Monday, July 28, 2014

Latest watercolor painting "Yard Sale"

I finished up my watercolor study. This painting is a prelude to a larger painting, 22 x 30". Working on this smaller study gave me the opportunity to make decisions about shape, value, color, and background.

The title of the painting has changed four times already!

Yard Sale, 19 x13", watercolor

detail of Yard Sale

Monday, July 21, 2014

Watercolor Workshop "Going Beyond A Likeness", Part Two

Part two of the watercolor workshop: students use their thumbnail sketches and color studies from the previous week and start their larger painting. In last week's post, I showed you my value sketch and three color studies for a new painting. I decided to try a fourth color study (below) using primary colors Red, Blue, Yellow. This color combo is what I am going to use to develop my painting..

We started off the morning by reviewing and discussing what we did the week before. I proceeded to show the students how I would use the value and color studies to guide me as I paint my full-size painting. However, because my full-size painting is going to be rather large, 28 x 32", I decided to work on a smaller version for the workshop demo. In preparation for a large painting, I will sometimes paint a smaller version as a study to work out the difficult parts.

The color scheme for this painting is Primary Colors - Red, Yellow, and Blue, with blue being the dominant color. I mixed all of my colors using two reds, one yellow and three blues from my palette, plus a few neutrals. This gives the painting a color harmony I wouldn't easily achieve with selecting random colors.

Below is the larger painting, as it progresses. I will post the finished result next week.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Watercolor Workshop "Going Beyond a Likeness", Part One

I am currently teaching a two-part watercolor workshop at McMurray Art League, in Pittsburgh Pa, called "Going Beyond A Likeness". 

Part one is all about planning. We started out discussing our reference material and why we chose it. We asked ourselves some questions, including "Is it interesting?" and "Can it tell a story, evoke a mood or elicit an emotion?" It is more important to know why you are painting something than what you are painting.

We progressed to value studies (below, top row), which are very small, quick sketches to help us identify our focal point and whether we have a variety of values and sizes, movement and best of all, impact. In other words, if this were a finished painting and someone viewed it from across the room, would they feel compelled to come over and look closer? The value sketches are not exactly fun stuff, but they are a very helpful step when composing a painting. 

Now we've come to the fun part! Once we've chosen a value sketch, we progressed to color studies. Each study is small, approximately 5 x 7". Using our Triadic Color Wheel as a guide, we selected several harmonious color combinations and painted 2-3 mini paintings. To break the students out of their tendency to use the same colors over and over, they were encouraged to try new color combinations. 

Above you can see three color studies I demonstrated (from left):
1. Analogous + Complement: blue, blue green, green with a complement of red orange
2. Tertiary: red violet, yellow orange, and blue green
3. Tertiary: yellow green, red orange, and blue violet

Analogous colors are colors which are side-by-side on the color wheel. Complements are two colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. Tertiary colors are equidistant on the color wheel.

I'd like to know, do you use color studies and value sketches in your work? If not, what do you do to plan your painting?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Fall Watercolor Workshops

It's not too early to schedule your fall watercolor workshops! 

I have two workshops scheduled for September and October: A 2-day workshop in Butler, Pa and a 3-day workshop in Charlotte, NC. 

Click the link below for details and links to registration.



Monday, June 30, 2014

Framing Dilemmas

Framing my watercolor paintings has been a vexing subject for me for the past five years. Because I exhibit my work in a variety of different settings, I have often had to switch out paintings from one frame to the other, depending on the venue. A high-end gallery show may want fancy, wooden frames and museum-quality glass. A national watercolor exhibition may insist on neutral mats and frames, and acrylic instead of glass. Aside from the obvious cost, it is just plain time consuming, and my paintings risk damage by continually removing them from the frames.

I needed to find a consistent framing solution that would fit all the various venues and exhibitions in which I might show my work.

1. Find frames that look clean and contemporary enough for
    watercolor exhibitions, but high-end enough for many
    of the galleries that prefer more ornate frames. 

2. Find a glass/acrylic solution that allows me to ship artwork,
    but also have a museum-quality look and feel to it.

3. Find a matting solution that is consistent and looks clean,
    contemporary, and high end.

4. Keep costs to a minimum without sacrificing quality.

1. Frames - Instead of using ornate, wooden frames for one venue and simple, metal frames for another, I decided to merge the two. I found a company that carries beautiful wooden frames that have clean, contemporary lines and neutral colors, but with a little texture and design that would also fit a high-end gallery setting.

2. Glass vs. Acrylic - Voila! I just discovered TruVue Optium Museum Acrylic. Because it is acrylic, it won't shatter during shipping, yet it doesn't have the pitfalls of standard acrylic. For one, it doesn't look like acrylic; it looks like museum-quality glass. It is also glare and scratch resistant and 99% UV protective. One downside is the very high cost (see #4 Solution).

3. Matting - I know several watercolor artists who show the edges of their watercolor paper, and I've always liked the way it looks. I've tried different variations and came up with two that I like. 

This is my favorite way to frame a watercolor. I paint right 
up to the deckled edge of the paper and float the painting 
inside an off-white mat, leaving about a 1/2" space.

