Nocturne II

Life isn’t about finding yourself.
Life is about creating yourself.

— George Bernard Shaw

Here is my second Nocturne and I find it quite light… hah-hah! Even if you have the best of intentions, sometimes it just doesn’t work as you had planned. What do I like? The sky and the glow of the buildings on top of the tunnel. I like the tunnel too. What I don’t like? The buildings leading to the tunnel and their insignificance. However, I wanted to put the emphasis on the tunnel and the buildings above… but they did not turn out as I wished. The joys of painting, sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t. If I have the time, I will repaint this scene, as I believe that I could turn it into a lovely painting… “if” I put in the time.

Paper: Arches CP 9″ x 6″
Watercolours: Hansa Med, Yellow Ochre, Q. Rose, Cobalt Blue
Location: Prague photograph

Happy Burns Night!

O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June:
O my Luve’s like the melodie,
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.
And fare-thee-weel, my only Luve!
And fare-thee-weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ ‘twere ten thousand mile!
A Red, Red Rose

— Robert Burns.

Robert ‘Rabbie’ Burns sits proudly atop the pantheon of Scottish poets. From ‘Auld Lang Syne’ to ‘Address to a Haggis’, his work is intrinsically linked with Scottish culture. His journey from humble rural beginnings to international renown tells the story of a man inspired by nature, class culture and love. It was his birthday today in 1759.

This painting does not look like much but it’s the technique that is so bloody interesting. Totally wet-on-wet, so this means that you need a high level of water control, which is excellent for practice purposes. It forces you to look at your paper and see if it has absorbed enough water or not, if it’s time for you to charge back in or wait a bit… it is kind of a dance with water, watercolours, and paper.

Paper: Arches CP 9″ x 6″
Watercolours: Hansa Med., Q. Gold, Alizarin Crimson, Payne’s Grey

The Lee Shore

All along the lee shore
Shells lie scattered in the sand
Winking up like shining eyes at me
From the sea
Here is one like sunrise
It’s older than you know
It’s still just lying there, where some careless wave
Forgot it long ago
When I awoke this morning
Dove beneath my floating home
Down below her graceful side in the turning tide
To watch the sea fish roam
There I heard a story
From the sailors of the Sandra Marie
There’s another island
It’s a day’s run away from here
It’s empty and free
From here to Venezuela
There’s nothing more to see
Than a hundred thousand islands
Flung like jewels upon the sea
For you and me
Sunset smells of dinner
Women are calling at me to end my tails
But perhaps I’ll see you, the next quiet place
I furl my sails

— A small tribute for David Crosby

Any artist will tell you, a complicated painting needs simplifying and a certain amount of study. I have this complicated painting to do and first of all the perspective is challenging. So I had to work on it. I found the horizon line first (where the eyes of the viewer “photographer” were) and traced a horizon line. Then with a ruler acting as a pivot, I found my two vanishing points. There are actually three, but I winged that one (the vertical one).

Then I drew the scene in small thumbnail size, about 4″ x 3″, and then painted in the different values with Payne’s Grey. Yes, I have used a pencil for this, as I think that it would be impossible for me to paint in direct watercolours. Some painters might be able to, but not I.

Now let’s hope that tomorrow the final result is somewhat good. We’ll see -)))

Paper: Moleskine Sketchbook 4″ x 6″
Watercolours: Graham Payne’s Grey

Nocturne

Music : a short composition of a romantic or dreamy character suggestive of night, typically for piano. 
Art : a picture of a night scene.

Did you know that trying out a new way of painting is so bloody difficult? So difficult that I do not even recognize myself in this painting. I can’t find myself in it, even though I know full well that I am the one that painted it.

It’s funny as the same thing happened to me when I handed in my Master’s thesis. When I reread it, I could not find myself in it, as there is a certain “way” of writing that you must follow when writing a thesis… and I was not there. It all looked well and dandy, but nowhere could I be found.

So the same thing goes with painting. Learning a new way of painting is making me “see” differently and I have to apply the paints in a different manner. I could say that I am an apprentice of some sort. Again no lines were put down at the beginning, I laid down a wet wash throughout the paper, then right away added some mountains and reflections in the water. Then waited a bit for the wash to dry a bit, and added the forest. Then waited for it to totally dry and then added the foreground forest and reflections in the water.

Paper: Arches Watercolour
Colours: New Gamboge, Q. Rose, Cobalt, Payne’s Grey

Clarity

There are moments in our lives,
there are moments in a day,
when we seem to see beyond the usual — become clairvoyant.
We reach then into reality.
Such are the moments of our greatest happiness.
Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom.

— The Art Spirit by Robert Henri

I painted this evening scene three times before I was happy with it. At least my horizon line is lower, and I could have lowered it even more. But it’s ok all in all. The scanned painting is not as nice as the real thing, it seems flatter.

Watercolours: New Gamboge, Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson, Cobalt Blue, Burnt Umber, Payne’s Grey
Paper: Arches 15″x10″

Five hundred seasons…

Sun warms the lizard’s back
and the humble back of the mountain.
A raven croaks from the top of a thermal.
The valley oak above the barn,
dying a huge branch at a time,
stands in calm mortability, content
with the warm light that has fed its leaves,
the dark waters that have fed its roots,
its acorns that have fed the woodpeckers
for five hundred rainy seasons.

— Ursula K. Le GUin

I have always loved being a student, and I remember in my very young years when school stopped in summer I would be one of the only ones that was sad. In retrospect, during the winter months, my family and I lived in a middle-sized city and in the summer months, totally reclusive… on a beautiful and wonderful lakefront. So my friends got to be divided in two… the winter friends and the summer friends.

This is a bit like this. Some of my winter friends are right out there in the past, and my summer friends seem to be closer to me. So weird in a sense, if you get what I mean.

This is totally unfinished as I am starting over tomorrow morning. The first mistake that I made was the horizon. The horizon, right smack in the middle of the page? No. So tomorrow you will get another version of this… hopefully improved. Even though I really like this.

