This week was my first watercolor class. Watercolor requires a whole different method and mindset than what I'm used to. So much fumbling around with a new medium made me want to do a quick sketch in something I had more control over. Just to balance things out.
Watercolor is a gorgeous, magical medium. But until recently I never learned how to use it. Frankly I was intimidated. Why? Because I was trained in oil painting, which is an opaque medium. With oil paints if you make a mistake you can paint right over it. Or easily wipe it off and start again. That's why my adventure in water paints began with gouache, which is a kind of "starter" medium for oil painters. Gouache is opaque, and like oil paint there's wiggle room for painting over serious flubs. Whereas the transparent nature of watercolor means there's only so much "adjusting" you can do. Sure, you can lift the paint off a little. But once you've put a stroke down on paper you're pretty much stuck with it.
And that's not all. With watercolor you need to plan where your light areas and highlights will go -- way before you even begin painting. Once you put down a dark color you can forget about painting over it with a light one. The dark colors underneath will show right through. Because hey, they're transparent, right? (Although there are a few tricks that help in recovering your lights if you do happen to forget them. Like using white gouache. Purists won't touch the stuff, but many great watercolorists did, including John Singer Sargent himself.)
So, you may ask, with all these complications, why not just stick to gouache? Well, gouache is a beautiful medium, it's true. But even so, it has somewhat of a chalky look to it. Unlike watercolor, whose transparency gives the colors a special brilliance and luminosity. And who doesn't lust after gorgeous, luminous colors? Well then.
Okay, so it was time to try out my brand new watercolor set. I brought it along last week when I met up with another artist pal in Queens. We decided to check out Flushing Meadows Corona Park, at the site of the old 1964 World's Fair. And there it was, the Unisphere! Shining brightly in the afternoon sunlight. Commissioned to celebrate the dawn of the space age and the fair's theme of "Peace Through Understanding." What a beautiful globe and a wonderful theme. A theme that is still so significant in these contentious times. Definitely worth sketching!
All right, all right. I haven't been posting much lately. But I haven't been lounging at the pool sipping mojitos, either. Because it's SUMMER! And that means it's time to sketch outdoors whenever humanly possible. Sometimes even when it threatens rain.
I especially love going out with the Urban Sketchers. They're an international sketching club with many local chapters. What a wonderful group! It's completely free of charge, and people of all skill levels meet up to sketch together at great locations. I love the camaraderie and the generous sharing of work, methods, and materials. It's a nice change from working in solitude. (Although that's fun too.) Take a look, you may find a chapter in your city. Or if you can't, then go ahead and start one!
On recent sketching trips with the "Sketchers" I've been using gouache and/or watercolor pencils, trying to figure out their qualities and get the hang of them. What I'm learning is that they require quite a different mindset from outdoor oil painting. I'll write more about that mindset in a future post. In the meantime, here are three samples of my latest sketches. I really love these materials and hope to keep practicing and improving my skills with them.
And now I'm gonna quit writing, get my gear together and go outside ... before it gets dark!
'Twas a long, busy spring ... with not enough time for making art, let alone blogging about it. Sad. But I'm back. And all kitted up with a brand new box of Faber Castell - Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils, wheeeeee! Aren't they gorgeous?
The colors are rich and beautiful when you draw with them like regular colored pencils. But the color really pops once you brush them with water. Of course I wish I had more (and more and more) colors. And I'll probably get them eventually. But so far I'm loving this nifty assortment of thirty-six.
Couldn't wait to try them! So on a hot summer afternoon I took them out for a walk in Central Park. Where I found a cool spot in the shade of this wonderful old American elm tree.
Here in New York City we had a strangely balmy February, with temperatures occasionally rising into the 70s. So it's a good bet that March will bring an early spring ... along with the official ending of the 2017 Mallomar Season.
Mallomars are only sold from October to March, primarily in the New York State region. So you may not know about these beloved, gooey, s'more-like cookies. They've got a marshmallow center, a graham cracker crust, and a crispy dark chocolate coating. Way back in 1913, when Nabisco first began making them in New Jersey, they were delivered without benefit of refrigeration. So during the warmer months the chocolate would turn into a melted mess.
But nowadays don't they keep their trucks adequately chilled? Why do devoted fans have to yearn for their return in October? Who knows. It certainly adds to their mystique. Perhaps Mallomars just like to play hard to get.
Valentine's Day. Let's celebrate by taking a peek at the amorous whipped cream confections of French Rococo painter François Boucher (1703-1770). A fashionable artist in King Louis XV's court, he had a playful, sensuous style that was sentimental and often quite erotic.
Some critics find Boucher's work superficial and vacuous - an expression of the decadent “One Percent” of his time. Well, they've got me there. But all the same, I surrender to the seduction of his luscious, liquid brushstrokes. Not to mention the sheer pleasure of gazing at his bubbly ribbons and bows. And creamy pinks and baby blues. Yes, even the “99 Percent” can enjoy a bit of dessert now and then.
I'm honoring Fashion Week here in New York City by posting a few of my favorite Veronese paintings and their fabulous clothes. During Renaissance times Venice was famous for its luxurious silks and velvets, featuring large floral patterns laced with silver and gold. Paolo Veronese (1528-1588) must have absolutely adored them because he painted them repeatedly. And in gorgeous, juicy colors. Mama mia che bello.
Greetings, art lovers! Here's wishing you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, and a wonderful holiday season, whatever you're celebrating. May the universe bring us all generous helpings of peace and love and things to smile about. And perhaps one or two small luxuries. And throw in a little comic relief once in a while. It couldn't hurt.
Okay. So it's not The Godfather or Lord of the Rings. And it's only a minute and a half. But ta-da! It's my directorial debut, lol. Anyway, I'm so pleased that I finally figured out how to make a video slideshow of my latest gouache still life paintings. And ... it's uploaded onto my Youtube channel. For all the world to see.
I do hope you'll visit Youtube and click the thumbs up button ... you'll find it below the video on the right. It'll be a hu-u-uge help for an artist, and you'll be doing your good deed for the day. Enjoy!
Okay, so maybe they're not the sexiest vegetables on the dinner plate. But fresh raw turnips sure are pretty, with their lavenders and pinks, and their delicate, serpentine roots. So when I saw them at the Union Square Farmer's Market I decided they were coming home with me. Along with a ginormous bunch of eucalyptus leaves that perfumed the air as I set up my still life.
My name is Julie Kessler and I'm a representational artist. I love painting in oils with their vibrant, juicy colors. Lately I've been exploring the unique qualities of gouache, watercolors, colored pencils and other media. I started this blog to share my work and thoughts about making art. I toss other things into the mix too, such as painters that I love, and art books and exhibits that inspire me. Your comments are welcome. I'd love to hear from you!