Another way to use the decked edge is to tape the w/c paper
about 1" from the edge and paint up to the tape. When you
remove the tape, it leaves a nice, clean white border. 

4. Cost - I have two trusty, full-service framers who both do beautiful framing. Normally, I would take my artwork to them. In a financial pinch, however, I have found that I can cut my framing costs in half by going to a local wholesale frame company and putting the frame together myself. Example: The museum-quality acrylic was quoted at $500 for a 30 x 36" piece! I was able to get it from a wholesaler at $260. That price difference benefits both me and my client, as it allows me to offer them a discount.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Art of Watercolour magazine

I was honored to have a full-page article about my work in this month's issue of The Art of Watercolour magazine. The magazine is the English version of the French magazine l'Art de l'Aquarelle and features watercolor artists from around the world.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Selecting Your Watercolor Palette

When I teach workshops, I often see students with teeny, tiny paint palettes and even teenier, tinier dried blobs of paint in the wells. After watching them struggle to load up their brushes with paint during the workshop, I started recommending a large paint palette in the supply list.

I use a Frank Webb watercolor palette. It is 12 x 17" and comes with a lid to keep the paint from drying out when I'm not working. It has a large center area with plenty of room to mix my paints using a large brush. 

My palette contains 25 open-ended wells to store my paint, which I rejuvenate by spritzing with water and stirring with a mixing stick. I usually need to do this once a day.

I organize my colors with transparent paints starting on the bottom right, semi-transparent, in the middle, and opaques on the left. I loosely follow a light-to-dark sequence within the groups. To see a list of paints that I use, click hereWhen I notice that I haven't used a certain color for a long time, I replace it with a new color. 

To remove a paint color, I wait until it is rock hard and gently lift it out with a palette knife, taking care not to crack the palette.

This is what my palette usually looks like at the end of the day! I often leave the paint in the center while I continue with my painting. I clean the center right before stating a new painting.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Selecting Your Watercolor Paints

Selecting which watercolors to use is often intimidating for new painters. There are so many brands to choose from, and they are expensive! 

For my students, I recommend a using professional-grade tube paint (as opposed to a student grade or paints in a pan). I don't recommend pan paints because it is much harder to get bold, saturated colors from them. I also don't recommend a student-grade paint because the colors often fade and some darken over time. It takes a long time to get to know a paint's properties, so why not start with a paint you will continue with as you progress?

The brand I often use is M. Graham because I like the way they stay wet and malleable over a long period of time. There are lots of other wonderful brands: Daler Rowner, Winston-Newton, American Journey, Holbein, Daniel Smith, to name just a few.

Below are some of the colors I have on my palette. They are categorized as transparent, semi-transparent, and opaque. 

Aureolin; Scarlet pyrol; Permanent Rose; Quinacridone violet; Phthalo blue; 

Manganese blue; Hookers green dark; Green gold

Raw sienna; Burnt sienna; Viridian green; French ultramarine blue; Sepia

Cadmium red light; Terra rosa; Cerulean blue; Titanium white

Applying the paint
Knowing how much water to add to the paint requires practice and patience, as the thickness and texture of each paint brand differs, as well as the artist's personal preferences. The paper you use also dictates how the paint will behave.

For my portraits, I use 50% water/50% paint for initial washes. When I drop in paint, also called charging (which is touching a brush loaded with pigment to wet areas to let the paint drop in and mingle with the other paint already on the paper), I use more paint and less water (about 70/30). 

For glazing (which is adding transparent layers over dried layers of paint), I use more water and less paint (about 40/60). 

Try it. The more pigment you load up on your brush, the more interesting effects you will have on your paper.

This is an edited excerpt from "Watercolor Made Easy: Portraits". Available for online or buy a personalized copy at one of my workshops.

Monday, June 2, 2014

So What's the Story Behind That Painting?

"Disconnected", watercolor,  38 x 30"     $3600

With each painting I create, I make it my goal to tell a story, evoke an emotion, or create mood. When a painting can do all three of those things, I get pretty excited.

My paintings start with a photograph, often taken while strolling around and encountering a scene of some sort. Because it is taken quickly and surreptitiously, I usually don't start with a well-composed photo. I have to do some designing on the computer by moving things around, and combining several photos and backgrounds. 

My original photo

In my original photo, I am drawn to several things: the tenderness between mother and child; the woman's beautiful face and hair; and the bright sunlight on her head and body.Those are the details I want to keep, the rest I can disregard.

As I study the photo, I start imagining a story of two people being connected to each other, but disconnected in society. As the imaginary story grows, I start to think about all the ways in which people are disconnected: culturally, economically, spiritually, and emotionally.

My color study

Once the story takes shape, I develop my color study. I add a church (specifically the stained-glass image of the Madonna and child) as a supporting background to the story and proceed to work out the colors and design.

I decide to work with an Analogous + Complementary color scheme. In this case, it is Blue, Blue Violet, Violet with a complement of Yellow Orange (which is opposite Blue Violet on the color wheel).

