Swimming Penguin

Cute Swimming Penguin
Watercolor on 300 lb watercolor paper, 3.75″ round

Here’s another animal painting from a photo I took at the zoo. The water was obviously the hard part, especially since I don’t normally ever paint water like that. Also look, it snowed last night.

This’ll be the last entry for this week’s theme, the five color palette I posted on Instagram here. I was going to try finishing another landscape painting this week… but it is my Everest. There’s this one photo I keep trying to paint in watercolor for the past couple of months, and watercolor is probably not the best choice for it. Anyone that can paint that in watercolor can probably paint anything. Also I’m sick, so progress has been slowed a little.

Next week will have a different theme. I have some ideas, but if anyone has suggestions let me know.

Distant Clouds

Passing Storm
Oil on linen, 8″ x 10″

To use some of the extra paint from my last post about genuine Van Dyke brown and similar pigments I made this study of clouds in the distance moving away.

To start with I had already mixed into one blob of paint the three paints I made – bitumen, Van Dyke brown, and coal. To that was added the two natural Van Dyke brown / Cassel earth paints from Williamsburg, plus some Rublev raw umber and charcoal black to help it dry, and also a generous amount of putty medium made from marble dust and chalk. This resulted in a transparent blackish brown paint with a lot of character. I made two piles of paint and added a very small amount of ultramarine blue to them both, with a little more in one than the other.

Forming the basic shapes of the clouds was done by increasing the thickness of the paint to make it darker, brushing harder or adding more putty medium to make it thinner and lighter, switching between the two piles of paint to get warmer or cooler greys, or adding some zinc white to both lighten and slightly increase opacity. Titanium white was then mixed into the wet paint to model the lighter or more opaque parts of the clouds. The sky was the same base paint with even more ultramarine and some white, brushed thinly, and the reddish clouds at the bottom had a very small amount of Williamsburg’s Italian Pompeii red (a bright red ochre) mixed in.

This was painted on Friday nearly all alla prima (painted at once, without letting it dry) except for a few adjustments this morning to a small area that was standing out too much and distracting.

Draw a Bird Day 3

Chickadee in a tree
Gouache and watercolor on paper, 7″ x 6″

I’ve been looking forward to making some chickadees for this month, but somehow thought there was still another day left until I checked my email this morning and saw Laura’s wood stork. The bird posting hub is here. (edit- fixed link) (edit 2) I forgot to mention all of these are referenced from Paint my Photo. In the order posted they’re from Thomas Waters, Rodney Campbell, Lissa Perkins, and Rebecca3.

These four study paintings were each entirely made with just a Robert Simmons titanium shader, size 20, with a short handle. The two middle ones were painted with some old tubes of casein from Shiva. It’s a paint made from milk protein that’s been used since ancient Egypt and used to be popular with illustrators until acrylic paints were invented. It’s water soluble, even after it’s dried, but gradually becomes more water resistant. I used to not really like it that much because if you overwork an area, like I often do, then it can get muddy fast. Of course, that’s more of an issue with my skills and approach than the paint, but it kept me from practicing much with these paints and is why I still have them after many years. I’m not sure if it’s the age of these paints, maybe they’ve gone bad, but I don’t like the odor of them. The handling of the paint itself was enjoyable though, so maybe this’ll be a good one to use outside for plein air. When thinned with water they’re similar to watercolor, and are otherwise similar to gouache.

Red Deer

Hillside with Red Deer
Acrylic on paper, 8.5″ x 6″

Here’s a painting from a couple of days ago. The reference photo is from Paint my Photo, here.

The colors used are just titanium white, ivory black, and burnt sienna. Early on some premixed neutral grey was used too out of convenience but it wasn’t necessary. Again the paper was just regular sketch paper, and you can see the buckling of it in the background, but I like how the acrylic paint feels on it more than on bristol board.

Sheep Study

Warm and Cool Sheep
Acrylic on paper, 5.5″ x 6.5″

A two color study painting I made last night with acrylics on sketch paper. The reference photo is from Paint my Photo, here.

The actual paper in this sketchpad is about 11″ x 14″ and is the same pad that I used for the last Draw a Bird Day, as well as the same 1″ flat brush used for everything. As before, I first covered a large patch of the paper with grey paint, this time mixed with white, and then after that used white and two premixed colors. The blue is about 1:1 ultramarine and ivory black, and the brown is the same mix of burnt sienna and ivory black. I was worried that without the black addition it would be too chromatic, but instead it’s much more grey than the reference photo so maybe next time less black will be mixed in.

Because this is only sketch paper it buckles and wrinkles a lot soon after the wet paint first touches it, but if you ignore that and keep working it mostly settles back down. The layers of paint eventually form enough of a barrier that additional wet paint doesn’t affect the paper much. While painting I kept the sheet in the paper pad to give it a hard backing for support and propped it up on a table top easel next to my computer.

The back and forth process of quickly building up colors and indications of shapes until they become increasingly recognizable seems to work well. The more defined the shapes become the slower and more deliberate the brushwork needs to be, but the focus at the start isn’t on the fine details. What’s important in this process is just getting something onto the paper so it can then be adjusted as needed.

Flying Shadows, after Robert Onderdonk

Flying Shadows, after Robert Julian Onderdonk
Water-soluble encaustic on paper, 6″ x 5″

This is painted with Ceracolors wax paint on heavy weight watercolor paper, primed with a mix of acrylic gesso and white acrylic paint to reduce the absorbency. It’s actually on the back of an unsuccessful watercolor painting. The palette is just yellow ochre, mars red, ultramarine, mars black, and titanium white.

Snowy Valley

Middle Park Colorado
Watercolor on paper, 5.75″ x 8.75″

I looked back at some old train trip photos that I took just over three years ago and painted one of them. This was painted only with the same two watercolors from the last post– an old tube of genuine manganese blue from Holbein and a tube of natural red Sartorius earth from Rublev.

This is the Colorado river in the Rocky Mountains. A couple of weeks ago I passed through here again, with much more snow than in this photo, and besides many dozens of deer and elk I briefly saw a mountain lion right in the middle of the frozen river a very short distance from this same scene. Too bad I didn’t have a camera that time. That was the first time I had ever seen a live one in person and I really didn’t expect it so it was very surprising.

Immediately after the initial surprise I remembered a thought I had a long time ago that there’s so many amazing things that happen everywhere in the world all the time without anyone ever seeing them. We can have faith that they’re there because we believe the testimony of other people about these far away places or elusive animals, even if we haven’t seen those things personally. It’s in a similar way that we believe the written record about God. When Jesus was speaking with Thomas, who had refused to believe that Jesus was alive again until he saw proof, Jesus said “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29, NIV) I felt like my faith was strengthened as I thought about that while accepting that there’s still far more amazing things I haven’t seen but yet are there.