Nature Study, Trees, after Asher Durand

Nature Study, Trees, after Asher Durand
Gouache on paper, 6″ x 9″

Normally I don’t put enough effort into modeling the branches of trees or making them naturalistic, so I thought it would be beneficial to practice a little while using a reference as a guide. This was also a good chance to practice using gouache in a more opaque way as the highlights on the leaves were built up. Gouache can be used very similar to watercolor, which is what I tend do during the rare times that I use it, but layering denser applications of opaque paint isn’t something watercolor can do.

If you’re using a low resolution screen the details might be hard to see, so there’s a larger view of this painting here- full size

Draw a Bird Day 2

Chiffchaff in acrylic
Acrylic on paper, 8″ x 6″

It’s draw a bird day again and this time I got the acrylics out. The previous bird day effort is over here and the blog to post these here. This time the reference is from the site Paint my Photo, here. There’s so many useful reference photos there that maybe I’ll start a new weekly series with an animal theme.

At first I was painting this just as black lines with watercolor on sketch paper, but copying the reference freehand was a little hard to get every line and proportion right on the first try. So, I painted over everything with neutral grey acrylic and then proceeded with just that grey, ivory black, and some student grade titanium white using the same brush. The paper wrinkled a bit, but it worked fine.

Chiffchaff in acrylic and brush

Here’s the brush, a 1″ Loew-Cornell 7550 wash. It looks like it’d be too big, but it actually worked great using the corners for details. For example, having one color on one corner and a different color on the other corner allows for fast switching between the two. Also, with just a little extra pressure the weight of the stroke can be greatly increased. Flat brushes are surprisingly versatile.

Water-soluble Encaustics, part 2

Wax painting of a factory
Vieille Fabrique sur la Somme, after Frits Thaulow
Water-soluble encaustic on bristol board, 4″ x 2.75″

In part 1, seen here, I started trying out the Ceracolors water-soluble encaustic paint sampler set from Natural Pigments. The palette for all of the paintings in this post is the original sampler set of yellow ochre, mars red, and titanium white, plus ultramarine blue and mars black made using the fluid medium that came with the set and some dry pigment.

Previously, there was difficulty getting dark shadows using the original palette and ultramarine. That started becoming a problem again during this painting, so part way through I made the mars black paint that I’m now storing in a small glass bottle. That one palette addition was very helpful in all of these paintings.

The difficulty of mixing dark colors with this palette seems partly because this medium dries very matte, which can be great in some ways but takes a lot of the depth out of dark colors. Another factor is that different binders affect how colors look and the ultramarine dries much lighter than it would in oil paint. Lastly, high opacity paints such as mars red hinder mixing dark colors, regardless of medium.

Winter scene painted with wax paint
A Snowy Harbor View, after Frits Thaulow
Water-soluble encaustic on bristol board, 2.5″ x 2.75″

Early on some of the placements of buildings here were off, but I decided to just continue as it is. The overall colors here are also much cooler than the original. I typically mix my colors on a painting more than on a palette, but this paint dries quickly unless the fluid medium is used and I ended up doing all my mixing on the palette. That was the main aspect of this paint that I found challenging.

Sunset painted with wax paint
Autumn Sunset 1908, after Robert Julian Onderdonk
Water-soluble encaustic on bristol board, 4.75″ x 2″

I tried breaking the paint a little with dry brushing to get the effect of reflections in the water. Matching the colors in the sky was difficult using only earths, but it worked out well enough.

Wax painting of a river landscape
Oyat River, after Vasily Polenov
Water-soluble encaustic on bristol board, 3.25″ x 2.25″

Getting sufficient chroma for the bright yellow greens of the sunlit grass was a challenge for this limited palette. I got close to the results I wanted by painting the sunlit grass a very light pale green mix, letting it dry, and then glazing (or more correctly, scumbling, because it’s not fully transparent) over it with a semi-transparent mix of yellow ochre, ultramarine, and fluid medium. Glazing transparent paint over a light ground produces more chromatic results than simply adding white to lighten the paint to the same degree. Because the paint dries quickly this only took a few moments to do, and because it doesn’t easily rewet once dry I didn’t need to worry about accidental mixing as I glazed. It wasn’t perfect though because the paint tends to dry opaque and hold brush strokes more than gouache, so the glaze wasn’t very smooth or transparent. It got the results needed well enough even though it’s really only barely green. A dedicated green paint or a higher chroma yellow would have been a big improvement to the palette in this landscape.

