Category Archives: watercolor pencils

panoramic dune paintings with close ups

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Finally finished! time to celebrate!

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This is a close up of the small piece of ocean you can see from there. I always see a texture on the ocean. This could be white caps or sparkles. I’ll let the viewer decide if it looks like either one of those. Maybe from far away. Also, you can see the texture of the grass I made with the Inktense pencils.

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This is the leaf texture I made with masking fluid to save the lighter leaf colors and use a dark green to darken the shadows. The grass texture in the shade was made with my modified fan brush and masking fluid.

I enjoy making textures. Masking fluid is a great product for that.

Some things I can use from my old school training are how to make a feeling of light by working on my shadows. If you use the full range of values from black to white and put the darkest shadows in under some lighter contrasting shapes, leaves, the viewer gets the feeling of sunlight, and depth. Could you walk in there and get out of the sun? Maybe, but you’ll need bug spray.

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This shows a sand slide. The smoother sand is the part that slid down and the top inch or two of the rougher sand is the part of the dune where it broke. I hope you can see what I mean.

I like the way that the dunes mimic the ocean with their wavy shapes and their rising and falling with peaks and breakers, if you can imagine it.

Dunes Sea and Sky / try try again

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Yesterday I slept too late for the best light. It was 9 when I got to the overlook. I decided not to take all my plein air supplies with me because I knew it would be crowded. I only took my color rough from the day before,  my color charts and a pencil to make notes.

When I compared my rough to nature the first thing I noticed is that there’s not enough greenery. Otherwise, not too bad, I thought. So I decided to do another  color sketch. Also, the ocean wasn’t sparkly at 9 like it is at 8 so that solves the problem of painting the sparkles. That wasn’t working out in my trials and I decided to forget about it until some time in the future. I might have to use oils to paint the sparkly water.

I came to another important decision. I decided to paint the panoramic scene at home. I might mess up the paper outside and can’t fix it with watercolors like I can fix a mistake  with oil paint.  There’s less chance of the paper picking up a smudge in the wrong place if I paint it at home as opposed to lugging all my stuff out there in my beach cart. After I get more experience with watercolors I’ll know exactly what I need to take along to paint in plein air and it will be a lighter load than taking oil paints.

If I do another rough sketch of a different area of the panorama and it looks ok compared to nature I’ll feel like I can paint it at home with more confidence. Just one more rough. I think I almost have it all worked out. I want to try to paint the thicker foliage first. This is a challenge and I want it to come out right. That’s why I’m doing so much preliminary work, the sketches, the color roughs, taking my time when making the decisions, etc.

It’s nice to have the luxury of taking my time when doing something difficult, and it’s nice to go there and walk even if I’m not working on an art project.

E.T.s bringing in the oxygen sucking machines

My fellow Americans, stop wasting ammo. When this happens the rest of the world will be depending on us to kill the E.T.s

Anyone can do art.

Art can be a discipline, therapy or just for fun depending on your needs.

If you really want to get into doing art, the more skill you get the better. It’s like playing a musical instrument. You have to spend a lot of time practicing but anyone can pick up an instrument at any time in their life and if they live long enough to keep practicing they can see an improvement and possibly even master it. It’s not something an artist is born with. To think that is to ignore the time the artist has actually worked on it.

But not every artist wants the discipline. And they don’t have to have it in today’s art world. Self expression is valued even more highly than skill.

A lot of people just need to distract their minds from a problem and art can help with that. If you have some fun doing something with paint, that’s a couple hours that your brain took a break from whatever is eating you. What if you’re stuck at home and you’re tired of Netflix? What if you’re stuck at home with a tyrant and you can’t escape to your job like before? What if you have to home school your kids and you don’t know how to teach? Art will help in all of those situations. Any art, any project.

Art as therapy:

I wasn’t always sane, but now I am. I can’t say for sure how I got my mental health because there might be more than one reason but I think art helped. It didn’t happen suddenly. I didn’t get my head shrunk or take meds for it.

And simply not dying might have helped. Like the cliche, Time heals all wounds. That’s why I tell young artists who are suffering to stay alive. If I lived long enough to enjoy my retirement you can too.

