January 2017

The Mall, Washington D.C. during D. Drumpf’s inauguration:

The Mall, the next day, during the Women’s March on Washington, January 17, 2017:

Paige Carmichael, age 6, from Chadd’s Ford, PA, in Washington D.C. on January 21, 2017:

My neck of the woods, Grand Central Terminal, New York City, on January 21, 2017:

January 21, 2017: 19 million marchers, 60 countries around the world, including Antartica:

Were you, like me, taken by surprise how yuuuuge this thing was? Are you, like me, overwhelmed and almost heart-sick with gratitude to every person who showed up? Did you, like me, stay home because . . . well, there is no excuse why I stayed home: I should have been paying more attention, and roused myself from my routine, and bought me a hot pink “pussy hat” from Etsy, and gotten on a bus or a train and shown up.

As it happened, on the warm and sunny early afternoon of the march, I was driving through my sleepy woodsy neighborhood on my way to keep an appointment here in Nassau County, Long Island, and I passed a great number of ramblers, dog-walkers, and runners enjoying the Spring-like weather. Then in the distance I spotted a young couple walking together by the side of the road (no grubby suburban sidewalks in this bucolic scene in the area known as “The Estates”) and they were pushing a baby stroller and holding holding up a home made sign. When I got near enough to read it, the sign said: Love Trumps Hate.

Well, while I don’t entirely believe that that’s true (because I live in the real world), I appreciated the context of the sentiment and I admired their gumption to hold a one-family rally of solidarity here on the back roads of The Estates, so I honked my horn and gave them the thumb’s up, and that’s what I did for the Women’s March.

By the way, Long Island comprises two counties, Nassau and Suffolk. In Nassau County Hillary beat Trump by 5% (31,000 votes) on this Republican strong hold of Long Island. It was in Suffolk County where Trump won big: 8 points, or by 50,000 votes, in deep-blue New York State. Suffolk County is also where, starting from 1935, American Nazis had a summer camp for the indoctrination of their future storm troopers, until 1941 when it was forcibly closed. Forcibly closed. By the American government. Because even in 1941, the American Nazi supporters of Hitler had, otherwise, no intention of renouncing their hideous ideology for being, you know, like, wrong.

Yeah, I’m saying it: That’s who voted for D Drumpf in 2016.

Camp Siegfried. You can look it up.

So, Dear Readers and nasty women, shall we paint something Wintery today?

You remember this photo from last week:

Today we are going to see if/how we can paint that middle tree:

So let’s start :

I am painting over my tree’s penciled-in guide lines with broken lines of watercolor:

The thing, as I see it, is to make up a “tree” with more-or-less dotted lines in varying widths and in varying hues of gray and gray-blue and blue (because I’m whimsical that way):

 

On to the trunk:

Done:

So, from last week and the week before, I now have three “samplers” of three different Winter tree effects. . .

. . . which I am going to assemble into one scene, inspired by that photo that I got off the internet:

Are you ready? Because we’re doing it right now!

I only need to sketch in a few guide lines. . .

. . . and away we go:

 

I am working much faster here than I normally do, because I am still on the learning curve here and I don’t need this picture to look perfect to validate myself as an artist (hint, hint). But even having low expectations, I was not satisfied that (see above) those two trees were adequately differentiated in color and texture, so I added on a faintly greenish over-wash on the pine:

So now it looks like this:

Now I have to work wet-in-wet for the background:

 

 

I didn’t photograph the painting of this background bit because we already watched me do that in last week’s post and the week before, so we know how that goes. Let’s skip ahead to what this thing looks like when it’a all high and dry:

All we need to do is crop it and we are

DONE:

OK, it’s a crap pic but now I get the gist.

No if’s and’s or but’s: I will have to do this again because, Ick (see above). And when I try this again, I will be more mindful of the compositional mistakes I made in trying to replicate my internet photo. Namely, I have placed that line of background trees too close to the same line as the threes in the foreground, which looks weird and is why there is no depth to this scene.

