Thursday, November 4, 2010

Reading & Writing: Progress

I’ve been trying to pick away at this a little everyday for the past week or so, some days with more success than others. I’ve been insanely busy, getting ready for a big trip out east* and this has plummeted to a low priority.


The open page looks a bit muckier than the actual painting—not that you noticed... And, in posting it, I can see that I made more progress than I thought (which is another good reason to post these sequences!) At any rate, just so you won’t think I’ve dropped off the deep end, here’s a little update and a happy picture of where I’ll be spending the next little while!

I think I’ll take my paints with me—maybe I’ll have it finished for when I get back…

 * to the land of limited internet access and semi-self-imposed break from blogging.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Reading & Writing: The Wash—Sort Of

Technically, this isn’t exactly a wash on account of the black India ink. After my recent ink mishap, I was a little nervous, but decided that I should lay the ink early on--that way, if I ruined it, I could easily start over without having invested a lot of time.

I'm happy to say, all went well…

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Reading & Writing: The Drawing

Not too much to look at here...

I do have to decide if I want to cheat a little and use black India ink for most of that dark background, then give it a quick lamp black wash to blend it with the rest of the elements...

Technically, if I were a traditional watercolorist, that would be right out of the question. And once it was done, I would have to call it 'mixed media', not watercolor--technically.

However, we know I am not a traditionalist... 

What to do...what to do...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Reading & Writing...and the Photograph

#1 is my pick.
It has all my favorite elements, minus a gleaming pen nib, but really, that's such a small thing. I'd say the two biggest determining factors were the back-lit page and the coil shadow...and then there's all those great squiggly shadows on the open page...and...upon closer scrutiny, you can actually see the window pane and treeline in the reflection on the spectacle lens! (not that I'll try to paint thatoh, no, not me). 

Although #2 seems popular, the open page has more to offer in the way of breaking the black. The negative space plays as much into the composition as the other elements and I do so love the dramatic effect. The black also leaves much potential for expanding the perimeter to the left, and fading into dark for an effective header. I've already messed around with some lettering and I'm pretty sure I'll be happy with it.

Even as a piece of wall art, I think it holds it own, at least that's what Todd says. He thinks it implies tall ceilings and wide open spaces. The question it brings to my mind is, Whatout in the blackcalled the reader away?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Starting Line

Yesterday afternoon, I sat looking at my writing blog—specifically, at its header. It is probably one of the most boring headers I have ever seen. And for someone who claims to be an artist? Well, it’s just a little embarrassing...

I thought, Wouldn’t it be nice if I had a very writerly or readerly bit of my own artwork that I could incorporate into a header… fact, I have been tossing around the idea of doing something bookish for a while, but wanted dramatic lighting, and simply hadn't found any such light in my environment.

At that very moment I felt penetrating warmth on the back of my neck and an annoying glare caught the corner of my monitor. When I turned to the source, why, the sun, traveling its new autumn route, was doing something wonderful and I knew it wouldn’t last long. I tore downstairs, already planning the layout, and gathered up a few props.

So, I thought it would be fun to show you the process—this time from the idea’s inception, through the selection method, and then into the usual stages of painting. I have a specific objective here—to incorporate the completed work into a header for my writing blog—so that will influence which layout I choose, but I also want it to be aesthetically appealing as wall art.

Here are the results of about a half-hour of late afternoon sun, a camera and tripod, and a spark of inspiration. Out of nearly 4o shots, I chose 6 candidates. They are all subject to future cropping for the optimal composition.
1) I really like a few things about this one: the way the underside of the open page is lit; the glare on the glasses; the way the light catches the ear-wire thingys, and the coil shadow on the standing book. I also like the sliver of light that passes through the spectacle lens and hits just below the coil. Then there is that little bit of light that catches the two corner parts of the wood post. I'm glad I thought to clip the pen to the tablet, though I wish the nib were showing. I also really like the way the red shows up against black.

2)...again, the contrast of the wire against black, the coil shadow, but I also really like the way the sun hits the  nib, and how the other end of the pen is mostly in the shadow, but the clip is lit.

3) ...yes, the transparency of the paper, the highlighted wire...and the way the letters on the book end look distinctly embossed up close, and, the same bit of light on the corners of the wood post.

4) ...the prominence of the glasses and the simpler, cleaner layout. Also, the extended, balancing shadow cast at the end of the tablet. There are also some nice and subtle reflections on the wood post.

5) page again, glasses glare, and the way the erect book is half shaded, and I love all the squiggly shadows on the open page. It's also a simpler, less cluttered layout.

6) This is clean and basic. It covers both reading and writing. The red and green make a nice contrast. And I really like the scrolling print on the book binding, and the great shadow cast inside the coiling.

