Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Visit To Golden Gate Park - San Fran

We picked up the rental car on Friday morning at the airport. We even managed to get on and off the BART System without incident....getting the tickets to ride the BART was an entirely different matter. Let's just say it's not an intuitive process.

We figured once we had the car, we'd really start covering some ground. So what did we do? We parked the car and walked around for 5 hours!
We started off in the Japanese Tea Garden and what a treat this place is to all of your senses! There was a calmness there that made it hard to leave even though we were sharing the garden with a host of other folks.
Some much was in bloom and there were so many cool lanterns to seemed there was another secret garden around every curve of the path. The koi were rather lazy with some basking in the warm sun.
In the two pages above, I chose to go with a grid pattern of small boxes on my two pages. I limited myself to 20 minutes per block. I hand-drew the blocks and then decided what to put in them. This allowed me to capture a lot of different views in a short period of time. Because of the time limit, I didn't get caught up in the details (too much).

This type of sketching is a great way to capture a day's outing when you don't have much time at each location. Do a quick sketch in either pen or pencil, snap a photo ref and add color later as time allows if you don't have time on location. Try limiting yourself to just 5 minutes and see what you get—you'll be surprised at what you can capture!

You'll note that some of the structures are cut off by the edges of the boxes. Because I chose to stick with my 20 minute time frame, I knew I wouldn't have time to erase and start over, so I left them as they were. Setting a timeframe and sticking to it (no matter what) is a great way to "train" yourself for working live on location.

From the Japanese Tea Garden we went over to Shakespeare's Garden, the Ancient Garden, Rhododendron Garden and then on to the Fragrant Garden.
We sat down on a bench for a while only to find we were annoying the squirrels as we didn't have any peanuts for them!
After all the gardens, we were a bit lost until we discovered the path to Stow Lake...up 979 steps...okay, not quite that many, but it sure felt like it! Almost immediately, we spotted an empty bench, and it didn't take us long to claim it.

We decided to do some sketching since we were too tired to keep walking, but there was a problem with this bright idea of was bright. Too bright. As in we were looking straight into the setting sun as we attempted to sketch. However, we'd decided it was just too bad because we weren't moving!
You can see from the glare in the photo this was not the best of places to be sketching, but it worked out.
As I mentioned before, the object of the trip was not to sketch but to visit as many different locations as possible. I'm thrilled that I was even able to sketch the two I did as that's two more than I did in NOLA.

After finding dinner and collapsing back at the cottage, we both discovered we had a slight sunburn for our efforts of the day!

Next up, a different kind of mission....

Friday, June 22, 2012

Baby Owlets!!

Last evening when Chris and I came home from dinner with my father-in-law, I heard a very strange noise when I opened my car door. Trying to place the noise, I started out of the garage onto the driveway.

As soon as I stepped out I identified the source. We have a large population of Northern Cardinals that live around our house and they were highly agitated. In fact, I've never heard them put up this kind of racket.

We have two huge Maple trees in our front yard and almost immediately, I saw something move—a baby owl!
Between the darkness, the rain and my rush,
the image turned out fuzzy
Then, as my eyes adjusted to the dark and the rain, I spotted a second baby! I decided it was time to run for the camera.

Back out in the yard, I tried to focus on the two babies and the flash clicked up startling one of the owlets into flight. As I refocused another one that I had not noticed took off—three babies!

The one who remained seemed far more curious than afraid, twisting his/her head around as if trying to get a better look at me and the big black thing in my hands.
"Hey, guys, where ya goin'?! Don't leave me
by myself with this crazy woman standing
in the rain!"
Within minutes the three had regrouped over in some trees in the side yard, however, I was only ever able to get two in a shot.
There are two owlets in the image one on the right that's easy to see
and one on the far left, near the top—see him? He's peeking out
at the camera from behind the vines!
I know there were three for sure. There may have been 4. We never saw them all together as two were rather shy. The babies weren't more than six or seven inches tall. If it's the same type of owls we've seen around before, they're baby Screech owls. 

Needless to say, I'll be finding more reasons to be out in the yard for the next weeks—with camera in hand—on the off chance that I might see them again!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Playing with Pigments....and Cherries

I have spent a very long week in "technology" and haven't had the brain cells left over to do any sketching at the end of the day.

However, when I was at the grocery this week, my heart did a little happy dance to see Rainier Cherries were back in season! Yummmm! Love those cherries! And almost (but not quite) as much as I love to eat them, I love to paint them.

