Monday, June 30, 2008

Summer afternoon...

Henry James said that the two most beautiful words in the English language are “summer afternoon.” But I’d have to add two more to the list – “Pimm’s Cup.”

Over the years I’ve read a number of novels set in India when it was part of the British Empire. In the novels the British characters were always dashing off to the club for a “Pimm’s Cup.” I never knew what that was until my daughter showed up one hot summer weekend with a bottle of Pimm’s No.1 Cup. She proceeded to make us the most wonderful of summer drinks – lots of ice, Pimm’s and ginger ale, with the addition of a thin slice of cucumber and a squeeze of lemon. The drink has a slightly astringent/tart/sweet/herbal flavor which is incredibly refreshing on a hot day.

Serving Pimm’s Cup is a summer tradition at our house now. Really, if you haven’t tried it, you are in for a wonderful treat!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The sweetness of a 3-year old...

We had a wonderful few days with our granddaughter Georgia and other family members. Georgia went on her first fishing trip this weekend, threw many rocks in the river, made watermelon smoothies with grandma and learned how to make pizza with her grandfather. She went for a hike, searched for frogs and snakes, threw produce scraps to the deer, splashed in her wading pool, painted and drew a bunch of pictures. She ate “bunny pancakes,” fried chicken, strawberry pie, and watched “Singing in the Rain,” cuddled in grandpa’s arms. The most exciting activity was watching grandpa remove a starling which had found its way down the stovepipe and was trapped in the woodstove. (This happened two days in a row!) And as my daugter-in-law pointed out, thus the meaning of the expression “bird-brain.”

A very good weekend for a three-year old and her adoring grandparents!

Tomorrow I'm going to spend time catching up on my favorite blogs and get the paints out...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sunflowers, but no artwork

I've been very busy with work the past two weeks, but I'm almost done for the month. I spent today shopping and cleaning, getting ready for guests who will arrive this evening. It's been awhile since I've had time to draw or paint. Really, I should be mopping the kitchen floor right now, but decided to take a minute to photograph and post these lovely sunflowers.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A color like dried blood

Although I wrote earlier this month that I would not purchase another tube of red watercolor, I ended up doing just that after reading about the fugitive nature of Alizarin Crimson at Handprint. I decided to purchase two colors which were suggested as possible substitutes. As you can see below, the Daniel Smith carmine (PR176) does look a lot like Alizarin, but the perylene maroon (PR179), a brownish red, does not. To me it looks like dried blood, a color which is not particularly attractive. I’m sure there are many possible applications, but it’s going to take some experimentation on my part. It's very dull.

But as I was sipping my morning coffee it occurred to me that the perylene maroon is the exact color of the Chinese leather Mahjong box which sits on an end table in my living room.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

No cherries this year...

I’ve been waiting for the local cherry crop to appear so I could make panna cotta with cherry compote. I discovered last week, however, that our April snowstorm and a lack of pollination by Oregon bees have destroyed the local cherry crop. (The peach crop, too!) Since making this dessert is a rite of summer for me, I finally went to the store and purchased California cherries, not as sweet as the homegrown ones, but better than none at all.

I'm pleased with the way these cherries turned out. There is a bit of sparkle about them which I like.

Watercolor on Fabriano artistico 140 CP.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Gauguin and Van Gogh share a house

Paul Gauguin is one of my favorite painters (and the inspiration for the name of my blog). I love his compositional style, the colors he used and the primitive quality of many of his paintings. So I was pleased to discover the book The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Provence by Martin Gayford, and read it last month.

For a nine-week period during the last year of Vincent Van Gogh’s life, Gauguin and Van Gogh shared a house in Arles, France. Their time together culminated in Van Gogh's famous ear-cutting incident. The author reconstructs their experience through the artists' correspondence, “the formal analysis and comparison of the paintings they created during this period, and through newspapers that place the work in the context of the contemporary art world, popular literature, and current events.”

Although the writing is somewhat dry at times, I found it a fascinating read overall.

Red stripes...

Cherries on glass plate

I don't think you can tell by looking at it, but these cherries were on a small amber colored glass plate. The shadow under a glass plate looks quite different from the shadow under a regular plate. I didn't really capture the reflection accurately.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mystery solved...

Last month for my Italian word Everday in May series, I posted a leaf print (foglia) from a mystery perennial in my garden. Now I know what it is. The yellow flower is called geum, a member of the rose family Rosaceae. It's been blooming like crazy, so I can only assume it is happy in its new home.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Monday, June 9, 2008

My personal watermelon

Watermelon is the quintessential summer fruit, best when locally grown and eaten at a picnic table in the sunshine on a warm day. When it's imported from Mexico with a label which reads, "Your personal watermelon," and eaten inside on a cloudy, cold day in June, the experience just isn't the same.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Red objects...

