Uncategorized, Watercolor Painting

Weekend Sketching at Union Station, Washington, D.C.

Of course it was supposed to rain this weekend; we all expected it. Thus the weekend sketchers met up inside Union Station in Washington, D.C.

Union Station 1

Illustration: “Sunlight-filled Union Station D.C.”, Watercolor and pen-and-ink in a sketchbook by Black Elephant Blog author (2018)

The weather ended up being sunny and muggy. Inside the train station it was cooler, and it was possible to stare at the ceiling without getting in anyone’s way.  Nowhere near as grand as Grand Central, there nonetheless is a lot of see inside this train station, including multiple identical statues of Roman soldiers each holding an identical shield.  Bright light filtered through the many windows above onto the cavernous hallway.  As one of the people who has rushed through here with scarcely a glance at my surroundings, it was nice to have a chance to try to take it all in.  It’s a busy place, including visually, and a good place to practice with perspective.  For this watercolor sketch, I was back to using Stillman & Birn Zeta soft-sided sketchbook and working across the binding between the pages, in an oblong portrait format. These days I am also using Noodlers #41 waterproof brown ink.

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Uncategorized, Watercolor Painting

Plein Air Under Wet Skies

Yesterday there was time to slip one more plein air effort in under the wire of arriving rain showers, now torrential.  Standing in the garden behind a popular area restaurant, I focused on a fountain; the sound of falling water is so relaxing and makes painting more enjoyable.  It was suddenly like a day in November, chilly and wet.  There were no interesting shadows to work with, due to overcast skies.  The lion face in the fountain was difficult and I should have slowed down and focused on a piece of this, but the statue in the background also appealed to me.  Working plein air is for me mostly fun but also an organizational challenge.  I need a flat surface nearby on which to rest stuff, and usually don’t have one; brushes roll off the easel and into the grass.  (I suspect that whoever invents a light-weight mobile solution to this will make a lot of $$.)

Illustration: “Oasis,” watercolor, gouache, and pen-and-ink on Arches watercolor paper approx. 11″ x 8″  by Black Elephant Blog author (2018)

This was the last chance to try for another painting under the rules of the “plein air” competition ending today.  With the heavy rains now, it may be a challenge just to get over to the gallery with my work as some roads around here flood quickly.  But two paintings are now done in a 24 hour time period.  These days, when we all sense how little we actually ‘control,’ there is some satisfaction in this!

 

 

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Uncategorized, Watercolor Painting

Great Falls Annual Plein Air Competition

Days of high humidity continue but this hasn’t deterred plein air painters this week from getting out around Great Falls, Virginia during the 4-day annual plein air competition going on now.

Colvin Run Mill Path

Illustration: “Colvin Run,” Watercolor on Arches rough watercolor paper, approximately 11.25″ x 8.25″ by Black Elephant Blog author (2018)

I set up my easel on a gravel path on the grounds of the Colvin Run Mill, which was built in 1811.   It’s a still-functioning mill where mill stone wheels grind wheat and corn.  The grinding stone wheels set inside a hillside in the park here have caught my attention on previous visits.  I decided they would be my subject on this sweaty afternoon!

Colvin Run Mill easel

Illustration: Photo of author’s easel set up today at Colvin Run Mill, Great Falls, Virginia

Rain is in the forecast for the rest of the weekend so it’s hard to say if I’ll produce any more paintings in time for the contest’s deadline on Sunday afternoon.

Stop by the Great Falls Art Gallery on the Village Green if you’d like to see what area painters have produced during this competition–and this painting on the gallery wall!

Colvin Run Mill Grinding Stones

Illustration: Photo of Colvin Run Mill Grinding Stones (Pinterest)

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Uncategorized, Watercolor Painting

Dumbarton Oaks Gardens Watercolors

When you visit the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens in Washington, D.C., you’re drawn to the airy, light-filled Orangery, a wonderful room decked with vines of ivy across doorways and windows opening on gardens in three directions and a fourth wide entrance to another room.

