Monday, September 16, 2013

The "F" word

Yes, that's right. It's the "F" word: Facebook.

I've followed the crowd into social media. Mind you, I don't have a personal Facebook page and don't intend to create one. However, I've found more and more that artists, arts advocacy groups, and galleries are spreading the word about events, shows and more through Facebook.

So, now I have Facebook logos on my website and blog that link to my Facebook page, which is at

I've been on Facebook for a couple of weeks and I've noted its strengths and weaknesses. In short, it seems most effective with images and short, snappy posts.

But, as a writer, I find that format to be a little too confining. So I don't intend to give up this blog. It's the perfect place to write about painting at length - with topics such as techniques, materials, design principles, inspiration and more.

I view the Facebook page as a way to announce events. It's also useful, I think, to introduce more people to watercolor painting,  mostly by sharing images of paintings in process. And I will use Facebook to encourage "Friends" to visit this blog to learn more about the medium.

That said, I encourage you to "Like" my Facebook page to keep up with the new nuggets of information that I share there.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators

Anni Matsick, the newsletter editor for the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators, included a blurb about my Bill Vrscak workshop blog post in the July issue of the society's newsletter and included a photo from Morgantown Art Association member Byron Witt.

Bill Vrscak is also a member of PSI. You can read my account of his workshop at

Visit to see the entire PSI July newsletter in pdf format and to learn more about this great organization and its many talented members. Be sure to check out the website of Anni Matsick as well:

Saturday, September 7, 2013

School Days

"School Days" - 8"x8"

I painted this one twice.

In the first version, I got too dark too quickly in the cast shadow areas, so there was no sense of warm sunshine in the painting. When I looked at it from a distance, all I could see was a hard diagonal shape that dominated the scene.

So I tried to use opaque watercolor - in this case, watercolor mixed with gouache - to paint over it and try something different.

That experiment didn't go well. There's a strange drying shift in opaque watercolors that I can't get a handle on. Traditional watercolors tend to look dark while the wash is still wet, and then lighten while drying. Over time, you get used to this drying shift.

Once you mix the watercolors with white gouache or with opaque titanium white watercolor, then the opposite happens. They dry darker. And that difference drives me crazy. I have no sense of how anything will eventually look while I'm putting it down.

Secondly, I think the appeal of oil and acrylic paintings - at least for me - is seeing all those bits of colors that peek through, particularly with the alla prima painting technique. I could not get any such effect in my experiment because the watercolor paint dries so quickly. So I ended up with masses of sharp-edged and flat shapes that were not very interesting to look at.

An application of colored pencil over the opaque watercolor finished off that piece of paper (the cold press paper is just too rough), so I transferred the drawing to a fresh piece of Arches cold press paper and started again.

The second time I learned from my mistakes.

This image is something of a composite, which is still very hard for me to do. The scene no longer looks like this -- the doors have been removed and replaced with modern, metal-framed glass doors. But I thought it would be more appealing to go back in time and reconstruct the doors as they were when the Wardensville School was still open. I couldn't find any clear images from WHS yearbooks, so I cobbled the doors together in my mind's eye. I hope I got close.

Only seven days and the mini exhibit of my Wardensville paintings will be on display at the WHS alumni dinner. The Wardensville Scholarship Fund Association benefit auction of my donated painting is that evening too!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Value studies

I am working from a really poor photo reference, so I'm essentially making this scene up. So that should make for a good painting...if I had the skill set of Bill Vrscak. But I'm certainly not there yet, so this challenge worries me.

So, I've resorted to doing some little value paintings to try to figure out how I want to develop all the foliage around the structure. Here are two of the options.

I guess it's time to scale things up to full size...