Uncategorized, urban sketching, Watercolor Painting

Painting the town in Washington, D.C.

Here it is already June! What do I have to to show for it being almost mid-year 2019? I’ve not been painting as much this year– due partly to some work-related priorities but mostly due to a combination of too many choices with regard to painting media and some news-overload paralysis, I’d say. Painting more frequently is absolutely essential to becoming more proficient and I’ve totally failed so far in that goal this year. I keep watching other painters’ blogs though, and am finding that some painters whose work I respect are rediscovering the value of working from reference photos (which means painting inside).

But we’ve had gorgeous weather beckoning me outside. And: I finally broke open a packet of watercolor paper I bought on the trip to Germany earlier this year–paper that’s hard to get in the U.S. (Being interested in paper, this is a sort of ‘me’ thing, I guess.)

Illustration: “Georgetown Waterfront Park,” Hahnemühle ‘Leonardo’ cold press watercolor paper, 2019 by Black Elephant Blog author

Since we had a gorgeous weekend, I found myself down at the Georgetown Waterfront where there is an unbelievably tranquil park. Enjoying gentle breezes and the surprisingly wide-ranging discussion with me (immigration, climate change, human trafficking, mangroves, wetlands…and how they are all interconnected!! So very impressive!) of a young lady visiting from Utah, I created the following scene without spending much time setting it up. The paper is amazing and so thick it would be shame not to follow up and paint something else on the reverse side.

Illustration: “Enid A. Haupt Garden,” Watercolor on cold press paper (2019) by Black Elephant Blog author

Earlier this year, I managed to get out and do other scenes of some parts in Washington, D.C. This city is famous for many things but people out of town may not be aware of how many absolutely gorgeous and well-maintained parks there are in this region, many in the heart of D.C. while others are in surrounding neighborhoods. It would be a shame to miss some of them no matter how short your visit. I’ve included below a few painting sketches from last year as well!

Illustration: “Springtime in Farragut Square,” watercolor on Arches cold press paper, 2019, by Black Elephant Blog author
Illustration: “Oak Hill”, watercolor, gouache, and ink on “15x “11 Arches 140# watercolor paper
Illustration: “Spring colors”, 15″ x 7″ watercolor, gouache and ink on Fabriano Traditional White 140# watercolor paper by Black Elephant Blog author
Illustration: “Orangery,” at Dumbarton Oaks, Georgetown, watercolor and pen-and-ink on Arches CP watercolor paper by Black Elephant Blog author (2018)
Illustration: “Sculpture Garden, National Gallery of Art,” Watercolor, gouache, and pen-and-ink on Fabriano Artistic paper by Black Elephant Blog author (2018)
Illustration: “U.S. Capitol,” Watercolor and pen-and-ink on Arches CP paper approx 14″ x 9″ by Black Elephant Blog author (2018)
Illustration: “Colvin Run Mill,” Watercolor, gouache, and pen-and-ink by Black Elephant Blog author
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Uncategorized, urban sketching, Watercolor Painting

Equestrian arts at Frying Pan Park

Today the sun came out after a somewhat overcast morning sky and, after various Saturday must-do’s were done, it seemed like the right time to go find horses to paint.  I went for the first time in many years to a certain nearby park and before too long discovered I had truly overachieved.  After  sketching out the scene on my paper, I realized a major equestrian event was about to start literally right around me.

FryingPanPark

Illustration: “Frying Pan Park,” Watercolor, gouache, and ink by Black Elephant Blog author (2019)

Riders on beautiful horses waited their turn just a few feet away, and judges, photographers and a large audience were perched on a hill below some trees to my left. I couldn’t have planned this better since I arrived just beforehand.  Fortunately my spot next to some conveniently large and flat rocks was not in anyone’s way.  I managed to focus on the scenery and capture some of the horses and riders warming up on lower field before the big competition.   The spring colors of the trees and fields were striking, but I also tried to capture some of the scene right in front of me.  As usual, the master works of such scenes that I know best (from Degas or Dufy, for instance), are in oil paint, not watercolor, and I am thinking to try an oil painting of this scene before too long.  Drawing horses can be difficult but the style of Raoul Dufy is quite loose and freeing, and that is probably what I’ll try next as an experiment.

Illustration: “Chateau and Horses,” by Raoul Dufy

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oil painting, Uncategorized, urban sketching, Watercolor Painting

Journey through Childhood Memories

I’ve just returned from a two-week trip to Germany and Austria, mostly to visit with family but also traveling with close family.

