Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The best way to start your day...

"Cuppa Joe"  8" x 10" complete with white mat –– ready to frame!
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Friday, March 15, 2019

Cheerful florals

In anticipation of the first day of Spring, on March 20, I recently completed several floral paintings. I notice that even grocery store entryways are channeling the return of warmer weather –– they're filled with buckets of daffodils. They were my inspiration for this brightly colored painting completed with a limited palette of greens and yellows.
"Daffodil Waltz"  
transparent watercolor  11.5" x 11.5" unframed
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Friday, March 8, 2019

Frances, ca. 1901

Frances Adelaide Hamilton, ca. 1901
Stories about long-ago family members can be frustratingly incomplete. This is the case with my cousin Frances Adelaide Hamilton, who was born in Sturbridge in 1899. Frances was my first cousin three times removed... (which means she was three generations back from me.) She was married at age 25, and died in 1927, a few months after the death of her only child. Judging by the many photos taken as she grew up, I suspect she was the much-loved baby of her family. My favorite photo of Frances was taken in 1901, when she was about two years old, and it seemed perfect image as a reference for a watercolor sketch.
"Frances" Step 1








I began, working free-hand with a #12 pointed round brush and a very thin wash of Burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna. I first blocked in the background and added a few shadow details. Once this dried, I used successive layers of wash, occasionally using a darker wash of straight Burnt Umber. I have found that multiple layers of thin, pale washes are most effective when rendering vintage portrait sketches.
"Frances" Step 2

I then added facial details with a #3 pointed round brush and a thin wash consisting of Burnt Umber and Permanent Rose. Using that same brush and straight Burnt Umber, I added a few more details showing her softly curly hair, and also heightened the shadow contrasts.
Finally, I touched the eyes with Manganese Blue.

"Frances, ca. 1901"
7.5" x 10"  transparent watercolor
available at my Daily Paintworks gallery 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Fred with his Bicycle, ca. 1919

Step 1
My grandfather, Fred, who was born in Canada a few years prior to World War I, lived on a farm for most of his childhood. I have no way of knowing where he obtained the bicycle he's shown with in this photo -- or even what kind of bicycle it was. I suspect it is a model manufactured in the late 1800s, as it has no visible braking mechanism and no chain-drive.
I love the way Fred looks as if he's lounging in this photo --  acting casual, but in reality he seems impatient to get back to playing with his bike. He wouldn't even make eye contact with the camera!
I thought this photo would be perfect to use as a reference, and decided a single color would be effective for this sketch -- giving it a "vintage" feel.


Step 2
For the first step, I used a #12 round brush, loaded with a thin wash of Burnt Umber mixed with Burnt Sienna. My goal was to block in the main shapes. The challenge for me is always to avoid getting caught up in details in this initial step. Although I did this completely "freehand," after the wash was dry, I decided to use a pencil to sketch in the two bicycle wheels  -- I didn't trust myself to get the angle correct otherwise. I painted around the lighter area of his shirt and his hair, using a vignette technique.
Step two involved using a darker wash, a smaller brush -- a #4 pointed round -- focusing on adding shadows, which are the darkest values.
For the third and final step, I used a #3 pointed round brush to add details to Fred's hands and face, and to add the bicycle. My goal was to provide a rough form of the bicycle rather than a lot of fussy details. Switching back to the #12 round brush, I added some additional mid-value washes, including an anchoring shadow and a suggestion of background.
"Fred with his Bicycle, ca. 1919"
7.5" x 10"  transparent watercolor
available at my Daily Paintworks gallery


Friday, March 1, 2019

Family History watercolors, Part Three

I was better at taking photos of the process with this painting! The original reference photo of my great aunt, Thelma, didn't give me much to go on in terms of color. But since it was taken in the summer, I determined that a suggestion of green hedges and lawn would the most effective background.
Initially I had considered putting a tree in on the right, with branches reaching out to the left, to frame the image -- but decided not to add any detail that would distract the eye from the two main characters. After some deliberation, I decided to paint the dress as a pink-plaid gingham (there's no way to know, from the reference photo, what color the dress was!).

I under-painted the shadowy folds in the dress with a wash made of cobalt blue and mineral violet, let these dry, and then began adding the little pink squares.
I dampened the upper part of the painting, which I'd left white, brushed  in a pale blue wash (cobalt blue and cerulean blue). Once that was dry, I completed the background using shadow green in the darkest areas, and successive washes of permanent sap green, and a combination of green gold and Winsor Blue (GS).
I mixed a small amount of shadow green with some mineral violet to add a bit of shadow under the figures. Finally, I gave a little more color (burnt sienna and yellow ochre) to the dog's coat, using a #4 pointed round brush in quick brushstrokes.
"Thelma and the Dog"
9" x 12"   transparent watercolor




Family History watercolors, Part Two

Unfortunately, I neglected to take multiple photos of my progress on "Thelma and the New Dress." The finished painting -- from a photo of my great aunt, Thelma Helen Worby (1913-1972).
"Thelma and the New Dress"
transparent watercolor   10" x 14"