Also, this picture is just not painted all that well.

Even though I work exclusively from photos, I now realize that all photos are not equal: I am much better when I am using my own photos or photos from someone I really like,  of something I’m really invested in, such as a DoG or a cat or (as someone really had me do this for them) a favorite  teacup. That’s what I can get into. Painting from an internet photo, which represents a landscape that I have no personal connection to, is more challenging than I anticipated. So, there’s that.

It looks to me that next week, if you can stand it, I am going to sit down one more time and paint this scene again. Let’s see if I’m right, that by correcting the mistakes that I’ve observed above, I can come up with a pic that works.

This, you see, is how a self-taught watercolorist, such as myself, teaches herself.  You begin by taking a stab at something that you know you cat do but you do it any way, and the thing looks like crap but you don’t quit because it looks like crap, noooooo, not you, you observe what you did right and what you did wrong and you do it again, and again, and again, each time righting the wrongs of the previous crappy effort, and with each repeat you get slightly better and better and better, until you’re pretty damn good.

Get it?

So let’s take heart, my Wonder Ones, and march our nasty selves back to the watercolor table one more time and see if we can’t learn something worthwhile next week from the same-old-same-old. You in?

 

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Last week’s painting:

I give it a 5 out of 10. And that’s only because I’m looking at it cross-eyed and from across the room and there’s a really nice CD playing in the background which puts me in a good mood, namely Joni Mitchell’s Night Ride Home, and because, by my count, there are only 310 minutes left in the day in which I have to stay sober and that makes me very happy indeed.

So, this (above) is a 5-out-of-10 picture. Well, I am not a 5-out-of-10 kind of person. Nope. Not me.

So today I am going to take out another piece of paper from my stash of specially-cut 90-lb Canson  (perfect for doodles) . . .

. . . and I am going to do this:

Yes, this week I am at it again, only this time I’m going to start the bleeds from the top (Literally. You can check out last week’s painting — I started the bleed at the bottom last week, which was very whimsical of me):

Next, I’m dabbing in a really strong gray here (below), which would appear to be far too dark except for my secret knowledge that this paint will turn much lighter than this when it dries:

While the pic is still wet . . .

. . . I will “pick up” some of the paint (again, this is different from last week’s strategy):

I used a hair drier to get this show on the road, which is why there is an unsightly puddle there on the right edge. Guess what’s going to be cropped out at the end of this pic???

Feeling much less ham-handed today than I did last week, I am using my China White watercolor here for this next step, instead of acrylic, since I really loathed the way I could not control the acrylic paint the last time I attempted this:

Today let’s see what happens when I “shadow” these white trees like this:

And then, let’s see how it looks when I paint in the background come ca:

I’ve always said that the only thing that makes me a decent painter is not that I have innate talent; it’s because I’m willing to PRACTICE until I can turn a 5-out-of-10 skill into at least a 7-out-of-10 aptitude. This is AFTER:

And this was BEFORE:

All I can say is that it’s BETTER. Not good, but BETTER. And if you keep at it, my darlings, you can not help but get better and better and better, even if (and this is the lesson of this week’s post) the range of improvement isn’t drastic, it’s still worth it to try, try, try, try again. Example follows.

This week, I am painting this:

I’m doing just the one tree, in the front there. I don’t recall ever painting a snow-drenched ever green before so this is all new to me and you can watch me work it out from step one.

I begin by taking a good look at this photo, to map out where I will NOT be painting — the secret to painting snow is that YOU DON’T PAINT IT. The important thing to understand is that you will be painting around the snow, leaving only blank white paper to “stand in” for the shite stuff.

So, having thought about what I won’t be painting in this tree, I put down just a few pencil lines to indicate the shape of the tree:

I’m using a blue-gray paint because evergreens rarely look green on a snowy day, right?