This art therapy project:

First, think of the thing that bugs you the most. Do a rough illustration of it (stick figures or blobs will work for this). For me, the thing annoying me is the global pandemic so I threw some yellow watercolors down on the paper and then scribbled in some red lines with my Inktense pencils to make rough corona virus waves and hot spots. If I didn’t tell you my E.T.s started out as corona viruses would you have recognized it from the pictures on TV?

You can do corona viruses too or some other subject.

Second step, Think of something much worse than the original problem and add that thing into your picture. Like, what if those yellow dots with red lines aren’t corona viruses? What if they’re aliens coming to rob us of our air?

It could happen. Then we’d feel nostalgic for the days when all they talked about was the virus because suddenly they forgot all about the virus and then it would be E.T.s 24/7 on the news and our president might not be able to strike a deal with them.

Third step, Put the more scary thought’s picture in the brains of 100 people on your blog. Now 100 people will have a new perspective on corona. It’s possible to live through the pandemic without ever getting sick but impossible to live without our atmosphere.

We have a lot of brave guys who would volunteer to fly up there and destroy the oxygen sucking machines and kill the E.T.s. They’re going to need bullets and bombs.

That’s today’s art therapy project. I’ll leave it to the mental health professionals to explain how that made me feel better.

It’s raining again. I’ll go back out to draw in plein air as soon as the weather clears up.

Flower Children Dancing


watercolor and Inktense pencils







Art from my subconscious / good or bad?

I can’t tell if it’s working on any level or if it sux. Feel free to opine or critique without worrying about hurting my feelings. I don’t have any emotions toward this experiment. (and that’s the best way to approach an experiment, just try something and see what happens.) If you studied psych this might give you some insight into my subconscious brain. If you see anything, let me know, crazy or sane, doesn’t matter either.

I didn’t make plans or do sketches first. The only thing I decided was to have fun on a cloudy day when I didn’t want to go out because it was a holiday and would be crowded at the places I like to go. The other thing I decided before starting was to use yellow pink and green.

First, I spattered yellow on the paper ala Jackson Pollock to get a loose start. Then when the yellow dried I wet the paper and blobbed two pinks in around the yellow. While the paper was still wet I scribbled in some lines with the Inktense pencils. When that dried I blocked my flowers off with masking fluid and painted the background green. Then masked off the lighter green lines and went over it again with dark green.

When it’s all dry, rub off the masking fluid and VOILA!

I like this product, but opening the bottle can be frustrating.

Those dang lids where you have to press down while turning.

Once in a while I can open the bottle with no problem but sometimes I try and try until my hand gets tired and it won’t open. One time I broke a lid off a bottle of masking fluid with a wrench. That’s how bad it is.

Yesterday I got a call from a friend and she asked me what I was doing. I said trying to open this stupid bottle. She told me to run it under hot water. I said that won’t help. The lid isn’t glued shut. I can turn it. It just won’t unscrew. Again she said run it under hot water so I said ok. I ran hot water over it for a few minutes and when the bottle warmed up the lid came off! I celebrated that happening with loud insane laughter that my neighbors might have heard because my windows were open.

Now I know the trick to opening these poorly designed bottle caps. I guess my crazy friend knows a thing or two.

This masking fluid is great for adding texture to a watercolor. A few years ago I tried using it on an oil painting, which I was told doesn’t work, but it does work if you use it over thinned oil paint with no medium mixed in. And I keep seeing people are still reading those old posts which is a mystery to me how they find my old masking fluid on oil paint experiments.

If you want to use this product the most important thing to remember is to put soap on your brush first. It’s impossible to clean the brush if you don’t put soap on it first and the brush will get gummed up and ruined. With soap on it you can rinse the brush in water to clean it and use more soap to be sure to get all the masking fluid out of the brush.

