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  I originally made the mistake of not making the roof bigger and wider than the base of the structure.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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Sunlit Dahlia

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“Sunlit Dahlia”, oil on panel, 20″ x 16″

I just completed this oil painting 10 minutes ago.  Last summer, I was taking a brisk walk along Leona Avenue in south St Louis.  Just south of Bates Avenue, I happened upon a back yard with big red dahlia’s and red roses.  There was a black wrought iron fence as well.  I was entranced by the abstract pattern of light and shadow on the sidewalk cast by the fence and the plants.

I painted the flower itself in transparent glazes.  The layers are: yellow, light red, rose, green, violet, and blue.  My palette consisted of Permalba white, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium scarlet, quinacridone rose, purple madder, ultramarine blue, chrome green deep.

I made use of the color pooling concept.  I put subtle red and green glazes in the shadow areas, and on the darker leaf sections.  I put a layer of green glaze on the flower in the shadow area to subdue the red slightly.  I also included red in the sunlit areas of the sidewalk and the ground.  This unified everything, and renders the reflection of color in the surrounding environment.

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Dreaming of Warmer Days

I was born and raised in the tropics (Venezuela).  Now, I’m in Missouri, USA.  I really miss the tropical weather in winter!  So, I decided to go to the Missouri Botanical Garden Temperate House, and paint this romantic little scene of vines trailing along a Mediterranean stucco wall.  This is done in soft pastels, en plein air.

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Dreaming of Warmer Days, soft pastel

Last Holdout

We had a nice prolonged autumn this year, due to mild temperatures.  I painted this en plein air at the very end of November here in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.  This is in the Holly Hills area, which is a beautiful part of south St. Louis.  Fall is my favorite time of the year.  A week prior, I had run into a fellow artist Henryk Ptasiewicz painting this very scene in oils.  He inspired me so much, as did this beautiful maple tree, that I came back and painted it myself the following week.  He also got me connected to Jane Flanders, who is now my painting buddy.  I’m glad I painted while I had the chance, because now, it is 6 degrees F, and very much winter.

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Last Holdout, pastel on pastel board, 10.5″ x 15.5″

Autumn Mist

I just finished this painting a few minutes ago.  I used a photo as a reference for this.  My usual style is high key, colorful painting.  My goal in this particular piece was to loosen up a bit, and paint somewhat more softly.  I love how the violets and blues in the mists contrast with the golds, yellows, and reds in this.

My palette consisted of zinc/titanium white, cadmium lemon, cadmium yellow deep, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, purple lake, indigo, and terre verte, and burnt umber.  (I don’t care much for terre verte, but I wanted to use it up).  I mixed indigo with burnt umber to make my dark.

Fall is my favorite time of year.  We had an especially spectacular one this year here in Missouri.  It was extended due to warmer than usual weather.

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Autumn Mists, oil on canvas panel, 12″ x 16″