Student References- Stormy Sea

The dramatic stormy sea is a balancing act between the dark sky and sea with a glowing bit of light in between.

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Student Reference Interpretations

The following paintings are Birgit’s lessons on interpreting photos submitted by her students. Each has its own challenges.

The summery day with clouds is a good exercise in keeping the whites in the clouds and painting a meadow without painting every blade of grass.

Atmospheric Landscapes- Commonweal Lesson

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I hadn’t managed to complete this exercise from Atmospheric Landscapes the first time around.  It looked intimidating and I procrastinated a long time.

It was actually the only painting I hadn’t attempted, but since that first course. But Birgit O’Connor continuesto add content to existing courses(which is another good reason to sign up . I knew I had to get started if I really wanted to complete the course this time around.

It isn’t so much the subject- the reference image is actually not that detailed.  It’s Birgit’s interpretation and final painting that looked unobtainable. But I should have known by now that Birgit has a gift for guiding students step by step towards successful paintings.  If you look at a picture of any of her painting classes, they are ALL holding up beautiful paintings.

I followed the video lessons, and bit by bit, the painting emerged.  It’s amazing how certain strokes here and there can really “make” a painting.  I’m pleased with my result, and can only hope that I learn to incorporate this approach into my own inventions.

Materials – Watercolor Pencil and Mixed Media paper

I should mention the medium for the previous post since it was an eye-opening experience in itself. I used the Marine Assortment set of Caran D’arch Museum watercolor pencils on Strathmore Mixed Media paper.

I don’t know why I haven’t thought to use pencil on the smoother Mixed Media paper before. This time I found that darker values could be achieved by applying the pencil to dry paper and wetting it afterward. Lighter wash-like effects resulted from wetting before applying the pencil. I was very pleased with how easily the pencils moved across the surface.

I’ve purchased an embarrassing number of sets of different brands of both watercolor and regular colored pencils. They sit largely unused in their dedicated drawer in my art materials metal filing cabinet. They each have their own degree of hardness and flow. I just never liked the grainy residue they leave on #140 lb cold press paper. Why didn’t I try a smoother surface before?

It’s not like I haven’t previously tried pencil on smooth surfaces. The botanical art class I attended at Filoli estate in Woodside, California featured Prismacolor pencils on bristol vellum. The results were fantastic, almost photographic. But you had to be willing to put on so much pencil that techniques needed to be learned to reduce the waxy residue. Perhaps I was put off by that. More likely it was the bad memory of how the instructor seemed to choose favorites by lavishly praising the work of some but not others, including me.

In any case, I will definitely be taking my w/c pencils and some smooth paper on my next vacation.

Creating an Accurate Sketch

When I want a sketch to be very accurate, I use my iPad as a sketching aid.  I almost always find inspiration out walking so use my iPhone to capture the image.  Then I use Airdrop to transfer the photo to my iPad.

The next step involves any iPad app that has at least 3 features:

  1. Layers with opacity settings
  2. Photo import
  3. Fine line pencil tool

My go to app is ArtRage.  This last time, however, I used ProCreate since it also has the ability to overlay a grid of any size.

I import the photo and move it move it to the bottom layer.  Then I set that layer to an opacity of approximately 80% or less to make it easier to see the trace.  On a second layer above, I use the pencil tool and eraser to create the sketch with my Apple Pencil.  I keep checking to make sure I’m drawing on that layer and NOT on the image layer.

Two very helpful features at this stage are pressure sensitivity and zoom.  The apps understand how to make the line thinner or thicker with the amount of pressure I use.  Being able to zoom in and out makes it easier to get intricate areas accurate.

When I complete the sketch, I turn the imported image completely off to display only the sketch.  Usually at this point, I Airdrop it to my desktop computer and size it the way I want for a sketch to use on my light table.  In this case, however, I used the overlay grid as a guide to transfer the sketch to my hand-gridded paper.  That’s how I created Fifth Element at Cap Sante

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Local Resources for a Father’s Day Project

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Fifth Element at Cap Sante

In between completing the Atmospherics Landscapes class, I decided to hand-paint a Father’s Day card.  There’s a fairly good little art store within walking distance of the marina, Good Stuff Arts.  We are even given a coupon for 10% off this local business when we check into Cap Sante marina.  They do carry my favorite Pro Art tape, but they only had the note-sized frame cards.

I checked Bayshore Office Supply across the main drag, Commercial Ave,  and they had the Strathmore photo-mount cards.  I was looking for the frame cards that have a 3.5×5 opening, but this would have to do.   

Read my next post to learn how I created this card.

Golden Mist

This painting was deceptively difficult.  The idea was to create a misty landscape and imbue it with a golden glow by a glazing it with Quinacridone Gold.  I had a tough time getting a good balance between soft and hard edges as witnessed by my first attempt.  I got the color stuck in some places again due to lack of water and the foreground branches are too regular and distracting.

Golden Glow, first attempt

Misty American River, first attempt

In my defense, I’m painting this on our boat in an even smaller space than normal because hubby’s tools are everywhere.  Just a 3×2 space on the table and I only have my travel palettes which only have at most a 4” square mixing area.  Birgit’s work involves large puddles of paint, so I’m making do fairly well.

Still, I thought I could do better. So I concentrated more on creating a focal area on the upper left bank and worked harder to get the rest of the painting to flow freely.  I like this version much better, although I still don’t like my foreground branches in the lower right.  Chalk that up to loss of patience; if I did this again, I would sketch that area a bit more specifically since the darkness of that area really makes it prominent- it needs more attention to the details to look right.

This is one of those paintings that looks better from a distance.

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Golden Glow on the American River, Sacramento, 2nd attempt