A few months ago, I went to a class on urban sketching. At this class, a new iPhone app was suggested. It is call Sktchy. Users post photos they would like for you to draw or paint and post along with the photo for others to see. I signed up, but was apprehensive because I have never been successful in keeping a sketchbook on any regular basis. I've long loved travel watercolor journals both with and without ink linework.
It just so happens that soon after joining the Sktchy community, I needed to purchase a sketchbook for a workshop. I ended up buy four in different sizes and shapes. My favorite is the 6" X 8" Beta Series book from Stillman & Birn. It is large enough to do a nice sketch or painting, but small enough to stick into my purse or backpack. (I wish I had gotten the bound version rather than the spiral one.)
For two months straight, I drew or painted in my sketchbook. It was life-changing! Why?
Because I made a commitment to myself not to tear out any pages (either because they are bad or because good enough to sell), I finally took to heart what a sketchbook is about... practice and experimentation. It's an opportunity to do a quick series or to paint from a scene or photo that you want to capture but not pressure yourself to perfect.
I want to be a better portrait artist, but I've done very little. It was too serious an endeavor to paint a "real" portrait. My first sketchbook portraits are only around two inches square.
I began to make progress in capturing a likeness, so I decided to go a little larger:
Then, I did a painting where I unintentionally elongated a portrait...
Which led to these, which I intentionally elongated:
Lest you think my sketchbook is ALL portraits, there is a smattering of other subjects too...
Somehow, amidst a busy Memorial Day weekend, a commission and another huge household project a few weeks back I fell off the daily sketch habit. I'm missing it. I think it's time to finish the last three pages in that book and order the next one! Follow me on Sktchy as nmdartist or Instagram as @nancysketchedthis to see what's next!
When you move around as much as I do, you experience many different types of art organizations. The Florida Keys Watercolor Society is one of the most delightful I've encountered.
Why, you ask?
If you paint in watercolor and live in the Keys or spend time between January and April in the Keys, you should consider joining this group. All levels of watercolorists are welcome. There are days when the group gets together to paint in Marathon and there is a nice luncheon at the end of season.
Although many members are retired, I'm not! The current president is younger than I am. We would love to have you! Visit fkwcs.org or click the logo below:
The Anne Abgott workshop is now a memory, but I'm so glad that I went. Anne is a delightful Canadian artist now living in Florida. She gave invaluable information about watercolor organizations and shows and encouraged us to participate in more of them. She clarified the differences between shows seeking transparent watercolor entries and those seeking aqueous entries. She suggests that artists read a prospectus very carefully because each show is different.
I was dubious on Wednesday when Anne said we would do three paintings in three days. Although none of my paintings are completed at this time, we made considerable progress and all I need is a little more time to complete them.
Anne was generous in sharing her paints with students. Despite saying I had decided not to buy any additional colors, I fell in love with the Transparent Turquoise and HAD to buy it. (I also purchased Cobalt Teal Blue and Yarka Russian Green.)
Now, on to the paintings! Below are the three reference photos...
Rumor has it that some registered attendees took one look at the reference photos and bailed on the workshop altogether. What a shame! On day one, we painted bicycles. Personally, I love to paint bicycles; this is my third painting of them. Here are the first two:
On day one, I found myself thinking that I could have just painted it myself at home. I had chosen to do mine as a half-sheet and I was falling behind. I felt like all I was being taught was what colors Anne likes to use and trying to remember what colors she wanted where was stressing me out a bit.
When we got to the (green left side) background, Anne talked to us about using casein, which I have never used. I found it to be a close cousin to the milk paint and chalk paints I've used on furniture. I am unsure that I like it in my bike painting, but I'm glad I experienced painting with it.
Lacking a few hours of additional work, this is the state of my bicycle painting:
On day two, we painted the collection of bottles. We were told that we could do one bottle, or several or the entire image. Having never painted reflections and crystal to a large degree, I decided three bottles would be challenge enough.
In this painting, I found Anne taught more technique and what I had written off as personal color choices on day one began to make sense as color theory! She definitely knows how all colors in her palette work together and how to indicate shadow in any color.
