Friday, February 24, 2017

7 Awesome Reasons To Take An Art Walk Workshop

Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare's wife's, family home
If you're wondering whether or not take a weeklong workshop (like the Art Walk England in August!!) is a good fit for you, I hope the following will give you a better idea:

7 Awesome Reasons To Take An Art Walk Workshop

1. Ummm, because it is sooooo much fun!! It's total immersion into the location you're visiting. In our case, we'll be spending time in Stratford-Upon-Avon. We'll have plenty of time to explore our surroundings, mingle with the folks that live there, and absorb the environment. How often have you been on a trip where it felt like all you did was snap a few quick pictures, but when you arrived home, you felt like you didn't really get a good feel for the place? Have you ever wanted to linger in a place but your travel schedule didn't allow you to dawdle?

Blue Walk Tours gets that this about travelers, especially about artists. They get that we need to take our time and not just look but truly see. They make sure we have the time to sketch the fabulous wildflower in the meadow or shamble around the old bookshop.

2. Speaking of  s-l-o-w-i-n-g  d-o-w-n…you have time to plop down and sketch where you are because there is time built into the schedule. You'll still have time to see the various sights without being rushed. There's time for you do a little exploring on your own if you'd like, or maybe you'd like to enjoy a good "lie-in" (British slang for staying in bed later than usual).

3. The joy of being with like-minded people. Artists are, or can be, an odd lot. We want to draw and paint the darnedest things like our meals, a pot of flowers near a bench on a busy thoroughfare, a cat in a window or an unusual piece of pottery in the garden. But when you're with like-minded people, they get it. They totally understand why you just have to stop and commit those daisies to the page. They're likely to join you!

There is also safety in makes it easier to be brave when others are near-by doing what you're doing and if you just happen to be one of those artists that loses all perspective of where they are and what they're doing (also called getting into the zone), there's someone nearby to watch your back. If you want to travel, but do not have someone in your life to travel with, this is an excellent way to see the world as well!

4. You're NOT sitting in a classroom! This is both a scary and exciting point. After all, you're there, in England, out in Stratford with a sketchbook in your hands and you have TIME to put something on the page. Freaky-scary-kinda cool, right?

You also have a secret weapon—me! I will be there by your side each day to help you get started, to answer questions, to make suggestions on how to fill the page, to show you how to tackle different subjects as well as different approaches to the page. I promise to help you get past the sticky bits by doing impromptu demos based on the day's activities.

Think how exciting it will be to come home with a sketchbook of your making full of little snippets of your memories—each page an instant portal back to where you were, who you were with and what you were doing!

5. It's a small group so you won't get lost in the crowd. The group is deliberately kept small in number so that I have time to work with each artist and so that you can see the spontaneous demos, ask questions (and get answers) and not get overwhelmed by too many people.

Blue Walk Tours strives to find the right balance between enough participants to make it interesting (as we can learn a lot from our travel mates) and activities (sight-seeing places of interest) with spending time with our sketchbooks and giving you plenty of opportunities to work with me. (There are still some spots left! Click here for more info!)

6. Assistance is at your fingertips. The Blue Walk Art Tours are guided tours and there is always someone around to assist with questions, challenges and obstacles. And they know the scoop on all the cool places to go and the ones to avoid! They are there to make sure you don't have to worry about getting around, to the playhouse, back to the restaurant or anywhere else. Having visited Stratford before, they can answer questions you may not think to ask until after the day's tour is long over. They provide a wealth of knowledge as well as peace of mind. They have our backs so we can enjoy our time!
Cottage garden

7. No dishes, no housework, no laundry, no job interference for seven days. How often do we try to create our art in stolen moments found between the demands on our time? You get to concentrate on your art without all the distractions you have when you're at home (what's for dinner, I need to go pick up the dry cleaning, I need to prepare for that big meeting tomorrow).

There is a sense of freedom when you're totally away from the daily demands. The idea of having all that time to create as much (or little) as you want is liberating in a way that's hard to describe, but it's worth experiencing!

We're heading out to Stratford, on August 14th! I hope you'll join in the fun.

