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

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

Summer Lingers On, Happily

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Illustration: “Indian Summer on the Potomac River”, Watercolor and pen-and-ink on a quarter sheet of Arches rough watercolor paper (2017)

It’s becoming more important than ever these days to take breaks from your computer screen, from the daily jarring news… lest all the traumatic news somehow dangerously deplete you.  Fortunately around here, the glorious weather continues without the humidity of summer, making every day the perfect day to be outdoors.  The leaves are still mostly green and lit up like jewels with the sun’s light behind them.  On a day in the middle of the work week, a few kayakers moved silently on the glass-like surface of the Potomac River in downtown D.C.  (The watercolor above was done initially as a pen sketch on watercolor paper, as this watercolorist discovered too late while out walking that she had no water with her to use with paint.  It was finished up later.)

FDR 3

Photo of quote carved in stone at FDR memorial in Washington, D.C.

FDR 2

Photo of quote carved in stone at FDR memorial in Washington, D.C.

Nearby, at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial adjacent to the glorious Tidal Basin, many quotes from the former president are carved in stone and most of them seem timely today.  How wonderful that they are here to remind the many visitors from across the country and around the world what our country stands for.

FDR !

Photo: Photo of quote at FDR memorial in Washington, D.C. 2017

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