Tag Archives: Los Angeles

About composition

downtown crown morning square

One of the pleasures as a volunteer at the National Watercolor Society is to be exposed to all kinds of watermedia art and to see lots of watercolor paintings in real life. While I have learned a great deal just by studying other artist’s works, there were also pretty sobering moments. For instance, it is disturbing to see how many artist’s ‘enhance’ their artwork with photo-manipulating software on their computer and their piece looks only half as good when you see it in real life! That, however is a topic for another post. Or not.

Composition: One of the most important aspects of a picture. There was a time when I utterly underestimated how important it actually is! Luckily, there were people who helped me along. My past teachers of course, but also a lot of studying on my own. A couple years ago I started collecting the catalogs of all NWS exhibitions since 1950 something and whenever I have spare time, I always sit down and analyse artwork of past shows. Surprising how much one can learn doing this!
I also have very good books on the subject matter. One of them by the late Jan Herring, given to me by her wonderful daughter Helen during a workshop. I think it’s out of print, the book title is ‘The painters composition handbook’. Jan talks about letters of the alphabet that can be used as a composition tool by placing them in your work as guidelines for major shapes. Not every letter works, but A, C, H, L, X, Z for instance all work. Then there are triangles, cruciform and other shapes.
Nowadays, I always try to at least apply some of these helpers to my work. Then I let it sit for a bit and double check if everything works before picking up a paintbrush.

triangle compo

These two paintings are almost identical in composition. The big difference is, of course, the light situation. It can’t be any more different, really! Can you see the triangle that I arranged the shapes in this one? To illustrate my point, I drew it on. It made a big difference in this piece. In fact, all the great techniques and beautiful washes etc. are all worthless if the compo is no good!

One last tip: Study great abstract artists like Elaine Daily Birnbaum and others and you’d be surprised to see how much you can learn from them, even if you’re a ‘representational artist’, like myself! I always say that my representational art is 80% abstract anyway!

Painting demo at the National Watercolor Society


I am happy to say that my demo last Sunday went very well. People were appreciative and mellow, I painted well and on top of that, I sold paintings! Even the demo painting sold!
It is always a bit tricky to paint in front of so many people (my demo sold out) and you never know how your painting will turn out. I had a great support group though and I would like to give special thanks to Debbie Abshear and Jan Godachy for their selfless help. I could not have done it without them!

Moss landing demo painting

I decided to paint a half sheet (approx. 14″x21″) The subject matter is a scene from Moss Landing in northern California taken on my most recent trip.
There is a big slough with all kinds of boats moored and an electricity plant in the background which reflects into the water. Excellent view to paint! The composition is kind of a cheap shot, with the left boats all pointing toward the little rower and his friend! Needless to say, it wasn’t like this on the photographs I took. The foreground is a patch of land covered with ice plant that grows in abandon there.

Overall, I was very happy with the turn-out and we have a big list of painters interested in taking on of my workshops.
Also big thanks to Penny Hill, the director of this year’s Annual Exhibition of NWS who made this demo possible!

Five against One on Beryl Ave., Redondo Beach

five_against_one_on Beryl Ave, by frankeber 2012

Five against One on Beryl Avenue, Redondo Beach (2012)
See more paintings in my portfolio.

How interesting would it be if traffic could be brought to a standstill by those guys? In a city like this one, where the automobile is the undisputed king? Wishful thinking… *Nothing* will bring traffic to a standstill in LA, except of course, traffic itself…the ultimate irony? There could be another blog post right there.

Today, I would like to talk a bit about composition. At first glance, this painting is a simple H composition: something on the left, something on the right, and the shape of the distance connecting both. Upon closer inspection, you will notice that I have actually tried to make this a Z composition. The shadow in the foreground is leading the viewer into the picture, going diagonally to what I think is the focal point, namely the guy in the plaid, red shirt and the car under the tree.

From there, the shadow points left via the squatting skaters and onto the left side of the picture, finishing at the top of the building. The light post and the wires are taking you back to the right side and out on the top. Better yet, the eyes will hopefully remain in the picture frame and are being taken back down to the focal point by the transformer pole. Basically, I was trying to create a bit of a path through this piece.

You can see I have thought quite a bit about this. Does it work? I don’t know, it’s for you to judge, but I think the key is to think about what’s going on in our painting *before* we start painting! Once we pick up a paintbrush, it is too late to figure all this out.

fiveagainstone_on Beryl Ave_detail, by frankeber 2012

This is a street here in Redondo Beach, leading down to the ocean. About six brushstrokes signify that  there is an ocean. I also simplified the left side with the warmer buildings and all the cars except the right one. What is suppose to be the more distant part of the city is really just an abstract. The less you do, the better it is! Watercolor works that way!

“A cold morning”- street scene

A _cold_ morning, 2011 by frankeber

A Cold Morning, 2011 ::: Watercolor on paper
Posted in the California, USA gallery

I was trying to convey that feel of cold air on an early morning street: not necessarily freezing cold, but cold enough so you’d want to wear your jacket. What really makes this piece is the glow of the early sun on the buildings in the background.

It was a two-step process to paint this scene. The first and most important step is to paint the color of the sky starting with a light cobalt blue and slowly warming it up towards the horizon line. At the foot of the buildings the gradated wash was almost an orange. I was careful to paint around the cars and leaved some white as highlights.
The second wash takes care of the buildings, the figures and the cars. Please note that I wasn’t very careful with the background buildings and any sort of detail on the cars and people. However, I was very careful to make sure all the shapes are connected in some way. It is imperative to do that and will give your work a unified, strong look. The people on the left are connected to the building and to each other. Even where they are spaced apart, the are still connected by the background cars. Very important!

I am conducting a workshop June 4-5, 2011 at the San Clemente Arts Supply Store in the southern California area. You can find more information about my workshop here. Signups are here.

In addition, I will begin watercolor instruction in May at the Graphaids Lyons Arts Supplies store in Long Beach, CA for those of you who are local and interested. For more information, go to my Schedule page or you can contact me through this blog.

Two major shows…

I am happy to announce that I made it into the Transparent Watercolor Society of America (TWSA) 35th Annual Exhibit as well as the National Watercolor Society (NWS) 2011 All-Member show! It’s a great honor to be part of these two prestigious shows where such amazing artists participate. On a local level, I will also be part of the Redondo Beach Art Group (RBAG) show in the Manhattan Beach Creative Arts Center (MBCAC) in May. Dates are as follows. If you’re a local, please come; it would be nice to connect names to faced!

TWSA 35th Annual Exhibit in Kenosha, Wisconsin: May 7 – July 31
NWS 2011 All-Member Show in San Pedro, California: May 15 – June 12
RBAG show at the MBCAC: May 14 – May 26

Redondo Beach harbor, 2010 by frankeber

Redondo Beach Harbor, 2010 ::: Watercolor on paper ::: Entry for the TWSA 35th Annual Exhibit
Posted in the California, USA gallery


NYC Lunch Hour, 2011 ::: Watercolor on paper ::: Entry for the 2011 NWS All-Member show
Posted in the New York, USA gallery