Monday, May 28, 2012

Summer Wakening (So Close to the Finishing Line...), and the Beginning of Petal Light III

I was reading Kara's blog post and she mentioned that some paintings just come easier than others (and she got a beautiful painting of earthenware to prove it). Well... This painting is just the contrary - every step has been a struggle. I was trying new techniques learned in the fabulous Jeannie Vodden's class, and tested multi-colored glazing on the flower. It is so against my nature to build thing layers of color gradually to full strength that time and time again I had to control my urge to just go right in with a thick brush load of Vermilion Red and achieve full intensity in one go! I am also using limited palette, which is so against my nature (I have 57 pigments on my palattes, really, I just counted... =___=b....). But in the end, I did like the more delicate, jewel-like glow created my multiple glazes. The color looks... richer, and with subtle variations. The limited palette created a more harmonious feel of the color scheme (I was going for a rough complementary of red vs. green). And finally, I did get a chance to play with rich, saturated colors in the wet-in-wet background! That feels like candy...

Summer Wakening, 
Watercolor on Lanaquarelle 140# Cold Press Press Paper , 10"h x 8"w, WIP 7

For the next project I chose to exercise with completely different technique -- paint from shape to shape and each shape to its completion before to move to the adjacent shapes. It's a technique I think suitable for Fabriano paper, on which glazing is hard but lifting is easy -- hence I could soften edges of adjacent painted areas relatively easily, without having to worry too much about the hard rims of color formed between two areas painted next to each other, both wet-on-dry. (Or so I hope... We shall see :-P.) It's another bird of paradise painting, No. 3 in the "Petal Light" series. (I know, I know, I have not finished either No. 1 or No.2 of this serie; but... On my defense: starting a new painting is always fun!)

Petal Light III, 
Watercolor on Fabriano Artistico140# Cold Press Press Paper , 10"h x 14"w, WIP 1

I will try to finish a couple of paintings I've started long ago. I've taken them out for reevaluation and got some valuable in sight from it. I promise...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Petal Light II (Continued...)

Continue to develop the flower wet in wet, mingling Permanent Rose and New Gamboge for the various temperature of oranges. The darker passages are painted by mingling Alizarin Crimson, Quinacridone Gold and French Ultramarine.

Petal Light #2, Watercolor on Arches 140# Cold Press Paper, 8"h x 10"w, WIP 3

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Summer Wakening (Resumed...)

I have labored over this rose painting on and off for a couple of days, putting down layer after layer of Permanent Rose, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Red Deep and Scarlet Lake (mixed with New Gamboge for areas with reflected light and Winsor Blue for shadows) to deepen the color of the petals, making them more saturated, and turn the form. The flower itself is coming close to a finish. I will switch to work on the background to bring out the shine very soon. Although the colors on the petals in shadow looks a bit too dark now, with a darkened background, I think they should look just the right value... Well, we'll see ;-).

Summer Wakening, 
Watercolor on Lanaquarelle 140# Cold Press Press Paper , 10"h x 8"w, WIP 6

Lanaquarelle paper is a little bit easier to glaze on and achieve darker colors compared to Fabriano Artistico, but glazing a watery wash on top of thickly painted dark color would often result in uneven drying, and the re-dried darker passages appear grainy, so a strict light-to-dark painting procedure needs to be planned and carried out. Also, repeated glazing over the same area would result in a darker ring formed on the boundary of the area, which is more prominent on softer paper like this which color lifts relatively easier comparing to Arches and Richeson paper. I like the delicate handling quality of Lana paper, and this painting has certainly taught me a lot about it...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Last Light (Finished)

More winter paintings... In this one the main struggle is to keep all the warm colors found in sunset times brilliant yet maintain the feeling that this is a cold winter day. I loved all the play of calligraphic brushwork on the weed stalks and branches of little trees. Cadmium Scarlet was used thickly in the end to add the touches of red on top of the dark branches to indicate reflected light.

Last Light,  Watercolor on Arches 140# Cold Press Paper , 5"h x 7"w, 2012 #31

Bid at My DPW Auction (Starting Bid $25)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Featured!!! (Thanks Carrie!!!...)