I wanted to paint this wine stopper because it had both a bright bluish-red cap and an orange-red rubber stopper, but in the scan the colors look pretty much the same. Oh well, it was a welcome break from painting bad apples. Now I'm going to sit in the sun on the deck, drink a glass of wine and listen to Obama's speech which my son just e-mailed to me.

(This is a giant size wine stopper. Imagine how much wine would be in the bottle it fit, more than enough to make me forget my painting woes...)

Using analogous colors to darken

As you can see from my apples, I need a lot of practice learning to judge the correct paint/water saturation. In fact, I've painted so many really bad apples in the past couple of days, that I've decided that my real problem may not be with the color red, but with my inconsistent watercolor skills. The two "apples" on the top right look like those anemic, unripe tomatoes so common in grocery stores. The apple on the top left might be okay with more glazes, or it might become dark and opaque. I just decided to stop. I painted a disconcerting number of apples, none of which I like. It's discouraging to spend so much time with paint brush in hand, and make so little progress. But I guess that's what makes watercolor so challenging. Good days and bad days. (The glazed apples do seem to have the richest colors.)

Charles Reid (Painting Flowers in Watercolors) uses colors from the same color family, rather than complimentary colors, to create mid and darker value areas. He also recommends avoiding the color values seen in the light, instead painting the color values seen in the halftones, the area where shadow and light meet. According to Reid, colors in the mid-to-light value range should be painted richer than they appear, 25% water to 75% paint. So now I need to take his advice and practice some more.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Alizarin Crimson

I spent some time at the website Handprint yesterday, reading Bruce McAvoy’s descriptions of various red pigments. My favorite reds, Alizarin crimson and carmine were on his list of paints to avoid because of a lack of lightfastness. (Including Daniel Smith’s alizarin crimson.) I have D.S. permanent alizarin crimson, so that may be okay to use as the D.S. catalogue rates it “Excellent” in lightfastness, but that expensive tube of Schmincke alizarin crimson I bought last month is apparently quite fugitive. (Although it’s not really an issue for me at this point because I could care less if the pigment on my current paintings all disappear in a year.)

For more accomplished and experienced painters and those who enjoy reading and studying color theory and techniques, his website is a valuable reference source. The site has authoritative information about pretty much everything related to watercolor painting.

Actually, as a beginner and hobbyist, I found it a bit intimidating.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Modifying the intensity of tube colors

I could paint these all day!

Red paints used right out of the tube are intense and a little artificial looking. Nita Leland (Exploring Color) suggests altering the intensity of pure color by adding a bit of burnt sienna. In the book Mixing Your Own Watercolors, John Lidzey achieves this by adding a very small amount of the complimentary color green. As you can see from the eggs, adding blue/green creates a very different result from adding a yellow/green (cool/warm).

Actually, I added too much green to the mixture, which did more than modify the reds, it significantly changed the colors. But you get the idea, and any of these could be used for the shadow area.

So many reds...

Last month I was very impressed with two paintings I saw at Robyn Sinclair’s blog, Have Dogs Will Travel. Her paintings of red tulips and cherries were bright and beautiful. Looking at them, I developed “red envy” and decided it was time to overcome my red problem - the inability to paint anything red to my satisfaction. In order to do this I plan on spending some time with the color red.

When I attempt to paint a red object it ends up either a bright, garish color, or has a muddy, dull, opaque appearance. In part, these outcomes are the result of my failure to think through appropriate color choices for creating values prior to beginning a project. And my lack of experience with the color. Neither one is an insurmountable problem, right?

In an effort to learn to use the color red more effectively, I’m going to work with color charts, experiment with different combinations and paint a lot of red objects. Maybe by the end of the month, I will be able to produce a complete painting, incorporating my (anticipated) newfound skill with red paint.

I picked a good time for this project because during June and July Katherine Tyrrell at Making a Mark is focusing on color. I know I will find a lot of valuable information on her website.

Today I made a color chart of all the red watercolors I own. When I buy a new art book, inevitably the artist/author recommends a red paint that I do not have (Vermilion! Scarlet Lake! Winsor Red!). I often go out and buy the color, only to discover it is very, very similar to one I already own. So I am not going to buy any more reds. The reds on this chart either lean towards a blue/red, or an orange/red. Most of my colors lean towards blue/red. The first four colors on the chart look remarkably similar, as does the Wilcox Quinacrodone Violet and Winsor Newton Permanent Rose. The two colors on the right(Schmincke and DaVinci Cad red light) are orange/reds. I don’t see much difference between them. The Winsor Newton Quinacrodone Red also seems to be an orange/red in the heaviest application, but not when it is diluted, so I'm not sure and will have to experiment with it.

Now I’m off to see what I can find out about using the color red from my reference books.

Monday, June 2, 2008

It's a red day at my house

I've starting gathering objects from around the house in preparation for exploring the color red this month.