Monday, January 30, 2012

Watercolor with Pastel

I take a watercolor class once a week, and we've been working from the book Powerful Watercolor Landscapes, by Catherine Gill.  This past week we did an exercise combining water based pastel with watercolor.  The pastel flows and oozes a bit when it gets wet and the watercolor can intensify the color effect of the pastel.  The pastel adds texture and can be opaque or transparent, depending on how much pressure you use.

I'm very pleased with the dramatic results and it was REALLY fun to do.  You have to work fairly quickly, while the paper is wet, so it sort of forces boldness and abandon. 

I'm not sure how close to done this is.  I could
  • deepen the values in the sky to make it more dramatic, which might be a good balance with the water at the bottom;
  • darken the ochre triangle shape in the upper right hand bit of land;
  • tone down the phtalo in the valley at upper center;
  • add some white strokes to the water; OR
  • call it finished...
What do you think?

Lake Nicasio

Monday, January 23, 2012

Yay, It's Done!

Finally, I have finished the sketchbook for the sketchbook project!  I dedicated most of the day yesterday, all last evening, and most of today, ignoring all other responsibilities and spending a lot of time with my new best friend, the hair dryer.  I was able to get all the remaining sketches done, plus the front and back covers.

First, the sketches, then the commentary.

Front Cover

Back Cover
 Covers are mixed media using some collage papers, acrylic paint, acrylic ink, transparent stickers, a postage stamp, and stamps with stamp pad.

Cave Church, Cappadocia, Turkey
Memorial to the Victims of Communism, Vidin, Bulgaria

Caesar's Greek and Mexican Drive Thru, Albuquerque, New Mexico
May's Coffee Shop, Japan Center, San Francisco

Jardin de los Inocentes, El Mozote, El Salvador

McDonald's, Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Occupy Santa Rosa, October 2011

So now the observations and commentary, mostly so I can remember next year what to do and not do....
  • First of all, taking out the paper from the sketchbook and putting watercolor paper in may have been a waste of time.  I didn't know how to do it correctly, the paper is fragile where it is folded, and it's not clear how well the sketchbook will stand up to handling.  I have the original pages still, so I can experiment with coating them with something that will help keep them from buckling OR I might try another attempt at binding following some of the excellent suggestions that some of my EDM friends have been posting.
  • I was pushing the deadline the last few days, one advantage of which is that I didn't have time to care too much about all the mistakes, and there was a limited amount of fixing that I could do.  On the other hand I was feeling pressured rather than centered. Maybe an earlier start next year?
  • I did try some new techniques and different ways of approaching both the initial drawing and the painting, and some days there was a really good flow.  Others didn't have that feeling, but you can't really plan that.
  • I might try a more open theme or take a more open, intuitive approach next time...these sketches are fairly literal interpretations, though not always exact.  I find it difficult to work on such a small page, and found myself not really letting the water and paint flow.  I'm ready to work on some BIG paper for awhile now!
  • All in all, I enjoyed myself and can see some growth.  It's been great getting community feedback from the folks at EDM and Creative Every Day, as I find comments and suggestions to be very helpful.
Next step, flatten it out under some heavy books overnight, then put it in the mail!  Letting it go now....

Monday, January 16, 2012

Works in Progress

The first photo is a sketch from my sketchbook project "The Writing on the Wall".  I'm going to keep plugging on with these because they're lots of fun, but meeting the deadline by the end of the month seems pretty hopeless given all that's on my plate.  Maybe I'll take a day or two off of all my volunteer projects to see what I can get finished in the art domain.

Apulo, El Salvador
2007. Apulo, El Salvador is on the shore of Lake Ilopango.  Heavy rains washed debris and homes into the river that feeds the lake, displacing people and flooding the town's lower regions.  Homes filled with water and residents barricaded their doorways to prevent additional water and mud from entering.

Egress from the lake was blocked by landslides caused by the 2001 earthquake and 2005 Hurricane Stan.  Now, since a major hotel chain is building a resort on one of the islands, the government has a project to unblock the lake's egress.

El Salvador is well represented in my sketchbook, because I lead service-learning trips for teens and adults to visit and work in projects supported by the Palo Alto (California) Quaker Meeting.  The cooperative that we support in Apulo runs a sweat-equity project for people who have been displaced by flooding and a Saturday tutoring program for kids.  Next trip is July 21-August 5, 2012.  If you are interested in more information, drop me a comment at

Nopales at Sunset

The second photo is of a watercolor in progress.  I love the photos I've seen of these nopales at sunset.  I'm experimenting with color blending in each leaf and am happy with the result.  I'm still working out how to get the deep shadows between the leaves.  I like the way the sky and background hills are turning out and am hoping that when I get to blending the background and foreground that I don't ruin the whole thing!    There are lots of finishing touches at the end, adding needles and the scars that these cacti typically get.  This painting is on a 9x12 100 lb cold press block.(Arches).  I'd love to try a big one on 300 lb paper and include the red prickly pear fruits!

Monday, January 9, 2012


The challenge for Creative Every Day is "New."  Acrylic painting is new for me, at least in the sense that I haven't completed a full scale painting before.  So I decided to start with a simple little decorative thing (18x24) for my new granddaughter, whose room is outfitted in lavender and purple gingham with green accents.  I hope her parents like it : )

After that we have the two latest sketches from my sketchbook project, "The Writing on the Wall".  I'm trying to do a little something each day and am very inspired to do so in spite of being otherwise busy.  Thanks so much to all of you who stop by and leave your great suggestions and encouraging remarks!

Petroglyphs, Petroglyph National Monument, New Mexico

No Parking/Parking, Suchitoto, El Salvador

I can see that the colors aren't as rich on this as on the original.  The blue is actually very striking in the sketchbook, as it is in real life.