Today I was featured in the blog of Carrie Waller, an amazing watercolor artist, in her "Friday Feature" series of artists. I feel really really really honored and happy... (Thank you Carrie for doing this despite your very busy schedule moving this weekend!...)

Carrie herself paints beautiful, sparkling, jewel-like watercolors of still life setups lid in dramatic lighting as well as landscape of places near and far. Her glass series have won top awards in national exhibitions, including twice winning Outstanding Watercolor Award in the FASO Bold Brush Contest (November and December 2011). She's also recently appeared in the "Artists Helping Artists" blog talk radio show. Considering the fact that for most of the past few years her husband was stationed in Afghanistan and she has two young boys at home to take care of, I am often amazed by how she manages to find time to paint everyday and be so prolific with high quality work... Carrie is also an incredibly kind and generous person and has given me numerous good tips ranging from the handling of the watercolor medium to how to better market my art in the big wild online world -- despite of her busy busy schedule everyday. I'm sure all of you have been to Carrie's Blog and Website -- both of which contain a wealth of information of how she creates her beautiful watercolors step by step, as well as her thought process behind these treasured watercolors. 

Preservation,  Watercolor by Carrie Waller , 14.5"h x 20"w

Thanks again, Carrie!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Falling Snow (Thoughts of You Fall Quietly upon Me...), & Slowly Proceeding forward with Spring Meadow, Tamalpais...

Ok, ok, I am admitting... Like everyone else I am addicted to the new HBO series "Game of Thrones". And after watching the snow-covered mysterious northern countries of the Starks for weeks, anxiously waiting for each new episode to appear on the TV screen every Sunday, I thought I'd pay my homage by doing some small paintings of snow scenes on Sundays. 

Falling Snow (Thoughts of You Fall Quietly upon Me...),  
Watercolor on Arches 140# Rough Paper , 7"h x 8"w, 2012 #30


This Sunday's episode gives me a profound sense of loss and loneliness, which prompted me to try to capture the same feeling in this little imagined scene. I imagined it outside someone's window in the northern woods, and the thoughts of the host slowly drifting away to a distant place to be with someone she cares deeply about with the snow veiling the worlds surrounding her little by little... Life in the northern woods, where the life changes following the pattern of the seasons. A distant past, another life...

It was fun painting this one. I experimented with diluting the paint mixture little by little when painting each of the foreground trees from top down to create the effect of snow being blown by wind and drifting near the ground. Paper towels came in handy in wiping away the last bit of thin mixtures near the bottom of the picture to make them completely disappear. I played with calligraphic strokes on the dried weeds near the ground, and on the bare branches of the little tree in the foreground. A limited palette of Cobalt Blue, French Ultramarine, Brown Madder Alizarin, Burnt Sienna and a little bit of Raw Sienna was all that's used. Sober mood calls for muted colors...

I'm also progressing cautiously with my fog painting, "Spring Meadow, Tamalpais". I painted wet on dry using very fluid mixture of Cobalt Blue, Indian Yellow, Burnt Sienna and a little bit Sap Green, paying attention to vary the proportion of colors in the mixture when painting the tree shapes to make it more interesting. Near the ground, I thinned the mixture again in the attempt to capture the effect of ground mist often found in foggy mountain meadows. Again, paper towel came in handy here and there for lifting and wiping out... I am trying to be cautious about how many layers of trees to put in -- a small picture surface can quickly become too busy if I get carried away planting trees ;-). But one or two more layers may still be needed...

Spring Meadow, Tamalpais,  
Watercolor on Winsor Newton 140# Cold Press Paper , 5"h x 9"w, WIP 3

Saturday, May 12, 2012

More Fog Paintings...

