The Pressure of Handmade Christmas Cards

Robin Christmas Card (Watercolour)

Robin Christmas Card (Watercolour)

Before the weekend I was anticipating spending two whole days creating lots of Christmas Cards to send out to friends and family… I did manage to spend quite a lot of time painting, but a change in the weather and a change of watercolour paper made the results rather unpredictable.

Today we’ve celebrated our sixth day in a row of spectacular thunderstorms and thirty degree heat – I had forgotten how hard it is to paint when it gets hot over here, you have to be so much quicker! Despite many tries I’ve also really struggled to get a salt effect to work at all, probably due to the extra humidity. You can see here that the salt didn’t soak up the pigment to leave white starburst effects as you’d expect. Instead I’ve just got little dark blue dots… not exactly what I hoped for as a snow effect.

On top of that I started using some new watercolour paper for the first time: SAA’s own practice paper, 140lbs, rough. And I’m afraid I don’t like it very much – it ‘s a little less white than the Bockingford I’ve been using, and seems to carry less size as well, meaning that paint soaks in more readily and is harder to move around or lift off.

Despite all that this little guy is slowly coming along. His eye needs lots of work and a few other details need putting in, such as the branch, but it’s better than I expected after such a trial.

I also started to paint a gorgeous red cardinal but I didn’t get very far so I’ll have to share that with you next time 😉


Hands off my Nuts! Squirrel Study

Hands Off My Nuts (Watercolour)

Hands Off My Nuts (Watercolour)

Finally some of the madness has gone out of the week and I’ve spent a pleasant hour or two this afternoon painting this handsome watercolour squirrel hoarding nuts for winter. (photo courtesy of Paul Sherman, Paintmyphoto). I did start this one with a light sketch as I’m still not confident getting eyes and such in the right place without one! And even so his nose is still a bit too pointy….

With regards brush strokes he’s a bit tight and fiddly  – I was trying to be loose and hoping to get a softer look for all the fluffy fur on his arms but the edges kept drying – I enjoyed painting him though, which was mostly the point of the exercise. I had fun dropping colours and then salt in for the rock underneath him too 🙂 .

It occurs to me that my objectives have changed a little bit over the past few weeks, and today is a good example. I still have an ideal in my mind, a dream of the style I’d like to achieve, but I’m less worried whether I get there or not… I’m enjoying letting the painting take over a bit, waiting to see what appears rather than trying to force it.

Perhaps it’s because I’m not getting as much practise as usual and I’m unconsciously being a bit kinder to myself 😛 It will be interesting to see what transpires as a result!

An Update on the Surf…

n Unexpected Wave (Watercolour)

An Unexpected Wave (Watercolour)

With my beautiful roses finished, or at least being given some distance while I decide if anything more needs doing, it felt like a good time to return to this complicated wave painting. If you remember I’d taken off all the masking off and started to paint the kid’s clothing, you can take a quick look here to refresh your memory if you’d like :-).

I have to admit I’ve been skirting around this, with no idea how to proceed… but I sat and stared at it for a while this afternoon, and stared at the photo too – by the way, in the photo the sea is practically greyscale, I’m not sure whether that’s a bonus or if it’s making it harder to distinguish individual features in the spray.

Eventually I picked up a brush and started to splash and scumble some paint into the big white areas I had. I dropped some water in places too, and a bit of salt. It’s showing promise as a technique, I think :-P. Then I spent a few minutes building up some contrast on the folds of the trousers and his legs, and one arm. The other arm was still in the middle of a damp sea and I didn’t want flesh tones running into the waves, so I stopped there.

Day 365: Ready For a Soaking, Pt. 3

An Unexpected Wave (Watercolour)

An Unexpected Wave (Watercolour)

Well, I’ve had a lovely afternoon and lots of fun playing with water, I’m not sure I’ve done anything very clever though :-P. The intention was to darken some of the shadier areas of the wave and add a bit more detail to the frothy surf at the front. I think the paint has run too much though and all my intended texture and shade has blended together!

Mind you, I should mention that the photo here was taken while the paint (and additional splashed water) was still wet, as it was starting to get dark and it’s too big to scan. There’s also salt on top of the damp pigment… so, there’s a chance, a possibility, that things will look better when it all does it’s stuff as everything dries. We will see 🙂

Day 185: Cormorant on a Post, Pt. 5

Cormorant on Post (Watercolour)

Cormorant on Post (Watercolour)

This may well be the last stage of this painting… I had an idea that I might darken the foreground water area, to make it recede a bit, but I’m not sure I like the picture enough to continue with it. Especially after my positively average painting session today, I just don’t feel enough attraction to this piece to encourage me to carry on.

I’ve learnt a lot during the process: new water techniques, how not to paint black feathers, how to have lots of fun with rust and salt. Increasingly though, I’m getting frustrated by the fact you can see every brush stroke, even within areas that ought to be a smooth wash. I think I need to go back to trying loose and messy washes & learning how to suggest something rather than capture it in a rigid fashion.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely pleased with my progress generally, but I recognise that I’m not moving entirely in the direction I’d like to… I guess it might be time to get a bit uncomfortable and try a different zone, as it were.