Paper: Saunders Waterford 12″x9″
Colours: Hansa Deep, Cobalt Blue, Raw Umber, Payne’s Grey

Travelers

We came from the far side of the river
of starlight and will cross back over
in a little boat
no bigger than two cupped hands.
Thinking about compassion.
A firefly in a great dark garden.
An earthworm naked
on a concrete path.
I think of the journey
we will take together
in the oarless boat
across the shoreless river.

— Ursula K. Le Guin

I remember the first time that I biked with no hands… exhilarating to say the least. Well this painting is a bit the same. I painted this with absolutely no lines before… straight with watercolours. A feat for moi, for sure! So bloody difficult even if it does look easy… It certainly is a challenge, for someone who loves drawing and using “lines” everywhere. Hah-hah!

Paper: Saunders Waterford 12″x9″
Colours: Hansa Medium, Q. Rose, Cerulean and Ultramarine

Westering

From sunrise the wind blows
always to sunset
going where the stars go
my breath the wind
this little boat my body
its ragged sail my soul
going where the stars go

— Ursula LeGuin, Final Poems 2014-2018

Painted the same image three times and it gave three different results. The aim was to create a morning atmosphere as this was an early photo scene. I am presently following Uma Kelkar’s amazing class, and she is making us work on morning landscapes, evenings and nocturnes. Can’t say enough good words about her as she is an amazing teacher. I am really not used to painting without lines, so this is a huge challenge for me. Which one do you prefer? I’d love to hear from you…

I’m still seeing the Lonely Mountain Erebor today…

Lonely Mountain

A dry-voiced chickadee
reproves what’s gone amiss.
From our crab-apple tree
she gazes critically
at autumn’s entropy
and quietly says this:
I am Chickadee,
and things have gone amiss.

— Ursula K. LeGuin

When I finally looked at my painting, I thought that this could be the Lonely Mountain Erebor in The Lord of the Rings. I have not painted in a while, because of an erratic schedule. When I was working, my schedule was the same, day in and day out. With retirement in tow, it is now all over the place, a haphazard array of classes, fitness sessions, drinking my coffee oh so slowly… the sublime gesture of it all! There and here!

This painting was done in direct watercolour with no lines before. Just to remind me why it looks the way that it does. Humph!

Direct watercolour painting… no lines.

Red Poppies… at last!

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
— Isaac Asimov

Yesterday’s black and white poppies were just too sad. So I had to paint them today.

Paper: Moleskine Sketchbook
Fountain Pen: Pilot Penmanship  Fountain Pen, Clear, EF Nib, Japan
Ink: Noodlers Lexington Grey (bulletproof), my favourite colour
Watercolours: DS Cobalt, DS Green Gold, DS Cadmium Red, DS Alizarin Crimson, Payne’s Grey

Let us remember… and not forget

:: Flanders Fields ::

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
— by John McCrae, May

This seems to be a common theme of mine lately. Well yes, let us remember and not forget… in these troubled times.

Revisiting a lesson learned, and also forgotten

“I suppose what you’re doing as a painter is making a record of your trip through life.
I can’t think of any job that is quite as satisfactory as doing a painting.”
(Robert Genn (1936- 2014))

The quote above rings true for me… it is true that this blog records part of my life in a way. After preparing for my Book Club for tomorrow night, I now have the leisure of time on my hands… and what do I do with it? Going through some of my older paintings and see what comes up. By the way, her class is spectacular. As a teacher, she invests herself totally in it and she expects you to be totally invested too. An awesome combo.

I had not looked at this painting for over a year as this was done in a class given by Uma Kelkar. Quite interesting to revisit after this time. I really had a lot of fun doing this as it was difficult and challenging. The aim was to look at the reflections (incident light coming from the sun), cast shadows, diffused shadows and shadows and make them believable. I changed some of the blue colours along the way too.

Compromise or surrender?

Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving – it doesn’t matter,
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
(Rumi)

I have been furiously scribbling away while waiting on the phone for the credit card company to fix my compromised card.A full 2 hours later, it has been done at last! So in want of a better means of entertainment, I just scribbled away while looking at a photo. I think that he reflects my state of mind… LOL -) Purchases were made on the credit card that I was not even aware of. Thankfully, the fraud department saw through it, and I have not been charged… phew! I wonder why they use the term “compromised” but hey! I won’t argue with them.

Moleskine Sketchbook
Fountain Pen: Pilot Penmanship  Fountain Pen, Clear, EF Nib, Japan
Ink: Noodlers Lexington Grey (bulletproof), my favourite colour

No promises, back & front, forwards & backwards

When Joni Mitchell was nine, she contracted polio. After recovery, she taught herself how to walk again. In 2015, after her brain aneurysm, Mitchell again taught herself to walk. As a tween, she had taught herself to play the guitar from a Pete Seeger songbook. With her left hand weakened, she devised daring alternate tunings, which led to innovative voicings, and intuitive approaches to harmony and song structure.
The Painter’s Key

This time I will not promise that I am back in business and that I will be painting a number of paintings…. I’ve learnt that lesson far too often. But what I will say is that I am hopeful, that with the turn of the seasons, I get back to drawing or painting for my heart’s desire.

Yesterday I found one of the photographs that I took in Turkey a long time ago, about 7 years ago I guess, that had always fascinated me and I thought that it would be fun to draw. Well, then, once I had drawn it, I thought it would be fun to add colours to this and practice with rusty eyes with new colours. So here it is. It developed into the front and back of a person… search me how come, but hey! I was having fun. Don’t know if you noticed, but the one on the left has a door as it is a police station in Turkey… can you imagine working in such amazing architecture?

