Friday, April 12, 2013

Plein Air in a Private Garden

"Spring in the Garden"
11" x 14" watercolor
My model

Artists in the garden
Lovingly capturing nature in all it's glory

Artists at work in the front garden

Artist rendering a beautiful piece of work

The unveiling -- the garden and artist captured on paper

The Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society (SCVWS) has over 400 artists representing all levels in their art journey from novice to professionals. Join this watermedia organization and you automatically get 400 teachers, as you can learn from all of them. We are blessed with many generous members. Jane Kwant invited our paintsites group to paint in her garden. Jane herself is an award-winning watermedia artist who largely paints florals from her garden. Take time to check our her beautiful art.

We live in an area where water is very precious, so Jane redesigned her yard with plants that need very modest amounts of water. She has done this in a very natural way, sometimes describe as an English garden approach. There is no formality here. Many volunteer perennials grow where they sprouted.  Jane removed the grass from the yard totally, and even received reimbursement for many of her front yard plantings from the water district.  The effect is both calming and beautiful. Jane has gotten me thinking about my front landscaping.

We had a picture-perfect spring day, a blessing I count as my sons in Vermont endure sleet and snow. This paintsite was announced just this past week, but about 20 artists participated, a great turnout. Jane served us tea, coffee, fresh oranges, and brownies. The warmth of the spring sun and the smells of the garden made for a perfect setting.

I settled myself in front of a lovely section filled with deep burgundy Irises and  contrasting yellow/orange California poppies. Both of these florals are high on my favorites list. I like to focus in on my subject, rather than paint the broader landscape. Though most people do sketches, I like to come away with a frameable piece -- as you can imagine, I am often not  successful -- I tell myself, "And that's okay." This piece was about half done when I left and I knew it needed more contrast in values.

I used an Annelein Beaukenkamp approach, doing lots of negative painting for the greenery. Annelein taught a very popular workshop for us, though I studied with her in Vermont in a one-day class during a visit to my family in 2009. I was heading in the evening for my weekly session with my Southside Art Club, so I gave parts of my work a real scrub with a sponge under running water and set it in the sun to dry. Counter to what people often say, you can change your mind in watercolor as long as you've used mostly non-staining colors and really good paper. I then worked a couple hours doing the push and pull with my values. This morning, I softened a few edges to complete "Spring in the Garden."

When we gathered at lunch, those of us who wanted displayed their pieces. I had photographed an artist because I thought that would make a great painting. Guess what, someone beat me to it! I may still create my own version. I took time to tour Jane's gallery of works in her home. She was recently very inspired by Ken Hosmer in an SCVWS workshop. He has some interesting teaching materials on his website. Ken does value sketches with markers and paints his darks first -- a method I want to try.

Here are a few floral photos from the garden.

California Poppies

Clematis (I think)

Check our the SCVWS paintsites blog for finished pieces by some of the artists.


CrimsonLeaves said...

I am amazed at all the types of beautiful flowers that need a minimum of water! I so love wisteria too (that immediately caught my eye). Looks like a fabulous day and a wonderful iris painting, Mary!

Plein Air Muse said...

A lovely Iris, Mary! And some nice photos of the group too.
Thanks for your comments on my blog. I have some Thiebaud inspired paintings posted now too so check them out.

Barbra Joan said...

Mary, what could be better than this.. You did a beautiful piece. I can see so much inspiration there.
Poppies , those California things are my favorites too, they con't grow here, too hot.
but I remember them well.
Still leaving on 5/7 for that 2month west coast trip.. I might even paint some poppies !!!!!
Barbra Joan

hmuxo said...

That purple Iris is GORGEOUS, Mary!!.
You did an amazing painting..and of course, I enjoyed seeing all your photos!