Sepia experiment 

The Schmincke set I got for Christmas has a nice Sepia in it. I have so far just used it to quickly darken colors, but I assume the real value would be for monochromes. To test it out I did this loose and imprecise 4×6 study of William Gilpin’s Lanscape with Ruined Castle from 1790. 


Learning from Hercules Brabazon Brabazon

I like Hercules Brabazon Brabazon’s works on toned paper. I am starting to do more on toned paper (Canson Mi-Teintes) hoping that’s it’s a good way to get quick impressions of a scene. These sketches make sense in front of good vistas. Maybe not so great for close up studies.

Here’s a quick study of his sketch of Salamaca Cathedral in Spain. I got a few things wrong because I rushed, trying to think of the energy in it at the expense of the accurate placement of some shapes. Not a big deal. I learned from it. Get the shapes right then be quick. I think he used a dryer bush at times than I did. I will do more of these to refine the technique.


Learning from Turner: The Scarlet Sunset



I’ve been wanting to try a Turner copy for some time, and I’ve been interested in whether or not blue paper was something for me. As a guide I used the book the Tate put out “How to a paint Like Turner.” Interesting exercises. I didn’t follow along too closely other than for the color mixing tips. Anyway, here’s how I did it.

First I tinted a 5×7 sheet of Fabriano Artistico a cool blue (a mix of Prussian and French ultramarine. This worked out pretty well. I might do this again when I want to work on tinted paper of whatever color, though I can’t imagine that will be common.

Once it dried, I laid in the sky with the red and yellow, using a mix of quinacridone burnt orange and ultramarine for the brown clouds. The bridge was cobalt and ivory black, and the distant buildings were cobalt and cad red, though other colors got in there too. A bit rough, as I’ve never worked with these mixes before. In fact, I never use ivory black, and the other colors I rarely use and if I do it’s not for their mixing properties (except for quin burnt orange and ultramarine, the two of which make an incredible range of glowing browns). The barely distinguishable cart and people were a mix of things, burnt orange being the main one.

A few things I learned:

The trick of the dab of sun and then the calligraphic swipe for reflection is an effective (Monet used it too) but strange shorthand. Does a setting sun ever look like that? For a sketch I suppose it’s fine, but it doesn’t get at the diffusion of light that Turner did nicely with the rest of the work.

Ivory Black is useful. With Cobalt Blue it makes a nice deep blue. Cad Red and cobalt blue make a nice purple grey. I see how I could use all of these in a decent “old style” palette. I am rethinking my decision to use quin red just because the one I have (Maimeri Blue) seems pretty weak. I will put the cad back, especially now that I see how nicely it works with cobalt blue. Will Ivory Black creep in, perhaps as a replacement for Burnt Sienna?

Turner’s painting has a lot of atmosphere, no doubt in part because he knew what he was doing. I laid things on too thick, and couldn’t really lift them out. In other places I was too weak. For a first time with the blue paper, I got a lot out of it, though seeing them side by said after the fact reveals how off I was. Then again, this wasn’t about exactitude, just experimentation.

Colors used:
Isoindolinone Yellow
Cad Red Light
Cobalt Blue
Ivory Black
Quinacridone Burnt Orange
Titanate Yellow (with a touch of titanium white)

Thanks for reading.

Thoughts on Andrew Wyeth “Looking Out, Looking In” at the National Gallery

On Monday my dad and I took lunch at the National Gallery to see the Andrew Wyeth Exhibit, “Looking Out, Looking In.” The National Gallery had recently acquired “Wind From the Sea,” so they built an exhibit around his paintings of windows. The reviews appeared mixed, but that wasn’t the point at all for me. This exhibit was mostly watercolors, with very little attention paid to his tempera works. Fine with me. His watercolors, especially when viewed up close, are truly incredible. It’s hard from prints to get a full understanding of just how rough and aggressive his watercolor painting style was, how much he paint he laid on in the dark areas, how thick his abstract applications were, even though they were always well structured. This gave me a greater appreciation of his work.

Looking back to my commentary a few posts ago on the Jamie Wyeth exhibit at the MFA in Boston, I used Andrew Wyeth as a bit of a counterpoint for Jamie, saying I prefered the range in Jamie’s work. The National Gallery show, by nature of its subject, stuck within a narrow range, but that hardly mattered when looking at the works up close. There was so much to admire, so much to learn from. I’ve been fortune to be able to see Sargent last summer and both Wyeth’s this year. They’ve all really helped with my painting.

Coming out of the museum, we could see the Washington Monument enshrouded in clouds and steam on a cold rainy day. Really perfect to see Wyeth’s work on a day that used his color palette, and perfect inspiration for a quick vertical painting.

Thanks for reading.


Starting Early On a Winter of Study with Oscar Newman and a David Tripp Style Tree Study

When the weather gets cold I get more studious. Now that I have a daily bus ride to and from work that totals about 2 hours a day I have plenty of time on my hands. Therefore it seems right to declare this to be Winter of Study, even though it’s still fall.

On the reading side, my winter of study will be focused on the human side of housing, finance, planning, and architecture. I have some background in architecture history, but there is always more to learn, and now is the right time to be deliberate about it. To start it off, I am reading Oscar Newman’s 1972 work “Defensible Space,” a concise summary of which happens to be on the front cover in the picture above.

On the painting side, I want to take a more deliberate approach to my work in a few ways. First, I just want to do more small works of whatever for practice more frequently so I can get better at working quickly and confidently. Second, I want to focus more on people. On the first subject, I did a small tree study of a tree in my backyard. My house is on a hill and backs up to woods and a creek, so there is no shortage or leaf and tree compositions to do. I like the way David Tripp has done small studies of these on his blog, so thought I should start my winter of study on the painting side with something in his style. Here’s a close up on it under a mat.

Over time, I hope to bring my painting and my work in housing together, but I need to be more confident in my abilities to do so effectively and regularly.

And for anyone interested in what’s in my sketching palette:

Daniel Smith French Ultramarine
Winsor and Newton Cerulean Blue
Sennelier Turquoise Green (pg50)
Maimeri Blu Prussian Blue

Daniel Smith Lemon Yellow
Daniel Smith Quinacridone Burnt Orange
Sennelier Yellow Lake (py150–nickel azo yellow)
Sennelier Viridian (mix of viridian and pg7. I thought it was pure viridian when I bought it)

Sennelier Cad Red Light
Maimeri Blue primary red magenta
Daniel Smith Perylene Maroon
Sennelier Titanium White (will likely replace with white gouache as it looks better on toned paper).

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.



Learning from Turner: Eddystone Lighthouse Sketch

Turner seems to have accomplished some awesome atmospheric effects quickly and roughly, especially in his sketches, where he used his fingers as well as a brush to move paint around the page.

Today I tried a quick study of one of his sketchbook works of Eddystone Lighthouse. I have been reading about the paper he used being gelatin sized and the sizing being very resistant the first time around then breaking down. This reminded me of the Moleskine sketchbook paper, so I gave that a try with two colors: Payne’s Grey and Burnt Umber. The smoothness of the paper made these effects easier to accomplish. Here’s my sketch of his sketch:


And here is the original. The point in my mind wasn’t to duplicate the marks he made, but instead to get a sense of some techniques and apply them myself. I am looking forward to putting some of this to work out in the world.

Thanks for reading.