Tomales Bay

Tomales Bay is about an hour drive from our house. It is another largely unspoiled area with large parts belonging to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It's great that these areas are protected from developers. We have many unspoiled open spaces within driving distance. My paintings are usually all about the skies, but I also like to include local scenery. I used a limited palette of indigo, yellow ochre and burnt sienna on hot pressed paper. Took it to class yesterday and all Jerry said was "sign it."


Rodeo Lagoon


There are a number of lovely unspoiled beaches that belong to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Rodeo beach in Marin County is one of them. As you enter the beach you cross over the lagoon on a small foot bridge.The area is also a bird sanctuary where you can watch egrets, seagulls and ducks and many other birds feed on the rich sea life. I used artistic license with the colors in the marshy landscape. My colors were raw sienna, burnt sienna, indigo and French ultramarine on Fabriano cold pressed paper. I really like the way the colors came out on the Fabriano paper. I think I will buy more of this. I never get results like this on Arches cold pressed paper. That's why I always tend to use Arches hot pressed watercolor paper. On cold pressed the colors seem to soak into the paper and the end result after drying looks washed out. I need to experiment more with different watercolor papers.


Winter Scenes

With winter approaching and all the snow storms back east I decided it was time to do a snow scene. I did the first watercolor on Arches hot pressed paper and the second on Arches cold pressed. I took them to class for critique this week and Jerry Stitt said he felt the snow was too gray and too warm. He thinks snow should be bluer, which he said makes it look colder. He also suggested a verticle behind the shed in the top painting, maybe a windmill or water tower. He always drums into us that you need an opposite thrust to create interest in a painting. I may add this piece soon and will repost it if I do. He also felt that the large tree in the second one was too uniform.  I should have know better on that one, since we are always being told that uniformity is monotonous. He did like the sky in the second painting though.  I personally prefer the first painting because it is more atmospheric and more in my style of painting. I used only three colors for both pieces, French ultramarine, Payne's Grey and light red.


More Flowers

I wanted to try another loose flower watercolor since I really need practice in this area. I'm not a realistic painter, I like to do representational flower pieces. I recently bought two books by Ann Blockley, one titled Watercolour Textures and the other, Experimental Flowers In Watercolour.  They are both great books full of wonderful examples for creating texture in watercolors and painting loosely. They inspired me to try this watercolor. I took this painting to class for critique by Jerry Stitt. He liked the texture in the green area which was accomplished by flicking dark paint into the wet watercolor, then using crumpled tissue paper to create the illusion of leaves and greenery. When painting this I was mindful of something Jerry always tells us, "the fewer shapes the better". So although you see three flowers here, they overlap to form one shape. He said that if I had made them separate flowers the painting would have looked spotty.  I was also mindful to make each flower a different size - another point that is is always drummed into us. Whether it be flowers or trees or houses, vary the shapes so they don't become boring. I painted this watercolor on Arches hot pressed paper using scarlet lake, brown madder, windsor green (yellow shade) and burnt sienna.


Marsh Abstract

In class last week Jerry Stitt suggested an exercise for working loosely by choosing a subject and painting it as quickly as possible.  I decided to try it but had no definite subject in mind, concentrating more on mood and color, thinking more in the abstract. I used burnt sienna, Indian yellow and neutral tint to create this watercolor in about 15 minutes. I started with the sky since I love painting dramatic skies. It was going to be a simple sketch with a few distant trees and a small foreground. The trees grew a bit more than I intended since I was working wet-in-wet on hot pressed paper. The foreground resembled a lake at first but I thought it a little boring, so I added some texture to make it look more like a marshy scene. I was quite please in the end with the result.


Something Completely Different

Getting away from my atmospheric watercolors I decided to have another try at florals - something that does not come easy to me.  I'm not a realistic painter so I prefer to create a semi-abstract rendition of flowers. I follow a number of watercolor blogs where the artists seem to paint flowers so effortlessly - wish I could say the same for me. I've been practicing the past two weeks and this is the best I've managed so far. I won't mention how many I've discarded. I made the mistake in this piece of throwing in some black India ink. I like the way it spreads because it is insoluble in water. However, I don't think it adds anything to this piece so I will have another attempt and leave out the ink. I used cadmium red, indigo, new gamboge and India ink.


Moonlight on Richardson Bay

When the full moon shines over Richardson Bay in Sausalito it creates wonderful reflections on the water. I've always wanted to capture this in a watercolor but wasn't too confident I could pull it off successfully until I found a demonstration recently in a book published in 1973 called The Watercolor Painting Book. It had a section on how to paint moonlight. I used the technique described to capture the view I have from my deck at night. I used the colors suggested in the book which were hooker's green, French ultramarine and burnt sienna. Size is 14" x 10".