Low Tide @ Pleasure House Point

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Inktense  pencils and watercolors

One place on the path floods often and I can tell which way the tide is going by the way the water is running across the path. A lot of times I go there just to walk and don’t take my art supplies along. Now, we’ve had a few days of rain and I worked on this at home, but the past couple weeks when I went over to walk or to sketch or pick my colors, the flooding place was dry and the water looked like low tide. I could see sand and oysters. When I got home I looked at the tide tables and was surprised to see the tide was almost high because I expected to find it was low tide. I wondered if I could read the tide tables at all.

The last time I went to the point to sketch and pick colors from my charts a lady on the path above where I was standing spoke to me. We were both amazed at how far out the water was and she told me low tide was an hour and a half ago but it hasn’t moved and might not move much even at high tide.

This could be one of the lowest tides I’ll see all year, which was ok because I wanted to paint the oysters on the mud flats.

This week we’re getting a lot of rain so there will be coastal flooding and low tide will look like high tide, I guess.

I don’t have as much confidence working at home as I do working in Plein air or as much confidence working with watercolors as working with oil paint or pastels. The weather forced me to paint at home. I thought it would probably be ok because I did my sketches in plein air and picked my colors and made notes of which color to use in plein air. Then after I get past my reluctance to start, I find that I enjoy drawing with the Inktense  pencils. I can make a texture with the Inktense pencils and I have a lot of colors, so they save me the time of mixing watercolors on my palette.

Path Through Wildflowers

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This is watercolor with Inktense pencils. It seems like it took a long time to finish.  I went over to the garden 6 times including the times I sketched it, first on charcoal paper and then again on watercolor paper. Each time I stayed there for an hour or two and made some progress on it then came home and worked on it off and on for hours, so I think I have over 20 hours in the painting. I enjoyed working on it very much.

The weather was beautiful! It’s cooling down but not cold.  I didn’t turn the heat on in my apartment yet. It’s staying around 70 inside so far. I hate  turning the heat on for the first time every year because it blows dust around and I don’t want to catch a cold because of it.

The garden is still beautiful with a lot of flowers blooming. The roses are so sweet smelling and the breeze makes the scent follow you down the walk.

It looks like I have time to try another watercolor painting before we get a good freeze. I’m waiting for that refreshing arctic air from Canada. Then I’ll start on my long time in the planning winter swamp painting in oils. Until then, maybe I can try to get a watercolor done at Back Bay.

another try at sea and sky watercolor pencils

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Last year I sketched waves with charcoal and chalk. This year I want to sketch them in color. I think the watercolor pencils have a grainier quality than regular watercolors. I’ll do some comparisons with the watercolors in tubes this year. It seems like I picked a difficult subject for Plein air painting because waves never stop moving. I’ll keep working on it but there are so many great views around here and I’m not on a deadline. I’ll try out my Inktense watercolor pencils drawing other scenes before I get the hang of painting of the ocean. It’s not just painting waves, it’s also that I want to paint the bubbles on the sand and that looks even more difficult.

Yesterday we had nice weather but it was too windy to stand on the beach at the water’s edge. I sat on the leeward side of a sand dune and it was great. It took me some time to plan my sketch with pencil and pick my colors from the charts I made. Then I realized I forgot to bring a piece of soap along. If you put soap on your paintbrush before you dip it in the masking fluid it saves the brush from getting gummed up and ruined. For this experiment I used my white oil paint stick on the sky as an alternative to masking fluid and used regular masking fluid to block out the white foam on the breakers.

After I got my sketch planned and picked the colored pencils I wanted to use I came home to paint this because I had enough sun. I’d buy a beach umbrella, but those things can be a hazard. I don’t need to stay out all day painting in plein air. I can go back any time. This could take months or even years, but eventually I’ll get it.

Sea and Sky / from memory

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This is my third try to represent a wave, painting at home from memory with my Inktense watercolor pencils. It’s on the back of a flop experiment. That’s why it has some smudges showing in the sky.  It’s another experiment, this time trying out masking fluid applied with my fan brush to mask out the white clouds, and  white oil paint stick used to mask out white foam on the wave.

I’m guessing which colors from the set of pencils to use after finally finishing with the big project of testing each color pencil by making washes from the darkest concentration of the color to the most washed out lightest version of the color.  That’s why I call that  that exercise  a gray scale. If black is 100% and white is 0% using gray, when you do a gray scale of a color you can estimate the value of the color. Some of the colors don’t get any darker than 30%. I have 3 pencils that go to black in the set, which is good.

