Henry Shaw’s Resting Place

I start the week all excited knowing that the weather forecast called for beautiful mild weather, and my calendar is empty – 2 rarities that even more rarely coincide.  On Monday I had to take Andrew to the doctor and had other things to do, so on Tuesday I got all my painting supplies together, and marched over to the Missouri Botanical Garden to paint.  I was feeling very tired that day because I had not slept well the night before.  I decided to paint the mausoleum of Henry Shaw.  The Victorian edifice was truly beautiful that day, with the sun glimmering through the windows and the stained glass, and the dappled sunlight creating a multitude of highlights and shadows on the building. I also loved the twisty tree to the left of the building.

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Henry Shaw’s Resting Place, 16″ x 12″, acrylic on canvas panel

It was a nice quiet day without wind, bugs, or people to interrupt me often.  However, when I paint en plain air I usually do pastels. I’m not used to all the accessories  I have to juggle when painting with wet media like acrylics or oils or watercolor.  Not only that, but about 1.5 hours into the painting, it suddenly got cloudy, and my light completely changed.  I was already quite tired, and having a hard time being able to focus and get in the flow.  So I got quite frustrated and decided to pack up for the day.

I came home, and rested for a few hours.  Fortunately, I had taken a picture, so then I used that to block in the trees and the sky.  Two days after that, I decided to put away the photo, and just go with what I remembered, and used my sense of what would work artistically.  I made a point to create a sense of space by making some of the trees a cooler and grayer green, with less details.  I did this by mixing purple into the green.  I also refined the building by putting in some details of the wrought iron work over the windows, and some flecks of color to suggest the stained glass.  I like how you can see the green trees behind the structure through some of the windows.

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watercolor painting “Garden at Sunset”

I take a walk almost every day.  I’m blessed to live next to a beautiful older neighborhood in south St Louis called Holly Hills.  Leona street runs alongside the western edge of Carondelet Park.  That is where I was walking when I passed a front yard consisting entirely of a flower garden, complete with running fountain.  I was at sunset, and the sun

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Garden at Sunset, watercolor on rag paper, 12″ x 16″

was peeking from between the 2 houses behind the garden.  I loved the way the shaft of golden light was caught and shattered on the flowers and leaves of these echinacea.

The first thing I did was a detailed drawing.  Then, I masked in the foreground, which includes the flowers, leaves, stems, and some of the foliage on the left.  I got thoroughly wet the sheet of paper, then painted in a very soft background in blue-green, violet, and green.  I also included some of the background flowers in violet, orange, and red.  The colors ran into each other and created the soft effect, which gives the illusion of depth.  I also made a point to keep the background cool, because cool colors recede and enhance this 3 dimensional appearance.

When this paint was completely dry, I removed the masking fluid.  I painted in the foreground leaves and stems, and then the flowers.  I’m very grateful to The Mind of Watercolor youtube channel for teaching me the techniques of watercolor.

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“Garden Sentry” Pastel Painting

I can’t get enough of the Missouri Botanical Garden.  I wish they would allow artists to come in and paint after hours.  I would live here if I could, it is so pretty, and has so many luscious scenes to paint.

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Garden Sentry, pastel, 9″ x 12″

Last Wednesday, my husband and I sat at the edge of the lake in the Japanese Garden so I could paint either the bridge, or the boulders in the lake.  I decided on painting the boulders.  Instead of the traditional composition, I chose to put the rocks in the top 1/3 of my painting, and have the bottom 2/3 be the water and the reflections.  It made for an interesting effect.   Usually the background of the painting has the soft edges, but in this case it is the background that has the more distinct edges and brighter colors, due to the subject matter.

This egret landed on top of the taller rock, as if to say “Here I am, and I’m going to keep watch over this garden”.  It stayed there for at least an hour, preening it’s feathers and just relaxing.  I felt blessed and grateful to have this wonderful addition to my scene!  I like how the blue in the shadow side of the bird goes into pink at the bottom, from the reflection off the rock.  I also like the reflections of light on the edges of the bird and the top of the beak.

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Shrimp Gleaner

I just finished this watercolor painting two days ago.  I was in the panhandle of Florida in late May, and we visited a fish market called Joe Patti’s. It is in Pensacola, right at the shrimp docks where the fishing boats come in.  This pelican was sitting there, and he

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“Shrimp Gleaner” watercolor, 12″ x 16″

probably enjoys what is left over from the catch each day.  He was quite tame, and allowed me to get pretty close to take a shot of him sitting on this piling.

I started by painting the bay, the distant land, and the sky wet on wet.  I used mainly blue and violet.  After that dried, I painted the spit of land on the left, and the dock. I used a toned down violet and blue green for this.  At one point, I used a spray bottle over zealously, and my dock piling paint started to spread more than I wanted it to.  I lifted that out.  Lastly, I painted the bird, in yellows and brownish oranges.  The bird is actually more gray, but I wanted some warmth in the painting as a counterpoint to all the cool blues and violets, so I made him orange brown and yellow.  I also put some of these oranges, yellows, and browns in the dock, water, and land to unify the painting and bring it all together.  I put a touch of yellow in the lower part of the sky to bring more light into the picture.

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Painting a Series in Tower Grove Park

Jane, my painting buddy, and I have decided to do a series of plein air paintings in Tower Grove Park.  So far, we have painted 2 of the pavilions together.  This one is the Humbolt South Pavilion.  Tower Grove Park is a historic park in south St. Louis built by Henry Shaw, the one who founded and build the Missouri Botanical Garden, which is one of the top botanical gardens in the world.