Sketchbook: Moleskine Watercolour Sketchbook
Colours: Ochre, Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine, Burnt Umber
Location: Rigaud, Québec, Canada

Practicing looseness

“I never get tired of the blue sky.”
Vincent van Gogh

With this experiment, I tried playing with different values and staying the loosest possible and it gave me quite an abstract result. I had to go over the trees with a black pen afterwards as the values were too similar…. had trouble distinguishing the trunk from the background. Here the leaves have not started to burgeon yet, but soon…. very soon!

Direct Painting in Watercolour

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Art is knowing which ones to keep.

Scott Adams

What does direct painting mean? It just means that you do not draw any lines whatsoever beforehand. You take your brush, and your brush becomes the calligraphic tool. Very very intimidating at first, but then you get a thrill of doing it. So for this painting of the Joshua Tree National Park in California, I find that it is rendered very softly… a tad too soft in a way. I should have painted a level 5 value in the end to add contrast but I decided to keep it this way. Still happy with it!

Paper: Saunders Waterford CP
Colours: Yellow Ochre, Cerulean Blue, Burnt Umber

To have spunk…

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.”
— (Frank Lloyd Wright)

Even though this dog is unknown to me, he has spunk! Like many small dogs that I know, they are fierce little creatures when taunted and show courage and determination. I like his badass attitude when painting, but I really do not enjoy when they constantly bark at you. LOL -) My own big Golden Retriever is nothing like this. He is soft, gentle, intelligent, never barks (or hardly) and is very affectionate. He is also getting very old, on our daily walks he lags behind and is walking very very slowly. I fear that not much time is left for our big guy.

Paper: Pentalic Sketchbook
Colours: [W&N] Yellow Ochre, [W&N] Payne’s Grey and [DS] Alizarin Crimson

Just a little push…

I want to remind you that regardless of the turmoil you have in your life, or the errands, or daily tasks, it’s important that you stop and make a sketch, even if you only spend 10 minutes on it. That connection to your creativity will bring you back each day to your creativity. It will help you stay limber for those days when you might actually squeeze in an hour (gasp!)
— https://rozwoundup.com

Sometimes what you need is just a little push and you start doing it. I have been busy, yes busy, but not busy enough to stop drawing or painting as it fills your heart and purpose in life. So I just needed this little push and https://rozwoundup.com/ did it for me.

Here are some of her words, and I thank her.

So here is a dog that she painted that I drew, in gratitude.

Meteora, Greece

La fin du monde est à sept heures
Annonçait le téléviseur
La fin du monde est à sept heures
La fin du monde est à sept heures
On voit les signes avant-coureurs
Les voisins ne se parlent plus
On ne rigole plus dans la rue
Les gens ne font que travailler
Ils sont chanceux et occupés
Le samedi, ils magasinent
Avez-vous vu leur triste mine

— Jean Leloup, “La fin du monde est à sept heures”

Painting done in direct watercolour, no lines, directly on watercolour paper, Saunders Waterford CP. So hard to do and so proud too. Wow! Never thought that I would be able to pull this off. All a question of values… value 2 for the mountains, value 4 for the strokes in the stone and value 5 for the shadows. Still so much to learn, but I am following a path…

:: Desert ::

There is a town in north Ontario,
With dream comfort memory to spare,
And in my mind
I still need a place to go,
All my changes were there.

— Neil Young, “Helpless” Canadian singer, songwriter extraordinaire.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8LYOyqJE7k

The same landscape as the previous ones, but the elements of design are different, as in this case colours. Hot, fiery desert winds and sparks of light. In our sub-zero temperatures here in Quebec, it feels good to delve into a bit of warmth… once in a while.

Unreal II

I’m really starting to have fun with these “unreal” landscapes…. they are pushing me in another direction which I like. They are pushing me to throw in elements from my imagination into a landscape instead of painting what I see in front of me. As an urban sketcher I often see myself as a recorder, a gatherer of information, painting a memento of what lies in front of me, of the landscape or cityscape around me.

Unreal

Je fais un rêve
Chaque nuit le même
Et dans ce rêve
Tout est plus réel et plus terrestre
Où je me vois tout en contrôle
Aimer la vie, m’aimer aussi
.
— Daniel Bélanger, Dis tout sans rien dire.

In these Covid times, days pass and almost seem the same, for a fleeting moment. And then you sit down, and realize that the feelings are real and charged with the day’s differences. The colour of the sky, or the way the sun reflects on objects, the sun’s angle, the days getting longer, if you slept soundly or had vivid dreams, all of these elements affect us in different ways.

Sometimes an emotion carries you to another level in your painting… and this is what happened today. When I started painting this landscape, I was not sure what I wanted to do and I just let go. I told myself that the painting would be my guide. At the end of the painting, when I looked at it, it seemed not real… in another world. Well, perhaps that today, this is my state of mind, and my emotion. Direct painting in watercolour on Arches paper.

Paper: Arches
Watercolour: direct painting, no lines.

Light & Shadows

In art, the journey outshines the destination.
In art, mistakes are golden.
Painters’ Keys

I am presently following a class with Uma Kelkar and boy is it hard… and so gratifying at the same time. We are looking at how light bounces off objects and how it reflects, on shadows, cast shadows, etc. Here are two preliminary sketches that I did. I used Payne’s Grey on Strathmore paper.

Greyscale Study

For a strong composition, you want the values to be in quite different amounts, not similar.
Try this rule to start: two-thirds, one-third, and a little bit.

Marion Boddy-Evans

This is a quick way to see if a painting will pull it off, without having to spend time on a painting that lacks contrast or composition or something else…

In a sketchbook, I created a thumbnail about 2″ x 2″. I quickly sketched the shapes (not the textures) and then created a low, mid and high-value tone painting, with only one colour. In this instance, I used Payne’s Grey as it is capable of very dark values and very light values. It is also quite staining. I painted over the entire area with the lightest of values, reserving the whites, and then painted over with the mid and darker values. I can now see where some darks should be darker and where lights are necessary. The second door on the left-hand side should have a darker value but everything else seems about right. So next step is to draw it on full-size watercolour paper and then paint it.

