Innovation, Risk, Surprise, Uncategorized, Uncertainty

Bridge Over Colored Water

Spring is finally here. This sketch made just yesterday in a bright and glorious sun is of a bridge with its destination obscured.

Bridge Over Colored Water

Illustration: Watercolor by Black Elephant Blog author

In other developments, experimenting now with Strathmore Aquarius II paper, converted into an accordian sketchbook, per instructions generously provided by urban sketcher Marc Taro Holmes on his blog, Citizen Sketcher; the sketchbook is for an upcoming trip out West later this week and will be featured here in the future.

Innovation, Risk, Surprise

Hellenistic World Bronze Sculpture Exhibit

There’s one more week left before the inspiring “Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculptures of the Hellenistic World” closes at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. Seeing these exquisitely detailed figures from two millennia ago, and knowing that quite a few of them were discovered only recently, in some cases at the bottom of the Mediterranean, leaves one simply amazed.  As a whole, the exhibit is stunning; the alcove with the bronze statue of Artemis and the stag is so beautifully designed that it almost demanded to be seen, again and again, on multiple visits.

Illustration:  Pencil sketch of bronze medallion with the bust of Athena (c. 150 B.C) by Black Elephant Blog author

Illustration: Pencil sketch of bronze medallion with the bust of Athena (c. 150 B.C)–the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom–by Black Elephant Blog author

According to the exhibit catalogue, between the late seventh and second centuries B.C., Greek sculpture of the time was most distinctive for “its obsession with ever greater naturalism.” Thirty-four museums in thirteen countries on four continents contributed the sculptures that made this exhibit possible, an example of extraordinary international cooperation involving priceless treasures.

According to the organizers, this exhibition is unprecedented in its scope and ambition. Although marble sculpture was more common in Hellenistic times, bronze sculptures, such as those in this exhibition, were more “highly prized in antiquity.”  Unfortunately, since bronze was “easily melted down for recycling,” many of the sculptures were melted down and repurposed over the years.  Thus, “thousands of spectacular [bronze] sculptures produced throughout the Hellenistic world have disappeared from the archaeological record” and the finest of those that have survived are in this exhibition, say the organizers.  It’s an unforgettable experience for those who have a chance to see it.

Innovation, Risk, Surprise, Uncategorized, Uncertainty

Profiles in Watercolor

An out-of-print book, called Watercolor Solutions, by Charles Reid, is proving helpful in slowing down enough to grasp some important concepts related to watercolor painting! The book can be borrowed at a local library or you can pay about $50 for a used copy.  Reid is a highly respected watercolor artist and teacher who has an excellent way of explaining things; there are a couple of his lessons on YouTube.

In his book, he explains things as basic as how to hold, wet, and shake water off a brush. In addition, he explains how to mix colors on the palette and directly on the paper.  There are exercises in drawing profiles, portraits, and figures.   Reid recommends abandoning sketching, and to instead do contour drawings by keeping your pencil on the paper and doing one line (outline), stopping only to check on your location, but not lifting your pencil from the paper.

Here is one practice watercolor I did based on his instructions:

Portrait 1

Illustration: Watercolor and pencil sketch on Arches 140 1b CP paper by Black Elephant Blog author

and another based on Reid’s explanation on “Adjusting Values from Photos”.  This latter section inspired me to try my hand at practicing the values by trying to copy Reid’s own method of  painting of John Singer Sargent  at work painting.  What is fascinating in this section is his description of how to “lose edges.”  It means focusing exclusively on shadow shapes and not, for instance, where the edges of an umbrella or neckline or coat are; the purples below thus sort of run together, per Reid’s own painting example on p. 85 of the hardcopy of his book.

Portrait 2

Illustration: Copy after “John Singer Sargent” by Charles Reid in watercolor and white gouache with pencil underdrawing on Arches 140 lb CP paper by Black Elephant Blog author


From this experience so far, it is clear that there are good habits to work on developing, related to how much water is on the brush and how the colors are mixed and used.  Aside from all the lessons in the book, another challenge is not to ruin a library book with paint splatters.  Reid’s explanations are so helpful; it’s clear that complementing class instruction with a book like this is the way to go, at least for me (and maybe for some others!)