Saturday, July 25, 2009

Covered Bridges -An Artist's Delight!

I enjoy finding and painting covered bridges. When we have traveled through different parts of the United States, we have located and photographed covered bridges. I do a Google search by typing in "covered bridges" and then locate the bridges in the area in which we will be traveling. Locations are usually given to locate the bridge and many Internet sites will even include a longitude and latitude for GPS tracking. We have followed written instructions and have wound up on a "wild goose chase" but have a great time doing it.

I never have time to paint the bridges "on location" but with photographs and a sketch journal it is easy to paint the bridge upon return to the art studio. The painting above is of a covered bridge located in Sevier County, Tennessee not too far from the Great Smoky Mountains. We have tracked down covered bridges in Tennessee, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Here is a short history on covered bridges:
Early bridges were often made of wood, especially where it was a plentiful resource. Wooden bridges tended to deteriorate rapidly from exposure to the elements, having a useful lifespan of only nine years. Covering them protected their structural members, thus extending their life to 80 years or more. Covered bridges were also constructed to be used by travelers during storms and inclement weather.

Most wooden covered bridges employ trusses as their key structural design element. A popular design was the Brown truss, known for its simplicity, but others were also used.

Watercolor Tip for my painting above:
After sketching, I masked in the bridge so that the background could be painted without worrying about getting any sky washes on my bridge. I also masked in the flowers in the foreground to paint the grasses.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Why Not Keep an Artist's Sketch Journal?

An artist's sketch journal is to an artist what a notebook or writer's journal is to an author. It's place to keep sketches, thumbnails, studies and plans for future paintings. Try it out on a vacation or a walk in the woods and I think you'll enjoy it enough to keep it handy for every day! Write down notes about what you see for a painting and it will be a valuable tool for those paintings you plan to get around to "some day" and will become a fun way to remember special days or "every" day!

How to Chose a Journal
I suggest a hardcover journal rather than just a sketchbook....try to find one that has paper heavy enough to stand up to "light" watercolor paint or watercolor pencils (which take less water and are more portable). I like one with an elastic band to hold a pencil as well as an elastic band to keep it closed and a built in bookmark. There are all kinds and sizes available at reasonable prices, so get one that will work for you. The one I use is pictured above. Samples of my journal pages are scattered through this entry.

How to Get Started
After choosing your journal, decide what types of work you plan to include: sketches only, watercolor pencils, watercolor paints, etc. I usually like watercolor pencils or sketching only when I am out. I throw all of this in a small pouch; add an eraser, a small round brush, and a small cup for water, and I am set for sketching or painting whatever strikes my fancy. You can paint or drawn on both sides of a page or only one side. Again, whatever works for you!

What Do I Include?
Include whatever is important to you and what info you might want for completing a painting: notes about color, shape, size, anything that will help you to remember and create a large painting from your notes.

I often carry a digital camera with me and take a photo of what I am sketching or painting. This helps me with the right shade of color when I am back home in my art studio. I often add notes about sounds, birds, weather, etc. in my the journal and when I sit down to paint, those notes takes me back in my memory to that location. See a couple of samples of the way I use my journal.

The more you use your journal, the more you will enjoy it. It is a wonderful memory book and a great way to "keep on painting" no matter where you are! Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cades Cove - Great Smoky Mountains

Cades Cove is a beautiful section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The watercolor painting of the church above is one of the preserved building along this scenic drive in the Smokies. When you are traveling, take photos of whatever strikes your fancy that you think would made good paintings. I have included in this blog a photo used to paint the church above. Remember you can put in and take out anything you would like. Your painting is your interpretation of what you saw and does not have to be "exactly" like the photo.

My favorite part of this painting is the roof and I enjoyed how the paint was applied to create this effect.

Watercolor Tip:
How to paint the roof
Paint the roof using a wet on wet technique. Apply section at a time starting at the top and working to the bottom. Apply washes of Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Gray, and Ultramarine Blue.

Note: Use the colors sparingly and leave many areas of white paper. Layer these colors. The roof will be first layered in color, dry brushed, and then spattered. Using a liner brush apply a few uneven lines to indicate the indentations, etc.