Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Colorado, Day1 and 2

"Autumn Gold"
15" x 20" Mixed Media

We arrived at the ranch on Sunday afternoon, enjoyed a chance to meet fellow participants at dinner and an evening introduction. The following morning we began days filled with painting outdoors, delicious meals, and evening sessions in the workshop building. There was little time wasted. Steven began with an introduction to his approach to painting plein air. To familiarize us folks from California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Connecticut, and other states with the landscapes of Colorado, he had us practice creating the tree shapes in the mountains. These were 30 minute sketches at most.

Sketch 1
11" x 8" watercolor

Sketch 2
11" x 8" watercolor
After lunch we queued up behind Steven's very able assistant, daughter Allie, and headed out on the dirt road higher into the mountains. There Steven demoed and then we all tried our hand at creating our first piece. Here is my first plein air piece of the workshop on Monday afternoon.

"Mountain Color"
14" x 18" watercolor
After critique, Steve showed us how he sometimes primes the paper with an acrylic underpainting, this time in Cadmium Yellow. The acrylic will not lift when we paint watercolor over it, and we can easily lift back to the yellow if we want.

Steven Quiller demos painting watercolor over acrylic on Day 2
We then tried our hand at it, and I did the painting at the top of this post. I fought that thing all the way as I selected a more complex scene. The yellow you see is the underpainting. In some cases I lifted back to it. To put in the blue sky, I used gouache and cerulean blue at Steve's suggestion. Here is the scene. As you can see, I was not wedded to every element in the scene.

Mary's view

On Tuesday evenings, the ranch throws a cocktail party for guests, so we all gathered round the fire pit outside the bar and had a great chat. Steve's wife Marta joined us. We were also treated to surry rides by Damon, a cowboy who has worked the ranch for 18 years and is raising his daughters on the ranch.

Riding in the surry with the fringe on the top.
(That tune went through my head during the ride.)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Colorado Workshop

"Snow and Aspens"
10" x 20" Watercolor

In late September I attended a plein air workshop given by Stephen Quiller, a noted watermedia artist from Creede, Colorado, known as a color specialist who has authored books and DVDs.  The workshop was held at beautiful 4UR Ranch near Stephen's home. I went with an artist friend who had attended this same workshop with me in 2015. Again, we were amazed by the beauty of this ranch in the San Juan Mountains. We were treated to beautiful meals, a lovely workshop space, and several fun events.

The weather in 2015 was consistently sunny warm days with very cold nights. This year we had entirely different weather, ranging from sunny and cool, to rain, to snow. We found this a benefit, allowing us to learn some new techniques. Steven makes use of acrylics, watercolors, and gouache to interpret the landscape in an artistically unique fashion. His approach to color uses complimentary or near complimentary colors to make colors glow. By mixing these colors, an artist can "neutralize" or "grey down" colors. By surrounding pure color with neutralized colors, I can enhance the effects of the pure color. Additionally, Steven uses thick, dark mixtures next to pure color to make it "sing."

Steven  also emphasizes using granulating colors in neutral areas and often starts a painting with neutralized, granulating colors[. These colors do not sink into the sized paper, so it easy to lift areas back to almost pure white, as I did in "Snow and Aspens," to add the golden foliage. In other paintings, many of the white aspen trunks and branches were lifted from the background.  Acrylics make a good underpainting as it will not lift when watercolor is applied over it and one can lift back to the underpainting very easily. 

He also makes use of gouache and casein with his watercolors to achieve certain effects. In the above painting, done on Day 4 after snow had fallen in the night, I used gouache under the background mountains to achieve the swirling fog and obscure mountain tops. The white gouache mixed nicely with the cerulean blue of the sky.

Sometimes Steven uses dry bush techniques, other times he paints wet into wet. He emphasizes how you control the paint application with the ratio of water to paint. When painting into the wet surface, use a dryer brush with lots of pigment. That is how I created the trees in the foreground. As most instructors will tell you don't mess around after applying the paint. "Let it do what it will do" and "It is what it is." Steven uses the landscape for inspiration, but is not a slave to the scene. He told us "listen to the painting." He always approaches each stroke with a designer's eye. He also completes the last 15% of his plein air paintings in the studios so he can "listen to the painting."

The next post will show you how we began the workshop and other works created plein air with very stunning vistas.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Another Work of Bob

"Scottish Man"
12" x 15" Pastel
In 2013 Bob came into Monday drawing class to meet me for lunch. He was wearing his orange vest and a hat. Our instructor Bob Semans has become our friend, and the minute he saw Bob, he asked if he would come pose for us. That day, Bob chose to wear his Scottish Balmoral hat that he wears with his formal kilt. Here is is in his full kit.

Bob Semans did a demo piece on a large piece of pastel paper and gifted it to Bob in exchange for his work. We students were working on our own renditions, but I only partially finished. I only do pastels in class so I set aside. The other day I found the piece and decided to complete it in our hiatus of working without an instructor while he recovered from surgery. I was fairly pleased with my work, though you can see why Bob S. is our instructor. He gave me permission to post this piece. I was obviously sitting at a different angle. No two are alike.

Bob E. by Bob S.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Combining Collage and Paint

"Sounds of the City"
10" x 10" collage and acrylic
on museum quality canvas
I've been wanting to come up with ways to combine painting and collage with figures. I've painted Lisa Taylor before. She is a marvelous singer from Santa Cruz, CA, and I've danced to her live music a number of times. Her band's Facebook page gives you lots of info. I got permission from Lisa to use photos I've taken of her as subjects for my paintings.

