Archive for August, 2013

Rainy-Day Compensation

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Last time I wrote about having to forego painting plein air landscapes from the open deck of our river ship. Even before we had to substitute coach travel for the more comfortable and leisurely vessel, rain was still a factor with which we were forced to contend. So not all the sketches I painted on what I’ve come to think of as the “Surf and Turf Cruise” this spring were of passing scenery.

One rainy day I snuggled into a cozy chair and studied one of the lovely flower arrangements that graced the almost deserted lounge. I didn’t recognize what variety of blossom was used, but I enjoyed the form and the delicate color, and I’m glad I was able to capture its graceful drape out of the upstanding foliage.

130606 Still Life

I allowed the delicate pinks of the blossom to flow wet in wet across the surface of each petal. Negative painting allowed me to shape the leaves around the pale lines of the heavy veins. And I chose to leave the background undeveloped, allowing the simple, single stem and flower to say everything that was needed to illustrate and remind me of the entire decorative arrangement.

If anyone recognizes what type of flower this is, I’d love to hear from you.

Changing the Best-Laid Plans

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Although we can plan a lot about our artwork, there are some elements over which we have little control. One of those is weather.

As I wrote in April, I had intended to keep a watercolor sketch journal throughout a month-long European sojourn this spring. It seemed like a great way to record some of the places we traveled and the scenes we passed during our cruise along the Rijn/Rhine/Rhein, Main, and Danube Rivers.

I began with the best of intentions.

Because standard brushes would have required a separate, (spillable) water container, I had chosen instead to use a single, reservoir brush, in which water flowed directly from the reservoir in the handle, through the bristles, and onto the paper. But it didn’t handle the way I was used to, and I needed time to learn to control the water flow and harness its capabilities, which meant that my earliest watercolor sketches appeared clumsy and amateurish.

Also, consistently overcast skies and chilling rain were not lending themselves to vibrant lighting contrasts or extensive plein air watercolor sketching.

Some paintings, like one I did of windmills along the Rijn, were essentially compilations of scenes we passed too quickly to record as they appeared; managing only to suggest typical images.

130503 Koln Shipyard

The more successful sketches, such as “Koln Shipyard,” above, and “Portside in Bamberg,” below, were painted over a the span of a half hour or more while the ship sat stationary in port. After the first few days, my increasing confidence with the brush became evident in the improving quality of the watercolor sketches.

130603 Portside in Bamberg

Unfortunately, the rains continued to fall, and the rivers continued to rise. So about the time I was learning to negotiate the new brush, the rivers rose beyond safe navigability. Our river cruise suddenly turned into a coach excursion, which didn’t lend itself so well to sketching the rapidly passing scenery.

I tried, with limited success, to paint on the coach. After only one attempt, I had to abandon the daily sketch plan. From that time on, I relied instead on my camera to quickly capture iconic and evocative images to paint from after returning to the studio.