"Calm" will soon be in the hands of a Covid-19 front line doctor who spends her days saving lives and risking her own. It is only the second oil painting I've posted here, even though I do many seascape oils and enjoy every minute. Years ago, I thought oil painting would be much more difficult than watercolor. So, I delayed. After all, I hadn't had any training in oil painting. But one day I decided to give it a try. I haven't turned back. The beauty and movement of the clouds and sea achievable with oil has smitten me. Having PD, I find large oils challenging as they require upper body movement but it is possible, even necessary, to take breaks. In fact, since oils tend to become richer with layers, letting them sit while you rest or do other things allows the emergence of suggestions for moving forward. It may just be a small bit of cloud or a wave-like movement created by the brush that encourages you toward a calm or wild sea.
This painting is on a gesso board, which I find one of the best surfaces for creating seascapes. I often start oils by painting on a layer of white gesso or acrylic. Let that dry. Often I do this even if the surface has been treated. Before you start, decide where you'd like your horizon. I have the tendency to create horizons that dip on the left. So, I make a light paint or pencil horizon mark on both sides of the board or canvas. You can also make a tentative line of paint connecting those points. Remember, horizons sometimes look perfect but generally not. So, don't worry about that - not yet. Then, choose the blue or blues you'll want to use to mix with white. I tend to use Titanium White. It's possible to mix the colors on the board or canvas to see what impressions emerge that you might later expand upon. One thing about oil painting is that unlike watercolors, if something goes wrong you can paint over it. So, relax. You can mix colors beforehand, especially if you want to create a single color background. Then, there is the option of putting the color or colors and white on your brush and mixing them as you paint, seeing if clouds emerge as you start from the top brushing from side to side. In "Calm" above, I left areas to paint white. These areas can be defined later, so don't spend much time on them early on. For now, enjoy applying paint. If you're already skilled, you likely have your own approach. We'll stop here for now. I'll be back!
While in lockdown, I've invited friends and family to tell me of people dear to them who are in the front lines of the battle against Covid-19 and who might like a thank-you painting. And so, this post is about making some of those paintings. Here is a brief introduction to the task inviting you to participate - in painting or in also doing paintings for people putting themselves at risk to help others.
So, here we go. The colors I used are indigo blue, dioxazine violet and cobalt turquoise light for the sky and yellow ochre, burnt umber and burnt sienna for the beach. Finally, peach black for the seagulls. If you don't have one or more of these, improvising is fine.
The reflections in this painting require leaving a lot of white on the page. So as you'll see in the next video, I started by wetting the fine-grained Aquarelle paper where clouds might be started and dropping in color - in this case indigo. Notice that the clouds start to form even without my help -- especially if a little luck is your companion. I'm doing this with one hand while holding the camera, so any precision I might have preferred is challenged, but the idea is to enjoy.
So, now we're ready to drop in some dioxazine violet. The process is the same. We wet the paper and drop in the color. It takes some experimentation to learn how much to drop in, but it's possible to wipe away too much color in most cases. So, see what works for you.
TMuch of the rest of the painting is a matter of wetting the paper, dropping in color, moving it around with a brush, sponge, paper towel or lifting the paper and letting some flow of color happen that you can stop with your sponge or paper towel if it starts to get out of control. Or pull the extra color upward.
In the next short video, we begin the sea with a smaller brush. I'm using a number 5 sable brush here and a good amount of indigo with very little water. If you don't want to lose the white in the sea and sand, you can paint on some masking fluid before painting near those sections. Peel it off when you're ready to put some light blue lines as waves into the white areas or bits of yellow ochre or burnt sienna in the sand. The darker bits in the sand, are burnt sienna, creating a textured look using a beautiful accent color that actually can be seen on beaches. Remember, we're creating an impression with this painting, not reality. Yet, even impressions benefit from a likeness with the scene - even as we take artistic liberties to create a painting with passion.