Overcast At The Shore

We take our dog to Rodeo Beach, one of our local unspoiled beaches in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Often, in the morning, the fog comes in and creates a fine mist that makes everything look almost monotone and out of focus.  It's really beautiful. In this watercolor I tried to create the misty atmosphere. It was a good exercise in attempting to paint an atmospheric watercolor. I will have another crack at this because I think I can improve on it - I hope. I was pleased with the colors. Size is 14" X 10".


Savannah Dawn

In this watercolor I was attempting to capture the vastness of the African Savannah, interrupted only by the lovely Acacia trees which grow throughout Sub Saharan Africa. The terrain is pretty flat, save for these beautiful and uniquely-shaped trees - also known as thorn trees. The Savannah is mostly hot and dry so plants must find ways to retain moisture. Acacias have evolved to do this, by having their leaves divide into dozens of tiny leaflets which can be held horizontally to capture sunlight or vertically to reduce transpiration. I used an indirect glazing method for the sky. Maggie Latham made me realize I forgot to post the materials I used. This was painted on Arches hot-pressed paper using thin glazes of raw sienna, light red, cobalt blue and burnt sienna. The trees and foreground were painted using burnt umber mixed with French ultramarine. I also dropped some  light red into the foreground.


Cottages On The Hill

I'm on an English country scene kick. Mainly because I love the quaint little old cottages one finds in the English countryside. They evoke an atmospheric feeling that I like to create in watercolor.  When I first painted this it was without the tree and broken fence. During critique in class Jerry Still felt it needed the tree and fence to frame the subject and tie the sky to the land area.  I really don't like to go back and "fix" a watercolor because I usually end up ruining it. I need to do this over because I really don't like the tree. This was my third try after erasing the previous two with "magic eraser" - wonderful stuff for fixing a watercolor.  Anyway, a third rub will probably make a hole in the paper, so I need to start from scratch. It will be a good exercise.  I was very pleased with the foreground though. Hope I can repeat it. Size: 14" x 11" on Arches hot pressed paper. I used windsor green, raw sienna, burnt umber, burnt sienna and black india ink.



Well I have not posted in a while. Had a few dry weeks when nothing went well.  As you know, I like creating atmospheric scenes and this one is of a quiet landscape in the English Lake District. There are lovely old cottages dotted around the area, sometimes evoking a feeling of remoteness. There is something very peaceful about these scenes that appeals greatly to me. I used indigo, raw sienna, light red and burnt sienna on quarter sheet of 140lb Arches hot pressed paper.


Before The Storm

We have had some real stormy weather lately. Since I love painting atmospheric conditions, I decided to give a try at painting a stormy sky. I painted this on a quarter sheet of hot pressed Arches watercolor paper using raw sienna, burnt umber and Payne's grey. I decided not to put too much detail in the foreground because it could have distracted attention from the main focus of the sky. I always like the effect of a limited palette. I will see what kind of critique it gets in art class Thursday.

Jerry Stitt does his critiques based on the elements and principles of design. Overall his critique was favorable. He liked the looseness and drama of the sky and the fact that it had good color harmony. At the end of his critiques always comes the question, "what would make this a better painting?" He is big on having an opposite thrust to create tension in a piece. So because this has a dominant horizontal thrust he suggested a large vertical thrust of perhaps a tree in the foreground or even telephone poles. Having said that the class discussed that in this particular piece it would distract from the central focus of the sky and he agreed. As he often says, the elements and principles of design are just guidelines and not rules and you have to know when you can ignore them.


Marsh Light

I'm a great admirer of the Tonalist painters. The Wikipedia definition of this style says "Tonalism (1880 to 1915) is an artistic style that emerged in the 1880s when American artists began to paint landscape forms with an overall tone of colored atmosphere or mist. Dark, neutral hues, such as gray, brown or blue, would usually dominate such compositions. Two of the leading painters associated with this style are George Inness and James McNeill Whistler." Most of the tonalist artists were oil painters and since I love watercolors and want to stay with this medium, I try every now and then to create tonalism in my watercolor landscapes. I love the mood it creates and the harmony it brings to a painting. I was quite pleased with this attempt, inspired by the marshes in Mill Valley, CA, near where I live. I first did an underpainting of raw sienna on Arches hot-pressed watercolor paper. Over that I painted the sky with brown madder, burnt sienna and cobalt blue grayed with a little Payne's gray. The marsh was painted using burnt umber, burnt sienna and Payne's grey. I had to go over the sky with a glaze of cobalt blue to tone it down to achieve the atmospheric look I wanted. Size: 13.5" x 10".