond today to practice painting reflections. It was a beautiful morning and the colors of the trees, sky, and mountains were sharp and clear. However, I soon found that painting water reflections is similar to painting shadows. The shifting light and wind cause everything to move about and change. A pair of fishermen, possibly a father and son, were across the water and they kept moving around too.
This is a gouache and watercolor pencil sketch on a 12 X 12-inch sheet of black paper.
This is a second version of the last sketch I posted showing the view from the window here in Telluride. In fact, it was my first try of this view but I put it aside thinking that I could do better. Later I put it back up on my easel and from time to time would add more color until it became heavily overpainted, mostly with gouache, but also with pen and watercolor pencil.
Looking out the window here in Telluride, there is an almost overwhelming amount of greenery. It is framed against a grey sky and purple and blue mountains. The greens flow together and the tree trunks give it some structure. This is, more or less, what it looks like to me.
This is a gouache, pen, and watercolor pencil sketch in a 12 X 12-inch sketchbook with black paper.
We are back in Colorado. Yesterday, as we left the Four Corners area, we were treated to an intense monsoonal lighting storm. We stopped for the night at McPhee Reservoir and I was able to sketch the puddles on the ground along our campsite. I loved the dramatic sky and the reflections of it in the puddles.
My mind wanted to make the shapes very clear, to define the trees, clouds, and puddles. However, due to the hour and lighting, the shapes and colors were abstract, in fact, far more abstract than I wanted to believe.
This morning I went to see a local artist, who I admire very much, paint. I also got in a few sketches of my fellow observers. My eye was caught by the posture of three women who sat on a curb together, I liked the different angles of their legs. Later at home, I added color.
I was sitting on a shady bench in the Japanese Friendship Garden at Balboa Park, thinking about how to show the sunlight on the path. I noticed three young women, probably in their early years of high school, running up the hill towards me. All three wore white outfits and dress shoes. I loved the contrast between the dressy outfits and their gusto and wanted to capture it. Luckily, I was able to pull out my camera in time to get a few photos.
I have been looking at how Paul Cezanne’s shows foliage in his landscapes and I think I caught a small bit of his style in this sketch.
This is a 8 X 12 – inch gouache sketch on black paper.
One of my friends lives on a canyon in San Carlos, a neighborhood in San Digo. She has an incredible view from her patio that goes all the way across town, practically to the sea. She graciously opened her home, and I painted there all morning. It was a very comfortable way to paint plein air. It was an overcast day, and the colors were more muted than usual. I was taken with the strong shapes of the canyon hills and emphasized their forms. I wondered about including more of the shrubbery but finally decided it diverted too much attention from the landscape’s shapes.
I wanted to make this a little abstract by emphasizing the geometric shapes of the water in the vase and the windows in the back right. I wonder if I should try placing the vase so that it is a little further to the left and have both of the flowers on the right lean over the two people.