Category Archives: Landscapes

A Most Songful Stream!

The first picture was the reference photo used to paint ‘A Most Songful Stream’. The location is one of the most visited places in Yosemite National Park, so painting en plein air was out of the question at this spot. Too many people and to make matters worse, this view is from a busy bridge. I thought it would be interesting to see how it was edited and simplified to become more manageable and paint-able!

Notice how the (point-and-shoot) camera always overexposes whites. The water certainly has some whites especially where it cascades down, but it wasn’t nearly as bleached out as in the picture.

I have added mist from the main falls which are located behind the dark trees on the right. I have also added a few bigger boulders as a foreground. The trees on the left side were given less attention as they don’t add much to the painting. I simplified the rocks so as not to over-model them and lastly, I added some dappled lights in the darker sections.

By painting sections this seemingly complicated scene can be painted effectively. Still, it is not an easy painting. I always look for the light and dark patterns and exaggerate them, that way I maintain a clear light path and order in my paintings. With flowing water, I try to pick up on its energy and make use of that as well.

This painting will be part of the first Annual Waterworks Exhibition at Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, May 1 to June 5. Please visit if you’re in the area! Click for more information.

Click to see this as an animation and more of my work on Instagram.

Now that winter’s over, it’s time for all-day plein air! My students have asked what equipment I use, so here it is for you: I use Daniel Smith pigments and Arches watercolor blocks. I paint with DaVinci Casaneo brushes using a Holbein Metal Palette 500. My portable/travel set-up includes the Sienna Plein Air Artist Pochade Box Easel, size Medium and the Sienna Tripod Easel. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

Same scene – different media – different times of the day

As you can see, I am experimenting with my art a bit right now. The fact is, I am always experimenting. I try to never get complacent, to fall into a rut and do the same thing over and over. Before you know it, as an artist, you are known to paint certain things in a certain way.
You become a ‘one trick pony’.

I avoid that at all cost. I don’t want to be put into such a drawer. I think it is important to never be static and to always change, to evolve, to move on. Artistically speaking, I mean. (Although you could make that argument for life in general as well, but that’s another blogpost… LOL)

On our last plein air outing near Bishop’s Peak, I felt I messed up my painting. At least, I didn’t like how it came out. Being there at the wrong time with the wrong light, I didn’t feel inspired but since my friends all painted I felt compelled to paint as well.

It took another trip to get better references and I feel good about the two I posted here. Both of them are not done plein air. To be honest, I had problems painting this mountain. After a few plein air attempts I figured I needed to move this into the studio to understand what it was I didn’t ‘get’. In the end, I think it was a combination of wrong light and lack of vision. I just didn’t really know how I wanted to see this painted.

The appearance of this peak changes dramatically during the course of the day, so it’s very easy to get lost. Despite all my years of painting outside, I made the cardinal mistake to follow the light. Not so much in the foreground but the light on the peak itself and promptly messed up the painting.

Repainting it in the studio made me realize what had happened. The sunrise piece is done in water-soluble oils. I used to paint lots of oils in the ’80s and ’90s and lately I have been getting back into it more. I apologize for the bad pictures, you can find a better version of the first one here. I need to learn how to take good pictures of oil paintings!

#52artworksin52weeks

People who have met me know I’m not exactly fond of social media, but the appeal of Instagram is its dedication to the visual and minimal words. Given that I’m not exactly a gifted wordsmith, I’m all for it. This year I thought I’d give Instagram a decent chance. And by decent chance I mean no more unfocused, badly-cropped pictures and half-assed captions. I would post sharp, nicely-cropped, squared-up paintings, make engaging captions, and even work in some clever hashtags. (Ha.) To dig a deeper hole, I vowed to post frequently, thus creating #52artworksin52weeks.

So far I’m up to #06of52, which happens to be this. Parents, I’m sure you’re all familiar with that look on her face!

 

And mind-bogglingly, #01of52 happens to be the most popular. Really. And it occurred to me: am I in the right genre? Should I be painting more animal portraits, less landscapes? More bichons, less barns? Someone thinks so. (Still waiting for AWS, TWSA, NWS, and CAC on their input…)

 

Last year, people were really drawn to these San Luis Obispo county landscapes. Central California is gorgeous, isn’t it? I’ve been thinking of doing a local workshop here… Watercolors and Wine. Or should it be Wine and Watercolors?

 

Finally, this city scene from Florence brings back some good memories… I conducted workshops in Tuscany in 2013 and 2015, and will be back again this year.

 

If you’re on Instagram, please drop by and say Hello! Hold my feet to the fire and make sure I get to #52of52! (And thanks for all your support.)

References/ subject matter

Sometimes students show me their photographs and ask which one would be best for a painting. I am always surprised when I look at them. Often it’s a picture that’s completely useless as painting material. Beautiful sunsets with people silhouetted on the beach or the picture of about a hundred boats sitting in a harbor in bright sunlight with no background.

