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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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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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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urban sketching, Watercolor Painting

Pumpkin Patch Plein Air

Pumpkin Patch 2

Illustration: “Pumpkin Patch,” watercolor and ink on Arches cold press paper by Black Elephant Blog author (2017)

Under a wonderful fall sun accompanied with nice fall breezes, a bunch of us met at an apple and pumpkin-picking farm this weekend for a bit of painting.  Hundreds of people beat us to the place on this beautiful fall Sunday, with scores of children ready to look at the pigs, goats, alpaca, chickens and other animals on the grounds.  It was the quintessential fall scene and a great vibe as everyone dragged their wheelbarrows around to gather up apples or pumpkins.  Many of the people enjoying this annual tradition spoke languages other than English, including German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Russian.  Such a beautiful setting makes you want to come back!

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Uncategorized, urban sketching, Watercolor Painting

Karlsruhe Marktplatz sketch

A month ago– a mere four weeks–I was sitting on this busy square in downtown Karlsruhe, Germany, enjoying a latte at a sidewalk cafe and idly sketching the scene in front of me, busy (still!) with construction of an underground train system.  I would make sketches of the most normal scenes, because everything offers practice for the eye.  But, now when I pick up my sketchbooks, a whole lot of other memories come flooding back to me.   It is amazing how everything little thing we did on this recent trip is now so utterly important to hold on to as a memory, never to let go at least of this.

 

Karlsruhe sketch

Illustration: Watercolor and pen-and-ink sketch, “Karlsruhe Marktplatz” (July 2017)

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