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  I originally made the mistake of not making the roof bigger and wider than the base of the structure.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

Here is the link to purchasing info. 

 

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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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Old St Marcus Crabapples

One Friday in early spring, I went about 2 – 3 blocks from my home to Old St Marcus Park  for a day of plein air painting.  It was one of those idyllic spring days where the sun was shining, it was balmy, and nature was exploding with a rich, clear, blue sky, vibrant greens, and luscious pinks.  I set up in the grass that was carpeted with violets.

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Old St Marcus Crabapples, oil on canvas panel, 20″ x 16″

I started by toning my panel with a brilliant cool lemon yellow, which to me is the color of early to mid spring on a sunny day.

After this, I painted the evergreen trees on the left.  I did it quickly and somewhat loosely, because time is of the essence when it comes to painting outdoors.  I then did the path and the grasses.  Then I did the pink crabapple trees.  I used cadmium red deep with lots of white.  I also added some warm colors for the lighter sunlit parts.  I think I mixed in some orange or scarlet.  Lastly, I painted in the violets in the grass.  I allowed parts of the bright yellow underpainting to show through, to connote warmth and light.  This works really well with the parts of the grass that are in the sun.  I deliberately simplified the background, which in actual fact had houses and cars, etc, because that wasn’t the point of the painting, and it would have been noise and distraction.

If you closely look at any tree in bloom or in leaf, there are lots of interior darks and grays that support the vivid colors of the outer sunlit leaves and flowers.  I made this gray a greenish gray, in order to complement the pinks of the sunlit crabapple blooms.    This was done in midday, due to the restrictions of my schedule that day.

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Creve Coeur Shadows

I recently took a class with Jerry Thomas called French Impressionist Blue Painting.  The basic premise is that you use at least 2 or more pigment blues, and keep them isolated

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“Creve Coeur Shadows”, 18″ x 14″, oil on canvas panel

from each other in different areas of your painting.

This particular scene is at Creve Coeur Lake in St Louis Missouri.  My husband, sons, and I have spent lots of time sailing here during summers.  I used cobalt blue for the sky, Prussian blue for the water, and ultramarine blue for the snow shadows. Blue is a space color, and there is a strong sense of space in this piece.  I started with a panel toned in bright yellow, to offset all the blues and warm it up, so it wouldn’t look icy cold.  I also used soft pinks, yellows, and violets in the grays of the trees and shrubs.

See the store listing here. 

Shadows and Reflections

When I was walking past the lily pad ponds by the Linnaeus House in the Missouri Botanical Garden, I was mesmerized by the pattern of lily pad shadows and reflections on the water.

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Shadows and Reflections, acrylic on canvas panel, 14″ x 18

I painted this in acrylic based on a photo I took of the scene.  I enlarged it on my ipad mini, and did a drawing first.  Then I painted in the scene.  It was colorful, but looked somewhat flat and disjointed.  So, I put my Monet on and put lots of broken color in the shadows and the sky reflections.  This made it much more vibrant, and unified the painting.  Later, I darkened some of the shadow areas, and brightened the lighter areas to improve the value system.  Finally, I realized it was hard to tell the reflections and shadows from the actual lily pads and flower, so I put a glaze over the water using a mixture of translucent zinc white, iridescent silver, and iridescent gold.

My favorite part of this is the foreground lily, with the white and gold light reflections on it.

Here is the listing in my online store. 

“Mermaid Riding Fish” pastel drawing

This is the first blog I’ve done in a while.  My son needed major surgery this past summer, and this fall my mother has had serious medical issues.

I just completed this pastel drawing called “Mermaid Riding Fish”.  I did this in Nupastels.  The surface I used was a black toned professional artist quality pastel paper with a very rough surface – like sandpaper.

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“Mermaid Riding Fish”, pastel on pastel paper, 16″ x 12″

This is a scene at the Missouri Botanical Garden.  This is in front of the climatron, which is a very large greenhouse filled with tropical plants and trees.  There is a formal series of reflecting pools with lily pads, bronze sculptures, and glass art by Dale Chihuly, such as the yellow onion bulb here.

I took a photo of the scene, and used my ipad Mini as a reference point.  I started with a detailed drawing in white “charcoal”.  Then, I put in the background.  I used a lot of blue green for the background, because the coolness adds depth to the scene.  I decided to use a pretty strong blue green for the banana trees in the background.  The statue in real life is bronze, and is done by a Swedish sculptor by the name of Carl Milles in the 1950’s.  For the colors of the sculpture, I used yellow ochre and blue green together for the mid range values.  For the hilights, I used a warm off white, then surrounded it with yellow and orange.  I also used this orange in other areas of the painting such as the lily pads, the background landscaping, and the glass onion bulb base.  The orange at the base of the glass onion gave it more richness and depth.  The blue sky reflecting in the water contrasts very nicely with all of the yellow and orange.  The bright yellow glass onion shows up well with the dark water surrounding it.  The reds of the blooms in the background landscaping are a foil color, and break up the yellow/green/blue theme.

Overall, this piece has a warm, sunny, lush feeling to it.  It shows summer at it’s best – lush green foliage, blue skies, splashing fountains, and bright sun.   Here is the listing in my online store.

Sandy Creek Covered Bridge

Today, I went to Goldman, Missouri to paint this quaint old covered bridge.  It was a perfect day to paint outside – gentle breezes, warm, but not hot, and best of all I found a shady spot in which to paint this.  This was done in soft pastels.  First, I walked all IMG_0015around the area to find a good view.  Then, the smart phone came in handy to make a good composition, avoiding center lines.  A few lines were drawn based on this, and then the gadget was put away.

I completed the drawing in white “charcoal” using Sennelier La Carte pastel board in the color sienna.  This has a rough, toothy surface that grabs and hold on to the pastel.  It is possible to layer it thickly, and get some really good intense, vibrant colors in there.  NuPastels were used first – dark, earthy red for the shadow side of the

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Sandy Creek Covered Bridge, soft pastel on pastel board, 18″ x 13 3/4″

covered bridge, and a bright tomato red for the light side.  I paid attention to the structures inside of the covered bridge, as well.  Cooler, grayer greens were selected for the background trees, and warmer, higher chroma greens for the foreground trees, shrubs, and grass.  I also blended and softened the edges of the background trees.  Dark blue was lightly scumbled over the green for the darker shadow areas of the greenery.   Finally,  the large tree covering the left side of the bridge was left out, as the composition would benefit from an area of flat color to offset all the variations in the surrounding greenery and the sun dappling.

I love to paint bright, sunny scenes.  The key to that is to use a strong value system, including darks.  This supports the lighter yellow greens, pinks, peaches, etc in this landscape.  I made a special  point to use my blue greens as well for the shadowy areas.  Can you see the contrast between the warm and cool areas?

A guy was riding his bike over the bridge. That would really add a lot, to put him in there img_0016.jpgon his bicycle, so I asked him to ride through again slowly, and he kindly obliged.  He was very nice, and we talked for a while.  He took some pictures of me painting.