Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Watercolor Sketch - Defiance Road"

"Watercolor Sketch - Defiance Road"
6.7" x 9.5" (17x24 cm)
Watercolor on Strathmore Gemini 140-lb CP paper
sketchbook painting
© 2009 Steve Penberthy

Defiance Road runs runs east-west into Defiance, Missouri, which sits at the northern parts of Missouri Wine Country.  The weekend weather offered some great fall color, and I'm reaping the benefits with some good ideas for paintings.  This is a watercolor sketch for a larger painting I want to do, and I used this sketch to try out a few ideas. One idea in particular was to try a mix of vermilion hue with french ultramarine for the road, which I think worked well; I've used this mix before for some explosive granulation, so I hope to achieve that in the larger painting. I rendered white tree trunks by scraping damp paint with a credit card, but I plan to use masking fluid in the final painting.  I will definitely mask the fence... and, I'm still challenged by how to better show the sky peeking through the trees...

6B pencil in Canson Montval All-Media Sketchbook, © 2009 Steve Penberthy

I drew this preliminary pencil sketch first; I really didn't worry too much about making it a true value sketch, but I did use it to play with some value ideas, which I incorporated into the watercolor sketch above.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Watercolor Paintings of Don Gore

church, originally uploaded by dgdraws.
If you haven't seen the work of artist (and fellow Missourian) Don Gore, I would like to introduce you to his exceptional watercolor paintings. I found Don on Flickr (he and I are Contacts), and I was amazed as I first poked around and perused his Flickr photostream. The two major themes of Don's work that really stand out to me are his crisp landscapes of churches and one-room schoolhouses, and his photorealistic renderings of architectural detail.

Churches and One-room Schoolhouses
Don renders these buildings simply, depicting them in the gleaming beauty of strong midday light. The crisp detailed lines and shadows are juxtaposed with simplified renderings of distant and and foreground trees. I love Don's palette (probably because he seems to use many of the same pigments I use in my own landscapes) and his liberal application of what looks to be gamboge and ultramarine blue. I also really like how Don renders the trees; they look to be done wet-in-wet with, again, touches of gamboge and ultramarine for highlights and shadows.

Photorealistic Architectural Details
Don achieves in watercolor what some believe only possible in oil or acrylic: exceptional detail and photorealism without looking tight and overworked. Painting convincing detail in watercolor is a challenge, and Don pulls it off beautifully, achieving an easy professional look. I've included an example here, which speak volumes; need I say more? (1 picture = 1k words).

After you've picked your jaw up off the floor, be sure to check out Don's renderings of his Manhattan cityscapes, along with some great sketches on Don's Flickr photostream.

Don is represented by Primary Colors Gallery.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Van Gogh's Blog

The bedroom - October 1888 (706)
For years I’ve been fascinated by late-nineteenth century Impressionism ever since attending several exhibitions at my local art museum.  And I've maintained a thirst and appreciation for this period and genre, seeking out Impressionist displays in museums that I visit.  So, imagine my surprise and excitement when I came across the outstanding blog, simply titled, Van Gogh's Blog.

The blog is set up such that it is just like Van Gogh is blogging this himself, communicating to his younger brother Theo (and at times other artists of his day), along with the sketches that these letters often contained, using our modern Internet communication tools.

While reading through some of the letters/posts, several passages lept from the page. This next passage wowed me—and I absolutely love this—with its clear exhortation to artists to master one’s drawing skills before attempting to apply paint to paper or canvas:

Van Gogh Letters, no. 252, "To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, Monday, 31 July 1882.
"When I see how several painters I know here struggle with their watercolours and paintings, unable to find the answer, I sometimes think, friend, your drawing is where the trouble lies. I don’t for a moment regret not moving straight on to watercolour and painting. I know for sure that I’ll catch up if I keep hacking away at it, so that my hand doesn’t hesitate in drawing and perspective. But when I see young painters composing and drawing off the top of their head — then daubing on all sorts at random, also off the top of their head — then holding it at a distance and putting on a very profound, sombre expression to find out to what in God’s name it might bear some resemblance, and finally, still off the top of their head, making what they can of it, it makes me feel feeble and faint, and I find it truly tedious and heavy going. The whole thing makes me sick! Yet these gentlemen regularly ask me — not without a certain patronizing air — ‘whether I’ve started painting yet’. Now I also sometimes find myself playing, so to speak, at random on a piece of paper, but I attach no more value to this than to a rag or cabbage leaf. And I hope you’ll understand that if I go on just drawing, I do that for two reasons. Because at all costs I want to acquire a sure hand when drawing above all else and, second, because painting materials and watercolours entail considerable expense for which there’s no return in the early stage — and these costs are multiplied twice and ten times if you work on the basis of a drawing that isn’t yet sufficiently correct. And if I got into debt or surrounded myself with canvases and papers daubed all over with paint without being sure of my drawing, my studio would quickly become a kind of hell, like a studio I once saw that seemed like that to me.”
Another I liked:

"In many things, but more particularly in drawing, I think that delving deeply into something is better than letting it go."

And finally:
"If you're well, you should be able to live on a piece of bread, while working the whole day long, and still having the strength to smoke and to drink your glass; you need that in these conditions. And still to feel the stars and the infinite, clearly, up there. Then life is almost magical, after all."

For a more rigorous treatment of the letters, treat yourself to the Van Gogh's Letters official site.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Watercolor Portrait :: Portrait of M

"Portrait of M"
10.5" x 7.5" (26.5 x 19 cm)
Watercolor on Strathmore Gemini 140-lb CP paper
© 2009 Steve Penberthy