A two-fer

Just because I wussed out on Sky Pads for a couple of months (or more) doesn’t mean I wasn’t thinking about them. I already had the background washes done in early September so it wasn’t a stretch to get the first layer on over the background once I finally decided to get moving. So here’s the result for you to mull over exactly what you think you might be seeing.

Posted in art, landscape, light, oil paintings, painting techniques, Poured paint, Sky Pads | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

A horse got me moving again

I think I fell victim to “Covid coma” without even having the disease. My “blogging coma” lasted a couple of months, meaning I didn’t do any painting at all since early September. I’m pretty sure part of the lethargy was brought on by the September sale of the boarding barn where I ride and the subsequent installation of new management, followed by the death of my riding instructor in late October. And throw in a hefty dose of political consternation for good measure.

Then a week or so ago this little watercolor on Aquabord™ horse portrait commission came in to break the spell. It had a deadline, so of course I woke myself up and completed it on time.

The original photo was quite dark, so I brightened it up in Photoshop so I could see which black parts were harness and which black parts were horse. In spite of the very nicely in-focus photo I still had a bit of trouble tracking where all the black straps and lines went on the black horse. I would be drawing and following one line through the various rings and then “poof” it would magically disappear. And there were so many of them! In the end, there’s only one tiny section which isn’t 100% accurate, but I’m not letting on where it is.

Here’s a work progression from start to finish. The colors don’t always match from photo to photo because everything but the final (and most accurate) rendering was taken with a not-so-wonderful phone and the final one with a D-SLR. Click on any of the photos to bring up a full-size gallery image.

Posted in Aquabord, art, drawing, Gypsy Vanner, horse portrait, horses, horses and carts, painting techniques, watercolor | Tagged , , , , , , | 23 Comments

As usual, looks can be misleading

Sky Pads 30, background paint pour

I’m pretty sure if I showed you the source photo side by side with this one, you’d all be going “gaaahhh, what is this?”  At the moment, it could just be an abstract of a field of yellow flowers. Or a rush of water over some mossy stones. I’m not even sure if it’s right side up yet. All I can say at this point is that it will have multiple layers of paint over it, and the undercoat will influence those layers one way or another. Fortunately, unlike its recent predecessors, I will not have to do a reverse drawing in white instead of black because this background coat is light enough to see my usual brown pen strokes when I project the drawing onto it.

Since the drawing at this point is nonexistent, I guess I should hop on that and get it done while I wait for this background to dry thoroughly.

I have the paint pour done for #31 too, but it’s so boring (on purpose) that there’s no point in posting it. Just imagine a large canvas with a sort of ombre effect going light to dark in a shade of violet.

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This was one for the long haul

Final photo lighting is better than in-progress shots, so it looks a bit different but is more accurate.

Sky Pads 29 required an inordinate amount of rumination. Each time I would complete a section I had to think about how the next was going to go. It all looks harmonious, but this one was tricky because of the 6 layers of paint forming the background.

Normally I can paint over a background and my glazes will not dissolve the layers underneath. In order to obtain the bright colors in the lily pads I painted their silhouettes white so I would have a consistent base to work with. It didn’t seem to matter how long I let that white undercoat dry, the paint laid down on top of it dissolved the white to one degree or another. This is probably because the layers underneath created a very smooth surface–the canvas at this point had hardly any “tooth” to it. However, I went with the flow and accepted the challenge of dealing with it until I got the look I was after. I spent my “waiting time” painting the wood for the frame. So as soon as this is good and dry, we do some varnish coats and install the frame. That will be the joyous end of the long haul…

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29 is 27 on steroids…

Here’s a huge clue as to what the rest of Sky Pads 29 will look like.


And below, here’s what 27 looks like, just in case you’re new to my blog, or, God forbid, have already forgotten what you saw a couple of months ago😂.

Sky Pads 27


As you can see from 29’s lonely white lines still waiting for their own colors, Sky Pads 29 is about half way to the finish line. I had a novel experience projecting the drawing onto this canvas. Sky Pads 27 was a snap, the white lines shone brightly over the dark background and I was done in a trice. For some reason, which I had better figure out pretty soon if I want to keep painting in this style, the lines I projected onto 29’s even darker background were barely visible. I could see them if I looked way over from the side, but even then I had to keep the original drawing in my hand to make sure I didn’t misinterpret them or miss something all together.

Sky Pads 29 is taking its time, but I have no other excuse to offer than if you have a lot of time on your hands (pandemic) whatever tasks you have set for yourself will expand to take up all the time available to them. When you have no time, you get them done faster. I guess this is a good time to refresh an old saying–“patience is a virtue” (to which as a kid I always used to add “which I don’t have”).