I have a small field sketch kit by Winsor Newton.  It consists of 12 half pans of watercolor paint in warm and cool versions of the primary colors (yellow, red, and blue), several neutrals, black, and white.  The quality of the paint is very good.  These paints are

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“Humboldt South Pavilion”, 9″ x 12″, watercolor

creamy, smooth, and rich in pigment.  They are easy and convenient to use.  I also had my palette that is part of my plein air Soltek easel to work on.  I used a Shade Buddy umbrella so the sun didn’t dapple on my palette and my paper.

I started, as always, by sketching in my subject.  I had some trouble with integrating the roof lines with the base of the pavilion properly.  Once I got that figured out, it got easier and more enjoyable.  I originally made the mistake of not making the roof bigger and wider than the base of the structure.  I then drew in the “sides” in perspective, which was rather challenging, since this building is an octagon.  I like the fact that all the components of this building are also octagonal – the cupola, the roof, the individual pillars, and even the bases of the pillars (which I omitted in the painting).  So much attention was given to details in the older buildings.  I also loved the various curlicues and gingerbread details on the building.  The main reason I chose this subject to paint is that I love the golden yellow color of the roof.  I like how that contrasts with the teal of the columns, and the reds of the trim.

After the sketch, I painted the sky, and then the trees above the pavilion.  Then, I painted the pavilion, and then the trees and grass behind the pavilion.  The next time I do this, I would change 2 things.  Number one, I would mask in the pavilion so I don’t have to paint around all the columns and fluff on the pavilion.  Second, I would do the background trees and sky wet on wet to make for a softer look, which would create a better sense of space.  I would also paint in the sky all at once, so there isn’t a line and difference in value in the sky on the upper right hand side.

Overall, this turned out all right, especially considering this is my first plein air watercolor painting.

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Alberto’s Evasion watercolor painting

I just started painting in watercolors!  A couple of months ago, I picked up some watercolor brush pens for sketching with.  I ended up doing some small pieces with these.  I was entranced with the way the watercolor blended, and made interesting

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Alberto’s Evasion, watercolor, 12 x 16

effects when I tried to blend and soften it with water.  I love the transparency and luminosity of them as well.

A month ago, we went to the panhandle of Florida, and stayed in a place on the beach.  The news made it sound like the storm Alberto would devastate the Gulf Coast.  However, it just caused some rough surf, wind, and a bit of rain for a few days.

For this painting, I used professional Winsor Newton cadmium yellow, cadmium scarlet, permanent rose, French ultramarine, Winsor blue (green shade), and permanent sap green.  I used Arches 100% rag (cotton) watercolor paper, which is one of the best.

I started by doing a basic line drawing.  Then, I masked in the areas of the ocean that I wanted to stay white.  I first painted water over the sky and sea area. Then I painted the sky.   I lifted color with a paper towel to form the soft clouds.  I painted the sea.  In the background, I used ultramarine blue with a tad of orange to avoid the color being too high chroma.  Then, I gradually blended in some Windsor blue, which is similar to a phthalate blue, which is blue green.  As I came into the shallows, I blended in the sap green, and added lots of water to lighten the value.  Because the sea and sky were painted wet on wet, the darker blue of the sea feathered into the sky and created a nice soft horizon.

I let the sky and sea dry, then I removed the masking.  The next day, I put some masking fluid in the boardwalk walls.  I painted the umbrellas and people, then I painted the boardwalk, wet on dry to form crisper edges.  My focal point is obviously the umbrellas, especially the red one.  It really pops out because it contrasts so much with the blues and greens.  Lastly, I painted the sea oats wet on wet with green and brown.  I just love how the paint softened all by itself.  When I have painted in oil, I had to soften the edges by using a fan brush, but the water causes the paint to disperse and soften by itself.  The beach color is just the off white color of the paper.

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Bleeding Heart Bower

I’m making a foray into watercolor painting!  Up until recently, I always said to myself “I already do oils, acrylics, and pastels.  I don’t need to do watercolors”.  However, one day I picked up a set of Tombow watercolor brush pens just to sketch with in the field.  I started playing around with them at home in the studio.  I really enjoyed the fluid, organic way the paints mixed together on the paper.  I also love that I don’t have much set up or clean up, just put the pens in their storage container.  The luminous transparent quality is very nice too.

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“Bleeding Heart Bower”,  watercolor, 9″ x 12″

I’ve been learning the technical how-to’s of watercolor from a great youtube channel called “The Mind of Watercolor”.

I worked from a photo of bleeding heart flowers that I took while walking around the Missouri Botanical Garden with my husband.  I thought the pink flowers were striking against the bright yellow green foliage.

I started by doing a line drawing.  Then, I masked in all but the background with masking fluid, so I could put a graduated wash in for the background.  I used watered down acrylic paints in lemon yellow, quinacridone magenta, and viridian green.  The latter 2 pigments mixed made a type of violet. After the background wash dried, I removed the masking fluid.  I had some minor problems with some of the paper coming up with the masking fluid, because the lady at Dick Blick sold me student grade cheap watercolor paper.  (I have since purchased an Arches watercolor block, and will save the cheap paper for sketches and exercises).

Then, I painted in the blooms.  I used pink at the top, and then a light layer of violet and light gray because the pink was too saturated in chroma.  On the bottom, I added more pink, and violet.  For the stems, I did a layer of yellow green, then a layer of hot pink.  Then, I did the leaves in pale yellow, and pale green.  I was not happy with the outcome.  It had no pizzaz.  I added more yellow to the leaves.  I decided to go impressionistic, and did some pointillism with some Posca pens to add in some highlights, and to unify the colors.  I put some green dots in the flowers, and some pink and violet dots in the leaves.  I used an ivory Posca pen for highlights on the flowers and leaves.  This definitely improved it, and made it more original.  I want to try more pointillism in the future.

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