Here's one of the other fog paintings I worked on yesterday and today. This one is more of a struggle compared to the previous post -- I liked the subtle effects I already achieved in the first wash, but realized that I had to take the risk and put a second, third or forth wet wash on top of it to achieve the depth and subtle muted color needed for this fog scene. The foreground meadow was far too bright and saturated. In a foggy day the meadow may appear very lush green because of the moisture, but to achieve unity in the entire painting, that lushness had to be toned down just a bit since the water vapor in the air would affect even the most close-by objects and blur them a bit too. I did just that in the second pass -- wet the entire painting front and back and laid it on a piece of plexiglass covered with wet paper towels to extend precious time I can use to manipulate wet pigments on the paper surface. I used Cobalt Blue and Indian Yellow to mix the green for the tree line, adding just a tiny bit of Burnt Sienna to mute it further. The yellow and blue separated on the very wet surface, and formed a slight blurry yellow halo around the tree tops, which I really liked -- it reminded me the morning sun shinning behind the foggy forest. I experimented with stiffer brush and denser pigments on the foreground meadows a bit. I think the most scary part -- wet the entire sheet -- is done at this stage. I will add layers of tree lines wet on dry and work on the foreground meadow a bit more to finish it... (Instead of ruin it, I hope :-P)

Spring Meadow, Tamalpais,  
Watercolor on Winsor Newton 140# Cold Press Paper , 6"h x 10"w, WIP 2

I also spent quite a few hours really darkening the background foliages and adding wet-in-wet effects on "Peppermint Rose". Color granulates so nicely on Fabriano Artistico paper surface, but adding the required density of pigments are really painful to accomplish on this paper! I am in a love-hate relationship with it. The soft surface stop to absorb water and pigments much faster than harder paper such as Arches or Richeson, so it's very easy to have dense pigments pooling on a wet surface, creating mud. This one is close to a finish now, I have to be very careful with it...

Peppermint Rose, 
Watercolor on Fabriano Artistico 140# Cold Press Paper, 8"h x 8"w, WIP 6

Friday, May 11, 2012

Morning Fog, Tamalpais (Finished), and Keying Petal Light #1

I worked on several small landscape paintings today, some turned out better than others. My focus was on how to achieve believable effects of a foggy day. This often means a lot of wet-in-wet painting to create soft edges, adding more blues to the far-away objects such as background mountains, and neutralize color rapidly from foreground back. Some lifting with a damp brush and tissue paper near the base of trees may be needed, as well as adding water to created a graded wash when painting a group of trees from top down -- as their base are often covered by ground fog and appear lighter and more indistinct. I did all of the above in "Morning Fog, Tamalpais", and introduced my warm colors (Burnt and Raw Sienna) only in the foreground shrubs to make they appear forward.

Morning Fog, Tamalpais,  
Watercolor on Arches 140# Cold Press Paper , 6"h x 9"w, 2012 #29


I sent out some packages of sold paintings during the week. One of them was a gift to someone living in the American River Delta so I included a little sktech I did the other day on a watercolor postcard by Richeson & Co. It was a scene right before the summer rain rolling onto the far horizon of the delta. The time constraints imposed by paper drying rapidly outdoors determined that a sketch like this cannot take more than a couple of minutes to finish, which I think is a great exercise for me -- since I am such a slow painter. I should definitely do this more often!...

Before the Summer Rain - Sketch of Delta,  
Watercolor on Richeson 140# Cold Press Postcard, 4"h x 6"w, 2012 #30

To switch gear a little I worked on "Petal Light #1" in between wet washes of the foggy landscapes. To gauge how much more work needs to be done to the leaves, I put down the local colors of the bird of paradise flower, carefully saving my whites on the lightest of lights by wiping away any astray colors in these areas with a damp brush. Then around the flowers I put down some of my darkest passages of leaves to see if the flower pops out enough. Putting down the darkest darks -- even just in small areas and lightest of lights (other than the whites you are saving) is very important in developing a sound value pattern of a painting. I often do this in small, isolated areas when I am developing a painting mid way, and get confused of how much darker everything has to go. I think I have a better idea now -- the bigger leaves on the top half of the painting has to go way dark, but maybe one or two value lighter than the leaves next to the center flower on a nine-step value scale. Now the challenge is to achieve that without losing luminosity and create a "black-hole" in the top half of the image. Some wet-in-wet glazing time...

Petal Light #1, Watercolor on Arches 140# Cold Press Paper, 10"h x 8"w, WIP 5

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Work in Progress: Petal Light #2, Beauty Queen, & Starting of a New Rose Painting (What?! Another One?!...)

