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Tried painting some daffodils in my yard again. On Arches paper this time. Nice paper.



And again after lunch. Fabriano paper for this one. Also nice.



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I painted today but only in my backyard. Yesterday I had an opportunity to paint so I drove down to the river. It was so windy I had to drive home. That wasted most of my painting opportunity and is what’s been contributing to my waning interest in plein air painting. I waste way too much valuable time commuting. And I’ve been having so much fun lately painting portraits of my kids I kept thinking I should’ve stayed home and done more of those.

I’ve been putting more time on this big painting. Lately I’ve been craving paintings that are longer, slower dances rather than quick shots from the hip. In comparing this one to the smaller sketch I don’t know that all the polish really adds anything to it other than “finish” though. It’s slow and sometimes tedious work, but it also offers some mental relief from the constant quandary of what to paint. I hope when it’s done I’m happy with it rather than thinking I said all I wanted to say in the small sketch and all this labor was just a waste of time.


After lunch I took a break from that and painted some daffodils in my driveway with watercolors. The purple of the background is killing the color for me, but I had fun. I wasn’t going to post it but my kids liked it.



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I went out to paint both mornings this weekend. It’s been weeks since I’ve been out again. Yesterday was very windy but I tried painting anyway. I got a little done before giving up. I’m going to work on it at home and see if I can make anything of it. If I can turn it into something interesting I’ll post it. If not I’ll paint over it.

Today I went out but couldn’t find anything that interested me. Early spring is my least favorite time to paint outside. I just wasn’t feeling it.

Lately I’ve been craving slower paintings anyway. This is the time of year that I can spend more time thinking about what I’m doing and what I want to do. I have some other projects I’d like to explore and driving around looking for plein air spots just wastes valuable time that I could’ve used to work on something else.

I picked up watercolors thinking they would be a speedier medium. They aren’t (at least not for me). But I’m enjoying them. They’re teaching me to be more patient and more confident. When they’re done they look like they were done much quicker than they actually were which is what’s important anyway.

When the weather gets a little warmer and if I can manage it I’ll try to get outside to paint during the day. Until then I need to focus more on being a studio painter. Larger, more considered, well-planned, finished paintings.

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Brush Trials

Since starting to learn watercolors I’ve been using the same two brushes for everything so I thought I should try some of the different ones available. These were with a couple of new brushes.



Added a little opaque white to try and get some of the leaves of the rose bushes. I’d like to try using white again.

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Small Sketches

Some small watercolor sketches. I haven’t been out painting in a long time.


A loose one:


And then I reeled it in being more literal. Exploring options.


Mr. Frowny Face. 03.28.14-wc4

I tried to stay loose with this one. It’s easier for a landscape because I can change it more than a face.


My kids eating ice cream out of a cup. Again, I tried to keep it loose and I wanted it to stay simple. I didn’t want to get into drawing things out specifically as they are. I just wanted shapes of color. When I started getting tight on the faces I stopped. I’m trying to see how simple I can get and still have it read properly.


A closeup:


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Big Watercolors

I’m back to doing big watercolors. These are 15×22″. I’m trying not to pay attention to specifics like fingers or folds in clothing. I just want big shapes and I’m trying to stay loose. I’d even like these to be messier and more out of control. I’m trying to do groups of figures so I can work on their relationships to one another. First one, my kids from four years ago:

(click on the images to see them a little bigger) 


A detail of my daughter. I think she started to get a little over-worked so that was when I stopped on this painting. I didn’t want this to start getting nitpicky and specific about subtle details. Looking at Sargent’s watercolors, his faces are pretty understated. 03.14.14-bigwc1a

And a detail of my son. This is more what I was after. Simple.  03.14.14-bigwc1b

This one is also from a photo taken four years ago. My wife and daughter at the zoo. My wife was pregnant (and showing) with our youngest. My daughter recognized herself from the limited information I had down at this point so I stopped. I wish she was darker to push her more into shadow but I’m not messing with it. Again, I don’t want to start trying to finesse these. I want one-shot, direct immediacy if I can. 03.14.14-bigwc2

Another detail. You can see the very loose pencil drawing I did. 03.14.14-bigwc2a

Still learning but getting more comfortable with watercolors. I think I’m getting much closer to bridging that gap between my drawings and paintings. My drawings are rarely tight and detailed and exacting anymore. I’ve lost interest in that for the most part. I return to it once in a while but it seems pointless and thoughtless usually. The drawings I like are direct and intuitive reactions to what I’m looking at, and I really want my paintings closer to them. It’s not as difficult when I’m painting plein air because time forces me to just GO! and not over-think things or worry about things being “right”.

Three of my four acrylic pochades have their new HDPE palettes. The fourth, my largest, has its cut and ready but I’ve encountered a slight bump in the road. The plastic sheets are not 12″ wide but 11 7/8″. I need 12″ for it to fit properly. I’m looking at my options and it will likely require some small modification to the box to make up for the narrower palette. In the photo you can see the old gray one from my small box. I couldn’t get it out of the wooden insert so I had to build a whole new one. Now I have an extra!


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New Plastic

My current pochade palettes are made out of standard plexiglass that I got at Home Depot or Lowes. It’s difficult to clean dried acrylic paint off of them, and it requires rubbing alcohol and a palette knife and a great deal of scraping. I got some new HDPE plastic sheets (thanks Bennett Vadnais) from Amazon. I conducted a test to see how easily dried acrylic paint would come off of them before I cut them down to size and installed them into my boxes.

They are white but they are translucent, not opaque. This is not a problem for me but others may want to know. There are some slight scratches all over these. This is also not a problem for me but I wouldn’t expect a smooth glass-like piece of plastic. These sheets are 12×24″ and 1/8″ thick. They cost less than $5 each.


The dried paint from this morning’s work.


Using just my fingernail I very easily scraped off the paint in less than a minute. I’ll have to keep using this to build up a very thick layer to see if I can pull it off in a skin, but this is fabulous!


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I hadn’t been out painting in weeks and it shows. I felt very rusty. I wanted to take a long time on this one but the sun didn’t stay out for long. It got very cloudy and I lost interest in my scene. If it had been cloudy earlier I would’ve picked something else, but I stuck with it anyway.

acrylic, about 12×18″ 



The ice was melting as I painted. I walked in to my location on snow and ice, but when I left I walked out on mud.

Also, this is the finished revision on that other piece: (**Edit: NOW I think it’s finished. I adjusted the drawing of that distant island.)


And this is what it looked like originally (November, 2011). From sunny day to twilight. Quite a lot of changes to the drawing and composition.


Still not sure about it.

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I’m working on some old plein air paintings to see if I can salvage them before I just toss them in the trash. Here are the first two. Both acrylic, 12×16″

This is fun. I’m away from the location and making things up as I go. I can see in the failed versions where I was bullied by the scene and reality was dictating the painting. Working out of my head I’m free to let these wander. As they get more abstract and less about the location I’m more interested in them.


This one still needs some work but I’m considering options. There are things I like about it and it’s much better than it was, but I think now I need to let it wander more. I may play with it in Photoshop and try raising the foreground or adding a tree or more islands… I dunno.


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