Category Archives: Landscapes

Plein Air Favorites

The following is an aritcal I wrote for the Palette Newsletter for Art Association Napa Valley.

In a previous article, I described my favorite set of watercolor plein air brushes.  Here is a description of some other items you might like to take painting outdoors.

Plein Air Supplies

Plein Air Supplies

Absolute Essentials

  • Brushes in Easel-Style Brush Holder – protects brushes in transit and opens for convenient access.  See previous article for my brush favorites.  Be sure to use Amazon Smile and specify Napa Valley Art Association (our legal name) so that a portion of your purchase is donated.
  • Travel Palette- I like Cheap Joes American Journey travel palette available empty or filled with American Journey paints.  I prefer to purchase empty pans to fill with my own favorites.  I’ve ordered extra half and full pans so that I can experiment with different combinations.
  • Watercolor Paper in blocks- convenient for travel and makes a separate easel unnecessary.
  • Water container and collapsible water cup. I like Faber-castell’s Clic & Go Foldable Water Pot
  • Notebook for thumbnail sketches, mechanical pencil and gum eraser.  You really don’t need anything bigger than 5×7 for thumbnail sketches.  Napa Valley Art Supply has the Strathmore Visual Journals in many sizes and also the Softcover Drawing Journals.  Shown above is the Canson 140lb watercolor 7×10 notebook which is really more expensive paper than is needed for sketching.  Be advised that drawing paper weights and watercolor paper weights are not the same.

Useful Add-Ons

Secondary Plein Air Supplies

Secondary Plein Air Supplies

  • Smart Phone for Camera to capture the light before it changes and doubles for emergency contact.
  • Spray bottle to moisten watercolor pans and also create atmospheric effects.
  • Drinking Water for you!

Handy Supports

Plein Air Easel and chair

Plein Air Easel and chair

  • Stool – this folding seat from REI rotates 360 degrees and is lightweight and comfortable.  I found the typical soft triangle stools too floppy and uncomfortable.
  • Easel and Tray from En Plein Air Pro.  This website has all kinds of equipment for plein air painting for both watercolor and oil/acrylic, but I found the actual tripods much less expensive from my camera supplier. Or you can opt for the typical wood french easel.  Bear in mind that heavy is not bad because easels can easily catch the wind and blow over.  Lighter easels actually sell rock bags to weight them down.
    B&H Photo Sun-Pak Tri-Pod: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/247939-REG/Sunpak_620_060_6601UT_Tripod.html
  • A Bag to carry it all. It’s best to have a backpack or shoulder-style bag, OR a cart with large wheels to navigate uneven ground.  I found a folding metal market cart from Cal Mart in Calistoga.  En Plein Air Pro offers both a shoulder and a backpack.  Make sure the handles of any bag you choose are long enough to sling over your shoulder- the tote bag I took to Yosemite felt ok at home, but quickly got too heavy to walk from our campsite in Lower Pines to the painting site
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Open Studios Napa Valley 2017

Important dates: September 16-17, 22-23

Open Studios is only 6 weeks away!

This year I am exhibiting at venue #33 with Kathy Tranmer. We are trying a new location more central to downtown Napa. Our exhibits are located in the Fellowship Hall of the First United Methodist Church. The parking is located on 5th street just as it meets up with Randolph St.

You can find more information and directions to all the artist venues at the Open Studios website, here. I'm also responsible for editing the website information, so let me know if there are any errors or anything is unclear.

My husband and I are currently sailing in Desolation Sound, British Columbia.
See you in September!

Applying New Knowledge

First Attempts at applying workshop skills

So, I have a great subject with the early morning light striking an interesting sailboat just right. But as most artists know, controlling watercolor only comes with practice.

I like the colors in attempts #1 best, but I think the focal point is much better in #2.

What do you think?

Attempt #1

Boat off Orcas Island Ferry Dock, Attempt #1

Attempt #2

Boat off Orcas Island Ferry Dock, Attempt #2[/caption]

Watercolor Workshop with Michael Reardon

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The Bridge Across the Creek, my 1st day painting 

Just before our summer sailing trip I was able to take a watercolor workshop with Michael Reardon. Reardon is teaches many workshops near my location in Northern California and I’d heard taught architectural rendering in w/c. In fact, I thought that was what the workshop was going to be about.

The workshop was hosted on a Friday and Saturday by the California Watercolor Association at the California State East Bay campus in Concord. I thought crossing the Benicia Bridge on Friday might tough, but there was really no problem traffic. There are also several different routes to get to Ygnacio Valley Road from Hwy 680, so many options to get there with the bonus of several Starbucks along the route.

Michael liked to to a demo in the morning and then have us work on our own paintings for the rest of the day. My only issues were 1) we received poor guidance on which reference images to bring, and 2) there were too many students for such a short workshop. I had many more appropriate references had I known what he would demo. Once I started on an image, it took a long time for Michael to get back to me. I felt my painting on the last day failed because I couldn’t get enough help.

That said, I would still highly recommend a Reardon workshop because this may just be the information I needed to take the next step in my watercolors. I don’t know if I’ve heard this information enough times that I’m finally getting it, or whether the way he explained things just clicked. Either way, I’m excited that I may be able to actually paint what I envision rather than end up with disappointments . I have his book with me also, and I can recommend it highly also.
Images from the workshop