Wax painting of a mountain landscape
At the Foot of Mount Hermon 1882, after Vasily Polenov
Water-soluble encaustic on bristol board, 3.25″ x 2.25″

The fast drying nature of Ceracolors combined with the opacity of most of the paints in this palette made it fast and easy to paint in general shapes first and then paint details over top of that. For this last painting I made four solid shapes for the sky, background, midground, and foreground, then added the details on top. Using these outdoors for plein air painting may be a good strategy to try next.

Wax painting practice sheet

Granted these practice paintings are small, but I’ve actually used very little paint, so this sampler set is something I can keep practicing with for a good long time. Some paints will last longer than others though. I’ve definitely used much more of the titanium white than any other paint and I should probably save the rest of the fluid medium for when I’ll need to make more of that. The mars red is the opposite. I don’t use red much anyways, and mars red is a very strong tinting paint, so only a small amount of it is needed. It’s already obvious there’ll still be a significant amount of mars red left after the other paints are all used up.

Using just the original paints the palette of the sampler set is very limited but provides plenty of paint to use and decide whether you’d want to buy more of it. Maybe using smaller tubes to allow for a larger range of colors in the set at about the same price, or even a little more, would have greatly increased the usability of the set, but as it is it’s a very good deal and very good paint.

Something useful about the caps is that they each have a little swatch of paint on top of the cap so the paints can be easily identified. Unfortunately, the caps of two of the original three tubes have cracked in such a way that the top is splitting off from the part than screws onto the tube’s threads. I’ve had many caps crack in various ways from many other brands in both oil and watercolor paint, so this is something that happens. However, this is normally a rare thing and here it’s happened to two out of three tubes in a short time, so I thought I should mention that.

I’ve really enjoyed using Ceracolors so far and I’ll keep using them. If I wasn’t on a break from buying new art supplies then I’d get some more, but what I have should last awhile. Next time I’ll paint something larger and experiment with actually applying heat to the dried paint to see how well it can be reworked once melted.

Waterfall Book 15

Moonlight Frog
Watercolor on acrylic-toned paper, 7″ x 5″

Most of this notebook so far has been graphite so it’s time for more experimenting. Something like watercolor might bleed through or ruin the paper, but I sealed the paper first using an acrylic mixture of clear gesso, gel medium, and red and yellow earth fluid acrylic paints. This provided a toned ground to work on and completely prevented any of the watercolor from affecting the other side of the pages, as well as making it easy to lift the watercolor. The only watercolor used was indigo.

Overall the approach seems to have potential, even though this try was a little messy and the acrylic has some uneven streaks of color. The idea for the picture is a last minute one, since I had a hard time thinking of something to make this time. It’s past midnight for me, so I missed the Wednesday posting goal by a little. Maybe next week I’ll make up for that with something special.

Waterfall Book 13

Fish swimming up a waterfall
Graphite on paper, 7″ x 5″

I am the fish. This project is the waterfall. Also, a pair of staples have finally made their appearance. That means we’re now in the center of the notebook. With this 13th entry we’ve spilled over into the second half of the 25 two page spreads.

I hope everyone seeing these posts has enjoyed them so far. There’s just 12 left now, so let’s take each one as an opportunity to improve a little.

Waterfall Book 12

A gentle stream through a meadow

Ink on paper, 7″ x 5″, Click here for full sized image

This week was a struggle. I probably tried doing too many different things that I’m not used to in one drawing. It all started by hoping to make some positive changes after I critiqued myself about a few problem areas in my art. Stiffness and lack of accurate or realistic detail are near the top of the list and always have been. That lead to many last minute practice sketches unsuccessfully trying to copy someone else’s style that’s the opposite of mine. This week’s drawing is now the result of one adjustment to the original plan after another in an effort to cope with the unfamiliar territory.

Once the final plan was moving forward the hardest part was probably trying to force randomness and variation while only using a limited number of shapes. Towards the end it became a test of endurance to draw so many leaves, and then a rush to get it done and posted while it’s still Wednesday for me.

Materials used:
Koh-i-Noor rapidograph 00 (.3) technical pen with waterproof ink
Used for all the thin black lines. Autocorrect keeps wanting to called it a radiograph.

Kuretake brush pen #8 with non-waterproof ink
Used for dark shadows. The original plan was to take advantage of this ink being not waterproof and use a wet brush for blending and shading after it was on the paper along with either colored ink or watercolor after that. The moment I tried to blend it with water it bled through the paper. That ended all of those plans, so once again it was necessary to change course and adapt. That’s when the cross hatching started.