A quick sketch of a nearby tree in my tiny moleskine watercolor notebook. The background was improvised. I have not done much work with flowers or blossoms so this is really rough. I don’t think botanical painting will be for me, though I will try out some more of these sketches, perhaps with some rough pen lines as well.



Design District Sunset

I spent the morning laying in washes and the sky for this sunset picture over Annapolis’ Design District. Like I said in my last post, I like the arrangement of shapes and angles that are broken up by the pines on the left and the light against the clouds. Here’s where I am so far.


More to go darkening the trunks with some alternating glazes of green and maroon like the structure on the right. The fence will go darker as well and I have some details to put on the warehouse. I like where this is going.

The Fluid paper is good for a budget alternative to Arches. A little too smooth, so you can’t get as many effects out of the paper, but the paint goes a long way and it holds up well. I think I will keep using it for sketches. It comes in lots of sizes, so I am sure I will take advantage of that with a little pochade box I am making (not much to it really). More to come on that later

Thanks for reading.


Drawing out some new compositions

I have missed painting so I am trying to give myself a head start by drawing out two compositions at once. The first is the view of River Road out past Potomac, MD. I liked the light in the puddle, the crisscrossing tire tracks contrasting with the smooth bend in the road, and the light of the evening. I hope I can do these justice in watercolor. With this I was also interested in working with a less conventional composition, looking down rather than forward. Sargent has some like this. Makes for an interesting look at a space.

The second is an atypical view of the Design District in Annapolis. Though a simple geometric composition in pencil, there will be an incredible sunset over the warehouse building. Here I like the idea of looseness and structure working together.

With the second I am also going to try out Fluid watercolor paper. I got a block along with an Escoda Prado #8, but haven’t yet tried it. Much cheaper and smoother than a block of Arches. I wonder how it will perform.

Thanks for reading.



Thumbnail studies

I am realizing I should do more studies prior to painting to work out compositions and values. My practice has been to take some wide open photos with my iPhone then zoom and crop to find some interesting compositions within a well framed wider shot. This is useful, but it’s just a start. It doesn’t show the full potential of a scene. Often what looks so-so in a photo can be far more compelling when worked up by hand. I also want to train myself to compose better from real life without the benefit of the camera’s viewfinder. The first step is some quick drawings. Here are two studies from cropped photos. Ballpoint pen is pretty good for these. Next is to get outside again. I’ve just been too busy to relax enough to be in the drawing mood during the day.

Thanks for reading.



Recovering from a bad sketching session

Yesterday I had a really awful sketching session from which I realized that I need to shift my methods when working in my sketchbook outside. I need to find a better balance of speed and patience, especially if I want to get out for lunchtime sketches when I really only have 30 minutes. My loose strokes end up just being blobs and then I get frustrated.

I like the sketches of John Lidzey, who was featured in a book on sketching my wife got me a couple years ago. He’s really good at making sense of the blobs, so to reset myself and test the limits of the Stillman and Birn Alpha series I tried a copy of one of his loose studies of light. I probably should have worked off of one with more structure, but oh well. Here it is.



Experimenting with another sunset

Yesterday my dad and I drove out west along the Potomac river around sunset to see some scenic farms and a pond that hunters use to train their dogs. He’s taken inspiration from some of these places and for some pastel studies. It’s an interesting area because it’s a remarkably wealthy rural life lived out there with sprawling estates mixed in with some still operable farms. There were some beautiful cherry-tree lines drives, across from which we saw some hunters holding up what looked like a wild turkey.

We took a variety of pictures while out there (unfortunately not of the turkey hunters). This morning I worked one of them up into this sunset study, again learning from Turner, and also trying a wetter approach than on the last. To get the spreading light effect in the sky I wiped drying paint up and out away from the sun. It seems to have created a nice dramatic effect.

These small 5×7 studies have been fun, and despite their small size pretty potent. I think they’d look good in an oversized mat. Something for later. For now, here it is still drying.


All the colors in a sky–learning from sunset

After looking at so many of Turner’s skies and sunsets I have really wanted to give a small one a try. I have also been interested in the way pastel artists get such compelling skies with so many colors in them (see Loriann Signori’s blog). It seems like one key ingredient is having several blues in close proximity. And a teal or turquoise plays an important role.

This rough sunset attempt is from a picture I took while crossing the Severn River in Annapolis this weekend. My goal here was only experimentation. I would rather handle these directly outdoors, but some practice first makes sense.

Thanks for reading.