As the painting develops, I continually evaluate the design and composition:

1. Because of the bright colors and small, busy shapes, I know that the window behind the figures could easily take over the painting as the focal point. With that in mind, I retain the highest contrast (lightest lights and darkest darks) for the figures. I slowly darken the window behind the figures and keep the shapes flat and without detail. 

2. I use diagonal shapes in the painting to move the viewers eye around. For instance, the shadow on the upper left brings your eye down to the highlights of the mother's hair, which in turn brings the eye further down the painting and back to the figures. The other diagonal starts at the blue blanket and leads to the baby's elbow, then the mom's shoulder, through the shapes in the window and back around to the figures.

3. The shape of the mother and child creates a pleasing triangular shape. I reinforce that shape by adding an extra detail (the broom) in the finished painting.

So, how do you develop your painting ideas? Do you have a similar process, or totally different? I've love to know.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Collaboration of Music and Visual Arts

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was part of a special event at Heinz Chapel that included the merging of music and visual arts. It's not the first time that has been done, but I thought the end result was fantastic. OvreArts sponsored the event and it's composers selected artwork from website of visual art from local artists.

My painting, "Southside Rises" was selected by a young composer who created a visual scene of smoke rising, church bells ringing, and a city waking up. 

Below is a short excerpt from the concert. It's not the best audio or screen quality because I didn't want to interrupt the performance with my camera. 


Monday, May 19, 2014

Merrick Masters Exhibitions

Two of my paintings are included in the Merrick Masters Exhibition at Merrick Art Gallery in New Brighton, Pa. The show, "Legacies", runs through July 6, 2014.

I was happy to find out that "Long Day Ahead" won Best of Show in the exhibition.

Long Day Ahead, watercolor,  32 x 23", $2800

Going Home, watercolor, 18 x 24", $1800

Monday, May 12, 2014

Working With An Artist's Model

I have been lucky to work with some terrific models for a variety of projects and paintings. Sometimes I have them pose for a few hours while I draw or paint and sometimes I photograph them for future paintings. Either way, planning and communication are key to a successful collaboration with your model.

Ron is a terrific artist's model who has been posing at figure sessions in the Pittsburgh area for a long time. This photo was taken for a step-by-step portrait project for my book, "Watercolor Made Easy: Portraits".

Here are a few dos and don’ts I've come up with for working with a professional model:
  1. Do have your model sign a Model Agreement. This protects both you and the model by specifying price, usage, copyrights, and more.
  2. Don't assume you and your model are on the same page. Take time to explain your concept and your goals for your time together. The more you communicate, the better the final results.
  3. Don't come unprepared. Plan your props, lighting, and location ahead of time. Otherwise you will be paying your model to wait for you to set up.
  4. Do give your model breaks. If you are sketching your model, make sure to check in every 20 minutes to see if he or she needs a break.
  5. Do let the model determine what is physically possible. A model may be able to hold a difficult pose long enough for you to take a photo but not long enough for you to create a sketch. 

Genevre is another model with whom I've enjoyed working. She is adventurous and fun and will always try to do things creatively.

Monday, May 5, 2014

New Pittsburgh Painting: "Clean Sweep"

Clean Sweep, watercolor, 23 x 19", $1400

My collection of Pittsburgh paintings include my latest watercolor, "Clean Sweep". The scene takes place in the historic Strip district of Pittsburgh, early in the morning, where merchants and produce sellers are busy preparing for the morning rush. 

I added the image of a woman sweeping because, to me, it signifies pride, hard work, and hope. In my mind, sweeping also is symbolic for a fresh start.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Watercolor Workshops for 2014

I will be teaching three more watercolor workshops this year. 
I hope you can join us!

"Going Beyond A Likeness"
July 9 and 16, 2014
McMurrayArt League, 4069 Washington Rd., McMurray, Pa

"Creating Expressive Watercolor Portraits"
September 20-21, 2014  
Butler Art Center, 344 S. Main Street Butler, Pa

"Going Beyond A Likeness"
October 17-19, 2014
Nancy Couick Studios, 10100 Park Cedar Drive, Charlotte, NC

For class descriptions, supply list, or to register, go to Workshops. 

"Creating Expressive Watercolor Portraits"
This watercolor workshop is geared towards the beginner to intermediate student who wants to learn portrait painting techniques and how to put more expression into their portraits, as well as the advanced student who may want to add a few more tools to their portrait toolbox. Students are encouraged to experiment and make plenty of mistakes.

"Going Beyond A Likeness" 
This is a more intensive watercolor workshop that focuses, not only on the technical skills of painting a portrait, but also on the design and planning that are integral in communicating a feeling, idea or mood as well as telling a story. Students are encouraged to experiment and make plenty of mistakes.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Cool Collaboration with OvreArts

This little painting, "Southside Morning", will be part of a collaborative concert with OvreArts at Heinz Chapel in Pittsburgh, Pa on May 1st. It was selected by composer Hannah Ishizaki, who wrote the music inspired by the painting. It will be projected onscreen during the concert and will be hanging in the chapel to view in person after the concert. 

On May 3, there will be a repeat performance at Braddock Library, where the artwork will be projected onscreen during the concert.

I am looking forward to the concert and seeing the results of the collaboration between all the composers and artists.