I think the choice of subject can predetermine the outcome of a painting. Bad choices yield bad paintings, good choices and chances are your painting will be better. How do you pick subject matter? Arguably one of the hardest things, especially when painting outside. Even if you found your painting subject, you still have to find a spot with good or at least decent views. The world is full of information, too much information!! Sometimes, I walk around and can’t find anything that works.. it happens. Time of day is certainly an important factor. There’s a
reason artists talk about the ‘Golden hour’ and how it’s everyone’s favorite time to paint.

I always consider foreground middle ground and background. I look for patterns, how the light plays against the darks and vise versa. If there are buildings with bright roofs, I place myself in ways that the darker background is behind them. If the roofs are dark and silhouetted, I’ll have the lighter sky behind etc etc.
Patterns are spotted first, they make the painting. Light and patterns go hand in hand. Where there’s light there must be darks next to it. Where there’s darks, there must be light also. One can’t be without the other!

Color Temperature

Warms and cools

Color mixing should only be categorized with the words ‘warm’ and ‘cool’. Never get hung up on a formula. As painters, we all have our go-to colors and hear about what other painters use, but let’s look at this more closely:

Every painter is using primary color mixes in some form, a few secondary colors or convenience color like orange, purple or turquoise and/ or earth tones. There’s always a red of some sort, a yellow and a blue involved, especially when it comes to grey mixes. In the end, all our palettes are remarkably similar, yet the outcome is very different from painter to painter!
What really matters is ‘how’ you use your pigments, of course. There is an enormous subtlety in color mixing that is hard to understand and put into action.

Color temperature, as seen in my painting above, achieves the illusion that the rock formations in the background are actually further away from us than the ones in the foreground left and right. So, not only value but, equally important, temperature. By just adding a bit more purple and blue, it starts receding more. We sometimes hear that we have to always soften the edges in the background. Notice how all edges on the far formations are actually hard, except where the low cloud hangs on the right!
Never be afraid to put a harder edge if that’s what the landscape dictates. If you get the right value and temperature, it will look perfect.

When setting up a painting palette, it makes sense to use the color wheel as a guide, that way the pigments are arranged in a chronological way. Start with the yellows into orange, red, purple, blues, turquoise and green. Earth colors separated and that’s it. You’re good to go.

Most backgrounds in watercolor paintings look pretty similar in all of us. What really sets us apart is the personal calligraphy and interpretation of subject matter. That is remarkably different from painter to painter!

It helps to paint as much as possible. Only through experimentation and endless trial and errors are we able to develop our own voice. Mimicking another artist’s painting style and color choice is only helpful if it helps us find our own and that takes time. It also helps to have a place where you can go and paint without having to start setting things up first, like on the kitchen table. It is a big advantage to step into a room to do just that one activity, no distractions. A peaceful place where creativity can happen. You still have to make it happen but creating the right circumstance is half the battle!

Now available: Museum-quality giclée reproductions

Frank_Eber-Horse_Back_Central_CA_grandeFrank_Eber-A_New_York_Minute_grandeFrank_Eber-Lunchtime_Walk_Morro_Bay_grandeI’m very pleased and excited to announce that a selection of my original work and prints is available through CaliforniaWatercolor.com. California Watercolor is a renowned and respected Southern California gallery dealing with fine art watercolors dating from the 1850s California Watercolor movement to now. On their site you’ll find names like Emil Kosa Jr., Millard Sheets, Hardie Gramatky, and Phil Dike (just to name a few). It is an incredible honor to be part of this gallery, which is based in Fallbrook, California. I am very grateful to the wonderful Linda Gramatky for recognizing my work and for her support!

cw_artistcw_galleryFind my work here and here.

In addition to some prints, select originals are available. California Watercolor uses 100% rag Arches paper with archival inks, each print embossed with the company’s seal of authenticity.

Please note that this is a carefully-curated selection of my work. If you are interested in other pieces, please feel free to contact me directly. Comments are always welcome!


Here are a few more paintings from my trip to Central Texas earlier this month! For more Texas paintings, go to frankeber.com and click on the Texas, USA gallery.

 

Plein air in cold weather!

cropped nature takes over

I thought I speak about that a little bit, since it is that time of the year! Painting outside when it’s cold has it’s challenges, just like painting in real hot weather does. The biggest problem with watercolor painting is drying time. That means, if we do big washes (which I usually do) they won’t dry for a long time resulting in periods of unwanted waiting around, twittling my thumbs!

What’s the solution? There’s no real good one I am afraid. But there are things you can do that definitely help: If you’re near your car, you can use the car’s heater and fan. It works perfectly and only takes seconds if you crank it up on high!

If the sun’s out, it goes without saying to put it down and it dries very quickly.

If the sun is not out and you’re not near your car, try using less water and a bit of chinese white in your big background washes. It makes the paint flow slower and dry more quickly. A word of caution: it takes practice to gauge how much to use, if you use too much you’ll get opaque ugly soup, if you use too little it won’t do anything at all!

Lastly, you can break up your washes more. If you know your middle ground is darker than your sky (it almost always is), just don’t paint there at all in the first wash. Stop the sky halfway and leave the white of the paper. That way, you can immediately start painting without waiting since you never touched that part!

If it is colder than 0 degrees celsius, or 30 degrees F, I don’t recommend watercolor painting outside. I have had my washes freeze before and it’s just plain awful! Better wait for warmer weather!