Once the large shapes were in, Anne talked at length about lifting out lights and whites instead of painting around linework and small shapes. Although I have lifted paint, I have never painted a large area with the intention of pulling lighter colors out later. I found this worth contemplating in future works. (Note: This only works with non-staining colors.) We also talked a great deal about softening the edges of the shapes after removing masking fluid. Apparently, Anne spends hours doing this at the end of each painting. Since her paintings are amazing, I also need to give this method serious consideration.
Here is an "in-progress" shot and my 95% finished bottle painting:
Anne's method of painting dark backgrounds is similar but better than one I had previously employed. She underpaints the colors found in the painting before putting the dark over them in a crosshatch manner. It provides a richness that accentuates the subject matter and as she wants a background to "have life."
On the final day of the workshop, we painted a bird of paradise. All the techniques of the first two days were reiterated. We mingled colors on the paper, we lifted, we negative painted, we used casein, we softened edges!
The saturated colors are right up my alley. I look forward to finishing the petals and the leaf at bottom left. In this painting, I think the turquoise casein background "works." I'll keep it in my repertoire.
At the end of the day on Friday, I reflected on how generous Anne Abgott was with us. She shared so many wonderful tips about all aspects of life as an artist: gold gesso, card-making techniques, apps to enhance reference photos, the importance of using your own images to paint from, how to photograph your finished work, etc.
I hope my path crosses Anne's again in the future. I encourage anyone who wants to amp up the color in their paintings to pick up her book, Daring Color or to attend one of her many workshops.
Have you been to workshops? They are so much fun, but also tiring! A good workshop teaches you so much that it makes your brain hurt, but there is little I like more than days spent with other artists!
Apart from framing finished work, paints are the most expensive supply needed for watercolor painting. Some workshop instructors tell you to just bring what paints you have; other instructors have LOOOOOONG lists of paints they "suggest" that you bring.
The first workshop that I attended was by Jane Angelhart. She was teaching portrait painting and suggested a round (Quiller) palette with a very specific list of paints.
Luckily, I had recently purchased the entire Quinacridone line from Daniel Smith, so that accounted for a few paints, while still leaving me a large list. I purchased about half of the ones that I didn't already own. The others, I substituted similar ones or borrowed a little during the workshop from Jane or fellow attendees.
Naively, I thought I was set for life in the paints category. When I took John Salminen's workshop, he said "bring whatever paints you like." The palette that I took to that workshop is below.
Almost immediately after the workshop with a limited palette, a last minute spot in a workshop with Charles Passarelli became available. He uses an extensive palette. I took a picture of the myriad of paints he uses!
Although I didn't run out and buy new paints for or even after that workshop, I would like to get a few of them at some point: Shadow Green, Leaf Green, Buff Titanium and Sky Blue. They do come in quite handy for landscapes.
As I prepare for next week, I discover that Anne Abgott uses a lot of colors too. But, even with my stockpile of forty-three different paint colors, there are twenty colors listed that I do not have.
Anne's list: Burnt Scarlet, Verditer Blue, Mineral Violet, Sap Green, Gamboge Nova, Aureolin, Scarlet Lake, Permanent Rose, Naples Yellow, Indigo, Brown Madder, Rose Violet, Opera, Greenish Yellow, Manganese Hue, Yellow Ochre, Cobalt Teal Blue, Undersea Green, Quinacridone Sienna, Quinacridone Gold, Cobalt Blue, Russian Green, Transparent Turquoise, Permanent Blue, Quinacridone Red, Cobalt Violet, Warm Grey, Light Grey, Caput Mortum, June Bug, Shadow Violet, Red Brown, Sepia, and Payne's Grey
It remains to be seen what new paints I will buy. I had planned to get Undersea Green, but just read that it is Quinacridone Gold and Ultramarine Blue, so I can make my own. Research is rewarded!
I'm about to bike over to our two art supply sources in town and purchase a few colors and perhaps splurge on a large round brush since Anne uses really big ones!
I look forward to writing next week about my color mingling and daring color workshop experience!