Any thoughts on which you like best?
Shall I allow my vanity to replace these obscure book titles with my own?
(And for those of you who really pay close attention to detail, Yes, the green book is the very same that my redhead is reading in Cool Grass and one you may not have seen, Summer Read.)

Next, I will post the photo I'll work from...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Toy Boat: Black & White

 I think the gray-scale turned out pretty good.
I think it makes as good a black and white photo as the real deal.
I think I like it even more than the real deal!
Maybe it's just the fancy shadow I applied... 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Toy Boat: Complete

Toy Boat is finished, complete with a string to keep a stiff breeze from taking it to the middle of the lake.
It’s always a little tricky getting the colors to scan and post just right—doesn’t really matter I suppose, every monitor’s color calibration is a little different. Just the same, it's worth mentioning that the hues in this version are much closer to my actual painting.

Perhaps tomorrow I will convert it to gray scale and see how it looks as a ‘black and white’ photo…

...So, can you see any difference between the previous stage and this one? If it didn't have the string attached, would it still look like a 'toy' boat?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Toy Boat: Nearly Done

I’m posting this one as the last step before I add white and my final hard-line edges—it's a good way to mark the contrast between this step and its completion. Also, it distances the finished painting from the photo, so it’s harder for you to scrutinize how closely I stuck to the original piece—yes, very tricky of me, I know. In fact, I have deviated from the color scheme just a little—I want the water to look more like fresh lake water rather than murky, city river water (no offense, Paris!).

Friday, October 8, 2010

Toy Boat and Photo

Well, this isn’t huge progress, but at least here is the photo from which I’m working.  I did a Google Image search for “toy boat” and found it on Steph and Mike McDowell’s Blog. Of course, I asked permission to use their photo—Toy Boat at Jardin de Luxembourgand Mike so graciously allowed it. Thanks again, Mike!

 ...and the color of mine here looks more ultramarine than my actual painting--it's actually much closer to the color scheme of the photo...


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Toy Boat Progress

Painting reflections on water reminds me of paint-by-numbers.

If I were to try and duplicate the exact pattern of reflections, I’d really go nuts—it’s much that way with painting grass also. I like to be detailed, but I simply repeat a pattern more than copy it precisely.

I think in my next post, I’ll include the photo I’m working from…

Monday, October 4, 2010

Toy Boat: Next Step

I’m never certain just how much I should paint before posting—it’s hard to gauge progress as I’m working on it. So, I scan it, compare it to the last post, and if it looks considerably different, it ends up here…

Perhaps today I will give the boat itself a little more detail and put in some additional green reflections.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Toy Boat: Wash

There’s not a whole lot to the wash in this one—just varying shades of blue and greenish-blue, with a bit of varnished mahogany. The background will be the labor-intensive part.

…ooops, I missed the tiny hatch on the deck, oh well, I’ll fill it in later…

Friday, October 1, 2010

Toy Boat Started

Here’s the first stage—the drawing of Toy Boat (yet another imaginative name). It has a simple color scheme, and lots of opportunity for repetitive motifs, but not like grass (yes, I'm tired of grass). I feel fairly confident painting reflective water, since I’ve done it herehere, and I particularly like it here. The trick is to convey the boat's ‘Toyness’—hopefully, the scale of it compared to the ripples of the water will help…

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Next Project!

Okay, I’m posting this just so you all won’t think I’m plummeting into the depths of despair over my last project. I’m actually taking the mishap a whole lot better than I would have expected, which is wonderful progress at keeping perfectionism from defeating me. But mostly, I just want to say that I found a new project.

You may have noticed on my writing blog that I’ve somehow managed to secure a place in the Notes From Underground anthology, over at The Literary Lab. If I don’t use up all my 10 pages with words, I can include a bit of artwork. It would have to be black and white, but a watercolor painting will be easy enough to convert to an 8-bit gray scale. Actually, black and white will work well, since I want it to resemble a black and white photo—which means I will be shooting for ultra-realism. Why not use a black and white photo, you ask? Well, first, I don’t have one I can put my name to, and I have found the perfect photo to work from. Yes, it’s sort of a backward way to go about it, and well…I have no defense there…except I think it's supposed to be my work in the anthology.

I will post the photo and credits once I have progressed a bit… also occurs to me that since this will eventually be converted to B&W, it should teach me something about the reverse process, which I would really like to master...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Haying Abandoned

I hadn’t intended to introduce a UFO into this project, but my indelible black ink pen exploded. And just when I was beginning to think it might turn out okay...I suppose it does give the boy something to look at...

