This time I had a larger paper and liked my sketch more than the first try. I might be able to use this one for a painting since my tree feels less squished and more more wind blown.
There was a nice breeze and a few guys kite surfing. They’re just tiny tiny figures out there. I was thinking about putting a kite in the painting. I’ll have to move him in more off the edge of the scene. He’s so small on the paper I’m not sure I could paint him with Inktense pencils or watercolor. I might use oils for this.
There are some buildings in the background on the left. This photo cuts off the buildings a little. It also cuts off some dune foliage that is in the tall grass. I was thinking of leaving the buildings and other foliage out of the picture, move the tree a little to the left so the kite surfer has more room. The dune grass blowing in the wind is shiny and soft looking, so that will make a nice contrast in color and texture to the pine tree. You can see a little of the sandy beach in the background too.
I need to get out there a little earlier if I use oil paints because it could take some time to mix colors. I’ll do an underpainting, maybe start tomorrow.
That’s my plan, all worked out and ready to start on the painting. I had to do the second sketch to make those decisions.
I looked at some photos of kelp and then winged it with my palette knife. This is my background for a mermaid. It might take a couple days to dry but I don’t have the plan worked out exactly, so that’s ok.
Yesterday was too hot for me to enjoy drawing in plein air and tomorrow is the start of a big weekend here. Traffic might get bad. And there is a chance of rain this weekend which isn’t good because so many people are vacationing at the beach after being locked down last year at this time. It will be a busy summer season here. It has been dry though, so if it rains it’s ok with me.
Last year when I didn’t have an apartment for a week or so, I stayed at a hotel at the oceanfront. I thought it was a strange twist of fate that when we were told to lock down I was at a place that I could enjoy for a while. I couldn’t call myself homeless because the homeless are broke, it was only a weird moving experience. A lot of my art got stolen while I was moving into the new apartment and I cancelled the lease and put my stuff in storage for around 10 days because I wanted to not rush into making another bad decision on an apartment. Then a guy returned my stolen art. How often does that happen?! So finally I moved in here, but when I left the oceanfront I bought this plaster mermaid for a souvenir from one of the stores on Atlantic Ave. that was open. I thought she was the prettiest mermaid and wanted to draw her. Statues are my favorite kind of models.
I don’t like her tail. I guess they made it like this so the figure would fit in a certain size mold but the tail looks weak. How can she swim with a floppy tail?! I’ll think of a better way to draw it but I didn’t try yet. I’m not sure about the sea shell bra either, or what she should be holding. Should I give her a crab to hold? When I bought this I thought it would be fun to put a little cactus on that plate.
Now I need to decide, do I want to try to do a mermaid mono print or do the fun painting style of Matisse where you tape your brushes onto yard sticks, or possibly continue with the palette knife.
I’m open to suggestions. Maybe I can make these decisions when I’m sketching her.
Last week I didn’t see these flowers on my walk. Today they’re all over the path making it smell so good! I need to mark the date so next year I can be ready when they bloom. I’d like to use them in a still life with some other local objects, maybe seashells or something. I have a fish shaped dish that could be in a still life and a little vase for the flowers.
I can’t do it this year because I’m into a difficult painting right now, the azaleas. I don’t know if I can make the azaleas painting work out as planned but it will take some time to tell. I need to make more progress on it.
It’s not unusual for me to save an inspiration for a year or more before I get into the project. You know me, slow living. haha. Like my daughter says, “live fast die young, live slow die later.”
As I’m sketching the flowers, I pick up information that a photo won’t give you. It’s not always easy to see the petals as separate shapes. I’m sure a camera would blend them together. I might be the only one interested in drawing petals separately but it could help me decide which direction to drag my brush on the painting, where the edges are if I want to keep edges. I’ll probably simplify the painting but I need detailed drawings.
Another thing a photo won’t make you aware of is that the buds and flowers come in groups of three. The stems are in threes too. The stems don’t go straight vertical but have some curve. Some of the petals have smooth edges and some have zig zag edges.
