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.

img_1021

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.

Standard
oil painting, Uncategorized

Rooftops of Tübingen

Practicing with a limited palette of Raw Umber, Ultramarine Blue, and Titanium White, my subject for this oil painting exercise are the rooftops–which actually are various shades of orange and red–of Tübingen, as seen from the window of a fourth floor walkup attic apartment in a house dating from the 1500s.  Far below in the thicket of roofs and small balconies are narrow streets that wind their way through this ancient university town on the Neckar River in Germany.  I will attempt to do a wider landscape scene of the rooftops in a more realistic palette quite soon.  There is a great view of the city from the castle just up the street from this house–a castle which houses the humanities department of the University of  Tübingen, which itself was founded in 1477.

Illustration: “Rooftops of Tübingen”, oil on canvas by Black Elephant Blog author (2018)

Standard
oil painting, Uncategorized

Oil Painting Class #1

I’ve had my first oil painting class this week, along with 15 other students.  It’s exciting to finally learn the processes involved in using this medium, including the proper positioning of one’s easel. There’s simply no alternative to learning the basics.  I have dabbled before but knew I was missing some key information not to mention also a lifetime of experience.  It’s wonderful to learn about underpainting canvases, using a palette knife to mix colors, creating different values, and so forth.  So very different from watercolor, but it’s going to be fun to keep up with both types of painting.  One of my older experiments on wood panel accompanies this post. More to come…

Mainau1

Illustration: “Mainau Insel” (oil on board) by Black Elephant Blog author (2017)

Standard
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

Standard
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.

Standard
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.

Standard
Uncategorized

Harbor of Konstanz

Continuing with watercolors from recent travels, I will post one of the harbor area near the Hauptbahnhof, or Central Train Station, in Konstanz (Constance), Germany.  At this spot,with your back to the waterfront of the Bodensee, or Lake Constance, the view of the cityscape is quite beautiful as the evening sun glances across the rooftops. People walk through the pedestrian underpass beneath the railroad tracks to get to the AltStadt (or Old City).

 

Konstanzseries

Illustration: “Harbor in Constance”, 9″x 12″ watercolor and pen-and-ink on Arches rough paper by Back Elephant Blog author

Standard