Monday, March 30, 2015

March 28, 2015

Snow again, but just a dusting. Meanwhile, we're all anticipating spring break next week. As you can see, we are all in the mood for spring, beginning with Sara's sprouting bulb.  Look closely. The paper white edges speak to the crispness and immediacy of the season. And you probably can't tell by looking, but the entire painting was done with a large 1" flat brush. Another experiment gone right!

Steve is experimenting too. He's stretched canvas over a frame—a notoriously difficult support for watercolor. But he's countering that by choosing a familiar subject matter (flowers!) and using tried-and-true complementary colors.

Bill may be finishing his painting of a winter tree, but he can't resist adding a splash of color in the evergreens, heralding the onset of spring.

And just to confirm that we're all thinking of spring, Bill begins an ocean sunset scene. The soft, Turner-esque palette is far removed from the sharp value contrasts of winter.

Susan also chooses to paint water, but with a focus on the rickety bridge that crosses the water to a campsite with tall trees and clear blue skies. Despite all the elements of the painting, the composition draws you right to the traveler braving the bridge—and did you see that there is not even a handrail?

Madeleine's scene also contains dilapidated elements—the buildings in this Cuban street scene. But here, the buildings serve as background to the people in the foreground. Oh, and Madeleine is also experimenting with a new paper. It's hot press paper and it looks like it's working well for her.

Elaine is also painting people, but she zeroes in on just one person. And when he's as cute as the subject of this portrait, we approve!

Another portrait, but here, Elaine's subject is standing outside near a cold stone wall on a cool, grey spring day. Still, he's cute and it's spring!

And Ken adds Easter egg color to the grey urban skyscrapers, making them feel like spring.

Another experimenter! Hector experiments with style, juxtaposing geometric shapes on top of an expansive landscape. We had an interesting discussion and anticipate that this might be a series, with Hector trying different paths to his vision.

That touch of the abstract leads us to our beginning exercises. We're in for a special treat this term, since we have two groups of newbies, separated by a week. So we get to see a range of exercises and how they build on each other. Here, Glen revisits the plaid. No.... don't adjust your sets, the thin lines are set close together against the wider bars, making this plaid psychedelic.

What a difference spacing makes! Here Isaac starts with the same set up, narrow bars over wide, but his narrow bars are more uniformly spaced, giving great stability to his plaid.

And here are Glen and Isaac's color wheels. Again, isn't it amazing how different artists handle the same assignment? Glen differentiates primary, secondary and tertiary colors by shape.

... while Isaac maintains uniform shapes, but just look at the texture in the paint. You can see the sensuous circular brushmarks!

Just one week ahead, Anna and Veronia take color wheels a step farther, adding tints, tones and shades. Look at all the rich colors Anna has been able to achieve.

Veronica's expanded color wheel has more of a watery feel, but the colors and the lessons learned will be invaluable.

So did our color wheels put you in mind of coloring Easter eggs or little girls in pastel spring bonnets? We hope so. And we want to remind you that we'll be off for a week (next week) for spring break. But we'll be back the week after and look forward to seeing you then.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

March 21, 2015

Nothing like the first day of school, is there? We were all back, meeting and greeting old friends, catching up on what's new. We celebrated Ken's birthday with beautifully colored cookies. Susan handed out beautifully colored t-shirts as a souvenir of her vacation to the Philippines. They were emblazoned, front and back, with her paintings of Philippine tourist spots. Yes, this was a particularly boisterous session. For the first time in our memory, we drove our teacher out of the classroom and into the solarium for a little peace and quiet with our new students.

And of course, despite the snow, it's spring! No wonder we're so exuberant, as you can tell from our paintings. We seem drawn to water, interestingly enough. Here Steve bids a final farewell to winter with a beautifully quiet and serene snowscape.

While Abla begins a spring scene, complete with flowing water and flowering trees.

Sara's ready for spring, too, with a classic beach scene....

...and some flowers. The very essence of spring.

Susan is also into water. As we mentioned, she's back from a long vacation in the Philippines and she's documented her time there with the marine scenes she's drawn to. Here we drive along a mountain road, looking down at a river winding though the canyons.

Speaking of precarious, here's a rickety bridge crossing some water. Waiting on the other side is a campground nestled in the towering pine trees.

More mountains and water, this time with a view of rice terraces.

Susan is known to take a sketchbook and a full paint kit along on her vacations. Here is her sketchbook with the view from her hotel room.

Why do we sketch? For a start, it helps to flesh out ideas. Here is a sketch of  "hanging coffins" on the side of a mountain.

And here is the final painting of the Hanging Coffins of Sagada. Notice how the final painting more carefully focuses on the center of interest.

Makes you want to sketch, doesn't it? Peek into the sketchbook below and see the notes about time of day, colors, weather conditions. It brings back the scene more clearly than any photo.

Madeleine, too, is documenting a vacation. Her tropical paradise was in Costa Rica. Don't the rich deep shadows emphasize the warm sun and put you in a vacation mood?

Another reason to sketch? As a guide for a painting, as Madeleine is doing here (another vacation... this time to Cuba).

Meanwhile, Bill concentrates on the flora and fauna around him. Back in Costa Rica, we see cows and cow herons in a sunny pasture.

Back in the snowy Midwest, he paints a tree portrait, concentrating on the texture of the peeling bark.

Speaking of texture, who can resist Mohammed's cat? In fact, the whole painting is all about texture. You want to pet the cat and snuggle down into the soft blanket, don't you? It just spells "cozy."

Returning to our subject of "water," Tony paints three little brothers (he's the one on the right—and the likeness is uncanny!), about to cross the ocean from Greece to America. We love the nostalgic feel of the delicate color choices and the composition.

While we were on break, some of us took advantage of the time to experiment; particularly Tony and Bill. Below, Bill also does people, but he concentrates on the faces, adding a touch of cubism.

Tony did an intricate cityscape sketch, then took it to a printer to have it copied onto watercolor paper. This gave him the chance to paint in a variety of options, without having to re-draw each time. Here is the sketch....

... in monotone indigo blue ...

... in a deep rose...

... and in a rainbow of colors.

In a similar vein, Bill also took a sketch and copied it prior to painting. Amazing how different each version feels, isn't it? Look at the diptych below.

... and at this triptych—all of the same sketch.

And when we think of experimentation and colors, we fondly cast our minds back to our days as newbies, producing color wheels and plaids. Ah, those were the days! Our current crop of newbies looks quite promising. Here are Ana and Veronica's color wheels. Worth noting is the fact that they got all of these colors from just three colors. They are good, aren't they?

Here is everyone's first exercise.... the infamous plaid. Again, we look at Ana and Veronica, a mother/daughter combo. Same paint colors, same brushes, same paper—even the same genes. And yet, see what different results they achieve. That's the painter's hand!

More than just an exercise, we see the value of the plaid as we move from our newbies to our old master, Ken. His cityscapes take the simple plaid to new heights.

From the warm soft feel of flannel above, to the sparkling gemlike rendering below,

... to the beginning of another masterpiece. We can't wait to see how this finishes.

Overall, Elaine has it right! It's a huge "thumbs up" to all our artists.

See you next week!