Oh well—off to the abandoned projects file with it…

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Haying: Progress—Sort Of

Well, this is a woeful pace I’m working at—but it’s all I got. Todd’s been hovering over my shoulder saying, “Now, remember about overworking it—what have you learned from past experiences?” To which I reply, “ta not ta” (but I don’t really mean it).

It turns out my brown ‘waterproof’ ink is not so waterproof—(I think a waterproof ink should have a longer-than-twenty-year shelf life before it starts breaking down). Well, at least hay looks brownish at harvest time. At this point, it’s hard for me to take this piece seriously, so at least I’m not all in a bunch over it anymore. I’m just posting this so you won’t think I hacked it to bits or lined the proverbial hamster cage with it. I think I’ll just call it what it is—experimental—and play with some more color and then call it done. To be honest, I’m itching to start something more along the lines of my usual—just have to find the right subject…

…and I don’t know what happened over there on the right-hand horizon—okay, well, I do know what happened but I don’t feel like elaborating…
...and I sort of fixed the problem grass under the guys arm—not that anyone but me notices...

Friday, September 24, 2010

I’m Kinda Regretting This One…

…maybe it’s just that point I get to in most projects where I feel dissatisfied, but I’m not liking the way this is turning out. I don’t like that clump of trees on the horizon, it's a pointless interruption. And I messed up on the grass under the harvester’s extended arm; it should match the rest of the grass at that distance—I guess I just wasn’t thinking. With indelible in, there simply isn't any getting rid of it...

I don’t know…maybe if I add some color. To be honest, I feel like canning it…

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More Hay

Well, I figured I ought to post this now that I feel as if I accomplished a little bit. Besides, I need something to show for this crink in my neck.

I find I can only work at it for a few minutes at a time before I start going cross eyed—Suddenly I'll realize I’m massaging my neck and need to back off till later. Oh, the hazards!

Oh come on now—you knew I couldn't resist all that grass!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Haying Started

Okay, this is another one of those posts where I hope I don’t regret it…I decided, ‘Oh what the heck, just start it—what’s the worst that could happen, right?’ To be honest, I’m not really sure what result I’m looking for. I am completely winging it and it may be a total flop. As you can see, I’m going with pen and ink for right now, and I don’t know but that I might switch over to some black ink at some point. I may even go for some color other than blacks or browns…

You may have also noticed that I altered the placement of some objects, and eliminated others…artist’s prerogative. And that line down the center is because my scanner is too small for this 9" x 16" image—had to do it in two parts.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pondering a Project

I have been thinking about my next project, and feeling very undecided. I keep coming back to a painting I haven’t finished—the old woman on my Projects Waiting page—but I simply can’t seem to muster up the confidence to finish it. I know, you’re probably thinking what’s the big deal? But interpreting black and white is harder than I estimated. I have learned from experience that there are so many subtle colors in what appears to be something rather monochromatic—like skin for instance. Look closely at some of my portraits, and you’ll see not only the expected reds and browns, but yellow, blue, green, violet—basically the whole gamut of the rainbow.

In the past, when I felt stumped (for lack of better word to describe that thing in my head that keeps me from starting or finishing something—pretty sad for a writer to not come up with the perfect word), I have eased back into it by choosing a monochromatic photo, and simply painting it as is.

Here are a couple examples:



These felt relatively unintimidating at the time I undertook them, which is what I feel like I need right now…but…I still want to find it challenging, something to spur a little growth…
Anyway, I keep coming back to this tiny snapshot from a collection of farm pictures from my Iowa kin-of-old.

I thought I might attempt a combination pen and ink and watercolor...I may have to think on it a little longer before I post an update…

Oh, and for you lovers of old photos, I stumbled across this blog, Tattered and Lost VERNACULAR PHOTOGRAPHY,via Google Images. She has quite a collection, and her remarks are witty and imaginative—well worth the visit!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Just Thought I'd Mention...

...that I updated my watercolor Website with all the projects I've completed here on this blog. Even though I personally designed the Website, I couldn't remember just how I did it all those years ago—okay it's probably only been 4 years—and I practically had to relearn the program, which is why it's taken me so long.

 Anyway, in case you feel like it, here’s the link to

...Oh, and I also updated this blog with some pages, while I was at it...