Posted in art, landscape, oil paintings, painting techniques, Sky Pads | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

Not diving any deeper, but getting pretty thick

Six layers now. Just about ready!

These last two layers started with a coat of blue paint, but not just any blue. I have a favorite mix of green and magenta that produces my favorite blue. I know, you’re saying that combination can’t possibly make blue. I didn’t think so either until, long long ago, I tried it. The catch is, it works great with phthalo green and quinacridone magenta–probably because they are both transparent synthetic pigments.

On top of that layer I used the same mix, but threw in a generous dollop of dioxazine purple–another transparent synthetic pigment–to create a lush purple. This background is now millimeters away from ready. One more layer of the purple in a few spots should do it. Then the drawing below will be laid on top like a coloring book outline in reverse. If you saw my posts for Sky Pads 27 you’ll recognize the technique. I have to put white lines on the canvas when I project the drawing because it’s so dark I wouldn’t see anything else.

No, it’s not upside down 😂 I just wrote the size upside down.

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Diving a little deeper

Two more layers on Sky Pads 29

It’s starting to float between appearing cloudy or watery after the last two layers. Still not dark enough, so there will probably be at least two more layers, or maybe even three. This photo shows the two layers I brushed on today, the first one being plain old yellow and plain old purple–not necessarily blended together but just sharing the same canvas. The second layer was a mix of mars red and phthalo green. Mars red is kind of brick-colored, and phthalo green is a bright green that trends toward blue. Mixed together they give a nice rich deep green. When this new green was applied in a transparent layer it took on either a blue cast or a green cast depending on what was underneath it. The in-house art critic suggested I take a photo including our orange tabby cat. Could have been a FaceBook page game of “find the cat”. I respectfully declined.

“Bird”, our orange tabby. He was named for Charlie Parker. All three of our cats are named for jazz greats.

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Your guess is as good as mine

Well, the magenta undercoat hasn’t totally disappeared but it has acquired some new color. I did a little test run by painting some magenta and yellow on a palette sheet and dropping other colors over it. I coded the test sheet so I could remember what I did, but you can’t really see what I wrote through the glare.

Anyhow, this background will be getting progressively darker. I don’t know how many layers it will take to do that, but I will keep going until I get there. The main water lily subject matter will go on top of this background, just like it did for Sky Pads 27. This one will be a bit more subdued however.

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Sky Pads 29–Let’s get started

Some nice, totally unblemished, deep magenta poured paint!

It almost looks like magenta rain. It’s got some yellow in it too, but the yellow got largely overwhelmed. No matter. It won’t make much difference in the end. This painting will be a bit of an echo of #27, but not as dramatic. I’m still waiting for something to equal #27. It may be a long wait.

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Rooting around in an artist’s brain

I think I started this painting (Sky Pads 28) a little over a month ago. It should have been finished a couple of weeks ago but it insisted on raising issues I had no immediate answer for. So I did as usual, which was to let it sit there, to stare at it blankly, and wait until something suggested itself.

The flat pads in the foreground presented the first challenge, which fortunately just let me stumble through and arrive at something I liked. The issue was color. I had used different base colors for the right set of pads than for the left. I don’t know why. Somehow I just thought in the middle of progress to change the process. When I got to the layers on top of the base colors the combination I used for the right side was not going to work for the left–but—they had to look the same, or at least similar. Otherwise it was going to look like two different paintings. Or at least the work of two different artists. Couldn’t abide that, so I just kept trying things out until I found a combination that worked. Not the best method in the world, but you do whatever works.

First pass underpainting on left side, second pass on right side

Sky Pads 28, basically finished except for one tiny corner.

After that, completing the nice big green/yellow leaves climbing into the upper right hand corner was pretty much of a routine matter. But all the time I was painting them I was giving the side-eye to the last remaining, teeny tiny area. There was this little red smeary circle with what might be a worm in it in the upper left-hand corner which was totally unintended. See the photo below.

The background. Something landed in the upper left hand corner while it was drying.

I knew from previous experiments that I was never going to get that little circle area to blend into the flow of poured-on paint around it. But I couldn’t make myself just leave it there, regardless of my vow to leave all poured paint “as-is”. It was just too distracting, too unrelated to its environment.

The answer came not from any active searching for it. I just happened to remember that last summer I spent an inordinate amount of time photographing dragon flies out on the Mill Pond. I don’t know why I spent that much time, because I also remember thinking I would probably never have any use for them. Especially since they don’t like to pose for you–you have to track them as they’re flying in order to get anything resembling good focus, and they like to make a lot of sudden dips and turns. I did get one nice shot, though, and as if to make the job easier, it was even facing the right direction for what I had in mind.

Final version of Sky Pads 28 now has a little dragon fly appearing to have just touched down and then lifted off, leaving a little ripple behind.

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