Tag Archives: watercolor painting

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.

Yes, different colors do have different values. Or: how to make the whole thing more confusing

In my workshops I always have students paint a simple color scale. Yes, you can buy those but that is just pathetic, isn’t it?  You’re a painter, you should be able to paint one.
Inevitable, someone will pick a color like yellow ochre, or worse, a yellow to paint a value scale. Why is it not working?
The short answer is: because the color yellow is too light to paint a scale from 1-10 with.
The strongest yellow is still only a light value..makes sense?
Black, blues, violets, warm and cool greys work.

To determine a color’s own value in it’s strongest application, it helps to make a value/color comparison chart.
Ideally you should know the value of the colors on your palette.
Take a look at the image. The chart is a neutral grey value scale on top (numbered 0=white to 9=strongest), where all the different colors underneath are placed to match the value above. (as good as possible) Every color is applied in it’s strongest value, out of the tube.

Values

From left to right(second row):
perm alizarin, Ultramarine blue,
Quin Rose, Ultramarine violet
Quin red, cobalt blue
Cad red, burnt sienna
Cad orange, raw sienna
Indian yellow (interchangeable with Yellow ochre?)
yellow ochre
cad yellow light
cad yellow medium

It helps to know that, while red is certainly strong, it’s strongest value is maybe a five, if the white of the paper is a 0. Worse with yellow, that’s really only a 1, no matter what you do.

When introducing new colors to your palette, place them in the right spot so you know what value strength it has!
Some painters even make a value scale in neutral on the side of their palette! That way it’s easy to compare your color mix to the scale next to it.

Please take the time and have a look at next year’s workshop schedule for a workshop near you: https://frankeber.wordpress.com/workshops-demos-lectures/

Happy Thanksgiving!

Workshop at Abbondanza in Tuscany!

Every good thing comes to an end and that also goes for the long anticipated 2015 workshop in Tuscany, Italy. We were guests at Abbondanza Toscana

This was an exceptional workshop for several reasons: The location will no longer be available in the future as they are moving it into a bigger place nearby. There will still be workshops, but not where we were. We were the last group, and what a group it was!
It is not often in a workshop that people click during a 10 day period the way this group did!
I was happy to do my part!
We were super spoiled with excellent food by the in-house chef Karolina Novak and the organizer Paula Sullivan was open to changing the schedule around to accommodate our painting needs.

I will definitely come back to teach there again! If you always wanted to go to the beautiful Tuscan area of Italy, the Abbondanza venue is your best bet. Watch out for the 2017 calender when I will return!

As for painting locations: we went to Volterra, a hilltop town with breathtaking views over rooftops
and narrow streets, with buildings hundreds of years old. Also on the schedule was a seaside resort town ‘a la Cinque terre’ (actually not too far from it). Our host keeps this place pretty secret as it has all the charm of cinque terre without being overrun by tourism. The only tourists you find there are other Italians! Go to Vernazza or Monterosso, you’re lucky to find room to stand as it is marketed as a destination in the United States, China and other countries!

Lucca itself served as a painting destination and we haven’t even scratched the surface!
It will just take a few more visits in the near future!

I thought I finish this blogpost listing some unspoken facts while painting outdoors on this trip.
(All tongue in cheek!)

Aside from the obvious distractions when painting city scenes, here are the scenarios you’ll
have to be ready for:

While painting, some guy with a violin sets up next to you and starts playing the same three hideous pieces over and over! Worst thing is, people actually drop money in his hat!
Remedy: wear earphone with your own music!

Remember, you always get the village idiot! Sure enough, it’s the one that lingers and holes you with questions and comments while you’re trying to paint, all in the language of the country
you’re painting in. (mostly colloquial, on top of it)

If you didn’t bring warm clothes, it will be super chilly! Yes, you have gloves and a hat but they
are in the hotel because it was sunny and warm when you left. There was no way of knowing that we’d be painting in a windswept alley in 42 degree weather. The sun is out, yes, but it’s behind the buildings we’re painting and it’s late October!