Now I realize that other plein air artists don’t care about separate petals. They’d go to the garden and start right in with slapping down some paint and finish the painting in a day or maybe less. I need the sketching time to figure out a plan.
The more flowers I sketch the easier it gets. I might need more flower sketches but maybe these are enough.
The two big azalea bushes I was standing between are in a kind of U shape where I can step off the path and stand between the bushes to sketch. These are on the shady side. I looked at the sunny side of the bushes and the sun was too bright on my white paper. It was blinding! I use the white paper last because it’s not great for sketching in plein air. Also when looking at the side in the direct sun all the flowers were lit equally bright. When I sketched the shady side it was easier on the eyes. I didn’t feel like going back to the car for my sunglasses.
As I was standing there for around an hour and a half to fill each of these papers with flowers, some spotty light fell on a few flowers at a time and it was much nicer to see than the bright glare of direct light. I decided to do my painting with spotty light. I’ll have to fake it on the sunlight if I paint this at home, but that means I can put as much sunlight in as I want to, because if I go back to the garden to paint the flowers will be different and I don’t know exactly what time the sun fell on any flower to catch it at it’s best.
So, yeah, and hour and a half on each sketch paper. That means I have around six hours in it so far and haven’t started painting yet. That’s one reason I can’t get in with a plein air group. Also, I don’t want to pay to join a group, I mean $35 to get your name on an email list? But they don’t like this approach to painting. They don’t want to go back day after day and do a bunch of sketches. But it’s a whole different process and if I ever sell a painting I’ll ask a lot more for it than their fast one day paintings would go for. They want their art openings to be “cohesive” which means the artists must conform. If all the paintings for sale are asking $300 and someone enters a painting and they want $1000 for it, the juror would reject it because they don’t want an artist to think their painting is worth so much more that any of the others.
I traced my flowers from the sketch papers and cut them out to arrange them on the paper I tinted for this painting. This step will help me decide if I need to draw more flowers or if this is enough. I want to have some flowers in the background too. If I can come up with a good arrangement then I’ll try to decide how much sunlight to put into the painting and where. I decided I want the spotty light to make the composition more than the flower shapes. If I can make a good composition with the flowers and light, I hope the viewer’s eye will move around the whole painting.
Both trees are showing signs of life with tiny buds except the buds aren’t the same on both trees.
I only sketched the main branches for these trees but there are a lot of tiny branches with buds. First I need to paint the background and I’m not crazy about the background that’s there in real life. It’s part of the children’s garden with more trees, a pond, paths, mulch, some grass and then some big magnolias which are green, and brown trees that have no leaves yet. That’s too complicated for this painting.
We have had some nice weather and it might not be bad tomorrow either but cooler. Then clouds and rain are coming in this week. I can get started on these two tree paintings at home. I don’t know if it will take 1 or 2 or 3 weeks for them to bloom. Things change fast at this time of year. I’ll have to keep checking up on them.
Once I drove Rt. 66 from Springfield MO. to Santa Monica CA. I was in OK. and I saw these dead looking shrubberies by the side of the road, which had no traffic. I thought they fell off a truck and wondered why they didn’t pick them up since they were on the road. Then I saw so many of them I thought, these have to be tumbleweeds.
This is my plan for the next painting, the second time I sketched it, this time larger. The chalk is sand and the chalk dots are sea oats.
That’s how you start a painting in the traditional process, do a detailed drawing on the paper or canvas. When I was sketching a few people walked across the path at the top of the meadow to the right of center and I decided to try to paint a figure in to give it scale. I had already sketched in some sea oats that rise up over the path from this view. I decided to erase them when I paint and put my person walking in that spot on the path. This step is the time to plan and change plans. If I started in a rush to slap down some paint without doing the sketch then the painting wouldn’t work out as I hoped. Where would I put my person in?
That’s the only roots I have, the traditional ways of painting that I learned long ago. Some times I tumble along in the breeze trying to paint like a modern artist. This time I’m going to use paint brushes and take my time on it, not skipping any steps.
