The 147th Exhibition of the American Watercolor Society in New York City

Last week I was fortunate enough to be voted into signature status with this, the most prestigious watercolor society in this country. Not only that, my painting, After the Ride, won the High Winds Medal award and also had a red dot on it when I walked into the exhibition! Life is good.

I have made many new friends during this trip and I also painted outside a bit. Below are some impressions in no particular order:

Studio set-up

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P1050048  P1050047  the mode of transportation

My studio and workstation are pretty straight forward: Good light, great easel, but unfortunately, not enough space on my workstation! I really need to extend the table top all across the room, so I can have multiple workstations (at least two, preferably three) and more importantly, room for all the brushes. I hate looking for a certain brush in the middle of the painting and not finding it! Putting them in jars is not working for me.

A word about the easel: I had to slightly modify it to fit my needs. It needed a wider support piece on the bottom to put the painting surface on. It kept falling off, since the manufacturer only mounted a very narrow dowel there. But it was an easy fix and I love it now! I have three different table easels, one I made myself.

My palette is by Holbein. I have a few of these and they come in different sizes with large mixing wells that have a nice, high divider to prevent overspill into the neighboring well. Most cheap palettes don’t feature that important detail. Holbein makes excellent products.

Many of my brushes are made by JAX, Da Vinci and Escoda. Escoda has the best synthetic pointy brushes that never seem to go blunt! My favorites are Prado and Barocco. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a challenge to get them in the US.

Lastly, my painting surface is a plastic sheet that I buy at Home Depot. It’s called ‘Coroplast’ and works really well. The other solution I recommend is driving around your neighborhood and stealing those signs that endorse politicians or certain parties in people’s front yards. They are made of the same material! ~~~ I am kidding, of course!

The first picture is just my ‘office’ with my computer and printer

 

 

 

Sketches on location

Prague, web

This is a sketch I did in 2012 in Prague. It took very little time (maybe 20 minutes) but I was able to capture the mood of the place at the time. Something that is always my goal when painting on location. This is a pretty small format (about 7 “by 10″, or 17by26cm)

Deciding on size and format should be done in the moment. As I painted this, there was pretty foul weather so I decided to go small, in case it started to rain. I also have all kinds of different paper sizes ready and mostly already taped to the painting surface, so I don’t waste lots of time getting things ready.

Drawing is first, but should not take longer than 10 minutes, at least with a pretty straight forward subject like this. I spray my palette before starting the drawing, that way my paints are wet and ready to go. Anything to save time!

Sketches like this can serve as a base for a bigger studio painting, but are also worthy on their own. Something of the place will usually go into a quick online sketch and cannot be replicated in the studio. Therefore, plein air painting is crucial!

Less is more!

After the shower, web

Watercolor painting completely depends on this mantra! I was just about to start finishing the buildings on the right, when it hit me: do I really need to paint 50 windows, the roof with all the chimneys etc. to call this painting done? Will it add anything that would make this a better painting? I think not.

In fact, I think it’s better not to finish it. For some strange reason, your eyes are putting those windows there regardless! Almost like, we know they’re there, so we don’t need to actually put them! Also, I did not like the fact that the tonal contrast (being very strong) on the buildings would take away from the focal point lower in the picture!

As I always say: each and every watercolor has a lesson to teach us! I absolutely love it! All we have to do is paint and we never stop learning.

Negative Painting

like a fish outta water, web  like a fish outta water, detail

When working out scenes with dramatic light, it is important to remember where the lightest light is and not paint over it. Watercolor painting depends on the whiteness of the paper for the ultimate highlight! Once we mistakenly paint over it, we cannot bring it back.
You could argue: well, I can always lift! True, but it’s still not the same as the untouched paper.

Speaking of lifting: In my opinion, lifting always feels a bit like ‘fixing things’ – unless you lift while it’s wet – why not paint it right in the first place without having to come back later and lift paint here and there?? But I digress..

In the above painting, the huge foreground puddle as well as the background body of water is nothing but the untouched paper. It feels very light, because everything else is darker. The interaction of values does it. It is an illusion, that’s all. That’s our job as artists: create an illusion. In the reference picture the water was not bright at all, more like the color of the sky. A pretty dull scene. By exaggerating the values of the scene, we create more interest and the result is a luminous, lively watercolor. (15″h by 29″w)

Workshop at Venus Art Supply, Palm Desert

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My big Thanks to Venus Art Supply for hosting a very successful workshop in Palm Desert last week. We had the perfect class size and managed to do a lot of painting! Thank you Shayla and Deb for taking care of me!

I posted one of my half finished demo pieces above. The subject matter ‘street scene’ posed lots of different painting challenges, i.e. composition, lights and darks, gradations etc etc. Congratulations to all my students for doing such a great job! We just have to do it again sometime!

As if I didn’t have enough work already, I also did a demo for the Desert Art Center in Palm Springs last week! Thank you Susan for inviting me and big thanks to everyone who attended!

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Brothers in arms

      brothers in arms (2)

This is another watercolor painting of horses. Basically a horse portrait. There is a lot of negative painting as well as lost and found edges in this work. The top mane of the horse and his muzzle are left white. When painting the background I was very careful to leave the ‘white’ for the horses heads, which is actually some kind of greyish blue in the end. A painting like this requires careful planning but quick and decisive strokes once the painting process starts. I strive to have a looseness in my work that cannot be accomplished by being overly careful! While painting I closely pay attention to what’s happening on the paper, always open to changing direction if my watercolor requires it. I never try to force things. It took me forever to learn that!