So this morning, before I could burn out the last few brain cells I have left, I decided to get busy and sketch some of the juicy gems of goodness! I literally tossed a handful on the counter and started straight in with my brush—no sketching, no ink. Just paint.
Just getting started
I did this in part because I was short on time and second because there is something quite freeing about going into a page with just paint. I wasn't too worried about the making the cherries look just like the cherries on the counter because they're organic. No one's going to revoke my artistic license if they're not identical.
A few more on the page
The other reason I did this was because I wanted to play with my pigments and see what kind of mixes I could used to render the cherries convincingly.
Stems and Shadows Added
I wanted to find a good pigment combination that would make the cherries look real. I tried Azo Yellow, Hansa Yellow, Isoindoline Yellow, Quin. Gold and Raw Sienna. For reds, I tried Perylene Red,  Perylene Maroon, Anthraquinoid Red and Alizarin Crimson.*
Title added
I found that a mixed of Azo or Hansa Yellow with Quin Gold on the paper really made the best yellow for the cherries. Perylene red and Anthraquinoid Red made the best reds. The Perylene Maroon made a super dark for the cherries.
Tracing paper overlay with the pigment names and mixes used
But how was I going to remember that tomorrow let alone months down the road? By making notes. I just didn't want to make them on my artwork. So I made my color mixing notations on a piece of tracing paper.
The page taped in at the middle of the sketchbook.
I still have to trim down the edge. 
I've taped it to the page near the middle of the page and will be able to enjoy the artwork without the notes.
Final Page - Watercolor Only
Now, I could have made color charts and experimented with the different pigments that way, but isn't this more fun?!

*Alizarin Crimson is a extremely fugitive paint pigment. The replacement available on the market today is called Permanent Alizarin Crimson, but it isn't much more light fast than it's predecessor. However, in my sketchbook, which is my playground, I will use less than permanent paints to see the various effects and colors they make in mixtures.

If I create something wonderful that I don't want to lose, I take a high-resolution scan of it.

Friday, June 8, 2012

San Fran - Corrections and Japantown

Ever get that feeling that you know you're making a mistake when you're creating a piece of art, but you just can't see it?
Well, that's what happened when one of my cyber friends let me know that I had misspelled macaroon on my should have been macaron. And I knew it, but for the life of me, could not see it! I had a good laugh when she mentioned it.

Normally, I'd let the mistake stand and simply add a note below, but I thought I'd show you how I corrected it instead.
The first thing I do is to "white out" the area to be corrected. I either use a Sharpie Poster Paint pen or white acrylic paint. The Sharpie Pen is acrylic white ink. This helps to cover up the area quicker and it stops any bleeds I'd get if I happen to be using non-permanent materials like watercolor.
Once dry, I add a thin layer of Daniel Smith Watercolor Ground and let it dry. Then I add two more very thin coats. The reason for adding the thin layers is because this stuff is thick and it shows up on the page if you don't thin it out. In fact, you can sand this stuff it's so thick.
Once it has thoroughly dried, I repaint the n, s and the exclamation point. Done! DS Watercolor Ground is fun stuff to play with and has many applications beyond just making corrections.
Moving on to Japantown, I wanted to capture some of the cherry blossoms that were in full bloom as well as a modern, metal lotus bloom.....and I nearly ruined the page!
I decided to use non-permanent ink for the lotus bloom and then flood with water. It turned out okay, but obviously, my mind was somewhere else when I drew the shadow. So I stuck a Maido sticker to help camouflage the mistake. Maido is a pen/stationary/journal/office supply paradise for anyone addicted to pens, pencils, journals and office supplies!

The cherry tree did not turn out anything like I'd hoped and I wound up salvaging it by using a Uniball Signo White Gel pen to create more of a blossom look to it.

After completing the page, I realized I had started off the page with the word Chinatown rather than Japantown....erk! So our comes the DS Watercolor Ground again to  fix that mistake—are you seeing a theme to this post yet?!
This was the view at dinner and it was the end of our third day on foot—we were exhausted and sore. We had seen this quote in the Jack Keroauc Alley we had visited in Chinatown. It seemed appropriate for the page and the memory.

This was also as close as we came to actually seeing a sunset. We were either no where near the water at the end of the day or it was foggy/cloudy. Still, it was a beautiful evening!

Next up, we get some wheels so we can really start covering some ground...