By the way, I am totally loving my retirement! When I wake up in the mornings, I still cannot believe it! After having worked all of my life on one job and another for over 50 years, mostly full-time, some part-time, some jobs that I totally hated and some that I loved, to now have the luxury of time, I am grateful!!! And the best job that I ever had was teaching for 27 years in the public sector and the best employer was Cégep John Abbott College for 21 years!

Greyscale Values

Paper: Moleskine Sketchbook #25
Colour: W&N Payne’s Grey
Ink: Noodler’s Lexington Grey
Fountain Pen: Pilot Penmanship, Clear, EF Nib, Japan (8$) bought at http://www.JetPens.com

Somewhere in Mexico…

The object of art is not to reproduce reality,
but to create a reality of the same intensity.

— Alberto Giacometti.

Here in Rigaud, Québec, Canada it snowed for the very first time yesterday and I woke up to a fairyland of white, fluffy, beautiful snow. The opposite of this painting from sunny Mexico! This is a typical Mexican scene, with the old cars, antennas, brightly coloured buildings and beautiful tiled roofs. It pays off to do the greyscale value thumbnails and the hue values also beforehand, even though today I did not respect my triad and went all out with many colours. The facade of the building is in Raw Sienna, but if I had to do it over, I would use Yellow Ochre which is an opaque colour with a bit of Q. Gold… it would make it livelier… but hey! I think that it is lively enough. Hope that you enjoy it. The sky is in a diluted Prussian Blue and it could have been a bit darker… but so much for that. It is finished, yeah!

Paper: Fabriano Artistico CP 140 lbs, 8″ x 8″
Colours: Mostly Hansa Light, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Alizarin Crimson, Cobalt Blue, Prussian Blue
Fountain Pen: Platinum Carbon
Ink: De Atrramentis Document Black Ink.

Tiny steps to take for a rewarding painting… hopefully!

Creativity takes courage.
— Henri Matisse

There are many steps in painting. Long gone, for me anyway, are the days where the teacher would tell us, let yourself go, drop the paint on the page and see what happens. This method is clearly not for me. However, I do have two methods that I will share with you today.

Paintings that I do, just for the pure pleasure of painting them, are my most common method. I pick a photograph that I like that I have already photographed at some point in time, and I usually paint these in a sketchbook, directly, without any preliminary sketches or thumbnails. And because I do not create these important preliminary thumbnails, they often fall short!! To note, the photographs need to have a significant meaning for me, as in reflecting previous travels or closer to home when I am feeling at sync in my own environment… if the photograph does not have a specific meaning for me, it usually always falls flat.

In the second method, which is usually because I am painting for someone else in mind, like today, I again choose an image from my vast collection of photographs and then I draw carefully first in pencil. Once the drawing has been done, I then have two other steps that I usually do for a serious painting and for my own satisfaction. I create a greyscale “monotone” thumbnail to test out values, to see how they add up. For this version, I used an intense colour that is quite staining but does a good job with values as it is a very intense colour in its pure form. This step also helps me in determining what is important in the painting, and what is less important. If you look at my previous drawing, you will notice that I have a lot of details, and this step might help me afterwards if I decide to paint it a second time, with less detail…

What should always be done is first and foremost, value thumbnails and then hue thumbnails and only then the drawing, which I am regretting not having done at the moment. Sigh…

I then also try out different colours or hues seen below. For these two thumbnails, 2″ x 2″ approximately, on the left-hand side I used Cobalt blue and Raw Sienna as the main two colours. On the right-hand side, I used Prussian Blue and Yellow Ochre. Is there one that you prefer?

As you can see I drew first and then did my greyscale values and hues after having drawn… if I had done my greyscale thumbnails and values first, my drawing would definitely be less laboured and with less detail. Artists are usually tenacious and very hard-working and only stop once they are satisfied, well for me anyway, but looking at my artist friends, they are all like this.

Hope that you enjoyed this longer detailed post. Have a nice snow day -)

Paper: Moleskine Sketchbook #25
Watercolours: DS Raw Sienna, W&N Yellow Ochre, DS Q. Rose, W&N Burnt Sienna, W&N Cobalt Blue, DS Prussian Blue, DS Carbazole Violet

Prepping & Thinking

Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it,
and wiser than the one that comes after it.

George Orwell, taken from the wonderful Painter’s Keys website

Line drawing was just done for a friend, which I will soon be painting. The lead lines are for the shadows. Once the drawing is done, the excitement of adding colours begins. I am playing with Raw Sienna or Yellow Ochre, also French Ultramarine or Cobalt… hum… questions, questions…

The cross

“Art = a mad search for individualism.”
(Paul Gauguin)

This must be one of the first paintings that I have done that has no trees, anywhere. I always try to manage putting in a tree or two as for me, these are very important beings. Apart from protecting us from the wind, cleaning up the air, giving us shade in the summer and sap in the spring, they are giants that we should revere.

So this station has a lot of cables, wires, gas, oil, wood, motors and pumps of all kinds… for some people, this is heaven. For others, not so much. But this makes for an interesting landscape. The hydro pillar looks like a cross, and maybe that it is a symbol for our energy devouring societies. What made me want to paint this was the magnificent sky and the cables whirling everywhere.

I looked up the word “cross” in the dictionary and it has so many different meanings. A crucifix, a burden to bear, a crossbreed, to travel across, a span, an intersection, to oppose, to hybridize. Man! So many different meanings with one word. The beauty of the English language.

Went out for a really nice lunch with a girlfriend today and we talked non-stop for 2-1/2 hours. Good, warm feelings.

