"September Spring" is a watercolor painted to extend the summer as it began to slip away. It was painted over a week with patience required in order to achieve the layering of light and dark that you see in the various flowers. One of the most difficult things for many painters, including myself, is to let early iterations dry before proceeding. And to do bits at a time. Below is how the painting first looked when I stepped away to let it dry and to think about how to proceed.
As you can see, first came basic colors and placements of primary flowers, touches here and there and a light dusting of the sky to see what might work well. Inspired by the work of Kate Osborne, I put down colors in a light wash. The paper used was rough grain, 140 lb., 12" x 16". Before touching the brush to the paper for a flower, I wet the section -- starting with the purple flower.
The brushes used were number 10 and number 7 Kolinsky sable. It's important to have artist quality paper and brushes even if you're new to painting. I've mentioned this before, but is bears repeating because poor materials can discourage budding artists -- and irritate established ones as well. Over time, you come to know what works for you. That's' when painting becomes so much more enjoyable.
I work a lot with Holbein paints but also other high grade ones like Old Holland, Sennelier, and Winsor & Newton. Also, experimenting with colors found in shops when traveling or received as gifts can add zest to a painting and fun to the project.
When I returned to the painting at each iteration, I tried to keep in mind the basic painting, adding flowers, leaves, accents, and a sense of movement as if a slight wind was coming from the left. Dark squiggles and blotches of color were added gradually -- experimentally -- with sponge in hand in case they just didn't work. Time between each set of additions allowed the colors to dry. That's when you see what you really have and whether another darker dab or accent (like a bright pink on red) might bring greater life to a flower.
Paintings like this tend to look like fun-filled expressions. And this was fun to paint. But painting is work too and some days you may go too far, lose too much light, crowd the painting. That's a learning process.
If you decide to try a painting like this one, be sure to have lots of clean water, changing it often, to keep the colors bright and pure. Experiment on a separate, scrap piece of paper of the same type you're using for the painting when choosing colors. Start with transparent colors. You might begin by laying down a basic stage like the one above, and then branch out on your own in terms of colors and shapes, perhaps stopping now and then to look at my finished one or ignoring it completely.
Allow your hand to jiggle and wiggle, as often happens if you have Parkinson's. Brace it for delicate additions. This is one of those paintings where a little shaking can be an asset. It's not a photograph; it's an impression. So feel free.
As PD has progressed, I have tried to find ways to go with what my body is doing -- or not doing. That includes cognitively. Most artists have good painting days and days when they should do something else. I find it's best to go with the flow. Every error is a learning experience, every slip-up with watercolor is a chance to learn how to use a sponge.
And every lost cause becomes the scrap paper for future experimentation.
Painting Doc Tip: Sometimes the shapes of flowers emerge merely by tilting the paper around after you've dabbed the first wash onto it -- as mentioned in earlier blogs. Let the color flow a bit. Some may not flow as you like, requiring that you whisk outward with a brush here and there leaving white spots where the sun might reflect. Then, after that has dried, wet a portion of the light flower where you think darker petals might be and dab a bit darker color -- repeat tilting and/or brushwork that appeals to you. Notice in the red flowers that the darker petals aren't realistic but rather impressionistic. Not much in this painting is realistic -- but it nods in that direction enough for us to know we're looking at either wild flowers or ones planted to appear that way. :)
This watercolor is the most recent. I prefer not to draw when trying to create a painting that is playful. This one was intended to be a sketch. If I'd put some additional planning into it, some of the features would be more like the overlays of color on the left. One good thing about watercolor is that if the tree, for example, turns out to be too fat or uninteresting, a wet sponge can quickly do away with most colors. I particularly enjoy painting trees and the shadows they create. While there's often an inclination to make shadows gray, I wanted this painting to be free of reality constraints as much as possible. In isn't at photo, so why not have fun? This painting is very close to being simple palette. This means that the number of colors used are limited and sometimes created from mixing each other. The beauty of many simple palette paintings is that the limited number of colors used helps keep the artist from accidentally adding colors that do not go together. If the basic colors used (simple set) compliment each other, then ones created from them are likely to compliment as well. With this painting, keeping the white was very important. I could have brushed on a protective liquid over the areas I wanted to keep white. Since the point of this painting was to enjoy and remain loose, something not always easy with Parkinson's, I just painted and looking at other paintings that had preserved white effectively, left large swatches of it to be colored in later. When I was first learning to paint, looseness came with difficulty. Fear of errors was likely the reason. That still happens, especially as a painting starts to take form and it's appealing. You don't want to ruin it. But, there is a trade-off. Worrying can take the joy our of painting and also, at times, cause worse problems than would result from painting freely. I used mostly a number 10 round sable brush. It holds water and color beautifully. The paper is 140 lb rough texture and most of the arrays of colors were created by wetting the paper, dabbing in the color, tipping the paper, allowing the color to flow and shaping as needed. If I had it to do over, I'd bring the distant opening of the path down somewhat and leave more white in the bushes behind the tree. Maybe next time!
This oil painting is at the top of our stairs and is a favorite. The 22" x 26" canvas was first given a coat of white acrylic. The next day the background of cobalt turquoise blue was painted with a large brush over the entire canvas. A day later, I began to use titanium white starting with the bottom third of the painting, which was to be reminiscent of waves. There was something about this painting that made me feel very free, as if there was no wrong way for it to develop. And so I allowed the brush to move in wavelike motion across the canvas with some turquoise blue on the brush toward the top of the wave and in other areas. I added lavender within the wave and in the top blue portion of the painting. In West Cork, lavender appears often in the sea a sky. The next level emerged from a desire to combine sea and sky and so the splashing of the wave (small dots) in the bottom section of the painting is reduced -- but still there. The upper layer was to be cloud and so a sense of movement across the canvas was guiding my hand in applying the white and blue that shaded the cloud and created a sense of layering.
