Sunday, January 29, 2012

Eggs for Breakfast

I've decided to call this this one finished. I felt as though I was on the verge of overworking some areas, so I have pulled back and left some areas as suggestions.

I ended up reversing my intentions of warmer colors in the foreground, cooler in the background. That wasn't intentional -- it just happened that way. I did try to get some warmer elements into the shadows near the front, but the overall temperature feels cooler than I wanted.

So, I had to utilize edges to create the sense of depth. There are sharper edges with the shadows and highlights in the front and softer edges in the background. I hope that does the trick.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Things are developing nicely so far in my little still life.

I have finished with the eggs (though I still have the urge to fuss with little things -- I'm trying to let them be right now), and am concentrating on the fabric at present.

My goals with the fabric are twofold -- to convey the sense of texture in the fabric and to create a sense of depth, foreground to background.

I am trying to work some slightly warmer colors into the folds near the front to help with this task. But I feel as though I have more to do.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Egg-stra, Egg-stra

I'm slowly progressing on this little still life of brown eggs. I really love the shape of eggs and the multiplicity of potential colors in all the shadows and highlights that gave each egg its form. It's a very complicated challenge when you really, really study an egg.

This is the first time I've attempted brown eggs in a watercolor, and I also muddled myself at the onset by thinking too much about technique. I've recently finished Mary Whyte's latest instructional book on figure and portrait painting, and I'm in awe of her methods, especially her bold use of wet-into-wet techniques early in the painting process. So I thought I'd try to emulate...but this was not the right time or subject.

I'm still too tentative and I don't have a good sense of the amount of water in the mix. Too much water, and you end up with a weak tint that, when dry, pushes the pigment to the edges. You can still see such a result with the unfinished egg in the upper right -- that rough edge is where all my pigment ended up after being pushed there by the excess water.

So, I rethought the process and resumed my slow steady glazes. They are applied thinly. Then I soften the edges, and then I hit the wet area with a hair dryer to keep the pigments in position. I mix another glaze and repeat...over and over. There might be 20 or layers in the largest egg, for instance. I lose count pretty quickly. But it's the method I'm used to, and it allows me to stay ahead of the medium.

I want to get bolder with wet-into-wet techniques, but I've got to practice more first.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Emerging Artists at Tamarack

Fire Engine Red
We've just completed the long trip to Beckley, W.Va., to take paintings to the Dickirson Gallery at Tamarack for their upcoming "Emerging Artists" exhibition.

I've taken four pieces for inclusion, including my latest, "Fire Engine Red."

This one is a departure from my usual style. I wanted to make it bold and hard-edged -- a pop art or poster art look. I created the composition while playing with some reference photos and cropping them into squares.

The watercolor medium actually complicated matters in the case of this painting. You see, there are no red pigments that are truly staining enough to handle the kind of application I wanted to make. My goal was to soak the entire paper in vivid red (except for the yellow lettering and  the reflective highlights which would be preserved with masking fluid). Then I would mix up a deep black and paint over the red.

For this to work, the red has to stay in place when rewet with the black glaze(s). However most staining red-like pigments tend to be more rose-colored in hue, not appropriate for this subject matter.

I tested all the true reds I had (W&N's Winsor Red,  Maimeri Blu's Dragon Blood and Permanent Red Light, and DS's Quin Red) by making sample paint strips on scrap paper, allowing the paint to dry, and then lifting a line through the paint with a damp synthetic brush. First I decided that the Quin Red was too blue in tone to be useful. Of the others, none of them could withstand the lifting, even after I switched to a sable brush for a second test.

I also tried a couple of red mixes, but I didn't like the results. I wanted a deep, consistent red as the base.

I eventually decided that the Winsor Red was the most resilient of the samples and was the proper color. To increase its staying power I also decided to go with two separate glazes -- the first a wash of Perylene Maroon, and the second a strong dose of Winsor Red.

Once these two glazes were dry, I mixed a strong black and began working on the darks, but you can see the difficulties I encountered in the shaded areas -- the reds still wanted to lift when I would apply the greyed-down black, despite my best efforts with a light touch and a sable brush. So some areas are not as smooth as I would have hoped, but the overall effect still works I think.

I do think the exercise was a true test of my abilities -- this composition may look simple, but try it in watercolor, and you'll understand how complicated this kind of application can be.

The opening for the Emerging Artists show is next Sunday, Jan. 22, and the show will remain up through March 23. For more about Tamarack, visit their website at or visit the Dickirson Gallery's Facebook page at Photos of each show are posted in the Photo Gallery.