Orangery Final

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

The gardens were the project of Mildred Bliss. She and her husband, Robert Woods Bliss, owned Dumbarton Oaks, now a Research Library and Collection, a century ago.  (The mansion of Dumbarton Oaks, where the library and collection are, is somewhat removed from the gardens, a couple of blocks away.)

Art collectors, philanthropists and involved in diplomatic life, the Blisses were world travelers, and arranged for a series of important diplomatic meetings to take place at Dumbarton Oaks in 1944. These meetings, known as the Dumbarton Oaks Conference, hosted delegations from China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Dumbarton Oaks photo

Photo: Dumbarton Oaks delegates meeting in 1944, Getty images

Here the participants considered ideas for an organization “to maintain peace and security in the world.” Not long afterwards, their proposals made up the United Nations Charter adopted in San Francisco in 1945.  The goal was to shape the future for a better world, something which can only be carried out with the cooperation of multiple nations sharing a sense of a greater good.

Amidst the chaos and uncharted territory of our times, it’s a bit of an escape to visit these grounds near where the United Nations began.  Beyond the inviting Orangery are winding paths, terraces, urns, benches, fountains, a pebble walk, sculptures, gates, and lots of trees and flowers.

FountainEllipse

Illustration: “Dumbarton Oaks,”Watercolor, gouache, and pen-and-ink on Arches CP watercolor paper by Black Elephant Blog author, (2018)

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Uncategorized, Watercolor Painting

National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

 

Sculpture Garden 2

Illustration: Watercolor, gouache, and pen-and-ink on Fabriano Artistic paper by Black Elephant Blog author (2018)

When you’re expecting it to rain all weekend and suddenly get a day like today, it’s immediately obvious that the place to be is outdoors.  A weekend drawing group met today at the National Gallery of Art, and some drew inside the museum while others drew next door in the outdoor sculpture garden.

As always, this beautiful little park was full of visitors from all over the world.  Every family with children stopped to enjoy the spray of the fountains and stick their feet in the cool water of the Sculpture Garden pond.

Sculpture Garden 1

Illustration: Watercolor and pen-and-ink on Fabriano Artistic paper by Black Elephant Blog author (2018)

Nearby food trucks catering to every taste in the world served hot lunches to hundreds of people.  It was a calm afternoon on the National Mall today with everyone enjoying balmy breezes, sunshine, and a day with less than usual humidity.

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Surprise, Watercolor Painting

Stone Gables B&B soon to open in Virginia countryside

B&B

Illustration; “Stone Gables,” approx.  6.5 ” x 10.25 ” watercolor and Uniball white gel pen on Saunders Waterford 300 lb watercolor paper by Black Elephant Blog author (2018)

Last weekend we were hosted for an afternoon get-together at a soon-to-open bed & breakfast establishment tucked away in the rolling hills of Virginia wine country.  Once a barn, this establishment is now more like an estate with lush green fields, hills, a pond and a pool.  A  tall water fountain, the view beyond of outdoor terraces, a screened-porch bar area with tall tables and high chairs for enjoying the view, a gorgeous dining room and enormous well-appointed kitchen are only what greets you when you enter.  Beyond this are six beautiful bedrooms each with a modern well-designed bath, including a bridal suite.   You simply cannot imagine that this was a barn though some of the features of the barn have been kept in the current design.

Best of all, I’ve known one of the owners since she was a very little girl–many years ago in a distant land in Asia–where we both were living as part of foreign service families assigned abroad.  This B&B is a dream of hers and it’s now coming to life.  We were so pleased to get an early bird look at what will soon be available to others.  It’s called Stone Gables B& B and is near Leesburg, VA and a half hour’s drive from the Silver Line Metro station in Reston, VA, from which point it’s only 30-40 minute train ride into the heart of Washington, D.C.  Future guests here are in for a wonderful surprise!

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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.)

inset

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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