Please let me know if I can answer any questions in the comments!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Part 2: Frustrated to Fabulous Green Pigments

Information does not become knowledge nor does it become powerful until we after we apply it and make it our own.” 

Think about it…how often have you heard a piece of information that seemed helpful, but had no relevance to your life because you had no use for it or didn't put it into use right away?

It is much the same with learning new information with art. Unless it is applied and we make the information our own, it will continue to be just that, information.

However, when we apply it and grasp what it means to us, even if we only get an inkling, then it gains in power and it truly becomes knowledge!

So it is with color charts.

You've created color charts and you've begun to "see"  that icky frustrating green pigment may not be quite so frustrating after all. It's still kinda icky by itself, but we now know there's hope for it.

Without applying what we learn from some of those super-cool mixes we came up with from the first part of this tutorial, well, it's kind of a waste of time. The color charts don't really help us to take a step away from frustrated and towards fabulous. Sure, we have a hint, but we don't have any application.

Welcome To Part 2: Applying Color Mixing To Simple Subjects
If you're like me, there were a few mixes that really caught my eye and appealed to my color sense. (Color sense or preference is as individual as our fingerprints!)

Look back over the color mixes you created and evaluate which ones sparked your interest. They don't have to be "traditional" leaf colors. If you like some of the zanier color combos, play with those as that indicates where your interest lies.

Begin With Simple Shapes
Draw out a few leaves on a piece of watercolor paper or in your sketchbook. The leaf shape can be quite simple, as the focus of this exercise is color mixing rather than rendering a perfect copy of the leaf. If you happen to live somewhere in the world where the only green leaves at the moment are on the artificial arrangement sitting on your table, it's quite acceptable to use leaves from the arrangement.
Draw a simple leaf shape.
Someone got the munchies
and this add interest to the shape.

I have also taken a photo of some leaves I picked up on my way out to the mailbox today. Click this link to download a high-res copy of the leaves I used. (I specifically chose leaves with interesting color combinations to help with the learning process.)

**If you are new to watercolor, don't worry about making the leaves look like specific leaves. Remember, this is about color mixing. If you become so focused on making the leaf look like an exact leaf, you often miss the other learning opportunities like, say, color mixing!**

Mixing on the paper
Once you're ready to paint, choose a two-color combination from your prior mixing exercises. If you have not created any color mixes, take a look at this post to learn more.

Try painting both colors on the paper and let them mix rather than mixing the two paints on the palette and then applying it to the paper. On a different leaf shape try mixing the colors together on the palette before applying the paint to the paper to see which you like best.
Adding the third and fourth color
to the combo

Once you're happy with the results of the first two-color leaf, choose a different combination and paint the leaf shapes again.
Note the legend at
the bottom of the art.

Remember to keep color notes (legend) at the bottom of the shapes so you can refer back to the color you used to create a specific result. See example on the right.

After you've exhausted the two-color combos, move on to three- or four-color combinations and repeat the process of mixing the paints on the paper as well as mixing them on the palette before applying the paint to the paper.
In these last few images, I have added the color mix I created in the first exercise in the corners of the art to show where I started. In the example on the right, I started with a mix of yellow and the palette green. To get the darker spots, I add a hint of brown at the end.

In the next example, I used a mix of yellow and blue on the paper. I then added in touches of the palette green as well as brown at the very top of the stem.

Whether you mix on the paper or the palette, there is no right or wrong way. There are different uses for each method for various subjects, but it mostly comes down to which style you like best.
In the last example, I used yellow and the palette green for the leaf on the palette. I then added violet and brown for the darks as well as a hint of orange. I allowed the violet and brown to mix on the paper. You can combine techniques in one subject.

While I'm sharing only three of the leaves I created, I have many more. I highly, strongly recommend you play and paint as many leaves as you can stand! Why? Because the more we do, the more we understand. As the information is used and understood, it becomes knowledge and with repetitive use, it becomes reliable. That's where the power lies. It is only with constant use that our knowledge can begin to help us create consistent results that are predictable and remove the guess work!

Next we're going to tackle foliage in the shape of bushes to build on what we've learned from our leaves.