This is a plan for a palette knife painting on paper. I’m going to try painting right on top of my charcoal sketch, at home, because it’s going to rain again for a few days. Luckily, I got a few colors mixed in plein air today which I can put plastic wrap on top of and they will be good for a week or more. They say the sun will come out on Sat. too, so I can get back over there and mix more colors.
We didn’t have any frost yet. The trees are showing some color but not a lot. I might fake in some fall color in the background, or I could wait and see what happens, but the beach isn’t the best place for fall colors.
I need to look at this sketch and make some decisions before I get started painting . Like exactly where to start. I mixed some middle ground tree colors in plein air but I should probably start with the sky and background. Or I could try to paint the water first. The water looks different every time I see it, so I might just wing it.
I’m not a good photographer, but this pic is too boring. I’ll get a more interesting painting if I don’t use it, I’m only showing you the photo so you can see how much my naked eye differs from the camera. Which eye is the better representation? The human eye or the camera?
I transfered those old sketches to this larger paper and made some corrections but I can see it’s not still not right, better, but not good enough. When I transfer this to a canvas and go back I’ll make more corrections and it will be ok the next time.
Perspective ain’t easy. I’m eyeballing it and drawing freehand. It’s a challenge so if I keep at it my drawing will improve for other subjects too.
I’m looking forward to painting it with a palette knife. If I told you this joint vibrates with its own weird frequency, I hope you know what I mean. I don’t believe in ghosts so that might be why I never saw one, and I spent a couple years practicing figure drawing in Hollywood Cemetery around 15 years ago. I drew the sad stone angels. They make great subjects because they never move and they’re free any time you want to sketch them. Hollywood Cemetery had the vibe of a sanctuary to me.
I felt safe at Fort Monroe the past few times I went there even though there’s a two lane street between me and the battery. There’s not much traffic. I saw a ton of cops over there too so they may be making me feel safer. I was not a person of interest this time. I parked in the real public lot across the street instead of taking an illegal spot next to where I was standing.
Every time I go out on the highway lately traffic is flying!
This is the last time I’ll use my sketches of the butterfly ginger for the palette knife painting. The next thing I’d like to try it on is the spooky battery at Ft. Monroe which I started sketching a couple years ago and put on hold on account of the weird vibes I picked up at the fort. I want to try again to finish a painting of the battery which might or might not be haunted.
Since the palette knife makes it comes out all wavy I think it might give that big imposing scary piece of architecture a more moody look. It will be all different shades of gray, some warm grays and some cool grays.
I want to try making different textures with the palette knife. For the background on this painting I used the short flat edge of the odd shaped palette knife to scrape two shades of greenish gray in a thin layer with some peaks of the dark gray tint of the canvas showing through.
First I squirted a blob of Viridian green on my palette. It’s dark. I added terpenoid a few drops at a time until the paint was runny. I thought my big blob of paint would be enough to paint these dark green areas but I misjudged the amount of paint I needed and had to use more.
When I mixed my lighter greens I used big blobs of paint and still didn’t have enough mixed up. When mixing colors it’s better to have too much paint mixed that to not have enough and I usually mix the right amount for what I want to paint with only a small bit left over but with the palette knife it’s harder to estimate.
The last color I used was white and I put a huge blob of it on my palette then added so much more paint that I thought it looked like I’d be wasting paint but it was exactly the right amount to finish the flowers.
Doesn’t palette knife painting look like a lot of fun? Instead of watercolor, I think I’ll paint these flowers with my palette knife and not use a brush at all. I need to buy a palette knife set so I have a variety of shapes to work with.
I’m not sure if artists that use the palette knife to paint prime their canvases or not. It might make it a little easier to scrape the paint across the canvas if the canvas is sanded and gessoed and sanded again. That makes it smooth. Then the canvas needs a coat of background color.
I can glom the paint on real thick and try to get it to go where I want it to go without a paintbrush. It will be a challenge making shapes and lines and textures and still making a flower out of it.
I’ll go back to the garden to mix some green colors then I can paint at home.