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