Not Quite on the Drawing Board

Dozens of practice versions have not quite led to what I would like to put into a large painting.  I saw a magpie sitting amid berries like these, with a sprig of them in its beak.  The strong reds and greens contrasted so crisply with the soft winter hues of the snow and the black and white of the bird that the scene stuck in my mind instantly.  I’ve even dreamed the composition, turning the magpie’s head to compliment the arc of the branches…  Some day this one is going to come out on paper and it will be very interesting to see how it has evolved from the original idea!

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Mucking About in Water Soluble Pencil

I like monochromes and I like minimal art supplies… at least, I like minimal art supplies for each project coming out of a huge pile of neat stuff.  Anyway, water soluble pencils fit the bill for monochrome and minimal.  All you need is a brush, pencil, paper and some water and you can create an entire painting using graphite.  Yes, pencil lead can be activated into a fascinating, flowing medium just like watercolour.  Pencil sketches come alive;  watercolour sketches are a lovely soft black and white value study.  It is a striking medium because it is not well known as a painting medium.  Judy and I mucked about a bit with our pencils and brushes before class:

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The photos are not great, but you can still see the techniques.

The white of the paper shines through in the top right picture and different values give the snow a nice glow.  Layering the graphite is not a problem.  This was done entirely by touching the brush to the pencil tip to load the graphite.

In the middle picture, Judy filed some graphite off the pencil using sandpaper.  Then she drew the tree with the brush and clear water.  Wherever the graphite was activated it spread into the water to make the random patterns that look like bark.  Extra black in the brush was used to sketch in lighter background trees.  Finally, a spray bottle activated the remaining powdered graphite to make leaves.

Top left is a simple wash.  My pencil was gobbed with moist graphite after painting another picture so I wiped it on the paper, then spread the graphite upwards into a lot of water.  With my loaded brush I switched to a horizontal stroke and filled in some water or snow in the foreground.

At the bottom are some thumbnails showing the fading off technique and also testing values.  What a great medium for a quick sketch wherever you happen to be.

Painting Christmas Cards

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When the boxes of Christmas decorations pile up so high at the Lodge we can’t see our paintings bulletin board, it is time to start painting Christmas cards!  If the ladies want to send them, they must be painted.  These are all Carolyn’s demos because the Lodge painters took theirs home.

Just outside the windows where we paint at the lodge there is a mountain ash tree.  In the fall and early winter it is covered in bright red berries (and sometimes gobs of snow).  Then two weeks ago a hoard of waxwings came and took all the berries.  Gone are the bright berries… except for the ones captured forever in our paintings, ha ha!

Sunshine

Sunshine

The gift of a rose complimented by a wash of sunshine.  I wanted to make this a bright and sharp painting, right down to the deep shadows up the wall.  The composition was planned to be unusual to feature the balance of the solid rose and vase and the stretching lightness of the baby’s breath and shadows.  I’m quite pleased with this one because it was a challenge in many ways:  I had a definite vision; I’m not great with florals; I was changing composition; I was painting so many textures.  Also, I was on a deadline.  Of course.

The Bird Woman of George Square

JK and Carolyn were exploring Glasgow, walking in the neighbourhood of George Square.  Suddenly the innocuous pigeons scattered around on the ground and settled on statues formed a massive flock and began to swirl, zooming just over people’s heads and, as a unit, taking some action that seemed as if it might endanger this poor woman.  It was soon apparent that the woman was an old friend and her bag was loaded with seeds.  If you’ve ever seen Mary Poppins, you have seen a very similar phenomenon.  The Bird Lady must appear with enough frequency that the birds were on the lookout for her. After chucking some handfuls of seed, she chuckled at their zeal and trundled on.  To the next bird rendezvous?

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The Old Man of Storr

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Rainbows are everywhere on Skye!  Still, a rainbow appearing just beside The Old Man of Storr seemed exceptional to Carolyn and JK after a few days of rainbow spotting.  This is the view of the famous stones from the highway, and one of the clearest views we had of them. As our bus moved around the hills, the rainbow passed in front of the Old Man and then shifted to the left side.  Imagine the awesome beauty of those green hills, enormous stones, and the freshness of the rainbow light through the rain changing through 150 degrees of beauty.