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).

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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

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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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

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Bodensee painting on wood panel

From the hilltop on the Island of Mainau in Lake Constance, or the Bodensee, you can see sailboats gliding past, far below and across the lake.  Paths crisscross the ornate botanical gardens that drape the hill.  A nice breeze makes a walk uphill and then down again to the ferryboat piers quite pleasant.  I had tried my hand at some watercolors of this scene, and lately–with news of hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, cyber-hacks and data breaches, and more surrounding us in current events–moved back to trying out some oil paints.  It’s a very different process from watercolor but keeps one’s mind on colors for the moment.  Also the palette knife, which the watercolorist mainly uses to gently peel a slice of watercolor paper out of a watercolor block, finally comes directly in contact with paint, when oil painting.  Lots to continue trying out…

Bodensee 3

Illustration: “Bodensee”, Oil on wood panel (10″ x 8″ approx) by Black Elephant Blog author

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Konstanz waterfront on the Bodensee

Now that summer is coming to an end, it’s time to complete a series I’d started some time ago of watercolors of Lake Constance (or “Bodensee”) surrounded by Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.  Standing near the harbor of Lake Constance as the evening sun sank lower in the sky was like being in a watercolor, and I vowed to try to capture the magical lights and colors.  This was water in many colors, framed in the background by mountains on the far end of the lake.  Ferries depart from the pier and paddleboats are lined up in the water near the Stadtgarten.

LakeConstance

“Harbor Twilight at Lake Constance”, Watercolor and gouache on 9″ x 12″ Arches rough watercolor paper by Black Elephant Blog author (2017)

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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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