Tag Archives: travel

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

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!!

Adventures in plein air painting Part III

Jacobsplatz, 2012 by frankeber       painting in Avignon

Last post dealt with comments from passers-by when painting on location. It seemed well received as I got a lot of hits and very nice comments. Thank you, Everyone!

This time around, I’d like to share a bit of the process i.e. equipment, set-up, etc. I use while painting outside. I have changed things over the years and I am still not completely happy with it, but it works well and is very light-weight. It is absolutely imperative to keep the weight down! At the same time, it is the hardest thing to do!

We do need water, we have to bring the whole palette, the paper, the brushes and the painting surface. I built a portfolio out of two pieces of coroplast I bought at the home depot (total price: $10). Not only is it a portfolio to store the paper, it also serves as the painting surface at the same time. No need to bring a third piece, like a gater board or foam board (it’s all bulk you have to lug around) I just duct taped them together and attached a sling for easy carrying. Very light!
Once I am ready to paint, I tape the paper right on top, clip the whole portfolio to the easel and, voilá, it is now a painting surface!

         

My biggest gripe is that you cannot find an easel with a drawer that pulls out on the side as oppose to the front where it prevents you from getting close to your work. I am currently having an easel built to solve this problem once and for all! There is one out there, it’s called the Joe Miller field easel which comes close. But I have heard there are problems with the legs and it still does not completely resolve the second thing that really bugs me about all the field easels out there:

There is no way you can put your water and palette on the side drawers without having access issues once you pull up your painting surface at an angle. I don’t know if I am explaining this well but you basically have to look around ( the corner)/ your work everytime you pick up pigment or water with your brush. The only way to solve this is to have a drawer that not only pulls out to the side (first) but also to the front (second). Kind of like a drawer with a pull-out flat surface at an angle. That way it’s basically next to you as oppose to hidden behind the painting surface!

Like I said, the biggest issue is weight so it has to have aluminum legs! Most prochade painting boxes are way too heavy and cumbersome!

    

While painting in Europe the entire last month, I discovered that the duffel bag has to go as well! After a few kilometers of Euro streets,walking here and there, up and down and around, it started hurting my shoulder quite a bit. And I thought my set-up is light… well, it is but not light enough! I’d say it has to be less than 20 lbs total – meaning paint tubes, water, brushes, everything!
15 lbs would be ideal and like a backpack on your back. That way you have your hands free to snap pictures while looking around.

Painting size for plein air is usually 1/4 sheet or less. Half sheet works, but is tricky since light condition change quickly and drying time can create a lot of problems when working larger sizes. My goal is to finish in an hour, or hour and a half the most. The light won’t change too much during that timeframe and it is possible to capture the atmosphere of the place.

I’ll let you know once my easel is done

Five and nine

Five and nine, 2012 by frankeber

I know this is a strange title, but it’s easy to figure out why I named it that. I am exploring my new idea with urban skate boarders some more. I have had some great comments for some of these works and even sold one in a gallery setting at this year’s Higbee 6 x 6 exhibition.

I also like the long format, I think it’s always good to try and do new things. The format isn’t really all that new, but I think it works really well with an off-beat subject matter like this. I also like that I have found a way to combine my beloved taxis and the skaters!  They do live in the same environment after all, and I am wondering now why didn’t think about this before!

As for the painting process, I started with a grey wash in  the sky, just to take away the white of the paper. After that I painted an “underwash” for all the buildings and into the foreground fairly strong. The goal is to finish the foreground in the first wash, which usually never works out. It is easy to be too light, since it is one of the first things we’re painting and we only have the white of the paper to compare it to…

Colors I used were cobalt blue, cobalt violet, yellow ochre, ultraviolet and cobalt turquoise and, believe it or not, some cad yellow and cad red. I made sure I used the most toxic colors available… Ok, bad joke…. On a serious note, I made sure most of the pigment is mixing itself on the paper and took great care not to create too many hard edges. That’s one of the more challenging  things to do as a watercolorist, in my humble opinion.

Thank you for looking, I sure will do more of these…here’s a detail shot, the guy in the middle is connecting both sides of the street with his pose, I think that works quite well!

fiveandnine_detail, by frankeber

Revisiting France!

City of light 2, by frankeber 2011           City of light, by frankeber 2011

I know, I always say that I don’t like sunset paintings. The main reason is that they don’t seem to work very well in watercolor. These are two semi sunsets, sort of like the late light in the day. They are just made for watercolor, for the simple reason that the buildings are backlit. That way, you’re really just painting the silhouttes.

I found that although I didn’t paint in lots of windows, they still seem to be there! I am banking on the fact that the eyes of the viewer put them in, so to speak. There seem to be many details but it really is all just an illusion. I even omitted the headlights on the car and it works just fine..

On of the most difficult things in painting is to simplify objects so they still tell the story without looking overworked. If you paint a building with 20 windows and put them all in, just like in the photograph, your work will look stilted and tight.

How do you do it? By treating every single shape as part of the whole painting. How important is the window in the overall design of the painting? Not very…So, a simple suggestion with one or two brushstrokes is enough! What’s really important is the shape of the building! That has to be painted right.