Did you do the first part of the tutorial and come up with lots of great mixes? Are you going to try your hand at the leaves? If so, send me a link in the comments or via email—I'd love to see what you've come up with and even more important if this series is helping you to turn your greens from frustrating to fabulous!!

Even better, come and join me at Selby Gardens in March for a two-day workshop and put your knowledge into action! Click here for more information.

Part three of this series is here.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Heart and Hand Lettering Reveal

Having fun playing with a squishy sweet Valentine's message for my honey! I used a Molotow masking pen to create the lettering and then watercolored over them. I added a bit of shading using Faber-Castell PITT pens to the first and last words.

And of course, Ms. Moby had to get her nosy self in there too!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Frustrated or Fearful of the Lovely Green Pigment On Your Palette?

In a recent conversation, an artist shared she had just purchased a pre-filled watercolor palette and it only had one green pigment. Not only did it have only one green, she confessed, she didn't even like the color. She explained it was a very "fake green" not found in nature and she didn't think she could paint a garden whether it was her own, a cottage garden in England or a botanical garden like Selby.

Since she was new to art journaling, she was not ready to spend a lot of money on tubes of paint she wasn't sure she'd ever use. I get it. Setting up a custom palette can be an expensive undertaking when you go with quality grade watercolor pigments and it requires a commitment to invest in costly supplies. (If you're looking to try top artist grade paints without the big outlay of cash, consider an palette here.)

Does this mean she (or you) can't paint a garden if you only have one green pigment on your palette and you don't even like the green?

Absolutely not!

A Simple Exercise
To learn more about the green pigment(s) on our palette, we need to have some organized fun! We need to play with all those pretty colors to see what happens when we start mixing them together. I say organized fun because we want to be able to replicate any successful mixes easily. and to do that, we need to make sure we label each and every mix. If we mix with abandon, we may or may not know which pigments combined to give us that fabulous now color.

For this exercise, I used a palette of eight pigments by Yarka White Nights or Gamma brand.

Step 1. Choose a shape and draw it out on a piece of tracing paper in pencil. Flip the paper over and trace the lines several times with pencil. I chose a leaf since I was playing around with greens. The shape itself is not so important as long as the shape can easily be divided into two parts and the shape is large enough to allow ample room for playing. (My leaf was approximately 1.5 inches long by 1.25 inches wide.)

Step 2. Either on a piece of watercolor paper or on a page in your journal, trace several shapes using the tracing paper as transfer paper. I scattered the leaves around the page, but the shapes could just as easily been in neat and tidy rows. I found it more entertaining to scatter the shapes.

Step 3. Choose a green pigment and paint it from light to dark in one leaf or shape. (Example 1) This is the base color and should be labeled as such. This shows how dark the pigment is when fully saturated as well as how light it is when it is diluted with water.
Example 1

Step 4. Choose another leaf and select one color to mix with the base green. The first color I chose was yellow. At the bottom of the leaf, I painted a small spot of green and a small spot of yellow so I could look and see at a glance the two pigments I used to achieve the greens within the shape. On the right side of the leaf, I started with the green at the top of the leaf and then the second color at the bottom. I let the two paints touch and mix in the middle of the leaf without help from me. This allows for both pigments to retain some of their original characteristics as well as to combine with a second color to make something new.

Step 5. For the other side of the leaf, I mixed the pigments together on the palette before painting the mix onto the paper. I call this homogenizing the paint because you eliminate most, if not all of the original pigments' personalities to form a new color. Because I was attempting to create greens, I pushed the new mix towards green whenever possible. I also lifted the paint on this side while it was still damp because sometimes the mixtures were more pleasing when they were not fully saturated.

Step 6. Once I ran through the eight colors on the palette, I started mixing two pigments to make green. I mixed yellow and blue to see what type of green I could make. Since I only had one yellow pigment, I then moved onto creating with three pigments by adding a touch of orange to the yellow to make an Indian yellow before mixing the color with blue and with green.

Other combinations I used were yellow and brown mixed with green, blue and violet mixed with green, red and yellow with blue...all in pursuit of finding pleasing green mixes.

Oh, What You Can Learn
Every mixture you create is not going to make a pleasing green, however, it may make a gorgeous gray or a moody black or a rich brown! Just because it didn't make green doesn't mean the new mix is not useful.

Look closely at the areas where the paint was lifted while it was still wet to determine if there may be a useful color not the paint is not at full strength. Make note of any combinations you dislike so you'll know to avoid that combination in the future. If there were any combinations that were especially pleasing, draw out a few more shapes and explore them further using more or less of each pigment to find out the range of the two or three pigments when combined.

Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!
Many greens available on the market and in pre-filled palettes today are mixtures of greens and yellows. Occasionally, you'll find a green mix with orange, white, blue, or even violet pigments.

When you throw blue into a green mix that contains orange, what do think will happen? It will most likely turn to a grayed green as orange and blue are complements. If you have a green that has yellow in it and you add a bit of violet the results are likely to be gray as well.

Is it bad if it makes a grayer color? Oh no! Think about a foggy morning when everything is shrouded. Those grayed greens come in handy for shadows, foggy and overcast days.

Some palettes give you the composition of the pigments used to create each pigment and some do not. Even if the information is not provided, you can often tell if a pigment is a mixture depending on how it mixes with the other colors. Use this knowledge to avoid making mud!

Label, Label, Label!
Create a legend for your page if you create a page of mixes. Be sure to include the palette you were using as well as a small example of each pigment in its pure, unmixed state. Make notes as to which side was mixed and which side the paint was allowed to mix on the paper. I find dating the page to be helpful also. This information can be invaluable later when you're sitting in the meadow in England and want to paint the leaves of a Early Gentian.

And just so you know, there are few things more frustrating than going through old mixing sheets and seeing a mix you really, Really, REALLY like and you have no idea which pigments were used to make it. I'm sure you can guess how I happened to come by that experience! Don't be like me—label, label, label!

Last But Certainly Not Least
Just as this works for green, this exercise will work for any pigment on the palette. The exercise can be very handy when you're considering adding a new pigment to the ones your existing palette. If a pigment does not mix well with over half of the pigments I use on a regular basis, I typically will not add it to my palette as I know I won't use it.

As you begin exploring the pigments on your palette, I think you will quickly find there are far more possibilities than you thought possible. The time you spend playing with the pigments NOW will pay huge dividends later when you're out on location.

Up Next...
In the next post in this series, we're going to take what we learned in our mixes and start applying it to creating a garden!

Part 2 can be found here and Part 3 can be found here!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Painting A Fiery Sunset - NEW CLASS!

What is it about sunsets that we are compelled to capture their beauty in our sketchbooks or on canvas? Is it the colors, the brilliant light, the fleeting moment that will never be again or is it capturing the memory of the moment?

I think for me, it's a bit of all of the above. There is something poignant about a sunset as it marks the close of a day and all the possibilities it held whether they were capitalized on or not.

The photo reference for this image was taking on the last evening I spent at St. Pete Beach with eight artists back in January of 2015. To say the evening was bittersweet would be an understatement—I so did not want our time to end and yet, it had to.

And while this was not painted that evening, it could have been! You may think capturing something so complex on location would be impossible, but it's not.

It takes some prep work to get the page ready and it takes knowing the steps of breaking down a complex image so that it can be tackled quickly and easily. The other keys are working in a small format along with using select pigments and suggesting detail.

I will be teaching how to "Paint A Fiery Sunset" at Keeton's in Bradenton, FL, this Saturday, February 11th and I hope you can join me! (Please call them to register. Just click on Keeton's to see all the info and the phone number to call.)

But if you're not able to jet into Florida for a three-hour class, you can still learn how...

Introducing "Painting A Fiery Sunset" online e-course at The Imaginary Realm! This class is an Independent Learning Class which means you can start any time and you can keep the video demonstration for one year. The instructions handout is a pdf yours to download and keep forever. You can watch the video as many times as you would like until you get the hang of painting sunsets!

You can sign up for the class by clicking this link. After a few practice runs, you'll be painting Fiery Sunsets in no time and hopefully, some of them will be there in the brilliant light!

Come and join in the fun!