Uncategorized, Watercolor Painting

Watercolor on Gessoed Wood Panel

At last there’s time today to experiment with painting a scene in watercolor directly onto a sanded gesso panel.  This gesso preparation is meant for priming rigid surfaces such as this panel but usually for the purpose of oil or acrylic painting.  I’d read recently, however, about a watercolor painter who makes his own gessoed panels for “plein air” competitions, and thought I’d try it.  So,  earlier this week, I prepared a panel with several layers of gesso and sanded it down to a smooth surface after the gesso dried (photos below).

Baden 3

Illustration: “Twilight in Baden Baden” Watercolor on gessoed wood panel (18″ x 12″ x 1.75″)

As I tried this watercolor scene, I was pleasantly surprised by the effect on the panel and could instantly see the possibilities, with more practice, to  “lift” paint for lighter effects, glaze, scrape, create patterns and give more depth or dimension to the painting.  I’m sure I’ll be trying this again.  (To make the gesso, I used the Gamblin brand for traditional gesso and followed the instructions.)

Gesso panel

Illustration: Gessoed wood panel

Plain panel

Illustration: Plain wood panel

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Uncategorized, Watercolor Painting

Lichtentaler Allee in Water/color

A drizzly rain-slicked early evening in mid-November found me disembarking from a train in Baden Baden, Germany and soon walking along the historic Lichtentaler Allee.

Baden

Illustration: “Lichtentaler Allee” in watercolor and gouache on Arches rough paper (7″x10″) by Black Elephant Blog author

A bluish-purple hillside loomed faintly in the distance. Colors reflected on the drenched pavement as bicyclists made their way through the park on their way home from work.  There were no crowds, only dog walkers and the occasional person with an umbrella.  Amber lights shone through the trees onto the “river” Oos which winds its way through the ages of time here.  It’s impossible to stop and sketch but it’s a scene that sticks with me.  I will attempt it next on a gessoed wood panel but again in watercolor.

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Uncategorized, urban sketching, Watercolor Painting

Sketching in Jackson Square at Thanksgiving

En route to our Thanksgiving destination, it was warm enough to sit on a bench in Jackson Square, New Orleans yesterday afternoon to do this sketch of Andrew Jackson on a horse.  Sometimes sketching relieves a mind tired of taking in news and lots of sights (most of which we’ve seen before).

Jackson Square

Illustration: “Jackson Square” in watercolor and ink on Canson Mix Media paper 5.5″ x 8.5″ by Black Elephant Blog author

 

This afternoon, the square was a relaxing, brightly lit scene with red Christmas ribbons tied on the lampposts at the entrances to the Jackson Square park.  Palm trees twinkled in the sun, while  huge lime-green leaves on the banana trees had a natural sparkle all around the park.  The afternoon’s light was crisp and clear, with fathers watching their toddlers and foreign visitors enjoying sitting on the benches all around the park. Gradually the sun sank lower in the sky and a chill penetrated the shady side of the park. Fortunately  by then I was ready to call it quits, and get back to the sunny side of the square.  Certainly on such a beautiful day in a week of Thanksgiving, there’s lots to be thankful for.  There may be time to set up an easel here tomorrow morning and try to blend in with the street artists!

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acrylic painting, Uncategorized

Fall Colors in Acrylic on Paper

I’m back home from overseas again in time to catch the last of the fall colors–coppers, golds, ochres, and dark rose–still glinting in the bright sunshine as I make my way past a nearby lake.  This is the sort of scene I typically try to capture in watercolor.

laketrees

Illustration: “Last Days of Fall,” Acrylic on Bockingford watercolor paper, roughly 9″ x 12″ by Black Elephant Blog author

This time, though, I’m determined to paint with acrylics in something of a “watercolor” style on watercolor paper, as I can see examples of such work by an artist whose work is exhibited in a gallery near this lake. (Hers is more abstract with other media included, such as alcohol inks,as well.)  So back at home, it’s time for this experiment.  As with watercolor, finding the right amount of water to achieve the best look is a challenge but it’s surprisingly easy to use acrylic paints on paper.  I’ll have to keep trying this out.

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Uncategorized, urban sketching, Watercolor Painting

Königswinter in November

Being in the sleepy town of Königswinter, Germany this week had the feel of walking onto the set of the Grand Budapest Hotel, as if dropped into the town in a different era.  Here, we were near Bonn, the former capital of Germany and, this week and next, the host of the COP23 international climate change summit.  Fortunately the sun was out, bathing the hills, valleys and forests in a wonderful light when I decided to go up on the Drachenfels train to the mountaintop.  The weather was beautiful on this particular November morning, something I was told later was really unusual for this time of year.

Königswinter1

Illustration: “Königswinter”, watercolor and pen-and-ink in a Stillman & Birn “Alpha” 8.5″ x 11″ sketchbook by the Black Elephant Blog author (2017)

I was there for a conference and, while the hotel I was in was sleek and modern, I walked into another century when I headed for the hills–the “Siebengebirgen”, or Seven Mountains, right behind the hotel.  The most magical experience was the walk through forests and fields down from the ruins on the hilltop of the Drachenfels and visiting the Schloss Drachenburg, or Dragon Castle.  It’s no wonder that this region–with miles of the Rhein river valley within sight from the mountaintops–has been popular with explorers, artists, and poets, including Lord Byron and J.M.W. Turner,  for many years.  Later, over a magical lunch on the outdoor terrace of the Hotel Monopol along the Rhein Promenade, watching the ships glide by on the river, it was impossible not to feel like I had stepped back in time.  This is a place of dragons and fairytale castles where ornate dining rooms in the sky overlook Bonn and the Rhein for as far as the eye can see.   I’ll have to return to this tranquil place.

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Surprise, Uncategorized

Zoo Tranquility

Zoosketch

Illustration: “Waterfall at the National Zoo,” watercolor and pen-and-ink in 9″ x 12″ Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook by Black Elephant Blog author

Things must be getting pretty crazy if, oxymoronically, the zoo becomes an oasis of peace and quiet.  On a recent Sunday, however–with absolutely perfect weather in Washington, D.C. (while sadly, elsewhere, the opposite conditions prevailed)–that’s what happened.

Near the Carousel, and opposite the tall rock waterfall of the enclosure for the lemurs on one side and dozens of turtles on the other,there was a perfect patch of higher ground for sketching.  The sound of falling water reduced all other sounds, including that of the Carousel music,  to a background hush, even though crowds streaming past on pathways below and to either side of me became thicker over time.

While the rest of my party was otherwise engaged for a spell, I tried to capture this tranquil scene, amazed really, that the zoo could offer such a peaceful spot with the constant sound of a waterfall.  I found the paper in the Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook initially pretty frustrating for watercolor; it is really for washes (as it says!) so appreciates a light touch.  But if you let your work dry and keep the cover closed on it, the page will smooth out and can accept more color.

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