Now I need to go back to the beach to see if the colors I picked are close to the colors of nature, or if I can make a better color.

It’s going to get unseasonably hot out there today. I’m not sure if I’ll go to the beach today or wait till tomorrow when it might be more comfortable weather. In the summer, if I don’t get up at the crack of dawn, it’s too hot to paint in plein air in the sun. In the winter, I have to wait until afternoon when it warms up enough to go out. That way I’m not suffering for art.

The time I spent goofing around at home with these pencils is going to help my chance of success when I seriously try to do a nice finished painting. You learn a lot through play. You can take a class and a good teacher can help immensely  but you still have to work on your own for a long time to get anywhere with art, at least that’s my experience.

 

untitled / watercolor pencils

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I wish I could be an abstract expressionist. Yesterday I read a blog, Vin de Vie Wine of Life, by Sarah Abraham. about an artist Oliver Lee Jackson who’s work is hanging in the National Gallery until Sept. 15. His paintings are so beautiful. At my art school, YAA, they discouraged us from that path. We had to plan our paintings. Abstract expressionism is painting from your subconscious, if  I understand it correctly, and we were expressly forbidden to do that. I distinctly remember our esteemed teacher Fitzkee saying , “Don’t clean out the cobwebs from your brain on your canvas, no one wants to see that.” I understood Fitzkee’s point of view.

But last night I just wanted to have a little fun with my Inktense pencils after working on that academic exercise for hours. The old school exercises can’t hurt if I’m trying to see the colors I can make with the pencils and learn to use them, but is scribbling blindly bad for my art?

I don’t really want the viewer to see the cobwebs or worse things in my brain. I thought abstract expressionism was for the artist to communicate their emotions to the viewer, and I’m not feeling at all emotional these days. (Thankgawd for less of that)  Does this  little play painting speak to you at all? Should I title it, “I Find Myself Amusing” ?

an art exercise I can’t avoid / watercolor pencils

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A month or so ago I bought this set of Inktense  pencils on sale. There’s two trays in the box and each pencil has the color on the end.  One day I was sitting on a sand dune trying to pick a color and they all fell out of the box. I tried to reorganize them but it looked like I have a lot of dark colors which are hard to tell apart from looking at the colored ends. I wondered if I had doubles of any color and how the lighter more water washed versions of these colors would look.

One reason my first attempt to use the pencils was a total flop is because I can’t pick my colors, so I knew I had to do this rather time consuming practice project. Just like back in my art school days, I started making gray scales with them starting with the dark colors.

I tried doing my gray scales on dry paper then putting water on top and also tried making the paper wet first and doing my gray scales into the wet paper. The look was the same to me.

Then I realized I have to number them or I still won’t know what pencil makes what color. If I cut up my strips of color and tape them to the pencils the lid won’t fit on the box so I just put a piece of tape over a few pencils at a time and numbered them in case they get mixed up again. I can get a few pencils off the tape and try them out in Plein air and number my combinations then put the pencil back under the tape. I also left white strips between the colors because the water really brightens up the colors which all look gray when drawing on a dry paper. That way if they get mixed up I have spaces to match colors to pencils.

So, this is my plan. Take the whole set out with my colored strips to try to match the colors I see in nature and make notes of which pencils I used to get those colors. I haven’t even done half of the set and my hand got tired of holding the pencils. I’m left handed so I switched to holding the pencils with my right hand and it worked ok for this experiment. The sooner I can get all these pencils categorized the sooner I can get back out and try my hand at painting with them.

In the long run this exercise will give me a better chance of success in my next try on painting a scene. The thing I’m really hoping for is to put them in the basket of my bike and go farther off the beaten path than I could go with my oil paint supplies which are bulkier and heavier than the set of pencils. If I can get some good color roughs with my watercolor pencils then I can do a larger oil painting  at home. I want to paint that black water but I’ll never get a big canvas that far down the dirt road. I can’t drive there in my car but I can bike it.