Paper: Moleskine Sketchbook #25
Watercolours: Raw Sienna, Q. Gold, Alizarin Crimson & Ultramarine Blue
Ink: De Atramentis Black Document Ink
Fountain Pen: Platinum Carbon

Values & Saturation Levels

“The harder I work the luckier I get.” 
Samuel Goldwyn from the Painter’s Keys

This looks like a really easy experiment, but in reality, it was difficult. But oh so bloody interesting to do!!! For this, I wanted to check out the saturation capacity of the paper, in this case, Fabriano Artistico Cold Press and test out different values of the same colour with different increments of value. I used Prussian Blue and Carbazole Violet.

To create this experiment I created a 10% wash over the entire area and let it dry completely. Leaving a strip of the previous layer and darkening the rest till I had 10 patches with white on one end and black on the other. The real difficulty was making uniform value jumps… hah! That was the killer. Result? The last value jump of Prussian Blue is oh so beautiful! It is almost like velvet to the touch while the Carbazole Violet is shiny and black. Different results, different intensities, different colours.

Paper: Fabriano Artistico CP 140 lbs
Colours: Prussian Blue & Carbazole Violet

La Casa

Painting completed my life.
— Frida Kahlo

Using a triad of colours, you can get a myriad of colours just by mixing them… from greys to browns to greens to purples. The sky was painted with Prussian Blue, in its pure form and the side of the sidewalk was painted with Burnt Sienna. Everything else is a mix of the three basic colours. Amazing how you can get so many colours out of only three. The red, Pyrrol Scarlet, was added for the rent sign. I chose one cool colour and two warm colours for this painting, but I could have chosen all warm or all cold for different results.

Colours: Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna & Prussian Blue
Paper: Moleskine Sketchbook
Ink: De Atramentis Document Black Ink
Fountain Pen: Platinum Carbon

Remembrance “Poppy” Day :: Jour du souvenir

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle,
and the life of the candle will not be shortened.
Happiness never decreases by being shared.

— Hermann Hesse

For this day I give you two versions of a poppy field. Just to remember the braves of our country and to hold them in our thoughts. My husband prefers the first one on the left, and I think that I prefer the one on the right. Which one do you like? Just curious… Y a-t-il y a une peinture que vous préférez entre les deux? Si oui, laquelle?

Remembrance Day is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth member states, and many countries around the world, since the end of the First World War to honour armed forces members who have died in the line of duty. Hostilities formally ended “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” of 1918.

Paper: Moleskine Watercolour Sketchbook #25
Colours Left: DS Q. Gold, DS Raw Sienna, W&N Cerulean Blue, DS Prussian Blue
Colours Right: DS Q. Gold, DS Raw Sienna, W&N Cobalt Blue, DS Prussian Blue
Fountain Pen: Platinum Carbon Pen
Ink: DeAtramentis Document Ink Black

Gradients & Saturation Levels

“Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.”
— Pablo Picasso

So today is another fun exercise. Playing with saturation levels results in beautiful gradients. The idea here is to start with your paper tilted to at least 30 degrees so that the “bead” of water can run downwards. Secondly, prepare your colour so that you have enough to cover the paper and by saturating it to the correct level (meaning that the watercolour should not be wishy-washy but swirl when putting your brush in it). Pressing firmly on the mop, the first horizontal stroke is with clear water, make sure that you have a bead before continuing. Next stroke with a higher saturation level, until, in the end, you reach 100% saturation (meaning no water). I used a brush Mop #4 for this exercise. After the first stroke of water, do not add any more water to the mix. Midway you will dip directly into your colours to get the saturation level higher.

My favourite is the mix of Ultramarine with Burnt Sienna and I don’t know if you can see it, but at the bottom of the gradient, the texture almost looks like wood or wool. So interesting. My second favourite is the middle one. So which one do you think would be best for a stormy sky? Which one would be best for an early morning sunrise? Let me know what you think…

Now the trick to all of this is being able to apply this technique in an actual painting. Hah! Peut-être qu’il y en a entre vous qui comprennent ce que je veux dire…

Paper: Etchr Sketchbook, size A4, 11.4 x 8.3 in [29 x 21 cm]
Colours Left: DS Ultramarine Blue + W&N Burnt Sienna
Colours Centre: DS Ultramarine Blue + W&N Burnt Umber
Colour Right: DS Cobalt Blue + W&N Burnt Umber
Brush mop: da Vinci, casaneo #4

Testing Watercolour Papers

One never knows what one is going to do.
One starts a painting and then it becomes something quite else.
It is remarkable how little the ‘willing’ of the artist intervenes.

— Pablo Picasso

I’ve been going through all of my drawers and found a myriad of different watercolour papers that I decided to test out today. I decided to test all of them out with the same combination of mixed colours (Cerulean Blue, Prussian Blue, a bit of Q. Gold and a small amount of red to neutralize the colour). I used a wet-in-wet technique which is, I think, the reason that my colours are are too unsaturated. I definitely do not like how the Strathmore paper bloated with the water. The Arches paper combined the different intensities of colour a bit too much (but my paints were too watery). The Fabriano and Fluid 100 papers were fine and the Saunders was intense as the paper is darker than the rest. To note that the Fabriano paper was not HP (hot-pressed) as the other ones so to compare it with the others is not really fair, as I usually love the results on this paper. I think that I might redo this exercise tomorrow with more saturated paint colours.

That is what happens when you stop painting for a while… humph! My technical eye went for a ride and said bye-bye -))) Well, guess what I will try to achieve tomorrow? Good saturation levels — hah-hah!!!

Colours: DS Alizarin Crimson, DS Q. Gold, W&N Cerulean Blue, DS Prussian Blue
Papers: Arches, Bockingford, Fabriano Artistico, Fluid 100, Saunders Waterford, Strathmore

:: Wonky Friday Portrait ::

I am crazy about two colours:
carmine and cobalt.
Cobalt is a divine colour and there is nothing so beautiful for creating atmosphere.
Carmine is as warm and lively as wine… the same with emerald green.

