Monday, December 14, 2020

Winter is coming...

Copyright 2020 Robert Mesrop
Well, actually -- winter is here. Not officially yet, but today feels like winter because we had a light sprinkling of snow all day (and the forecast has a big storm on the way for Wednesday...). 

Today, I spent several hours in a Zoom watercolor workshop that has kept me busy each Monday morning since the end of August. It's been a great discipline, and there have been interesting challenges posed by our workshop instructor, Robert Mesrop. Our final session for this term was devoted to tree branches, something I have struggled with forever. Robert provided a photo of a large, and very gnarly, Weeping Beech tree in Yarmouthport MA. (right) The focus of this exercise was partly on conveying depth through foreshortening -- no easy task. Since the reference photo targets the branches and not the background, for me the challenge extended to how I could suggest the background yet not allow it to "take over" the painting. 

I began by sketching a light outline of the main shapes of the branches. Mixing a thin wash of gray using Ultramarine Blue and Sepia, I tinted sections of the background, first dampening the area and then dropping color into each section created by the intersecting branches, one at a time. I  avoided making the wash too smooth by using the side of my #6 round brush, which helped ensure variation in tone. My paper is #140 Fabriano Artistico rough, making it easier to achieve a dappled, instead of a flat, background.

I added color, emphasizing certain parts of branches by using a darker wash of Sepia to suggest shadows, and highlighting other sections with a thin wash of Burnt Umber. I also built up more variation in the background, with alternating washes of color. 

I thought I was finished, so I signed the sketch and took a few photos with my phone.

But I realized that some darker tones  would enhance a few areas and make the depth more clear to the viewer. Finally, I was satisfied with the finished product. This session was a nice conclusion to my extended period of Zoom watercolor workshops with Robert Mesrop, and I look forward to continue to stretch my learning curve in 2021.    

"Winter Branches"
transparent watercolor  7.5" x 5.5" unframed

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Late Winter Sunset...

Step 1

A few months ago, I started a winter sunset painting -- but I set it aside and forgot about it. (It's a larger version of a small painting I sold last December.) 

Step 2

When I "discovered" this unfinished work once again, I knew it needed considerable work to give it more interest. I began by adding more definition to the snowy roadway. But clearly there was more to be done...

After a few hours of effort, I felt I'd reached a good stopping place...

"Late Winter Sunset"
transparent watercolor  14" x 10"  unframed
For purchase information, click HERE to go to my online gallery. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Inspiration: Pumpkins...

"Pumpkin Patch" 
transparent watercolor    10.25" x 6.5"

Pumpkins are an appealing subject for many artists. And no matter how trite or predictable they may seem, at this time of year I find them hard to resist -- especially when combined with fall foliage and New England's rural architecture. A recent trip to western Massachusetts resulted in a few photographs which, when combined with my file photos taken at Old Sturbridge Village, inspired a quick watercolor study. It's an imaginary scene I've titled "Pumpkin Patch." 

For this painting I used a fairly limited palette consisting of Winsor & Newton Sepia, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Yellow Ochre, French Ultramarine, and Mineral Violet -- and a bit of Holbein Brilliant Orange. I completed the painting pretty much freehand (although I sketched in a few roof lines with pencil to minimize distortion in the buildings perspective). I used just one brush --  #8 Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin brush, although I did put in a few tree-branch details with a #2 Cheap Joe's Golden Fleece Rigger. 

Here are a few of the photo images I used for inspiration...

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Second Place winner at Cape Cod Art Center

Pleased to announce that my painting, "Sun-Dappled Woodland," done in transparent watercolor, received the Second Place award in the 2020 "All New England" show at Cape Cod Art Center, Barnstable, MA.

Such a treat to get this news -- many thanks to Roberta Miller for her dedicated work on behalf of the CCAC during these past difficult months of the pandemic.

This is a plein air painting that I completed early last fall in Douglas, MA. 

"Sun-Dappled Woodland"
transparent watercolor  14" x 11" matted & framed
contact me via email for purchase details

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Accepted--Upcoming Exhibit in Rhode Island

Thrilled to have one of my recent watercolors chosen by juror Paul George to appear in the "Paint What You Love" show at the Rhode Island Watercolor Society in Pawtucket. The show opens on October 24 and runs through November 20. 

"Ivory Vase"
 transparent watercolor  matted & framed  11" x 14"
contact me via email for more information


Friday, October 2, 2020

Afternoon at the farm...

A few weeks ago I spent a day at Old Sturbridge Village, a great place for artists to take reference photos for paintings. A favorite location at OSV is the Pliny Freeman farm (no relation that I  am aware of!!). The sunlight cast a warm glow on the buildings, and provided some good light-and-shadow contrasts, so the painting was a satisfying challenge. As usual, I didn't remember to start taking photos of my painting progress until I was well into it! Oh well... I am pleased with the finished product. 

Step one shows the sketched-in outline of the board fence in the foreground. I painted the sky first, with a wash of Cobalt Blue, using a 1" flat brush to cut around the roof lines of the buildings. While it was still damp, I deepened the tone of the sky on the right of the painting to give it some depth and variation.