I’m working with very diluted (watery) paint:

Now I’m painting around the “snow” (which calls for a lot of self-control and attention(:

Of course, since it was a first attempt, it STINKS:

My big mistake was that I had tried to “shade” a big hunk of snowy branch in the middle of the tree with pale blue but it didn’t work. And there is no finesse with the way I’ve laid down the paint inside the tree. I obviously have a lot of room for improvement.

So what do I do?

I try it again, and again, and again. (My final attempt is the one on the lower right.)

Here’s a close up of me using watercolor over those pencil makes I drew on the paper as guide lines for my painting:
Now that I look at this pic in this un-finished state, I kind of like the way this tree looks. Maybe it’s not necessary to paint a background for it after all. Hmmmmmmm. [Pause for thought.]

I will probably incorporate this idea into my painting for next week, when I attack the problem of How To Paint a Deciduous Tree in Winter (see below, the one with all the pointy branches going every which way):

And then I’ll put it all together and we will have a complete Winter scene:

OTHER STUFF:

To answer your lovely inquiries about our calico cat, Candy, who returned from her three-month vision quest last November looking much, much the worse for wear, and hunkered down in one corner of the kitchen from which she refused to budge because, having lived with us for 9 years now, she knows that basically we are serial cat murderers who can’t be trusted to get within 10 feet of her.

Candy stared out curled up on the bare floor, but I was able to pull a fast one and get her a small hand towel to ward off the chill (it’s November her perch in the kitchen is near the back door and we live in a 100-year old house that is as hard to keep heated as a birdcage anyway):

One day, taking advantage of her dinner break one evening, I managed to slip an additional fuzzy wuzzy blankie under her to make her old bones a tad more comfy:

Then one day I did the unpardonable. I tucked a heating pad in between the folds of that pink blankie, which was an objectionable level of comfort that Candy refused to have any part of. She abandoned the kitchen and found a “safe” corner on the hard wood of our living room, which meant that  yes, I had to finally wash the kitchen floor, but also meant that I didn’t have to vacuum the L.R. because we still consider Candy a flight risk (yay!) Eventually I was able to sabotage her perch there:

But you know how cats have a thing for not doing what you wish they would do. One day some big boxes full of packing material got delivered to the house, and we unpacked them and carefully arranged the packing material in a place where I would get to them on my next thorough cleaning day basically when hell freezes over, so here is where Candy now spends her days, giving us the stink eye:

BTW, Candy is the mother of two out of three of these lunk heads:

Thank you, Dearest Readers, for your Comments and B-day wishes. You are all so kind and caring and I am grateful to have you all in my mind and heart when I sit at this computer and type my report on cats and cups of tea and countdowns to cocktail time.

Here’s to us, my Wonder Ones, on this strange and mournful day:

 

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How long has it been since I painted this illustration (below)?

Let’s see. . . it’s on page 130 of a book that came out 10 months ago, which means that I turned in the manuscript about 2 years ago, which means that I painted it around 2013 or ’12  from a memory of a trip to Edinburgh that I took in 2006 . . .

. . . so that’s a long, long, long time ago. In fact, it’s been so long since I’ve held a paintbrush that, when our Dear Reader Deborah Hatt requested that I show some Winter watercolor tutorials and I dragged myself to my workroom to get out the necessary equipment, I could not  locate my paper supply. True story. I have stacks of the stuff  (Canson 90 lb), and it is, as you can imagine, a rather crucial ingredient to the magic I make.

But last July, when I did a major clean up in my work space, and by the way the was the same time I quit painting, it seems that I found a diabolically clever place to stash about a thousand sheets of watercolor paper. I had found a place to keep it well out of my sight, as that was how I was feeling at the time. I haven’t been in a good mood for much of 2016.

