Posting online tutorials has been one of my goals for the past year.  It has finally become a reality, thanks to all who have already walked this path and are willing to share their expertise.  I have spent the last two weeks learning how to set up the ipad on my tripod, exchanging files between devices, editing, adding music and uploading to Vimeo.  Next phase is voice overs and text.

I’m posting basic tutorials on my website blog showing various lessons taught in my Color Scheme Game Workshops.  I hope they will serve as quick reference and refreshers for my students.

What I didn’t expect was that I would learn so much from watching myself paint!

Drawings often deviate from the original plan.

Pressed Red Tip Photinia Branch with shadows, backlit illumination

The plan was to paint the drawing according to color value rather than color hue using illogical and discordant hues.  I began drawing with a dip pen using Diamine Ochre ink.  I wanted to see what variations of hue the ink would separate into when I added only clean water along the edges of the lines.  The flow of ink into the water worked beautifully for the dry, pressed leaves, more of a burnt sienna hue than an ochre hue. I followed the inspiration of the leaves rather than proceed with my original plan.  After painting the shadows and cell shapes the leaves looked flat and uninteresting.  I pale wash of aureolin with a touch of burnt sienna brought life back into the leaves.

I’ll give my original plan another try and post it on the Creative Color Blog later today.

Sketchbook Drawing: Pressed Red Tip Branch and Shadows, ink and watercolor.  Limited palette of aureolin, french ultramarine blue and burnt sienna.

At an early age, I became my brother’s barber to save him from my mother attacking him with this Craftsman Electric Hair Clipper.

Family Treasures No. 47, Craftsman Electric Hair Clipper

Instead of using the hair clippers to mow his hair, I pruned his hair with the Edward Scissorhands technique.  He was my only customer.  About thirty years later, using a new model of the electric hair clipper, my daughters convinced a good friend of mine to allow them to mow her hair down to a height of about three-quarters of an inch.  She loved it for all of about an hour and a half.  It took half a year for her hair to regain any sort of form or shape.

Family Treasures No. 47 – Craftsman Electric Hair Clipper: Drawn first with dip pen using Scribal Work Shop “Nessie” ink followed by watercolor washes and a few white lines using a Pentel White Gel Pen.  Limited palette of Aureolin (Winsor Newton), French Ultramarine Blue (Winsor Newton) and Permanent Alizarin (Winsor Newton).  This is an example of painting by color value rather than hue or color scheme.  I posted another example yesterday on the Creative Color Blog.  I’ll be teaching a Color Value Workshop at Village Art Supply in Santa Rosa, CA (along with four other workshops) at the end of January 2013.  To learn more about the method used to paint the image above, visit today’s post on the Creative Color Blog.

Changing the value of a shape can be the difference between the painting popping or not popping.  Unless I’m aiming for subtlety or moodiness, I like my paintings to pop.

Before and after a second wash of green on the center cell

Darkening the value of the center cell creates a much greater sense of space, or depth, in the image.  I like the way it hovers over the rest of the painting when it’s a darker value.  The image on the left bores me.  It doesn’t invite my eye into the painting to explore the various objects.

Family Treasures No. 19

I couldn’t resist revealing more of the treasures hidden within the skirt of the glass lady.

Sketchbook painting: drawn first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Black Ink, followed by watercolor on Rives BFK paper

I hated it.  I worked all day yesterday resolving issues on a painting I hated.  Why?  It wasn’t painterly.  Even before my first cup of coffee I had paintbrush in hand.

(left)- before, (right)- after

It boiled down to marks and edges.  I was overly focused on larger shapes rather than the smaller shapes that made up the larger shapes. There was little to none when it came to variation of edges.  I had not orchestrated the transitions between shapes allowing for subtleties of rhythm.  Darkening the value of the bottom right corner helped.  I’m still not crazy about the results, but I feel more confident that I will stay aware of painterly transitions when I set up my easel today.  Maybe I’ll tackle the cornfield!

Final version (I hope!)

If I feel the urge to go back into this one again, I’ll scrape it off instead.

Wildflowers, Detail, oil on wood panel

I am much happier with the marks.

Painting, 10.5″ x 18″ oil on wood panel, en plain air landscape

I’ve downloaded a photoshop app that allows me to snap a photo of my painting and change it to black and white on my phone.  This is incredibly helpful while painting en plein air.  I can tell immediately when values aren’t working well.

I painted Bob’s wildflower meadow a week ago.  The clouds were driving me crazy.