— Vincent van Gogh

This wonky Friday portrait is just what I needed… a bit of craziness during pandemic times. I am having so much fun with these portraits, and I was long overdue. Today I used a Zebra Brush Pen from Pilot that I bought at JetPens. Everything is written in Japanese on the pen, so I can’t really read what is written. It gives a thicker line that I usually use and gives it a caricature-like quality which goes well with the model that I chose.

Paper: Pentalic Aqua Journal 8″ x 5″
Watercolours: Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Q. Gold, Alizarin Crimson & Ultramarine
Pen: Zebra Brush Pen Fine LINK

:: Portrait Study ::

Study nature,
love nature,
stay close to nature.
It will never fail you.”
— Frank Lloyd Wright

I have been living in the same house now for 17 years, our longest time up to now, with my husband. Our first house we lived in was for 9 years, then our second house was 6 years, then another one for 4 years, then a temporary place for 2 years while we were constructing this one, and now 17! Huh-huh!You must by now be guessing my age -))) The reason we have lived in this one for so long is very easy. I love nature, being surrounded by trees, birds, critters great and small. I love the quietness of this place and the huge lot.

So my quest today was to do a portrait study and I wanted to find someone who looked a bit flamboyant… and the beard did it! I am slowly getting back into my watercolours but I still have a way to go to feel utterly comfortable with this wonderful medium.

I also cleaned up my palette, and squeezed some new juicy colours into it. A clean palette does not last long as it gets dirty really quick — well for me anyway, and it is a thing of beauty. DS means Daniel Smith, W&N means Winsor & Newton, H means Holbein… Some painters classify their colours by cold/warm. I don’t. I classify them as if they were on a colour wheel… it must be my years of teaching colour theory.

Paper: Pentalic Aqua Journal 8″ x 5″
Watercolours: Mostly Cobalt Blue, Lemon Yellow, Burnt Sienna, some Gold Green
Fountain Pen: Pilot Namiki SEF
Ink: DeAtramentis Black Document Ink

:: Moe’s Rusty Day ::

Permit the brain to separate from the hand.
Soften your vision, focus beyond and before.
Allow yourself to be “entranced” by your work.
Feel a “process” rather than an outcome, and…
Live in the life of the brush, chisel, roller.

— Painter’s Keys

September 1st already and I am really not ready for autumn! After many months of not painting nor drawing, the deadline was today. So to get out of this artistic break as we might softly say, I decided to choose my most difficult challenge. Faces!!! I was never good at these, and I would like to be better, and with practice I know that I will, and that goes for everyone.

There are many flaws in this drawing, but especially in the painting values. They are all either too vibrant or too soft… it is a question of getting back into watercolours also, to test the value of the wash and know when I put down my brush it has the correct value. The proportions of the face are too long or not wide enough. The hues are not diverse enough, but hey! This is how we learn. To analyze what is wrong, and to rectify for the next painting. And persevere and move forward.

I have been following for years the “Queen” of drawing faces, and she is found here. You will see that she is quite amazing… makes it look so bloody easy -)))

Moe’s Haircut

Paper: Pentalic Aqua Journal 8″ x 5″
Watercolours
Fountain Pen: Pilot Namiki SEF
Ink: DeAtramentis Black Document Ink

:: Cuban Sky ::

“Look three times,
think twice,
paint once,”
is a time-honoured shibboleth.
The Painter’s Keys

Following up on my gouache quest, I had to paint this twice as my first one had pretty good skies, but a dull lower third. I took this photo when I was in Varadero, Cuba in 2012 and the skies were majestic & scary at the same time. The ocean was calm, but there was a rumble of distant thunder and eminent rain. Such a beauty!

If you are wondering about the quote, I have been following Painter’s Keys for a very long time and for an artist, it is filled with great advice and painting anecdotes. You should look at it.

On another note, this Friday is my last day as a paid employee of John Abbott College, and next Monday my real retirement begins after 26 years of working in the Public Sector. I am overjoyed and grateful that I do not have to go in to teach as COVID-19 is still in our midst and to mingle with 7000 students would be scary even though I am double jabbed. But I do not have to worry as I have retired — yeahhhhh!!!.

If you are interested in learning more about how to paint in gouache, you can look here for the info for Shari’s link.

www.janehannah.com

:: Sunset for Indigenous People of Canada ::

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
— Socrates

My relationship with Canada Day is a mixture of different belongings. I feel like a Canadian and I am also a Québécoise and I identify mostly with Rigaud where I live and Montréal, which is a great city. I think and read and write in English but I live 50% of the time in French. I was born a Catholic but I am an agnostic-atheist.

In Canada, the term Indigenous comprises First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people. What has been happening to Indigenous people in Canada for such a long time is shameful. Forcing indigenous children to live in residential schools was cruel and it became a genocide. We are discovering the horrors that were done to our Indigenous people at the moment and it is shocking. So instead of celebrating Canada Day, I hope that we are celebrating our Indigenous people in Canada as they deserve our deepest apologies. So here is a painting in their honour

Sunset for our Indigenous People across Canada

Summer

I am often helplessly confronted by the picture… filled with suspense.
What I have drawn suddenly seems to have developed its own dynamic – one that is not always necessarily kind to me.
It is a genuine struggle and challenge.
Simone Bingemer

When you live in the province of Québec, Canada, you wait 9 months to get to this point in time. Summer! We actually only have about 2 months of real summer weather, July and August and sometimes September is quite beautiful and balmy too. With the pandemic ebbing away, the weather has been on my mind as I seem to need fresh air. We have been cooped up for so long…

So here is another cloud painting in gouache, and I found this one to be difficult to do. I actually did a second one after, and it is good for the trash can. Hah-hah! That happens too.

I have also put a photo of my outside painting studio… so nice. As it is screened in, there are no mosquitoes! Yeahhh!

Cumulonimbus Clouds
Cumulonimbus clouds

Paper: Strathmore Toned Tan Paper, 12″ x 9″
Gouache: Winsor & Newton Zinc White, Lemon Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine & Phthalo Green.

