This is the nicest weather we’ve had in months! I went to Norfolk Botanical Garden today and took my Inktense pencils, didn’t have to walk far from the car into the rose garden. It smelled so sweet! It’s partly cloudy, cool and a nice breeze. It felt good standing in the sun to draw this.
I didn’t draw it with charcoal or pencil first, just went straight in with the Inktense, which you can’t erase. That’s ok, if you go off drawing a flower no one can tell.
The roses are so bright the Inktense pencils don’t do them justice. If I decide to paint these roses I might have to buy fluorescent paint. Maybe they make acrylic that’s brighter than oils.
I was there early on 4 mornings to get this. A week or so ago for the sketch then 3 times I took my Inktense pencils. The charcoal sketch helped me decide how to draw it and it was a simple plan so I didn’t have to draw it again on the watercolor paper, I just went straight in with the Inktense pencils. It was hot and humid but I was in the shade up on the deck at the Brock Environmental Center and there was a little breeze. By 10 it was too hot to enjoy being outside.
One thing I like about the Inktense pencils is that they’re a little grainy. I draw on the dry paper then paint water on top of the Inktense and it blends out like watercolor but some of my lines don’t blend out which gives it a texture. Then I also draw with the Inktense on wet paper and that makes a darker line.
You can see a little oopsie in this close up. At the water’s edge on the sedge on the left a little blip happened. I tried to lift it but some stayed. That’s ok. Things like that show the art viewer this is done by hand. You’d never see a blip like that in a photo.
This close up lets you see my scribbles making different textures. Even the sand has texture. First I painted it solid light burnt umber but when I compared my painting to the sand I noticed the sand is soft and full of footprints which give it texture so I wanted to draw the footprints. That’s the gray circles in the sand. Am I nuts to draw the footprints? It didn’t take too long to do it.
Every day when I was there the sky was clear and hazy with only the occasional cloud. I thought it would be impossible to paint the sky hazy with the Inktense so I waited for clouds. When I got home clouds were in the sky so eventually I did the sky at home, last. It was the hardest part of the painting because I faked it. I ripped up a paper towel and tried to arrange it on the paper to decide where to put the clouds. Then I went around the paper towel clouds with blue to save white areas. I tried to smear some of the edges of the clouds and have some edges showing as more defined, then added some gray.
You can see another oopsie in the blue sky where it didn’t blend evenly. Maybe I should have worked faster. If I didn’t tell you where the mistakes are would you have noticed? It isn’t as easy to correct a mistake with watercolor media as it is to fix something with oil paint.
I didn’t sketch this with charcoal first, I just went straight in with my Inktense pencils on watercolor paper. I was standing so close to the flowers I could hold my sketchbook right next to them and my lines weren’t too far off from the sizes and shapes of the petals.
Inktense pencils remind me of those watercolor coloring books for kids where they have printed dots of color on the paper and the kid only has to make it wet and the color pops out, but before you add water the color doesn’t show. Do you remember those old coloring books?
I sketched on dry paper and added the water when I got home. The bottom of the flowers here show the Inktense pencils with water and the top flowers are before the water is added. It’s fun when you make it wet and the color pops out.
The pencils have a colored end to show you what color you have but the colors on the pencils don’t match the colors you get, so I had to make charts and number the pencils. I did washes of each color from the darkest the pencil will make to the lightest tint you can get. Now when I go out to sketch I can take my color charts and pick the colors I’ll need and easily find them in the box instead of pulling out all the possible reds and greens and testing each color.
When I take a pencil out of the box and use it for the first time I put a piece of tape around the top of the pencil and number it to match its slot in the box.
Once I took them out on the beach and sat on the side of a sand dune to sketch and the box slid down the dune and the pencils fell out so I put tape on them and numbered the tape too, to keep a group or 10 or so together. Now when I need say, # 10, I can pick up that second clump of pencils and get #10 easily without them all falling out. The trays are kind of flimsy and the lid isn’t real tight either, but if I can decide on my colors from the charts I don’t have to take the whole set of pencils out on the dune with me.
It’s too late for this particular clump of flowers. They’re almost done blooming. Next year I’ll plan in advance so I can do a painting of Irises
I can never get too much practice drawing from life. They say if you keep at it over the course of years you get a better eye for angles, curves, size etc. Supposedly, drawing from life makes you more observant. I guess it helps your eye hand coordination. Flowers are great subjects for practice. If you draw it wrong it’s not noticeable.
When I’m undecided on what to paint next I have to keep sketching until I make a good plan. I scouted a pretty canoe launch this morning but didn’t sketch. Tomorrow I want to scout another boat launch, see if I can find a pretty spot by the water.
I’m waiting for my paint to dry on the azalea painting before I can finish it with the last color, pink. If I put the pink on before the other paint is dry, it might lift some white or gray and that would make the pink less bright. A couple weeks ago I bought a tube of fast drying white at Jerry’s Artarama because I knew Titanium white dries slowly. When I opened the tube it was dry in the tube! And I didn’t save the receipt. bummer.
While I wait for the paint to dry on the azaleas I decided to sketch the rhododendrons which are starting to bloom. This is Inktense pencils.
There’s a real pretty path through the rhododendrons. It’s covered with moss and has a bench and spotty sunlight. I’d like to do a painting of the path but that might be a project for next year because it could be complicated and I need to figure out a good plan for it and do sketches first.
After I did the underpainting and waited for that to dry I went over this a couple more times, background, leaves, stems, and flowers. The gray is the shadows on the azaleas. At first I had a warm gray for shadows but after looking at it for a couple days I decided to make the shadows slightly darker and cool, so I put a cool gray glaze over the warm gray. It looks like neutral gray in this photo. I’m not sure if you can see the layers of paint but you can see some veins in the paint which I like making. It gives the painting more variety of brush strokes and direction in the petals.
This azalea is past blooming but I have my sketches to go by and I’m pretty sure I can finish it at home. I think it will work out with the pink looking as bright as possible. I did some color roughs. I might do another one. I’ll continue with glazing pinks next. Then it will be finished.
I wasn’t going to show it at this stage because it’s almost done, but I thought if I just post a close up of this one section it won’t spoil the surprise.
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.
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.
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.
When I was driving down the Sandbridge Rd. this morning a deer crossed the road in front of my car. I saw it from far away, a doe, as it walked across the ditch. It didn’t jump, just walked. Then as I was driving down the Back Bay rd. a big sand crab crossed the road.
A couple days ago I had to come to a stop on that road for a big turtle.
One day last week I was walking down the gravel road to my overlook and I saw something brown in the grass next to the road, not moving, and I wondered what it was. It was a big rabbit and not your ordinary wild rabbit but one with real pretty tortoise shell colored fur. As I got closer it didn’t move but kept on eating the grass. I walked by it only 3′ away and it didn’t run.
There is a bumper crop of dragon flies down there and one flew right into my neck! You can see hundreds of them buzzing all around this scene.
It was hot when I got there at 7:30 but there was a nice breeze which made it more tolerable. Now it’s hot as hell out there.
I’m almost finished with my dune painting triptych. This is the center section, finished.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.