If you’re setting up next to a building entrance (you’re happy you’re off the road) the probability of someone showing up and wanting to get inside is: 100%

If you’re a watercolor instructor and found the perfect spot for the class to easily paint three pieces, someone in your group will take 1 1/2 hours just to do a drawing

And lastly, don’t count on the fact that you’re in Europe and people love art and admire you. You’re still just a lowly painter, mostly in everybody’s way and nobody is interested in you or your art. I actually like that! It’s watercolor painting we’re doing, we’re not creating world peace. Get off your high horse! 😉

A week in La Crosse, WI Part II

Here are more paintings, either done onsite or studio works from photographs and sketches I did on my trip.
Next stop: Vermont, leaving this week. I will be at the landgrove Inn for the next week or so. The workshop won’t start until Monday, so I will have plenty of time to paint for myself! I will check in again after.

A week in La Crosse, WI

Thanks again to Bob Witte (http://wittesendstudio.blogspot.com/)
for inviting me to teach a workshop in La Crosse!

On the short flight from Chicago to La Crosse I flew over the most scenic, rolling hills you can imagine, littered with working dairy farms. I knew I was in for a treat!
La Crosse did not disappoint and I can genuinely say that I loved the area! It reminded me so much of Bavaria Germany, minus the buildings, of course.

If you’re not familiar with LC, I highly recommend a visit. Expecting midwestern flatness, I was quite surprised to encounter the most beautiful landscape with endless subject matter to paint!
More paintings in the next blogpost!

The workshop went really well and we all created some interesting paintings. Credit for the photos I posted goes to Dave Bass, photographer and proprietor of the SG1311 Gallery in La Crosse (http://www.sg1311.blogspot.com/)

Have a look at his excellent work here http://www.dbassphoto.com/
Thank you, Dave!

What makes a painting beautiful, Part III

There’s more to it than putting pigment on paper. One of the things I have learned is that, not only do we paint best what we know best, but also, we paint best what we truly love! Somehow that love goes into the painting and other people pick up on it. Every scene ‘feels’ different. Early morning, midday, twilight…winter, summer, spring and fall. It is important to convey the feeling of the subject, I think. If I hear that one of my paintings made somebody feel as though they were there, I know I have succeeded!

Light and color have a lot to do with it. They set the mood in a painting. It is one thing to copy nature but quite another to express her in a painting! We must never loose the big message to all the little unimportant detail. For instance, we need to consider the sweeping energy that a tree has, not so much how many leaves there are.

When working from a photograph, I think it’s important to do a drawing of the scene first. By interpreting the scene in your own way, you’ll paint a better picture than you would by slavishly copying everything on the photograph!

 

 

What makes a painting beautiful?

I am thinking if people comment about a particular painting and call it beautiful, I have accomplished my mission. But what exactly is it that makes art beautiful? In the ’70s the word ‘kitsch’ was used for art that was considered…well, not beautiful, or substandard!

Wikipedia says:
‘Kitsch (/ˈkɪtʃ/; loanword from German) is a low-brow style of mass-produced art or design using
popular or cultural icons. Kitsch generally includes unsubstantial or gaudy works or decoration, or works that are calculated to have popular appeal.’

I guess that includes Thomas Kinkade! A winter scene with smoking chimney tops and lights on in *every window* of the house, yet somehow green and red trees? Yeah….kitsch! Not beautiful. In his excellent 1950s book Eye of the Painter & Elements of Beauty, Andrew Loomis listed 12 Elements of beauty. After all, it can’t just be one thing!

Here’s what Loomis wrote: Unity, Simplicity, Design, Proportion, Color, Rhythm, Form, Texture, Values, Quality of light, Choice of subject, Technique.

Definitely the bible for me when I first started long ago. Even now every teacher talks about these! They repeat themselves in traditional painting like the backdrop in a Flintstone’s cartoon. And forgood reason! The ones I struggle the most with is ‘Rhythm’ and since I am mostly watercolor painting nowadays, ‘Texture’. Texture in watercolor painting is very limited.
‘Rhythm’ is almost esoteric. You can’t put your finger on it. There’s rhythm in a landscape, the hills. There’s rhythm in a tree or a flower. Everything has rhythm, from the smallest forms to the cycles of the universe (to quote Loomis).

Choice of subject is relative, in my opinion. You can make a pretty drab subject look beautiful. That is when the artist comes in! Just look at Dean Mitchell’s work. Often far from pretty subjects, but beautiful art nonetheless. I’ll talk about some of the other elements in the next blogpost.