Well, I looked high and low for that big stack of paper and, after looking hither and yon, I took a Zen Time Out and reasoned that looking through drawers and in book cases was a waste of my time as the paper could only be lurking in an appropriately paper-stack-sized space. Duh. But by then, I’d lost interest, so I went to my computer and watched Love Actually on Netflix instead of continuing the search. Yeah, it’s a stupid movie, but it’s a great stupid movie. Oh, how I wish that I could wake up from this nightmare and find that I live in London and that High Grant is my Prime Minister and I serve him tea every day.

Oh well. Back to the quest: I turned on my Himalayan Rock Salt lamp and inhaled the mysterious good vibes and trudged back to my workroom. And lo, there was my stack of Canson 90 lb watercolor paper, right in front of my face, on the (eye-level) middle shelf of the same closet I’d searched thoroughly the day before. Wow, I said to myself. That is a really excellent place to hide a shit load of paper!

So, Winter. How To. And all.

Because I have not painted in quite a while I am going to start us out with something super easy. So that’s why I am referring you (above) to page 130 of Gardens of Awe and Folly, specifically to the background of that little picture, which looks like this (below):

To the best of my memory, I believe that I painted it with my usual paints, a mix of cheap Grumbacher and slightly better Winsor Newton, plus some homemade gray paint I made by mixing blue and burnt sienna (which could be the topic of a future, incredibly boring tutorial on mixing paint):

I make a wash of blue and gray:

I’ve said before that the good thing about using only one kind of paper your whole life is that you get to know almost everything that paper will and won’t do for you. In the case of my Canson 90 lb, I know  just how wet it has to be to get a good bleed when I work “wet-in-wet”, like this:

I am working quickly here, using more color than I really want because I also know my paints very well, and I know how much lighter these colors will be when they dry:

Oh, how I loves me a good bleed. This really is my favorite part of painting, letting watercolors do what watercolors do! You never now how it’s going to turn out! You’ll either get a happy surprise that you never could have made happen on purpose, or something that looks like puke (in which case you just throw it away and start over and not take it personally).

Anyhoo, while the paints are still wet, I am going to get my Chinese White paint and load up my brush directly from the tube:

And then I’m going to dab it hither and thither — look how cool it bleeds!

(Yes, I am wearing band aids. Dry Winter weather, delicate figure tips, you know how that goes.)

After letting the paints dry, I take a look at what I’ve got, and I think I can work with it:

Next, I load up my teeny tiniest brush with a very watery blue:

And I test out its color strength (and to check whether I remember how to paint trees after such a long hiatus) on a scrap piece of paper:

I want to emphasize how necessary it is to keep a “practice” bit of paper near you when you paint. I use it to try out color mixes, saturations, and techniques before I attack my Work In Progress. Save yourself some heartache and have a practice run at anything you’re about to do before you make it part of the permanent record, OK?

I am using acrylic paint here, called Titian White, because it’s easier to use than the Chinese White, or so I thought, a choice that I regret now that I look at it because I am so out of practice that my handling of the paint lacks finesse. I might as well be scrubbing it on with a busted twig I got from the holly bush in my front yard :

So this is how it looks in the end:

And, because I am an ILLUSTRATOR and can’t stand looking at a picture without a narrative, I have to add some footprints in this pic to give it a bit of a story:

So that is the gist of how to paint a bit of Winter. Neither Taffy nor I think this is a particularly well-done bit of work, but it’s my first time back at the old paint box and although I did expect to get back in the swing immediately, I can see now that it’s going to take some time and patience to get my groove back.

So, next week, we are going to have another go at painting Winter.

The Champagne-O-Meter is at the ready . . .

Last Sunday’s snow fall, first good chill of the season.

. . . and my crack team of assistants is standing by. . .

. . . and, little darlings, it’s going to be a long, cold, Trumpy Winter that we can’t dream or drink away, so we might as well paint it:

Have a great weekend, everyone, and we’ll meet back here next Friday to re-paint those background trees and have a go at those pines. You in?

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