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Pen & Ink

This is a pen & ink I just completed—actually, it’s a redo of one I did back in the early 1980’s from a photo in an old Vermont Life magazine. My older brother liked it so much that he persuaded me to give it up for $50. That was the first—and only—original artwork I’ve ever sold, reinforcing the notion that I had some talent, and helping to sustain that idea through years of inactivity. Every time I’ve seen it hanging on his wall, when visiting his home in Vermont, I’ve been reminded how much I love the image. I finally decided to do another one for myself. I think it would be interesting to someday compare the two…
For me, it’s such an evocative image that I just couldn’t help write a little something for it…

My Consolation

Shriveled peas roll from my plate, into the pail where several crusts from morning toast await. Three escape into the sink and I chase them around the basin like piglets in a pen. I have trouble locating them as a shard of light pierces the tattered curtain, yet I can feel them, cornered. My fingers are still nimble enough to pinch and so they join the others.

On my way out, I pass her chair, pushed snug against the table. I stroke its back the way I used to caress the handrail as I stepped onto the porch of her parents’ house, my stomach twisting and turning with new love. Her barn coat still hangs from the old iron hook like dainties slung over the shower rod. Although the sight of it burns my eyes each time I come in or go out, I would die but for the yearning.

Then, the screen door slams behind me, echoing off every corner of the barnyard. On cue, they call to me like eager hatchlings waiting for their share.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Okay, so I’m sitting here at a little café, with my spinach salad and a chilled stout, when this woman at the checkered-cloth table beside me pulls out a sketch pad. Well, maybe she’s just going to look over some stuff she’s already drawn, but no—she rifles through her bag and proceeds to unfold and assemble, right in front of her, a tiny field set of Windsor Newton watercolors—and not one of those plasticy new sets (like mine), but one of the old, out-of-production leather encased arrangements, with well-used pigments.

Oh, yeah, she’s serious—so serious about it that she’s oblivious to my eyes boring through the side of her head, down her neck and bare arm. The brush seems to slide between her fingers as if she held the wing of a butterfly, not cramped and controlled, like some unwieldy timber, not the way I grip mine.

She hasn’t glanced beyond her table and paints-at-hand since she sat. I want her to look at me, so that I can acknowledge what she’s doing, but at the same time, I don’t want her to see—to detect my envy. Now, she’s sipping her water glass down to half-full. She wets her brush between her pursed lips, drawing those fine sable hairs to a point. I wait, watching, knowing what comes next. She stares ahead for a moment, then plunges her brush into her sweating glass. That’s right, she means business.

All at once, I’m overcome with self-consciousness for her. I look around at the peripheral tables, at the others patrons whose eyes dart from their lunch to her and back to their main concern. She appears unaware of any of us as she dabs her brush, loading it with cadmium red and then dispersing it—with four loose strokes, flower petals spring to life from the vase onto her paper…

Monday, July 26, 2010

Spring Orchard: Complete

Well, seriously—I thought I might go blind with this one. Got out my magnifying glass and everything…

I showed it to my Todd, and all he would say was, “Insane!” To which I responded, “Am not!...Okay, well, maybe a bit.”

For your amusement, here’s a ½ by 1¾ inch section of this 10 x 7½ inch painting. And yes, I know I went a little nuts on the dandelions…

Again, thanks To Michelle Davidson Argyle for the photo to work from!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Spring Orchard: Phase 5

When it's time to wet the white paint, I know I’m close to being done—that’s the case with the dress and the divan. But there’s still lots more to do on the grass and trees…

This is the last time I'll post before before it's finished...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Spring Orchard: Phase 4

Okay, it may not look as if I made much progress—that’s why I’m posting the photo from which I’m working, along with the next phase. (Thank you Michelle Davidson Argyle, photographer and author, for permission!)

One of the things I love about this image is the incongruity of so much refinement amidst the overgrowth of spring; repose in tall grass and dandelions-gone-to-seed. Of course, that the subject is no doubt pondering something she's just read, piques my writerly side…

I’ve decided to portray the orchard background as I see it in the photo, since the focal point is the female subject, rather than the setting—despite the title I’ve given it. By the way, this painting is 7 ½” by 10”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Spring Orchard: Phase 3

Here’s the next phase:

This is where I’m reminded of how much I enjoy rendering fabric. At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get into a lot of detail on the brocade (which is a lacey-looking weave in the fabric that you’ll see when I post the photo—soon), but now I’m kinda looking forward to it…

You may have noticed that I didn’t give the trees and blossoms in the background a whole lot of attention. I need to make a decision on how I want to handle them. To be honest, I’ve never painted a bunch of blossoming trees from afar, and I’m not certain how detailed and in focus to go with it.

Hmmmm…[clenching the paintbrush between my teeth as I lean back and scratch my head]….mmmmm

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Spring Orchard: The Wash

Here’s the wash—as usual, it’s not much to look at but does provide a color scheme.

