Uncategorized, Watercolor Painting

Darks and Lights in Watercolor

Last weekend with below-freezing temperatures outside, intrepid watercolor painters and other artists in this  area met in a nearby community center as the initial gathering to a new watercolor group.

Audubon Zoo

Ilustration: “Audubon Oasis”, (9.4″ x 12.6″) in watercolor and gouache on Hahnemuehle cold pressed paper

Though 103 (!) individuals had signed up to attend since the announcement came out in mid-December, due to the room size attendance at this initial meeting was kept to about 16 (and, probably due to the icy weather, only about 10 actually attended–men and women of various ages and backgrounds).  Ironically (as happens) the original convener was someone who had literally just moved to the area. Perhaps for many part of the attraction was simply an excuse to get out of the house after enduring days of extraordinary Arctic cold.  But, as always happens, perfect strangers also end up as new contacts, taking note (sometimes literally) of each other’s painting techniques and favorite materials.

My painting subject during this get-together was a colorful view through some trees at New Orleans’ Audubon Zoo last November around Thanksgiving.  The day was incredibly clear with pleasant temperatures and it made walking through the zoo (though many sections are undergoing renovation) an unforgettable visual treat.  I’m not a fan of painting from photos as so much of the really interesting light effects are lost (at least in my photos)–but using a photo for this project was the next best thing to being there. I have a lot of photos from the brilliant afternoon spent visiting this gorgeous zoo-park and, as the wintry weather here continues, I’ll be sure to be using some of them as a reference for more painting experiments.

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living in truth, Risk, Surprise, Uncategorized, Uncertainty, Watercolor Painting

Goodbye 2017

blue hippo

Illustration: “Blue Hippo” in watercolor and gouache by Black Elephant Blog author (2017)

It’s been a hard year for many people. May the new year 2018 remind us of the potential we all represent to address our world’s serious problems and thereby contribute to helping future generations.  To do this, we’ll need to appreciate what each of us brings to the table–we need to appreciate our differences.  So I’ll end the year on this blog with some hippo watercolor studies I’ve been playing around with for a side project on appreciating our differences. Happy Hippo New Year!

Hippo 2

Illustration: “Mother Hippo”, watercolor and pen and ink by Black Elephant Blog author

 

Hippos on rock

Illustration: “Hippos sunning” in watercolor, gouache, and pen and ink by Black Elephant Blog author (2017)

Hippo with baby

Illustration: “Mother and child” in watercolor and pen-and-ink by Black Elephant Blog author (2017)

 

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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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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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