Tag Archives: watercolor

Revisiting France

No, I haven’t been able to go back this year. I am still working from my library of pictures that I took while living there from 2007 to 2009. A friend of mine likes to call the south of France “God’s Country”, and I tend to agree with him. I really miss the closeness of nature and the peace there. Not to mention the charming French villages where you can just walk around and plop down your easel anywhere and find subject matter within minutes. A bit more complicated here in the US, where it always involves major driving, no parking and 24 hour traffic. Maybe I am a bit jaded; not everything can be compared to a place like Los Angeles and there are certainly quiet and charming places in the US as well.


The Dordogne River Valley (2011)
Watercolor on paper
NFS ::: Visit my France gallery

Anyway, this is one of my favorite views in the Dordogne. This painting worked out so well, I don’t think I’ll ever sell it! (Sorry!) The sky was done in one go and I purposely didn’t add any blue; just greyish clouds. The sky wash was converted into a blueish green at the horizon line and then quite green and strong in the foreground. The silvery blue of the river is simply a wash of cobalt blue and burnt umber (very little) and the reflections of the trees are added while still wet. It helps to tilt the board vertical to help let the pigment flow downwards.


Notice that I didn’t finish all the trees close to the viewer. I don’t think it’s necessary! This scene looks so simple but is actually not that simple to paint. Green is a difficult color to work with; many of my students tend to use too much of it in a scene like this and it ends up looking garish. It happens easily! I am very careful and I always try to tone down my greens by adding a bit of orange or red, basically neutralizing it a bit. Generally it’s better to stay away from scenes that are “overly green”. It’s a bit like trying to paint a sunset—it’s very difficult, the results are often not so great and it always looks much better when captured with a good camera!

San Clemente Workshop June 4 & 5, 2011

I am happy to report that my workshop last weekend was a success! We had 10 people for the first day and 9 on the second; one person opted to only do one day. I was very fortunate to get such a mellow group, all of them were really nice, there to learn, paint and absorb as much as possible. I couldn’t have been any luckier!


Thanks to Patti and Melissa of San Clemente Art Supply for all the hard work and providing such an inspiring atmosphere to do a workshop in, not to mention the fruit, coffee, juice and homemade (!) cookies! The store actually has a little garden area and is located in the most beautiful town with a view onto the ocean. It is a very special place and if you’re ever in the area I urge you to go check it out!

I decided to just incorporate this wonderful street view into my workshop on Sunday. It was a good way to get people used to being outside, sketching and making decisions on the fly. After all the sketches were complete, we moved back into the building to do the painting.

san_clemente_street-view, 2011 by frankeber

This street scene was particularly useful for teaching tonal value and creating distance in a painting. The small tower of the old movie theater serves as a nice backdrop. All we had to do is put some people and cars and the ocean as a background and voilá, there’s a painting! Being at a certain location to paint can really make a difference in our work. Something of the energy of the place will be transposed into the painting!

Everybody was very pleased to get such a vast amount of information and one woman said she hopes I could come on a regular basis and teach there. I would certainly be honored to come back to such a beautiful place and do more workshops and classes. Being in San Clemente feels like being on vacation, work or not… Thanks to all of my students for taking my workshop and making it easy for me. I appreciate every one of you!!

“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.

Taxis, night light!

city streets, 2011 by frankeber

City Streets, 2011 ::: Watercolor on paper
Posted in the New York USA gallery

I am still in my taxi phase. What I’m trying to paint right now is a view of times square, but I am having a lot of trouble with that! The light in Times Square is so intense, so many different billboards, lots of different colors, people. It is very hard to simplify a scene like that, I must have done at least ten paintings already and I don’t like a single one of them…

Hey, whatever it takes…

I can already hear someone say, “Well, some things just don’t work in watercolor.”

They work if you make it work! That’s what I say…

This scene is complicated as well, but much easier to handle as it can be divided into major shapes that don’t compete with one another. Night scenes are a tricky thing that way. I find that it’s easier to try to paint them almost in a single wash, using lots of pigment. The second wash was really only applied to the background to suggest windows and lights. I let the colors bleed to create many lost and found edges. I was very careful not to overwork the cars, because it’d make this painting look more like an illustration. Not that there’s something wrong with an illustration, it’s just not what I am going for here. I am not interested in painting the cars accurately. In fact, if you look at the closeup there are just shapes that suggest there are taxis there.

The goal is always to capture what a scene is all about and we never paint anything but shapes, we just call them trees, cars, buildings, clouds.

City streets, detail 2011 by frankeber

NYC snow!

NYC snowstorm, 2011 by frankeber
Snow storm, New York, 2011 ::: 18″ tall x 12″ wide : 45cm tall x 32cm wide
Posted in the New York, USA gallery
Availability : purchase : pricing ::: Contact me

Inspired by the recent snowstorms back east and especially in New York, I decided to paint a snow scene. The immediate attraction for this scene was the atmospheric quality in this cityscape.

This painting is done with a very limited palette but a wide tonal range! Colors I used were mostly cool greys, i.e. cobalt and ultrablue, greyed off by mixing in a bit of raw sienna (like in the sky) or burnt umber. For some reason I had a hard time making this scene work and it wasn’t until I put this fairly big shadow in the foreground that would pull the painting together. It was one of those times were I felt like I am struggling until I did something purely on instinct that ‘saved’ me. I thought I had it nailed with the two people trudging through the snow and the yellow cab pointed toward them, but without the foreground shadow there would not be a painting! The buildings would be too dominant and overpower the real story, which is the couple making their way across the street in freezing temperatures. Almost like a mountaineering moment except within an urban landscape!
NYC snowstorm detail, 2011 by frankeber
Most of the back and middle ground is done wet-in-wet whereas the people and the snow in the foreground was mostly dry-brushed.

I kept the buildings left and right very vague, there is no need to ‘spell everything out’. In my opinion, it is much better if your eyes sort of fill in the rest. The challenging part in this piece was to get the different tonal values between background and foreground right without going too dark or too light.