Reference photo
In step two, below, I added color (Alizarin Crimson mixed with a bit of Payne's Gray} to the back building at far right, and to the chimney. 

I also added a pale wash of gray (a mixture of French Ultramarine and Sepia) to the roof, put in some shadow lines to emphasize its gambrel style of that roof, and brushed on an uneven wash on the fence boards, using warm and cool tones of gray wash. 

The final painting, showing additional details -- but not too much "fussy" stuff. 

"Freeman Farm in the Afternoon" 
transparent watercolor   14" x 11," including mat and frame

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Family History Watercolors -- Lucy Jane (Lee) Benson (1828-1927)...

I have been working on a series of watercolor sketches, using a collection of family photos as my references. These photos go back to the mid-1860s. My third great-grandmother sat for this portrait in about 1865, along with her husband and four of her five surviving children. I thought it would be interesting to render these images in watercolor...   I'll post my progress in stages. My first step was to lightly outline in pencil the details of her face, hands, and dress in order to get the proportions as correct as possible. The palette is a limited one -- mostly Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Cobalt Blue, and Permanent Rose. My brushes are #4 and #6 pointed round, and the paper is #140 Lanaquarelle cold press.
Step #1 - Lucy Jane (Lee) Benson

Reference photo

Step #2 - Lucy Jane (Lee) Benson

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Workshop painting...

A watercolor workshop in Zoom format may seem like something to avoid -- but actually is a great way to remain engaged in the creative process during this time of social distancing and isolation -- an opportunity to be in contact (at least virtually) with other artists. I began a six-session intensive workshop yesterday at 9:30 a.m. It's offered through the Cape Cod Art Center in Barnstable, and it kept me literally on my feet for three hours.
Our instructor is well-known Cape Cod watercolor artist, Robert Mesrop, who offers a good combination of friendly, laid-back encouragement and helpful, real-time demonstration with excellent pointers. He generously gave all participants in the workshop the same reference photo to work from. (I "flipped" my copy of this photo horizontally so that the barn faced in the opposite direction from the original -- my contrary nature is always on alert...).

Here are some step-by-step photos of my working process... with the final painting at the bottom.

Step one. This photo was taken around 11:00 a.m., after I spent about 20 minutes on a drawing (I started over on a fresh sheet of paper after I dropped a brush loaded with Alizarin Crimson early in the first-wash process... grrrrrr...).

Step two. It was 11:51 a.m. when I snapped this image with my iPhone. At this point I had spent most of my time working on the background trees.

Step three. About 40 minutes later, I had added the foreground trees and "branchy" details in the foreground.

Step four.  After adding a few more foreground details and tweaking the barn colors," I signed the sketch. At this point it was almost 12:30 p.m. -- time to call it a day and call it a finished painting:

"New England Barn" 
transparent watercolor  14.25" x 10.25"

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Imaginary scenes...

 There is never a shortage of inspiration in the national news. The California fires that are currently raging provided an idea for how to complete a quick (previously uninteresting) watercolor sketch. This house is visible from my studio window... And although there are no fires anywhere nearby (thankfully), if there was a fire off in the distance it might look like this.

"Time to Leave"   7.5" x 5.5"

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Sailboats & Sunsets exhibit, Cape Cod Art Center

My painting, "Breeze off Cataumet, is part of the Juried Artist Member exhibit, now showing online at the Cape Cod Art Center, Barnstable, MA. I'm so pleased to be included in this impressive collection of summertime views...  Contact me via email if you are interested in purchasing this painting.

"Breeze Off Cataumet"

transparent watercolor     12" x 16"

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Benefit auction update...


"Blue Glass Vase"
transparent watercolor

My original watercolor donated to the "Bid Fore the Kids" auction at the 22nd annualgolf tournament benefitting the Worcester County CASA project, " was part of a three-item lot. It was grouped with a gift certificate to Rotman's Furniture in Worcester plus a matted and framed photograph by Ron Rosenstock. When the auction ended at midnight on August 3, 2020, the final bid for this three-item lot was $1,500.00. 

Friday, July 31, 2020

A bit of news about two paintings...

I enjoy sharing updates about my work -- never more than now, while we are all participating in social distancing, wearing masks, washing our hands, etc. Another of my watercolor paintings was chosen for inclusion in a permanent installation at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center's University Campus in Worcester. The original painting, "Gardenscape #1" was sold to a private collector last year. 

One-time reproduction rights for "Gardenscape #1" were granted to a Boston gallery that specializes in corporate art installations. Last year, L'Attitude Gallery also purchased similar rights to three of my watercolor landscapes which are also part of a permanent collection in an inpatient unit at UMass Memorial Medical Center on Lake Ave. North, in Worcester.


Also, I donated an original watercolor to the "Bid Fore the Kids" auction,  part of the 22nd annual golf tournament benefitting the Worcester County CASA project. As a CASA volunteer since early 2017, I know first-hand the positive difference this organization makes for so many children and youth and their families. My painting, "Blue Glass Vase," matted and framed, measures 18" x 22." and was sold here: