Sunday, February 28, 2010

Playing with Watercolor Sticks

Five-petaled Flower, w/c on arches, 9x12

More painting without drawing first. This is from a photo taken by my son Steven; any credit for design belongs to him. I don't know the size of the flower or its name. My thinking: What could be easier than painting a single flower? Ha! When I decided the background should be pale blue, I stupidly thought if I did it quickly my petals would be okay--it almost worked. I learned about color slowly spreading and used that lesson for the lower left. I will now look for my book, The Joy of Painting--I believe it has instructions for every medium. Ignorance, though, is sometimes an excellent first teacher.

Mr. Muffet, w/c on arches, 12x9

Playing at my get-together with other artists on Thursday, I learned the colors of my sticks. First question: What the heck is "New Gamboge?" It's someplace between yellow and burnt sienna--I'll call it dark yellow. Mr. Muffet (who is not suffering from jaundice--just yellow-play) began with two circles which became eyes; he grew a nose; then ears and a mustache; his hair was influenced by the wind outside; then his glasses were added. He had to be looking at something--the spider dropped in.

My art group and I think we know him. Perhaps he walks around town with the sleep-walking nude dictionary lady, A, from my blog entry of February 6.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Leftover Chicken

What Chicken? w/c on arches paper, 6x6

It was raining today so I played with my new watercolor sticks--they came with brushes but no directions. I pulled out a faded b&w Goodwill photo, turned it upside down, and painted the face, leaving two blank spaces for the eyes. Then I worked right-side up.

Here's what I think I learned. 1. I should probably sketch first. 2. With acrylics, I begin with the background--watercolors might require planning and I should probably begin with the nose or foreground (a bit like sculpting). 3. Dipping the brush in water and swiping it across the end of the stick is no way to control color.

I can't decide whether she resembles me when I was younger or Prince Charles.

This was fun but the beribboned hat was boring. I had leftover chickens from my 2009 painting of Miss Lulu. Why paint feathers when you can paint the whole chicken?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Talking to the Mockingbird, acrylic on linen, 24x18

"Listen to the Mockingbird" is a folk song from 1855 and probably the origin of my grandmother's name; then mine, and now my granddaughter's middle name. My mother sang the song often when she worked in the kitchen but she never sang the part about the mockingbird singing over Hallie's grave (she may not have known the actual lyrics). Wherever I've lived, there's been a mockingbird who shows up and waits for raisins--he/she sits on the fence and waits if there's snow--two weeks ago I stood on our walkway and showed the mockingbird that the raisins would be on the porch railing. (I wasn't walking in deep snow.)

The fence shadow has always caught my attention so a painting was in order. I thought I'd keep it simple--from the background I eliminated three houses, a 500-year old tree, a dogwood, a crepe myrtle, the street, several cars; I moved the horizontal fence boards to the back side of the fence, and brought a huge bush from the backyard to the front. (I don't know what the bush is; I took a sprig to a nursery once and was told that it's banned or illegal in VA. Luckily, the police have not noticed it, although it's at least 15' wide and 15' tall and constantly sends out shoots. It's the home to brown thrashers and cardinals, and all the birds sit on it after their baths--they bounce up and down and swing side to side.) Below is a photo of the actual scene; the sun is behind the huge tree, and my dog Willie is having a great time.

Talking to the Mockingbird is not quite finished--simple is not necessarily easy. I was really tempted to paint a first-grade round yellow sun with rays, and I'm considering mitten instead of glove!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Not Quite a Series

A, conte on dictionary page, 9x14

Many artists work in series--a good thing. I attempted it once in 2006. I bought an old dictionary from the thrift shop. With conte pencils, I drew a woman on one of the pages--then I noticed the stitches and painstakingly dissembled the book. That's when the arm was added, then the crow. The hand is small (in palm reading, small hands mean big ideas). I sprayed the drawing with fixative; then attached it to a backing, had it matted and framed--and I bought additional mats for future drawings in the series.

In a box, there are ironed dictionary pages, waiting for four years now, to become "B."

I like the randomness of the illustrations on the page, and it's fun to read the meanings of the words and try to match them to my drawing. My neighbors and I actually noticed a resemblance to someone we know--scary.