Spring at last! On the way home from the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum I took a detour through Prospect Park to look for blossom trees. My handy watercolor kit came with me on the chance there'd be enough sun and warmth for a quick sketch. I was lucky for an hour or so, but just as I was finishing up there was a sudden downpour. Only a few raindrops fell on my work, so fortunately it didn't get ruined. Phew, thank goodness for small favors. Spring weather is so unpredictable!
What to do when you're learning how to paint watercolor portraits, but there's no model around? Actually there's always a model handy if you've got a mirror. And that's how the Self Portrait Project was born.
I bought an inexpensive 60 page sketchbook and dedicated it to painting self portraits. The only way to become really good at something is to practice. Like all the time. So I've decided to paint one a day, or as often as life permits.
To me self portraits are more challenging than painting someone else, because it's hard to hold the pose and concentrate on painting at the same time. It's easy to get mixed up, so that your nose is pointing one way and your chin is pointing in the other. And as much as I admire Picasso, I'm not trying to paint like him.
Anyway, I love a challenge, so here goes. At the end of this project maybe painting portraits will be a piece of cake. These are my first four efforts in the sketch book, in reverse chronological order. I'm beginning to get more comfortable with the process, and that gives me hope.
It's been quite a year. Learning to use watercolor turned out to be quite an ambitious project! But it's been exciting and stimulating too. And there's still so much to learn.
Thanks to all my friends for following along with me this past year as I wandered down my artistic path. All your encouragement and support helped to keep me going. I hope your own path is full of joy and meaning for you, and I wish you a sweet and wonderful new year.
Our Thanksgiving turkey was browning in the oven, and the guests were getting hungry. So I placed an appetizer on the table, and my sister said "Wow, that's beautiful, you should paint that!"
She was right, of course. So when I got the chance I created a similar set up in my studio. I love the sweet/salty aromas and tastes that the subject evokes. And all the gorgeous colors and textures, and the beautiful cast shadow under the plate. It really was a delicious composition to paint!
Do you know that feeling, when it's summer time and you're learning to watercolor, and you're itching to go outside and paint? But it's raining! And raining and raining and raining ... Well, I do. Here are a couple of indoor watercolor efforts from those countless soggy summer days.
Most likely I'll be painting more interiors as we plod along into winter. Maybe you know of a cool, colorful and laid back venue in New York City. Where they wouldn't mind an artist hanging out with watercolors for an hour or two. If you do please let me know!
This was a complicated subject and frankly I was a little intimidated by it. Since I'm relatively new to watercolor, I wondered how I could possibly preserve the tiny white flowers in the planter and the skinny little sprays of water in the fountain ... when there was a whole forest of trees standing right behind them. Well, the answer is: I didn't.
Actually I take that back, I did, a little. With negative painting. That is, instead of painting the sprays of water directly I painted everything around them and left the paper white where the sprays went. After everything dried I used a wee bit of white gouache* on top for extra oomph. However, I didn't have the patience to paint around every single itty-bitty white flower in the planter. So first I painted the foliage and let it dry. Then I laid in the flowers with gouache right on top. I even used gouache to lighten up some of the foliage in front. Hey, Homer and Sargent did this all the time. So I guess it's all right!
*(Gouache is an opaque water-based paint, so it can be used to paint light colors over dark. Unlike watercolor, which is transparent.)
Just when I was beginning to wonder if there'd ever be another lovely, sunny day in New York City again, there were two ... in a row! Of course it's raining again. But at least there's the sweet memory of a wonderful day in Central Park with my sketching buddies.
If you follow my blog you may already know that during my art school days I studied the figure, still life and landscape using oil paints. But I like to challenge myself and learn new things. So lately I've been reading up on watercolor techniques and trying them out.
Many old school watercolor books I've found are written by purists who use transparent watercolors only, and look down their noses on any use of opaque media. I get why they love the fresh, luminous look of transparent paint. But coming from oil painting makes staying in the transparent zone easier said than done. I'm used to the option of painting light over dark. And you can't do that using transparent paint. Light colors just won't show up over dark.
Nevertheless I persist. I continue practicing transparent techniques to get better. But sometimes, after I've already tried and failed, it's time to save my work ... by any means necessary! And why not. It's kind of liberating, actually. Besides, after a recent trip to the Metropolitan Museum I couldn't help noticing that many of the modern and old masters made drawings and paintings in mixed media. Watercolor with charcoal, watercolor with pastel, watercolor with opaque white, watercolor with ... you get the idea. I'm by no means a watercolor historian so I'm not sure when the cool kids got so pure. But I'll look into it and get back to you.
I'm determined to learn how to paint with watercolors. This was my seventh try on this little bouquet of yellow carnations. Thank goodness these cut flowers last so long!
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.
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!