Luke’s great, great grandparents owned a carnival that traveled from town to town. Spin the wheel and you might win a bird in a birdcage.

Luke's Great Great Grandparents

Luke’s Great Great Grandparents

Their son, Luke’s grandfather, preferred the high seas and became a merchant mariner, traveling from continent to continent rather than town to town.  Eventually, the carnival was sold to Barnum and Bailey.  Though Luke didn’t inherit the wanderlust, he definitely inherited the love of theatrics and showmanship.  His great, great grandparents would be proud.

Watercolor Painting – The Carnival -commissioned by Luke’s wife, Carrie.  Image 8″ x 12″ framed to 12″ x 16″.  The painting will hang on the wall beside the player piano, across from the stand up Victrola (both in excellent working condition).

Limited palette: Burnt Umber, Raw Umber and a touch of French Ultramarine Blue.

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Fog dampened my cheeks and the landscape lay before me in a variety of grays.  One good thing about the landscape when the sun is blocked by thick cloud cover is that the shadow shapes don’t change.  The lighting is consistently dreary.  I was determined to explore the nuances of blue-gray, purple-gray, and yellow-gray.  A thin layer of washes covered my canvas and I began mixing thicker paint.

A fifteen second moment of brilliance

Suddenly the wind picked up, the trees rattled leafless branches and the clouds parted.  Sunlight drenched the foremost bank of trees across the road causing them to sparkle like diamonds set against dark neighboring trees still cloaked in the shadow of clouds.  I gasped, grateful to be witness of such spectacular beauty and happy that I was wet, painting on the porch rather than dry, painting indoors from a lifeless photograph.

Hah!  I recognized the moment as a test of my convictions.  I want to use the landscape only as a starting point, an inspiration, a reference.  I want to study it for clues of colors I would not think of, for shapes I haven’t played with, for textures and movement that will give life to my painting.

I continued to paint, holding in my vision the moment I witnessed and inventing colors rather than match the landscape that had returned to slight variations of gray.  The break in the clouds had closed.

Painting:  Oil on 10.5″ x 14″ prepared wood panel.

Limited Palette: Scarlet Lake, Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow, Cobalt Blue, Titanium White

The series of lessons on Color/Value has begun.  I posted Lesson One on my Creative Color blog last night.

Sneak preview of next color wheel

I will be posting no more than two lessons per week, usually only one.  I know how difficult it is to carve time out of the day to sit down and paint color wheels or to complete assignments of any kind while still exploring one’s own path.  I am starting at the very beginning, the absolute basics to build a strong foundation for a comprehensive understanding of color, specifically focused on value.

When choosing colors either pure or for mixing, recognizing the intrinsic value of the color can produce fresh, expressive color as well as stronger compositional elements in a painting.  An added bonus is that the traveling painter is able to travel lighter, needing fewer tubes of paint to express the experience of the day.

I will use a variety of media throughout the lessons, oil, acrylic, watercolor, gouache and pastel. Each lesson asks the participating artists to apply the lesson in a painting of choice.  These sample paintings may be submitted to me if the artist is so inclined.  I will, on occasion post some of these samples (giving credit and links to the artists of course) on a special page of the Creative Color blog.  We will all learn far more by viewing the work of a variety of artists rather than just my own examples.

If you can think of creating color wheels and sample swatches as a form of meditation it makes the exercise less of a chore and more of a joy.

As an artist, one of the biggest challenges is being flexible yet disciplined about my priorities.

Justine Gardner playing bass at the Blues Jam

I want to thank all the musicians who take the time to come out to Larry Holmes Ringside Restaurant for the Tuesday Night, Todd Wolfe Blues Jam to play three songs, sometimes but not always having the opportunity to play one or two more.  For me, listening to you, watching you, laughing with you and painting you makes that challenge of balancing the rest of my life so much easier.

painting: drawn first in black ink with a dip pen, followed by strokes of watercolor using a simple, primary palette of yellow, blue and red.

The day passed.  As the sun was setting I felt like the Cheshire Cat, grinning from ear to ear.

Acrylic set up on front porch

I didn’t use the paper palette that can be seen through the sheet of plexiglass.  I ended up moving the damp paper towels with squeezed out paint onto a stay-wet palette that I can easily move aside to clean off the plexiglass every few minutes before the paint hardened on it.

The results of my first day making friends with acrylic paint

My first mental block had been my inability to mix lovely colors.  My second block was the idea of ruining my good brushes by using them with acrylic paints.  The first block I erased when I took the time to create color charts.  The second one was erased by using a flat pan filled with water to rest the brushes in when I wasn’t using them.  Easily portable.  Perfect!  I used synthetic watercolor brushes.  They are still fine this morning.  Whew!

My favorite of the day

As the hours passed I allowed myself more freedom to be creative with color, shapes and strokes.  I used the landscape across the street as a catalyst for tapping into my personal response to the paint on the wood panel, allowing inventive forms and color schemes.

When the sun set, I was able to stack all eight paintings on top of one another and carry them into the house.  Incredible.

Limited palette: Perylene Red, Indian Yellow Hue, Prussian Blue Hue, Permanent Sap Green, Raw Umber, Titanium White.

After taking the time to make color charts based on five tubes of acrylic paint, I decided to keep trying rather than give my acrylics away.

En plein air with acrylic paints

I’ve posted the color charts on my other blog, Creative Color.

My limited palette is Perylene Red, Indian Yellow Hue, Prussian Blue Hue, Permanent Sap Green and Raw Umber.

Complete frustration and failure was avoided by using a sheet of plexiglass for a palette.  I folded damped paper towels that I lay along two edges of the plexiglass.  I squeezed the paint out onto the dampened paper towels and continued to mist the paint with water throughout the painting session.  For me, the key was to wipe the plexi palette clean every few minutes.  I limited my mixtures to using only two colors (plus white).

Though I still struggled with the quick drying time, I found myself enjoying the experience.  I kept my colors clean, though not terribly exciting yet.  I used only two brushes that I lay flat in a tray filled with water when I wasn’t using them.  This worked well to keep the paint from hardening in the bristles.