Monday, September 30, 2013

Virtual Paintout - Isle of Wight!

The Virtual Paintout for September 2013, was the Isle of Wight.  It's the largest island of England and located in the English Channel.  As usually happens, there is so much to see using Google Street View, that the month-end gets close and I have to settle on a view to paint.  Since the Isle of Wight is an island, I chose two views near the sea.  

As it happened, I attended a lecture at the National Watercolor Society headquarters before I started painting my two pieces for the Virtual Paintout.  The talk was given by Dean Mitchell and was very rewarding.  His watercolors are stunning and his enthusiasm for his work was really exciting to see.  I got some valuable tips from him and things to keep in mind for my own paintings.  It came out during the talk that he usually uses hot press paper which has a smooth surface so it's possible to push the paint around a little.  I used to use hot press paper for the greeting cards I illustrated for years but I haven't used it for my recent landscape paintings.  Dean Mitchell inspired me to try it for the Virtual Paintout pieces.  They are small,  5 x 7", and the hot press paper was certainly a different surface for me.  A fun experiment!

Dean Mitchell at NWS

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Crescenta Valley Park

I hadn't been to Crescenta Valley Park until recently for a plein air paint-out with the Saturday group.  It was a beautiful day and I was looking forward to painting with friends.

The park is way up next to the foothills.  It's very large and spread out with lots of mature trees.  I was kind of hoping there would be things to paint there besides trees.  But I'm really up for trying to do a painting from whatever subjects we find on the paint-outs.  It turned out that the Crescenta Valley Dog Park was next to the main park.  Lots of dogs and their owners were there on Saturday morning.  There was also a large gathering of people getting ready for a big party picnic.  

From up a hilly park path I had a nice view of the dog park and the picnic.  I decided to try a watercolor of the picnic crowd of people.  Many were wearing bright colors for the party.  While waiting for washes to dry I painted a smaller gouache piece of the dog park.  I kept wishing the people and the dogs would hold still.  I had been a little frustrated after the workshop with Joseph Zbukvic, my brushes not coming together with my thoughts.  This Saturday some points that Joseph taught seemed to be soaking in more.  These two were fun to paint!  

8 x 10" watercolor

5 x 7" gouache

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Yellow House

I hadn't been painting for almost two weeks but got back to it on Thursday.  The plein air group met at Westminster Gardens in Duarte, CA on Historic Route 66.  It's a "senior community" on 32 acres and is a beautiful location.  Some of the residences are small cottages situated along pathways through trees and gardens.  There is also a lovely pond with a bridge and koi fish.  

The first time I was at a paint-out there I tried to paint the pond area which is very pretty with many trees over-hanging the water and fountain.  It was last year and one of my first tries at plein air painting.  Oh my, what an awful painting I did!  It showcased one of my initial bad habits...too many brushstrokes.  I painted way too many tree branches, pond ripples, and splashes.  I would add the piece here as a bad example but I either painted over it with gouache or used the back for something else.  On my recent visit I looked briefly at the pond and kept walking.  I ran across a sweet little tile-roofed yellow brick home.  I was late arriving so I went with that view.  Some residents stopped by to chat, and lots of squirrels and lizards were fun to watch.  The piece went OK and it was great to get back to painting.  

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Our Saturday plein air group returned to paint at L.A.'s Chinatown recently.  This is my previous post on Chinatown LA!  There is a smaller plaza across Hill Street where we met this time.  The buildings aren't as ornate but it still has a neat Chinatown feel.  Chung King Road is the main pedestrian street featuring specialty shops, art importers, and art galleries.  Art galleries moved in when storefronts were sitting unused several years ago.  It was very quiet on Saturday morning with only a small grocery store open. 

One of our painters, Pete Morris, suggested this area of Chinatown since he had spotted a narrow alley with stairs on both sides which he wanted to paint.  We all thought the alley was terrific and would be fun to try.  But there was no shade at the south end where Pete was painting.  He had a spot in a parking lot on blacktop which was already heating up.  I had to find another view to paint.  Looking down the alley from the north end, which had shade, was interesting but it was pretty smelly in the morning.  We saw several alley cats too.  I finally chose a view looking north along Chung King Road with the festive red lanterns I love to add.  The shops were just starting to open when we finished painting about noon.  I'm looking forward to our next paint-out there!

There is Pete painting at the other end!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Jaguar

We've been having a heat wave in Southern California.  But we feel lucky since the first part of the summer had below average temperatures.  When a recent paint-out was to be at the Meso-American Plaza at the Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills location, we were hoping for some shade.  It turned out that the small plaza, or garden, had perfect trees to paint under.  

The small hill top area features sculptures by an artist from Guadalajara, Mexico.  He worked Mexican stone into exactly scaled, and detailed, replicas of artifacts from ancient Mexican civilizations.  The stone sculptures are set off among some mature cacti and succulents, and lovely palo verde trees.  

The day was going to be hot but it wasn't too bad yet in the morning.  And it was so much fun to chat with the group of about a dozen painters.  Just the right amount of shade for us.  I did a pretty quick gouache piece of the Jaguar hiding in the cacti.  I put off trying to paint the stone jaguar until the last, not sure how to do it.  But I like the way gouache is a little easier to work with, painting in the reverse way I would with transparent watercolor.  I did the Jaguar's dark values first and a lighter, drier layer on top.  Fun to try!

5 x 7" Gouache

Teotihuacan bas relief

Olmecan head.......Chuck Kovacic


Friday, September 6, 2013

Virtual Paintout - Detroit!

The Virtual Paintout location for August was Detroit, the Motor City!  What a fitting location for Bill Guffey to choose.  Detroit has been in the news lately since things haven't been going too well there.  In July the city filed for bankruptcy, the largest municipal filing in U.S. history.  It felt like the right time to look around the city virtually, using Google Street View for the Virtual Paintout. 

I haven't been to Detroit or even Michigan, so as always I was looking forward to a virtual visit.  Unfortunately the month goes too quickly and I never seem to have enough time to check out the paint-out locations thoroughly enough.  I looked around downtown and painted a view in gouache.  I also found a pretty nearby neighborhood with colorful, old two-story homes, and painted a watercolor of a view down a tree-lined street.  There were lots of trees and big yards.  I thought the neighborhood looked lovely.  But the more I looked, the more homes I saw with boarded up windows and neglected yards.  There is an active revitalization effort under way which will hopefully turn around the distressed city. 

5 x 7" gouache

5 x 7" watercolor

Monday, September 2, 2013

Exposition Park

A recent plein air paint-out was at Exposition Park in Los Angeles.  I hadn't been there for many years and it was fun to see how the area has changed, while staying the same.  The painting group was meeting at the large rose garden but that's only one attraction in the park which is operated by the state, county, and city.  The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is there, the only stadium to host the Olympics twice, in 1932 and 1984.  It's now primarily home to the USC football team.  The distinctive Natural History Museum is there, opened in 1913.  And almost one year ago at the California Science Center the Space Shuttle Endeavour arrived where it is now on display just across the rose garden.  I did a blog post last year, Space!, which has my favorite photo of Endeavour.      

There are some lovely and huge old trees on the north side of the rose garden so I didn't have to worry too much about finding shade to paint from.  After walking around for awhile I settled on the view from the tree-lined walk which looked across the roses to the fountain and Science Center building.  The fountain.  I've avoided painting fountains which is a problem in transparent watercolor.  Since I had my gouache with me I decided to just paint the watercolor, not worry about the fountain, and I could put the white water in last with gouache, which is opaque.  I had fun with it and like the result!

Natural History Museum, old entrance.

My view in the opposite direction, the USC main campus.