Outside painting setup at my house

Beautiful Summer Solstice

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

— Joni Mitchel songwriter, musician, poet and so much more.

Solstices and equinoxes mark the four movements in a celestial score. Summer Solstice marks the time of the longest day and the beginning of summer. In centuries past, Midsummer’s Eve was seen as one of the times that the fairies were supposed to come out and dance.
— By John Forti, The Heirloom Gardener

I followed a workshop that was entirely in gouache and here is my first try. Decades ago when I was a young graphic designer, we used to work with gouache to do touch-ups in page layout and illustrations. I remember that I used to tint the white gouache so that its colour was exactly the same as the paper that I was working on. Here is a link to the workshop, if you are interested. LINK. What is really interesting in gouache, as opposed to watercolours, is that you can paint light on dark and dark on light. This makes it a really interesting medium and more versatile than watercolours but the colours are mostly opaque. It was very interesting to paint with this medium today. I am looking forward to my next painting.

I don’t know clouds… at all.

Paper: Strathmore Toned Tan Paper, 12″ x 9″
Gouache: Winsor & Newton Zinc White, Lemon Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine & Phthalo Green.

Who loves water & trees… I do!

Who loves trees best?
I, said the spring,
Their leaves so beautiful to them I bring.
Who loves the trees best?
I, summer said,
I give them blossoms, white, yellow, red.
Who loves the trees best?
I, said the fall,
I give luscious fruits, bright tints to all!
Who loves the trees best?
I love them best, harsh winter answered,
I give them rest.
— The Pearl Story Book” by Ada. M Skinner

Well, I have finally retired and now I will have more time to paint, draw, play music, read… and just relax.. anyway that is the plan for the moment. So I am slowly prepping back up and will be back soon on this blog to make it come alive again. Been too long. This pandemic has been too long. Here is a painting that I did in 2020… and I still love it!

Watercolours: Hansa Light, Q. Gold, Burnt Sienna, Q. Rose, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Indanthrone (C)
Paper: Fabriano 12″x9″ CP
Reference photograph

:: Radio ::

“When we learn our mother tongue, we acquire certain habits of thought that shape our experience in significant and often surprising ways.”
— Guy Deutscher, Linguist, University of Manchester, UK

I thought of Radio Gaga, Radiohead then I thought about radio waves, then wavelengths for this prompt. This will be my last Inktober drawing for this week as tomorrow I have to prep for my classes! I am hoping that next weekend I might find time to continue the Inktober challenge, which is always fun.

Inktober Day 4 :: Radio Prompt ::
Paper: Japanese Album

What a semester it has been! I am finding it a difficult semester as I have had to reconfigure all of my classes in order to teach online. I have had to double the amount of prepping, correcting, duplicating of assignments to reach the highest number of students… and it is exhausting. Answering way more individual questions, setting up break-out rooms for groups of students, correcting on the spot… and the list goes on.

The government here in Québec does not seem to care at all about teachers as in fact, Cégep “college” teachers have never stopped teaching since March 13, 2020. On March 16 we immediately converted to online teaching and have been since. Even though it is really nice to be here at home as I do not have to drive in, I would much rather be in class… BUT only if there is a vaccine right? No vaccine, it would be impossible as at John Abbott we have no air ventilation… we have recycled air, we cannot open the windows and the air quality is not at all healthy even in non-Covid times so imagine now.

:: Bulky ::

Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.
— Maya Angelou

Inktober’s day 3 prompt is bulky and I decided to exaggerate proportions… small head with a big body. I could have done the contrary too… big head, small body but I decided to stick with my first idea.

Inktober Day 3 :: Bulky

Paper: Japanese Album
Ink: Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star Matte
Brush: Kuretake Water Brush Set

:: Wisp of a brush ::

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature.
It will never fail you.”

— Frank Lloyd Wright

Today’s prompt is “wisp” and when I read it I immediately thought of these long beautiful chinese calligraphy brushes…. which someone brought back from Shanghai as a present to me. Below you will find the tools that I will be using for the Inktober Challenge this year. I have decided to use Kuretake Water Brushes and to fill them up in advance with a dilution of 30% black, 60% black. This way I will have consistent grey values.

Wisp of a brush
Inktober Tools

Going from left to right at top of image.
• Small container with a mix of water and black ink;
• Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star Matte
• Dr. Ph. Martin’s Pen-White
• _____ to wripe off excess ink from brush
• 4 Chinese calligraphy brushes on top of green water container
Bottom of image.
• Eyedropper for adding ink
• Dip pen
• 3 Kuretake brush pens filled up with different % of mix (small, medium and large size)
• Platinum Desk Pen EF DP1000AB plus convertor, Red, Japan

Inktober Tools 2

Paper: Japanese Album
Ink: Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star Matte
Brush: Beautiful chinese calligraphy brush

Cosmic Fish

I’m very sane about how crazy I am.
— Carrie Fisher

In these pandemic times, drawing is good for you, especially since I have been sitting at the computer for long hours since the semester began and it is making me a bit stir-crazy! Drawing seems to liberate me from my troubles… in these troubled times — hah-hah!

The 2020 Inktober challenge began today and the prompt was “fish”… so I thought of a big cosmic fish at 10:00 pm tonight… not much time for drawing it, but still am happy with the result. The important factor is that I had fun and that it was good for me. If I have the time tomorrow I will scan it in instead of taking a quick photo with my iPhone. I will stick to a black and white theme this year with different values of grey…. if I find the time…

Cosmic Fish

Paints: Dr. PH.Martin’s Pen-White & Black Star Matte
Paper: Moleskine Japanese Sketchbook
Brushes: Kuretake Water Brushes

Montreal Cotton :: MoCo

Each day has its own individuality of colour.
Hawthorne on Painting

My hometown is Salaberry-de-Valleyfield and in 1874 the major employer in those days was a cotton company named the Montreal Cotton, MOCO in short, and people referred to it as “La Coton”. Everyone in Valleyfield had a parent that worked there at some point in time. My grandfather, William Hannah worked there as a small boss. His son Dorland, my Dad, worked there also separating the cotton threads. As most things today it has been converted to a hotel, and behind it an elderly residence.

