Mountain Town Study

Colorado Mountain Town Study
Oil on gessoed bristol board, 5″ x 3.5″

Just a quick study painting of a small town in the mountains of Colorado. I’m not sure which one this is, but it’s definitely somewhere between Granby and Winter Park, which are near each other.

This started as a gouache painting on top of regular gesso, but after painting the sky I really wanted to do something in oil paint again. I covered it first with a layer of acrylic slow-dry medium by mistake, and after it eventually dried with the clear gesso that I meant to use. I needed it to dry fast, so for paints I chose Prussian blue, charcoal black (Rublev’s version dries fast), natural burnt sienna, and cobalt yellow, all of which dry fast. The titanium white also used doesn’t, but being mixed with the rest helped it. The entire gouache underpainting was covered with oil paint.

Mountain Town 1 ref

The reference photo was from last winter, but I photographed this painting using a very old lens I got at my neighbor’s garage sale a couple of days ago and had never heard of before. It’s a Steinheil München 100mm f3.5, meant for Argus C44 cameras that I “adapted” onto my digital camera by means of just gently shoving it into a Minolta MD adapter and wedging it in there. I think it’s sitting too close to the sensor to not go past infinity focusing and isn’t very secure, but for taking photos of things closer it’s actually pretty sharp. Apparently no one makes adapters for C44 lenses though, so I’m trying to figure out a better solution.


Draw a Bird Day – Immature Cooper’s Hawk

Immature Cooper's Hawk
Charcoal on gessoed paper, 8.5″ x 6.5″

On my morning walk I got some photos of a hawk that flew past me and landed nearby. My lens wasn’t suited for distance photos, but I got some good pose references and enough details to identify it.

There were several attempts made before this final one, but none were working well. When restarting an artwork it sometimes helps me to try a different medium. For this last one I wanted to try something different from normal, so this is sketch paper that’s been given one coat of white acrylic gesso to give it both a water resistant and slightly toothy surface. I then drew the hawk with charcoal and used a damp brush to blend or lighten it by pushing around or removing the charcoal. Normally I’m not a fan of charcoal at all as it’s a little messy to use, but this is worth doing again.

Cooper's Hawk ref

This is a small crop of the photo, enlarged 200%.

Bee and Grasshopper

Grasshopper and Bee
Graphite and white charcoal on tan paper, 6.25″ x 6″

I took this photo while walking this morning, hoping to see a bumblebee and not at all expecting a grasshopper. There were a couple of other attempts at painting something with watercolor to post today, but they weren’t working out well. Maybe I should make more drawings like this for awhile, or something else?

Bee and Grasshopper 1 ref

Verdant Canyon

Green Forested Canyon
Watercolor and gouache on 140 lb watercolor paper, 4.5″ x 6.125″

Painted from another photo out the train window as we passed through a canyon a little to the east and north of here a few weeks ago.

Verdant Canyon Ref

Still Life – Peaches

Three Peaches
Watercolor on 140 lb watercolor paper, 5.75″ x 4.5″

The area where I live now is famous for peaches and for the past couple of months there’s been a lot of them available at the farmer’s markets and grocery stores. Since it’s still peach season I thought they’d be a good subject for a still life practice, though actually this was painted from a photo taken right before they were eaten.

Peaches Still Life 1 ref

Pochade Box

DIY Pochade Box

Lately I’ve been making this pochade box, which is a box made to both store art supplies and to be an easel. Often these can be mounted on a normal camera tripod, as seen here, and can be carried in a backpack.

This one is made entirely of poplar wood, because it was cheap, but may not have been the best choice because there were a few times that the wood split while drilling a hole. Next time I’ll probably use oak. It’s also a bit thin, but reducing the total weight of the box was important for keeping the weight of a backpack down.

DIY Pochade Box

The way this is used as an easel is that a paper or canvas will be clipped to the inside of the lid, which stays open at a certain angle while you work. This way the entire storage and work area is contained in one small box.

At the back of the box is a porcelain palette, which is actually a dish of some sort that I got at a discount store. Because it was the largest object there, and I wanted it to fit exactly, the box was literally built around that palette at the beginning. It fits snuggly and doesn’t move even if the box is turned upside down, but can still be pulled out easily enough.

In front of that are two watertight 2oz (60ml) Nalgene bottles, one for rinse water and one for clean water. The small basswood box next to them holds the paint tubes. The tops of the box and bottles are level with the inside of the lid when it’s closed, so the lid for the whole pochade box also keeps the tubes and bottles from moving. The height of the bottles was what determined the height of the box.

At the very front is a bamboo brush-holding roll with sleeves in it. I had to trim off some of it with wire cutters so it’d fit because the box wasn’t quite wide enough. It can hold a few brushes and keep their tips safe from being bent by keeping them from pressing into the side of the box.

DIY Pochade Box

This hing was a bit of a struggle to figure out, as there were several styles that I tried first that didn’t work like I wanted or that broke while making them. It was important that the hing securely hold the lid open at the correct angle, because that’s the whole point of a pochade box. This final style works very well and is unobtrusive, which makes it convenient for placing the box in a backpack without the hing snagging on anything.

I’m not a carpenter and don’t know the right words for all these things, but I was going to insert a pin or piece of wood in the center of the sliding area to prevent the thing that slides from sliding too far so the lid would stay at the angle I want, but the position of the bottom part of the hing actually stops the lid from opening any further anyways. Fortunately it stopped right about where I wanted it. I’m a little worried that the lowest part of the hing is just held by one small brass screw and the entire design depends on that holding well. If there’s a problem then that one part will just get modified.

DIY Pochade Box

A little behind the center of the box, under the porcelain palette, is a T-nut (or tee nut). It’s a hollow tube with screw threads on the inside and at one end are prongs that sink into the wood. By drilling a hole in the bottom of the box and gently hammering that nut into place, a camera quick release plate can be screwed onto the bottom of the box that allows it to be placed on the tripod. The plate can always be removed and the box will have a completely flat bottom, allowing it to also used on a table or desk.

Pochade Box 1e

Although the basswood box I glued together wasn’t my original idea for how the paint would be stored, it does hold a good amount of paint in a compact area. From left to right they are Payne’s grey, indanthrene blue, French ultramarine, cerulean blue gouache, green apatite, golden (cadmium) yellow gouache, gold ochre, Italian dark ochre, Pozzuoli red (red ochre), perylene maroon, and Italian raw umber. The bottom row has Chinese (zinc) white, ivory black, and buff titanium. The big drawback to putting all of these in that little box, besides being disorganized, is that I had to be careful to leave a little extra room, because otherwise every time I put the tubes back in I’d have to arrange them perfectly so everything would fit. Eventually I might get a smaller porcelain palette to give more room for the paints to be laid out.

Overall it was an enjoyable, if longer than expected, project that’ll also be useful in the future. The best part was being able to custom make every aspect of it myself to fit my own needs.

Trumpeter Swan

Trumpeter Swan
Watercolor, gouache, casein, and ink on sketch paper, 10″ x 12″

I was out of town most of last week, but got a few useable photos from the train.