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Illustration: “Sunset in Heidelberg,” oil on canvas by Black Elephant Blog author (2019)

This turned out to be the long-awaited time when I would return to Vienna, Austria and the international high school from which I graduated many years ago.  It was so special to discover that I still recall the streetcar and bus numbers to get from the inner city to the outer district where my former school is.  The weather cooperated throughout this trip, with snow flurries and cold suitable for January (but no worse).  Lunch over in the neighboring wine district of Grinzing, with light snow falling outside and settling on ledges around the onion domes of a church across the street, finished off the visit to the outer district. Later it was back by the efficient streetcar system to the inner city and, from there again by streetcar, to the Belvedere Schloss to see Klimt art and other paintings.  We had a hot drink in its warm gold and ochre royal cafe with the Belvedere gardens outside covered in snow and a blue-purplish early evening light seen through the windows.

In such weather, however, and in a group of travelers there is less incentive to stop and try to paint or, more likely in such weather, draw.  Outside of Stephansdom, the main cathedral in central Vienna, one hardy soul was painting in oils in close-to-freezing weather.  He was set up to sell them so perhaps had an incentive to paint in his fingerless gloves out in the cold, but the prospect did not hold any appeal to me.

My trip also took me to the Pfalz area for a memorable wine-tasting, to Stuttgart, Karlsruhe,  Heidelberg, and much smaller towns along the Rhine; my early school years were in Bonn, Germany north of where we were on this trip.  One can get most anywhere at almost anytime on the dense network of streetcars, inter-city railroads, and the faster ICE, and in Austria, the OBB trains.  There was almost no need for a car (except for hauling all the wine home after the wine-tasting!)

Back home now, there is some time for reflection and recreation of scenes, including the memory of a sunset over Heidelberg in Germany, as this painted scene from the castle above the town recalls.  A special book in German about Heidelberg fell into my hands during the visit there, recommending itself to me through the wonderful watercolor on its cover and on plates throughout its pages.  It turns out to be a book by a former director of the city’s archives, chock full of history and insights.  Also in Heidelberg, we visited an amazing museum which can be found by going down a quiet drive into a palace area off of the main pedestrian street:  called the Museum of the Palatinate, it has excellent displays covering the history of the many peoples (Celts, Romans, various tribes) who settled in this area.  If you need to get off your feet for a while, you can take a snooze here on a cushioned Roman bench in a recreated Roman dining area; signs in German encourage you to do just that, so long as you take off your shoes!  (For artists and urban sketchers, it may be of interest that the LAMY headquarters is in Heidelberg and a new flagship store full of temptations is on the main drag in the old city.) There is something about travel, and seeking to restore a rusty foreign language ability, that awakens the need to create, to remember, to connect, and to imagine…so perhaps there will be more scenes from my youth coming to this blog.

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urban sketching, Watercolor Painting

Georgetown Market Sketch

Dean &Deluca

Illustration: “Dean & DeLuca cafe,” Watercolor in Stillman & Birn Beta Series sketchbook by Black Elephant Blog author (2018)

After nearly a month of rain, the sun is shining in Washington, D.C.  and the humidity is high.  This is more normal weather for mid-summer in this area.  Georgetown in Washington, D.C. was buzzing with visitors and university students this afternoon.  This is a part of the city I’ve come to know well since I first arrived here to attend the university many years ago.  It’s always nice to see the townhouses of Georgetown with their interesting and sometimes quirky architectural details, ornate backyards surrounded by tall brick walls,  the mature trees shading the streets, the great colors, and the tracks of the abandoned streetcars.  There are memories everywhere in this area.

Later, after a bit of walking and shopping, it was time to duck into an air conditioned place–the market house of Dean & DeLuca–and have an iced coffee and sketch with some fellow weekend artists, while others nearby read a book or chatted with friends.

This historic red-brick building dates back to 1865 when it was constructed on top of the foundations of an even earlier 1796 structure – Washington’s oldest market, according to Architect of the Capital blog.

Georgetown Market 1937

Photo: “Georgetown Market,” National Park Service, 1937, Architect of the Capital blog

Running alongside it, on a passageway between M Street and the C&O Canal, is a dramatic green metal arcade covering a brick patio space where one can sit at any of the many tables.   (One can see from the black-and-white photo of the market as it appeared in 1937 that this arcade  structure did not exist then and is an addition to the market.)