I've come to love oil painting, especially of this type, where what you put on the canvas is not right or wrong but rather a free flowing of emotion. This painting almost painted itself. Once I started the three layers, I didn't stop until they were done. Each section is punctuated by light and dark turquoise, which accentuates the white, shapes the wave and cloud elements and adds to the sense of motion. This kind of painting is joyful. If I was shaking, it didn't matter.
If you're just arriving, you'll want to read the earlier blog below about the site.
Above is the beginning of a painting that is still in progress. This little guy showed up a few weeks ago in the back garden looking into our window. I hadn't seen a bird like this in our garden until that day. Perhaps you know what he is. I'll be checking. He certainly isn't skittish. He stayed around for a while even as I took several photos -- kind of posed, actually. I posted this unfinished painting along with a later version, as I'll do sometimes on this site, because it lets us talk about beginnings and process.
The paper is textured, as you can see. It's 140 lb weight, Arches rough grain and is 12" x 16" (31cm x 41 cm). Paper quality and texture matters. While a block of this type of paper is not cheap, there are online options and sales at art stores. I watch for those. If you're learning to paint, people might recommend low quality paper, brushes and paints. That's a good way to become discouraged. Low quality paper and paints, especially, tend to result in less than happy results. Then you start to think you're not suited to painting. And that isn't the case. Give yourself a boost by purchasing good quality paper, at least 140 lb, and quality paints for oils and acrylics too.
This painting started with washes. That involves wetting the paper where you plan to paint. Starting with the sky is good. You soak a round brush in clean water (perhaps size 11 or 12 size brush). If you want a very light blue (e.g., cerulean light or cobalt turquoise light), you can also put a small amount of water in a cup or tray and mix in the color to your preference. Holding the paper at an angle or setting it on an angled table easel, paint across the top letting the blue flow down missing some areas that will later look like clouds. You may need to lift the paper to encourage the flow, but do so slowly. Use this technique down to where you want the peach section to start. Repeat the same process of wash for this area and the green. The peach color here and the birds chest are different intensities of Holbein Vermillion Hue. The green here is Holbein Permanent Green No. 1. You do not need to use these specifically.
If you don't have enough white for clouds, while the section you're working on is still wet you can take a small, wet sponge (preferably one for painting) and wipe the color away in spots with a circular motion (usually one circle will do for each cloud). If the section is dry, you may still be able to to do this, but not as effectively as when it's wet.
Once the background is done, begin sketching branches. Keep in mind where the bird will be perched so you'll leave room. Go easy with the first set of branches, to avoid blocking the light with too many. Make some thick and with a somewhat dry brush. Then add a few leaves, perhaps with sap green, olive green and Naples yellow. Here again, the color can be mixed in a small cup or tray compartment. Be sure to go light when doing the leaves too. They can be darkened later. At first, you're working on positioning and shape. They can even be left white inside until later. The white to the left of the bird's head above became a leaf later.
Now you're ready to paint the bird. If you're not confident or feeling experimental, sketch first. I dove in because sometimes I can't help myself -- lightly at first so the color could be swept away with a wet sponge if it went wrong. You're welcome to trace the bird from the painting (make it smaller or bigger if need be) and use tracing paper to put it on your painting.
Painting the bird was a challenge, but an enjoyable one. Besides, at this point in a painting a mistake is not the end of the world by any means. You have more paper, water, and paint, so go for it. Starting over is fine. Also, you can use white gauche to whiten areas where you might have slipped and also for the beak and hint of an eye to accentuate. Regular white won't show up or cover mistakes like gauche. Purist painters may tell you that they don't do that. Do what works, especially when learning and for small areas. As time goes by, you won't make the same mistakes and you'll also be better able to plan where you'd like an area to be left white.
As you can see in the second painting, additional branches were added along with both darker and lighter tones to the leaves and branches. Van Dyke brown, black and burnt sienna are useful here. The painting is almost done. I'll be adding more leaf detail, but it's almost to the point where I should stop and step away for a day or two.
It's good to walk away from paintings if you're tired or tight. As PD progresses, I'm learning to do less in any given period of time. There are advantages. For example, letting segments dry allows you to see if more color is needed. Perspective is always good. Take a break and the painting will benefit.
PaintingDoc PD Tip: Try to let your hands relax when you paint the branches. Let them flow across the page even if you're shaking. Practice on a separate paper if you're worried. You might take a look at some Japanese paintings of branches. Note the beautiful flow. Some branches don't even need to connect to anything. We're creating an impression, not a photo. The same with leaves. You can paint hints of leaves as well as ones that look leaflike toward the foreground. When painting a bunch flowers, for example, a portion can be hints while others are more realistic. Too many perfect leaves can make the painting appear crowded.
In way of introduction, you'll want to see the "About" page by clicking on that above. In short, this site is sharing ways to paint and maybe we'll get into writing as well sometimes. I'm a professor emerita of business and preventive medicine, author of nonfiction books on politics, negotiation and communication. And, since the early onset of Parkinson's, I've become an artist and a fiction author. Many of the paintings are of West Cork, Ireland. My debut novel, Shadow Campus, is a fast-paced mystery thriller described by Forbes as a "masterful debut." I hope you'll enjoy this site as it emerges and we paint together whether you have PD or not. I'll do my best to share what I've learned and continue to learn. We'll start with some watercolors and then introduce oils as well. Thanks for coming by. Kathleen Kelley Reardon