Original version of plein air oil painting

Before I could make any changes I had to wait for the oil paint to dry.  The sky already had a nasty green tint to it.  My original plan was only to clean up the sky and correct the cloud issue.

First Four variations

My plan usually changes.  With each stroke, new resolutions had to be found.

Next three variations

After the last resolution I have decided to move on …… whew …… I learned more from working my way through all these variations than I would have if I had started over eight times.  With each change, some elements improved and some nice passages were lost.

Comparison of first and final version of the painting

As always, the most important lesson is that paintings will go more smoothly, with more opportunity to play with color if I resolve the light and dark shapes FIRST!

Final Version of the wildflower meadow, 10.5″ x 18″ oil

Last night, as the sun headed toward the horizon, the clouds contrasted sharply with the blue sky.  Hmmmm. How dark a value would I have to mix my blue to get that breathtaking pop-up book look of the clouds?  A bit to the left the shadow side of the maple tree contrasted sharply with the blue sky.  Hmmmmmm, the sky only a mid-value, much lighter than I would have guessed.


I thought of the tree, sky and clouds this morning as I sketched and painted the hollyhocks.

Hollyhocks, Stage 2

I hesitated before painting in the blue shapes behind the flowers, but not for long.  I wanted to see if I could create a bit of excitement inspired by the drama of the evening sky.

Hollyhocks, 11″ x 11″

I’m glad I tried it.  I think I like it.  The blue is Joe’s Blue (Cheap Joe’s pthalo blue) with a touch of French Ultramarine.  The only other colors I used are Alizarin Crimson and Gamboge, a very limited palette.

Sketchbook painting:  drawn first in pencil, followed by watercolor.

A preview of the sailing series.

Racing No. 1

My goal is to keep the paintings simple with clean colors.  I want the viewer to feel the wind filling the sails, the tension on the lines and the angle of the boats cutting through the water.

Sketchbook drawing: Drawn first with fountain pen followed by watercolor.  I kept the color palette limited, warm and cool blues into violets with just a touch of  yellow.

I felt as if I had swallowed one of Alice’s funny pills when I found myself drawing and painting on a twelve foot wide span of wall rather than a 5″ x 5″ wood panel.  I adore painting large….. the larger the better.  I have not fear of blank walls. They cry out for illusions of space, expansion of landscape and sometimes for pure fantasy.

First stage of Dining Room Wall Mural

To add to the Alice in Wonderland experience, the paint is not what it seems.  The plan is to create a ghost image similar to the landscape view from the client’s back patio.  The darkest dark will not be much darker than the value seen in the image above.  The paint dries at least three shades darker than it looks when applied to the wall.  As we paint tree trunks over  the mass of background foliage the trunk looks to be much lighter than the foliage.  As it dries, the trunk totally disappears when it becomes the exact same value as the foliage.  Slowly it becomes visible again as it dries darker than the foliage.  Quite the challenge!  We paint ….. and then we wait.   We paint …… and then we wait.  We laugh at the absurdity of it as the mural begins to take form as if by magic.

We are using latex paint, light and dark variations of the exact wall color.  This is the first collaborative mural project that Xochitl and I have done together.  Though our personal painting preferences are quite different, we are both flexible enough and skilled enough to meet on common ground, bringing our strengths together.  We work well as a four armed artist.  I can be on a ladder, unable to judge where the branches should be painted with my invisible paint, with Xochitl acting as the eyes and brain of the artist directing my hand left, right, up or down.  We are already looking forward to working together on more murals …. the bigger …. the better.

Painting trees never gets any easier.

Cherry Blossoms, Weeping Cherry Tree

The day couldn’t have been better for painting en plein air.  I found a perfect spot in the shade and struggled for far too long, blocking in, getting picky, wiping off, blocking in, getting picky, wiping off…… Cherry Blossoms are so delicate.  The patterns and colors of Springtime are delicate.  It is difficult to be delicate when I’m painting with brushes that are 24″ long!  I’m determined to learn to paint with these outrageous brushes that I had the good fortune to find online.  They are much handier than the brushes I tied to long sticks after being inspired to do so by Robert Burridge.  What I find hard to believe is that I can still be picky when painting with these giants.

By the time I learn to be delicate, the spring blossoms will be gone ….. but flowering herbs will be next.

Cherry Blossoms, En plein air oil painting, 14.25″ x 14.25″.  Focus was on color value and edges.