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Illustration: Detail of sketch in watercolor and Uniball gold gel pen by Black Elephant Blog author (2018)

It’s a great people-watching spot, and many of the sketchers today drew other people, either from real life or from their extremely rich imaginations.  It’s always fun to see the artwork other people produce on these occasions, and to hear what they are thinking about art and the work that they do.  The stories they tell are reminders, as if one needed any, that the times are very different today for many people than they were even a few years ago.  Issues raised included the cost of a university education, living in Washington, D.C., and the contrasts with countries abroad that consider education and health care public goods and thus ensure that they are affordable.  All in all, there was much “food for thought” after an afternoon spent sketching in a food market.

 

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Uncategorized, urban sketching, Watercolor Painting

Beautiful Boston in Plein Air

Beautiful days in Boston this week have made it a delight to do some sketching outdoors.

Boston Commons

Illustration: “Boston Common,” Watercolor and pen-and-ink in a sketchbook by Black Elephant Blog author (2018)

Lots of people are sitting around outside or out biking, jogging, rowing, dog-walking, playing softball, shopping, sipping wine or coffee, and enjoying the great weather. Sun worshippers pack outdoor cafes.  There is a holiday feeling here in the middle of the week. You do not want to be working in an office on such spectacular days!

CharlesRiver

Illustration: “Harvard Boathouse” in watercolor by Black Elephant Blog author (2018)

One can soak up the strength and vitality of this country in a great city like Boston.

BostonPublicLibrary

Illustration: “Boston Public Library,” watercolor and pen-and-ink in a Pentalic sketchbook by Black Elephant Blog author 2018)

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Uncategorized, urban sketching, Watercolor Painting

Capturing Spring Greens in Hideaway Places

It’s amazing to me that, even around the busiest metropolitan centers, wonderful hideaways still exist that transport you far away from the strip malls, busy intersections and shopping centers that dominate our modern landscape.  These days you can get a news update almost anywhere, but in these little hideaways you’ll find that the natural beauty captures your attention, and you won’t be checking your phone!

colvin garden

Illustration: “Secret Garden,” Watercolor and gouache in a Stillman & Birn “Beta” sketchbook (2018)

Sometimes these jewels are right in our own neighborhood, or at least not far as the crow flies.  One such place in Northern Virginia is a small state park, Colvin Run Mill, which has a still-functioning circa-1900 General Store and still working mill grinding wheat and corn today.  I have driven past this very spot for more than 20 years without stopping–until now.

colvin mill

Illustration: “Colvin Run Mill,” Watercolor, gouache, and pen-and-ink on Arches rough paper (2018)

Many of us hurry by without much choice, for years, without noticing therefore our surroundings.

lake edge final

Illusration: “Lake edge”, Watercolor in Stillman &Birn “Beta” sketchbook (2018)

These days, however, the new greens of spring make one want to take one’s paint kit outside more often—how to capture that beautiful light?  What greens work best?  I’ve been finding that Winsor & Newton Transparent Yellow helps to give some bright greens.

Colvin Run

Illustration: “Colvin Run,” watercolor and gouache on Arches rough paper (2018)

Indanthrone Blue and Quinacridone Gold (either the old or the new) gives some great, more olive, shades of green.  And you can always use a sap green, which comes in many different colors, actually.  Happy painting!

plaza final

Illustration: “Secret Beachview”, Watercolor and pen-and-ink in a Stillman & Birn “Beta” sketchbook (2018)

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Uncategorized, urban sketching, Watercolor Painting

Line and Wash Watercolors

It’s been a busy few weeks–with a tremendously inspiring March for Our Lives making last weekend particularly memorable!   Art and sketching have had to take a back seat while so much else (much of it historically important) is going on….

With Spring finally here, however, there’s no question that the “plein air” kit of watercolors is going to get more use.  Thus, a refresher in “Line and Wash” watercolor sketching with pen-and-ink in the form of a two-day workshop this week was perfectly timed.  Below some of the paintings I completed in the workshop, the purpose of which was to combine use of pen (such as a fine-point Sharpie, black or brown, or India ink sketched with a bamboo stick) with watercolor washes.

Jackson Square 1

Illustration: “Art in the Park,” watercolor and pen-and-ink on Arches CP paper by Black Elephant Blog author (2018)

Lots more to learn, as always, but it’s fun to be engaged in painting again.

Jackson Square 2

Illustration: “Jackson Square,” watercolor and pen-and-ink on Arches CP paper by Black Elephant Blog author (2018)

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