After painting today, I listened to Professor Ellen Langer talk to members of the International Women's Forum about mindfulness. She discussed how we can make what seems mundane while we're secluded in our homes due to Covid-19 into novel ways of looking at our lives. Rather than get cabin fever, we can take up painting or gardening, for example. She mentioned that the idea is to not think in terms of a large project, but in terms of smaller bits. It's a rare author who writes a book in a day. Nearly the same is true for painting.
You can complete a watercolor like the one we're working on in one sitting. But it could be tiring. Besides, letting a section or layer dry may allow you to return with a whole different perspective. So, let's stop here unless you want to keep going on your own, working away on the sky or sea. Whatever brings pleasure is the main thing. Langer also mentioned that mindfulness involves seeing our surroundings differently or making subtle changes in our routines. Activities are not mindful or not mindful, what we bring to them makes all the difference. So, paint for enjoyment. These paintings are being done for people who are doing wonderful things to keep others safe and alive during the pandemic we're facing. If we enjoy the painting, find novelty in each stroke, they'll feel and see that when the paintings are in their hands.
I was busy writing and publishing my new crime mystery novel, Damned If She Does, so I haven't been posting paintings lately. My apologies if you've been stopping by and seeing nothing new. One thing I find with Parkinson's is that multi-tasking is difficult. If I've had a great night's sleep, writing and painting in the same day can work. But that's not usual. And posting takes an additional step.
So, having finished the book, I'm determined to post more paintings. If you like crime mysteries, I hope you'll check it out. This is not the greatest time to have published a book given the coronavirus. Book clubs and speaking at bookshops and other venues are out of the question. But the most important thing for all of us right now is staying safe and keeping others safe too. I am working with two very talented people on the audio version of the book, but that shouldn't get in the way of painting. So, here we go!
This painting was inspired by artists who allow water to do much of the work. I painted it a while back and donated it to help send two teenagers to do charity work for their high school project. A local framer donated a beautiful frame and the painting sold quickly. In fact, people wanted more of them. So, you may find the same thing happens.
The primary colors used are indigo blue in varying intensities, sky blue (light) and bright yellow. You can test your colors on a separate paper to be sure they are what you want before starting.
It's a simple palette painting, sticking with a few colors. And key, as we discussed before, is making sure the white is not lost as you paint because it provides the reflections.
In this painting, I decided to let the sea come above the halfway point of the painting. Usually, I choose to have the horizon lower than the halfway point -- about one third of the way up or even less. You can make a very light pencil line where you plan to have the horizon. That way, you can work on the sky and know not to go near that line in order to leave light along the horizon. The paper can be rough or smooth, depending on your preference. This paper was made in India and is slightly off white and somewhat rough. It came in individual sheets. It's 11" x 14" and if you're lucky you may find a pad of such paper, but likely in an art-dedicated shop. Don't let that stop you from experimenting!
I began at the top right with a number 12 brush by first applying an amount of water that would allow me to tilt the painting upward and from side to side encouraging the color, once applied, to flow and create the impression of clouds. With a second brush, right after the water has been applied, drop in color -- in this case indigo. Have a sponge or paper towel ready to catch the flow if it gets out of control and to dab at will. You can soak up some water and remove color if it runs, but you have to be quick. The entire painting is done by wetting the paper, dropping in color and letting the color flow downward or upward by tilting the paper.
Using this process, it's easy to accidentally paint over the white areas. And you need white areas for the yellows too. So, before painting you could use masking paste to protect areas you want to remain white. It peels off paper. Or you can take your chances. Either is fine. I didn't use masking on this painting, but I have on others. I was feeling experimental the day this painting developed. And I had the sponge and paper towel ready to quickly fix out-of-control flow. Not all days are lucky ones though!
You can create some of the upward wisps in the sky by letting the water with color flow upward and then use your brush to dramatize those wisps. If you're fortunate or very skilled, the water will do this for you, but don't hesitate to wisp further to your taste.
I hope you enjoy Reflective Sea. I'll be back. Kathleen
"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 where I live. My debut novel, Shadow Campus, is a fast-paced mystery thriller described by Forbes as a "masterful debut." The second crime mystery novel is Damned If She Does (2020) described by Kirkus Reviews as "informed and searing" and "a page-turning success." 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