Following the advice given by Kara, I'm putting aside "Petal Light #1" and worked some more on "Petal Light #2", starting to add complementary color -- blues and purples on the stamen. 

Petal Light #2, Watercolor on Arches 140# Cold Press Paper, 8"h x 10"w, WIP 2

I also added some more localized washes on the background of "Beauty Queen", starting to break up the leaf shapes a bit more. It's still very soft and unfocused at this stage, and the colors are light. I will add one more wash to define the shadow shapes on the leaves, then starting to develop the flower.

Beauty Queen, Watercolor on Arches 140# Cold Press Paper, 7"h x 5"w, WIP 3

And... Mad as it is, I just started another rose painting! I was so inspired by the glass paintings of Carrie Waller, that I decide to do a still life with cut crystal glass in it... The small facets on the crystal create numerous small shapes, which is quite daunting to me, but I think it will be fun to try to get that sense of light and transparency of it! The background is quite soft and out of focus, ideal for practicing what I have learned in the amazing Jeannie Vodden's class. I can't wait to work some more on it...

Greetings of May, Watercolor on Lanaquarelle 140# Cold Press Paper, 11"h x 7"w, WIP 1

Friday, May 4, 2012

Work in Progress: Petal Light #1 and Peppermint Rose

I have spent better part of the day agonizing over the first "Petal Light" series of bird of paradise today. On the reference photo most of leaf shapes are in shadow, therefore in the dark to mid-dark value range. Even the ones that are in the light have mid-value local colors, and the only light shape in the photo is the flower. To avoid a straight bull's eye effect, and make the composition more interesting, I need to find a way to make the leaf shapes more interesting. I have experimented with adding more colors of blue, yellow and even purple into the leaf colors, greatly exaggerate the color tendencies I saw on the reference photo. But I'm now at a point that the entire painting looks colorfully disintegrated. The lacking of unity coming from painting the leaf shapes as patch-work of color patterns makes me not sure of what to do next. It's been a struggle, but I will stick with it -- I believe this reference photo has great potentials of becoming an interesting painting, plus solving this problem would allow me to eventually do projects of similar kind in the future. So I am determined to fight through...

Petal Light #1, Watercolor on Arches 140# Cold Press Paper, 10"h x 8"w, WIP 4

I also worked on "Peppermint Rose" a bit more, darkening the shadow shapes in the center of the flower. The flower now looks much more three-dimensional. It's a different kind of struggle for this one, since getting those dark shapes to look soft and diffused is not an easy task on the Fabriano paper, as I have complained in previous posts. I did enjoy the capability of lifting any color, even the staining ones, to almost white on this paper though. This allows adding and subtracting both light and dark shapes in the painting process, giving me more flexibility in changing the design of shadow shapes on the go. I am letting go of the reference photo at this point, reacting more to the shapes that are emerging on the paper and trying to arrange them into a more pleasing jigsaw puzzle of lights and darks. 65% done for this one, maybe?....

Peppermint Rose, 
Watercolor on Fabriano Artistico 140# Cold Press Paper, 8"h x 8"w, WIP 5

I took my painting "Island Beauty" from the "Secret Garden" show hosted by Pacific Art League in Palo Alto today, and was happy to learn that it has got an Honorable Mention. I am very surprised and happy about it -- it's a national juried show with some great artwork, most of which very conceptual. It's a great encouragement for me to keep on improving, and explore difference venues...

Island Beauty - White Plumeria,  
Watercolor on Fabriano Artistico 140# Cold Press Paper, 6"h x 6"w, 2012 #12

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hide and Seek II Finished!

I finally finished "Hide and Seek II" Monday night but did not get a chance to post it until now -- it is submitted to the Montana Watercolor Society's Watermedia 2012 National Exhibition, fingers crossed for me!

Hide and Seek II, 
Watercolor on Jack Richeson Zoltan Szabo140# Cold Press Paper, 10"h x 14"w, 2012 #28

I am holding onto this painting from auction at Daily Paintworks for now waiting to hear back from the show. If it does not get into the show, I will offer it for auction with a starting bid of $250. If it does get into the show and not get sold there, I will list it after it's back from the show.

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