Yesterday I brought my whole paraphernalia for sketching with me in Valleyfield and I managed to draw on location, but due to a lack of trees and the sun falling on me, I quit and I forgot to take a picture of my drawing.

I first painted the sky, then I painted the water and then the reflections. Then I painted the trees and the buildings and in the end put on a bit of calligraphy to show shadows and depth. Hope that you like it!


Paper: Travelogue 8″x8″
Watercolours: New Gamboge, Raw Sienna, Alizarin Crimson, Ceruleant Blue, Prussian Blue

Who loves the trees best?

Who loves trees best?
I, said the spring,
Their leaves so beautiful to them I bring.
Who loves the trees best?
I, summer said,
I give them blossoms, white, yellow, red.
Who loves the trees best?
I, said the fall,
I give luscious fruits, bright tints to all!
Who loves the trees best?
I love them best, harsh winter answered,
I give them rest.
— The Pearl Story Book” by Ada. M Skinner

For two days now I have been painting under Shari‘s wonderful guidance a stillwater view of a lake.

I struggle with every painting that I do and I guess that this is part of the fun and the excitement of it all? If it were easy, would I keep at it? Would it keep me challenged enough to find it interesting? I don’t think so. I must say that I will always question my competence, as this is part of my temperament. The key to learning and improving is to keep on doing it, without taking long breaks as I am doing… with the Covid-19 situation, my life has changed a bit and underneath my apparent calmness, there is a struggle and anxiety that is there. Today and tomorrow it will be there too. So because I have not painted in a while, I felt rusty and of course I redid the same scene three times… not once, twice but three times! And talk to any artist, and they know what I am talking about.

So if you can, I would be really interested in knowing which one of these three paintings that you love best? And could you let me know? As I am very curious -) Top one is A, middle is B and lower one is C.

Stillwater A
Stillwater B
Stillwater C

Watercolours: Hansa Light, Q. Gold, Burnt Sienna, Q. Rose, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Indanthrone (C)
Paper: Fabriano 12″x9″ CP
Reference photograph

:: Shakespeare’s Birthplace ::

This week marks William Shakespeare’s birthday. Shakespeare, who was born in 1564, endured a life chequered by outbreaks of plague. Seven hundred years later, it still rings true! To mark this some of Britain’s most famous Shakespearean actors, including Dame Judi Dench, read from Richard II. Here are the lyrics…. and if you would like to hear them played out by Dame Judy Dench — a real treat — , just go and view it on the excellent news show BBCNewsnight.

KING RICHARD II
I have been studying how I may compare
This prison where I live unto the world:
And for because the world is populous
And here is not a creature but myself,
I cannot do it; yet I’ll hammer it out.
My brain I’ll prove the female to my soul,
My soul the father; and these two beget
A generation of still-breeding thoughts,
And these same thoughts people this little world,
In humours like the people of this world,
For no thought is contented.
The better sort,
As thoughts of things divine, are intermix’d
With scruples and do set the word itself
Against the word:
As thus, ‘Come, little ones,’ and then again,
‘It is as hard to come as for a camel
To thread the postern of a small needle’s eye.’
Thoughts tending to ambition, they do plot
Unlikely wonders; how these vain weak nails
May tear a passage through the flinty ribs
Of this hard world, my ragged prison walls,
And, for they cannot, die in their own pride.
Thoughts tending to content flatter themselves
That they are not the first of fortune’s slaves,
Nor shall not be the last; like silly beggars
Who sitting in the stocks refuge their shame,
That many have and others must sit there;
And in this thought they find a kind of ease,
Bearing their own misfortunes on the back
Of such as have before endured the like.
Thus play I in one person many people,
And none contented: sometimes am I king;
Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar,
And so I am: then crushing penury
Persuades me I was better when a king;
Then am I king’d again: and by and by
Think that I am unking’d by Bolingbroke,
And straight am nothing: but whate’er I be,
Nor I nor any man that but man is
With nothing shall be pleased, till he be eased
With being nothing.
Music do I hear?

20200426-shakespeares-house-jane-hannah-loRes

Paper: Hand•book journal co. 8″ x 8″ #26
Ink: Lexington Grey
Fountain Pen: Pilot Penmanship EF
Watercolours: New Gamboge, Q. Gold, Ceruleant Blue, Ultramarine, Q. Rose, Q. Burnt Orange, etc.

:: Working for love ::

On the Painter’s Keys website I found this little gem and thought that I would share it with you. It resonated with me as it is true that we are low consumers and thrive in quiet spaces. We know how to work for love? Wow! That is sooo true… I cannot paint something that I do not love. It has to come from the heart first, and if I love it, I know that I will paint it well…

I’m willing to bet my last roll of toilet paper that the 99% of artists the world is currently digging professional graves for will not all perish in the age of isolation. We have low overheads. And our worldly needs are modest. We know how to work for love. Many of us are poor consumers. We also thrive in the quiet spaces, which means our ideas are being given the opportunity to improve. We are all at home, now. If part of art’s function is to explore our universal human experience, home is our current, unifying theme.
Painter’s Key

I am definitely in need of some greenery as this painting attests to. Here in Québec, or at least where I live, there is hardly any green yet. I painted this little old house as I followed Shari‘s online class… she motivates me to continue!

20200425-oldHouse2-jane-hannah-loResPaper: Hand•book journal co. 8″ x 8″
Ink: DeAtramentis Document Black
Namiki Fountain Pen SEF
Watercolours: New Gamboge, Q. Gold, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine, Q. Rose, Q. Burnt Orange