Tag Archives: watercolor

Thoughts on painting

Good painting is very dependend on good observation. When we grow up as kids, we learn to see what we know and the knowing often gets in the way of seeing ‘right’. We don’t really look, we think we know what it looks like! (i.e. ‘if I paint a car I have to paint four round wheels’)

When I first started painting (longer than I care to admit here), my artistic mind was on the quest for realism. I was obsessed with technique and how to paint this and that. I recorded places verbatim and got lots of encouragement with favorable comments from people around me. “Oh, good job, that looks so real..”etc.
As I grew as an artists, things started to change. I no longer looked to paint something as realistic as possible. The correct and scientific rendering of something before me couldn’t possibly be the goal of my art, I could just take a photograph. I started looking for more, something else. I started seeing how objects relate to each other, how they interact, the quality of light and the interconnectedness of everything on the planet. There just isn’t a ‘car’ on a ‘street’, but the interaction of different entities that relate to each other through light, shadow, color, mood. In short, I became obsessed with light and mood.

The paintings I paint now are more of a visual notation that *imply* reality, hopefully like a poetic statement. The tools of the craft and technique have long moved to the subconscious.
It’s an ongoing process. You never stop learning and it is the truth when I say that every watercolour teaches me something. I am by no means there… maybe I will never be ‘there’, whatever ‘there’ is! As the Zen master teaches us, the journey is the destination.
On that note: back to painting…

Europe trip – plein air impressions

kalchreuth views, web Nurnberg impressions Operahouse Regensburg sketch, web

Despite the crazy weather, I am trying to paint every day. Today was particularly adventurous as I had to pack it in during a heavy rain shower. I had the foresight to place myself under a tree, but still had to scramble to put my painting away before the rain got on it. To make matters worse, I did not bring my umbrella. Why? Because I was lazy and didn’t want to carry the extra weight. Maybe I should have…

I am currently in Regensburg, a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is situated at the Danube river and quite a sight. Hard to believe, but Regensburg was first settled by the Romans under the Emperor Marcus Aurelius in 179 A.D., and by Bavarian tribes even before then. 179 A.D. and earlier???

In any case, wish me luck with the weather—it’s awful and I am really sick of it! Time for a change..

Plein air in Austin, Texas

I was teaching a workshop last week at the wonderful Waterloo Watercolor group in Austin, TX. After the workshop was done at the end of the week, I was lucky enough to have had the chance to paint in this great city.
I was joined by a few artist colleges and we headed out to paint scenes by the lake and downtown. Naturally, after the weather was sunny all week the day we went outside turned out to be a bit dull and drab. Earlier in the morning the light was much better and  my scene with a rower and downtown Austin in the background turned out pretty nice.

Austin is a great city and everyone at the WWC group did their best to make me feel welcome. I’d like to especially thank Michele  and Marshal Missner, Eileen Pestorius, Kim and Gerry Hoerster, Anne and Barbara and Chuck Wallace for taking care of me in the best possible way. You all rock!

Austin lake, plein air by frankeber 2013

Austin lake, plein air by frankeber 2013

Austin plein air, Victorian by frankeber 2013

Austin plein air, Victorian by frankeber 2013

Participation in current and upcoming shows

City views, web by frankeber 2012 horse handler near Los Olivos, by frankeber 2012After the ride the colors of rain, web

I am happy to say that my work has made it into the following societies Annual National/ International exhibitions:

The International Exhibition at the American Watercolor Society in New York City is about to start. http://www.americanwatercolorsociety.org/a_exhibitors.php?year=2013

I have submitted my work at the Louisiana Watercolor Society again, this is the second year in a row that I am part of the exhibition in this wonderful city

http://louisianawatercolorsociety.org/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/LWS43rd_Exhibitors__new_Signature_Members.70121029.pdf

I am especially proud to be part of the Transparent Watercolor Society of America and I am planning on attending this year’s opening festivities as I will be a new signature member!

http://www.watercolors.org/

This exhibition is in the Pacific Northwest in Washington

http://www.nwws.org/dnn/Events/Exhibitions/AnnualInternationalOpenExhibition/tabid/101/Default.aspx

If you are residing in any of these areas, please come see these shows! These are all high profile shows where you can see the best work that watercolor has to offer! I am deeply humbled yet proud to be in the company of such highly established artists.