Also, it’s at this point that I actually feel committed to a project. (Of course, if you could see my small stack of unfinished paintings, you’d realize that a wash does not always guarantee that I will finish it—however, with this one, I have a little more motivation.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A New Project

Well, I figure that I better get going on another painting before I slip back into a slump! I started this one before my last trip to New Hampshire, and now it’s time to get caught up.(For an update on what I've been doing since April, scoot on over to my writing blog.)

This is, of course, the preliminary drawing, and if you’re curious about what I’m working from, skip on over to Michelle Davidson Argyle’s author site and have a peek. I didn’t intend for it to coincide with her giveaway, but I think this will work out rather nicely (since I am mentioning her giveaway, I get entered into the drawing, including and opportunity to recieve a free copy of her new novella Cinders).
Anyway, I might try out a variation on my style with this one—I suppose it depends on how detailed I want to get on the trees in the background. I already know I won’t be able to help myself when it comes to the grass…

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Well, I’m headed off to the hills—to the land of the technologically deprived and environmentally-imposed blogging hiatus—for a few weeks. Happily, I will have plenty of time to work on a new project or two…in a pretty little office…(see the little easle behind the desk and to the right of the window...)

See you all when I get back

Monday, April 19, 2010

Okay, This Time I Really Mean It...

I know this is obsessive, but I figured out the problem. Her face just seemed a little wide, flat and pale. Her ear placement was a little off, she needed more shading on the underside of her face, her hairline didn’t come over far enough, and she begged more highlighting on her upper cheek. I may be the only one who can see any change, but I feel much better about it now.

Oh, and I shaded the grass a little more at her side…

Friday, April 16, 2010

Cool Grass: Done

I’m not sure how this looks on your monitor, but if it’s anything like mine, the colors in the original aren’t quite as saturated, but still, it’s a fair representation.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

No, It’s Not Done, Step 7:

Just so no one thinks I abandoned this project (you know, on account of the nose, [which is all better]) I thought I’d better post some progress. Actually, I’ve been sick, so that’s why this project is taking so long.

It’s at this point that I wish I had chosen something easier to paint, but now that I have the grass filled in (no, it’s not done yet, either), it doesn’t feel so overwhelming.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Cool Grass, Step 6:

Today, I’m posting the photo from which I’m working. I changed my subject’s angle—compositionally, I like it better. Also, with the photo, I found myself cocking my head in order to get a better look at her.
She has a nose, once again, it will look even better once I can add a white glaze and highlights—which I tend to reserve for the final phase of the painting. The reason to hold off on white is that any color you add after that becomes milky, due to the heavy pigment—not good. Here’s something that you may or may not find interesting: The traditional watercolorist does not use white. They rely on areas left unpainted to serve as highlights, which is fine, however the whitest white one can achieve is only as light as the paper, which in most definitely not white.

Monday, April 5, 2010

I Botched!

Yes, it’s true, the nose has been scrubbed out. That’s because it didn’t look quite right to me, and by 'not quite right' I mean it looked 'short'—too much upper lip. So I measured it and I was a full 2mm off! Yikes—on a small painting (8"x 11"), that’s a lot.
Here’s where watercoloring gets tricky, and is unlike painting with oil or acrylic. You can’t just wipe out a mistake and start over (my husband will attest to this: he just finished a portrait of me [my head, on a John Singer Sargent] and I ended up looking like an orange on a toothpick! Okay, that’s an exaggeration—it wasn’t off by much, but we kept looking at it and felt as if something was ‘off.’ The solution? ‘Wipe’ it out and try again [which he did, and I’m all better, now])

Not so easy with watercolor. I can scrub or scrape depending on how much paint is down, and whether or not the color is ‘permanent.’ In this case, I scrubbed with a wet brush—it removes not only paint, but paper also, which is dicey. Then, I let it dry thoroughly, and as it’s doing so, scan it and post it for the world to see. Hopefully, I’ll be able to redeem myself; if not—well, that’s just the way it goes…and you get to watch…

...Stay tuned for the ‘nose rescue’ and the photo from which I’m working…

Saturday, April 3, 2010

More Grass, Step 4:

It's not as if I spent the day painting, but I thought I’d take a break from studio work and scan what I've done since yesterday. That way, I won't get ahead of myself.
I know all that grass looks like it will drive me nuts (and it might), but truth be told, I like painting'll see...

Friday, April 2, 2010

Cool Grass, Step 3:

So much blue in the fair skin tone of this subject makes her particularly interesting to paint. Although there aren't a lot of contrasting shades to the color to her skin, there is still a lot of subtle build-up to the tone, necessary to give her skin depth and bring it to life. Otherwise, all that blue might look, well, not so lively…

…and wow, is that hair proving to be a challenge! Notice how I haven't even started on the grass yet.