I decided to use an unsuccessful canvas that had a highly textured surface. That is the least successful part of this experiment. I painted the background many different ways before settling on simple, then drew the figure in acrylic and painted it. I wanted a modern, flattened approach. I then found some interesting magazine pages for the collage and applied those with glossy medium. 

This method intrigues me enough to continue experimenting. Next I want to use a smooth surface canvas. I will also try watercolor on Arches with collage.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Drawing Class: Guglielmo Winery Supplies a Subject

"2015 Dolcetto
12" x 15 Pastel on Pastel Mat Board

Napa Valley is known as the wine valley in California, but Santa Clara Valley, known today as Silicon Valley, was the first premium wine production region, called "The Valley of the Heart's Delight." French and Italian immigrants brought their vines to our valley during the Gold Rush Era. That tradition continues with at least 30 wineries located here. We belong to two wine clubs and recently enjoyed entertaining guests with Guglielmo's wonderful 2015 Dolcetto.

Our drawing instructor is recovery for surgery, so we are meeting on our own at his suggestion. I created a setup with my empty wine bottle, a wine glass, and tea substituted for wine. Pastel colors are such a challenge. I had to mix multiple colors to achieve the shades I wanted.This time friend Susan gave me a sheet of Pastel Mat which can take lots of pastel. I found it a very nice support.

Here's to happy sipping at the wineries of Santa Clara Valley.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

"View from the Paladar in Havana Old Town"
18" x14" Watercolor
Recently we returned from a wonderful land tour of Cuba with Road Scholar. Relations between the USA and Cuba have been thawing, though the embargo we placed on them remains. President Obama opened travel with Cuba, but it remains quite restricted. You travel on a cruise ship or with a sanctioned tour company. Of course, there have always been ways to get there, but they are illegal. We choose Road Scholar because the company was one of the first US companies in Cuba even before Obama's actions. They've been doing tours since 2010.

The day we arrived with our Road Scholar manager on a flight from Miami, we were met by the Havanatour Company guide, Eneides. The company is owned by the government ad we had been told activities and hotels could be changed at the discretion of the government. If changes were made, they were not evident to us.

The first sights we saw from the bus reinforced some preconceived ideas -- there are few cars, which are mainly the old US classics from the 50s or Russian Ladas; and the beautiful architecture is suffering from decades of neglect due to lack of resources. We spent the rest of the day until 5 pm touring the city before checking into our hotel, the Capri, where the stars stayed when filming the 50s classic "Our Man in Havana." We found many of our preconceived notions to be statically stuck in time and did not reflect Cuba today.

Old Town Havana is a beautiful area with a 16th century fort and handsome architecture. Some of the buildings have been restored and more are in the works. While having lunch on the rooftop of a paladar (a privately owned restaurant), we looked up to see a wonderful old building, badly in need of repair, where one of the apartment inhabitants had hung the wash on the balcony. Bob took photos for later reference.

I wanted to show everyday life in this busy city. It was important to show the aging walls of the building. I stumbled upon a good way to do the cracked areas after applying the overall texture with sponge and a mop brush. I happened to get too much paint on the paper and voila, I had a crack filled with dirt.

Here are a fews photos from our first day in Havana. The descriptions are quoted from Wikipedia.

Built initially in 1589 in response to raids on 
Havana harbor, el Morro protected the mouth of 
the harbor with a chain being strung out across the 
water to the fort at La Punta.

The basilica and the monastery of San Francisco de Asis 
(Saint Francis of Assisi) were built in Havana, Cuba at the end of 
sixteenth century (1580–91) as the home of the Franciscan 
community, and were altered in the baroque style in 1730

In Plaza Vieja. The plaza was originally called 
Plaza Nueva (New Square).[2] It emerged as an open 
space in 1559, after the Plaza de Armas and San Francisco. 
Plaza de Armas

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Monday Morning Drawing Class: The German Beer Stein

15" x 15" Pastel

Drawing instructor Bob Semans brought in a beautiful beer stein and fruit. Usually I do a pastel in a single morning, but this one took two. The design was a challenge and though it looks complex, I simplified it quite a bit. As always, values are everything in making a successful drawing or painting.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


"Thundering Waters"
12" x 15" Watercolor
I changed out my old Windows machine for a Macbook Air which I love, but I had problems working on my blog. Bob solved the problem by installing Chrome. However, if anyone else has suggestions for a good blogger app, I would appreciate hearing from you. 

Now for the happy news: Recently I received an award at the 49th Annual Members Show of the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society. You can see the winners from the show and the juror's comments.

We were heading for a multi-week vacation and I almost did not enter the show. Usually I create a painting specifically for the show, but this time I entered a recent painting inspired by our winter storms. California has suffered a prolonged drought. After four years with two of water rationing, we have had more than the normal rainfall. In January the Anderson Dam spillway was in high gear and I loved a photo my sister-in-law, Jackie, took of the water. She gave me permission to use the photo as inspiration for my work. I was very honored to receive the award as the show was of a very high quality.

Check out the winners on the SCVWS website.http://www.scvws.org/gallery.php?cat=60

For those who are local, the show will be open until the end of April at the beautiful Jewish Community Center in Los Gatos. The show is hung on the second floor of the main building.