Painting process

I’d like to share a bit of my painting style (if such a thing is even possible on a blog)

This series of pictures was taken during a painting demo by one of my students. Some of them are a bit out of focus but it shows clearly how I tackle this rather complicated street scene.

One of the major mistakes is to try to put everything in that you see in the reference picture. Of course, if painting onsite, this problem is multiplied! It is easy to get overwhelmed by all the information. The key is to pick what’s important, or essential. What makes this scene? is a good question to ask.

Another thing to remember is: there is no formula to painting right. There are as many painting styles as there are painters out there. Everybody’s developing their own style and painting techniques, what works for one person doesn’t for another!

What’s really important, and often overlooked, is how well your drawing skills are developed. The better you draw, the better you paint. If you can’t draw, you can’t paint! I had a student once tell me, ‘I am a pretty good painter, but I just don’t know how to draw’! She was serious. What are the chances that you put that pigment in the right place, if your drawing is no good??

 

Demo and workshop at the Valley Watercolor Society

       (click on thumbnails for a larger image)

I was invited to do both a demo and a workshop for this big group of watercolor painters! My thanks to Barbara Hope and her amazing organizing talent, making this one-day workshop a big success!

One of the lessons I like to drive home in my classes and workshops is that painting is a visual language of shapes, line, value and color. Notice that I mentioned color last! Ironically, students usually get hung-up on color, thinking there is some kind of secret color combination that brings magic into your paintings.

Far from it! The two most important things in painting are values and shapes.

Let’s start with shapes:

Anything and everything we paint is a shape! Let’s say we paint a building with 50 windows and spires on top (it doesn’t
matter what the building is) It is important to get the shape of the building right, the windows are almost irrelevant! Good drawing skills and a sense of perspective are imperative for this task.
I have never seen a good painter who doesn’t know how to draw!

Then there’s tonal value:

Tonal value means nothing more than the strength of your wash, the amount of pigment or pigment to water ratio.
We are basically faking three dimensions on a two dimensional surface! Value is the key to do it. Think of sepia photography and how beautiful it is, yet there’s no color!
If the values work in your painting, it will be a success. If they don’t work, it doesn’t matter how pretty your color mixes are or detail work is, it won’t rescue the painting!

Horse carriage, Prague 11x15, by frankeber 2012      Horse carriage, detail by frankeber 2012   (click on thumbnails for a larger image)

This painting was done in the studio, after an on-site sketch I brought home from Prague. The horse carriage was not in the original sketch. It came from a few pictures I was able to snap when it went by. Please note that the horse carriage is kept to an absolute minimum and the details are not really there! Your eyes fill them in. It is just a few scraggly lines and …here we go: the correct shape!!

The Illusion of a street scene

Washington street scene, by frankeber 2011

This was a work done in a class setting, a demo piece.

It is a great value exercise, but also fairly difficult for the incredible amount of shapes in it. When painting a street
scene it is important to reduce all the information to a minimum. Simplify. There is no way we can paint everything
we see on a photograph or worse, in real life while working plein air. We have to reduce it to a minimum and it will,
ironically, look more like the real thing than if we desperately try to paint everything ‘as is’.

Most students try to paint too close to reality and get lost in the details, it happens easily. To avoid that, it is essential that we always step back and check our work from a distance. A sure way to avoid overworking a section.
street scene, detail by frankeber, 2011
If you look closely at the details on the left side in this scene, you’ll notice that the people walking on the road are just an illusion. That means we make them up with our eyes. To give this illusion, I painted something that ‘looks as if’ there are people there.
I’d like to quote my teacher the way he always said, ‘if you can do it in one brush stroke or less, you should’. Quite funny, because you have to do at least one, but it serves as a reminder to bring as back to the important goal in painting: Simplify.

One other quote before I go, this one by one of the old masters, Leonardo da Vïnci. Also shows that the concepts we’re teaching today are certainly not new:
‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’