Saturday, January 30, 2010

Meet Sadie!

Watercolor 11" x 15" Mats to 16" x 20"

Painting animals of any type is a challenge for me.   Yet, every now and then I run across an animal that tempts me to pick up my brush and see what I can do.  Needless to say, I love furry dogs - any size and this one just pulled at my heartstrings.  So, above is my attempt at capturing Sadie's personality. 

I am not the type of painter that enjoys excessive detail in my work.....a photo can do that.  I wanted to paint "personality".  Therefore,  the fur in this painting is an example of that - my interpretation.  I laid down a wash of different "fur" colors (leaving some spots of white paper highlights) with a few detailed bits of fur which were accomplished with my larger fan brush. Painting eyes can sometimes be tricky as well.  I wanted depth without detail.

Below are a few tips for painting dog fur and eyes.   

Painting Dogs' Fur Tip:

Dog hair doesn't only vary in length, color, and curliness, but it also grows in different directions on different parts of the body. This is visible even on the shortest-haired of dogs. The face is one region where there are several 'changes' in direction of hair.   Check the direction and length as you paint.  This does make a difference in the final product.

Painting Dogs' Eyes Tip:
Start by observing where the highlights in the dog's eyes are. Draw this, then the size of the pupil (black part of the eye), then the size of the iris (colored part) and then the rest of the eye. If you get the highlight in a dog's eyes in the correct place and in the correct proportion, the eyes will look right.

Most dogs have brown eyes, but of course not all browns are the same, nor uniform, so once again be sure to not to paint a generic eye colour but to look closely at the specific colour of that specific dog's eyes. The irises of the eyes of miniature dogs tend not to be very visible. Like humans, dogs can have eyes that are different colors, though it's rare.

I love a challenge, don't you?  Accepting a challenge in painting helps one grow as a painter.  Pick up that brush, accept your challenge!  You'll be glad you did.  I was!  And because of that I was able to introduce you to Sadie!

Happy Painting!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Wind Power

Wind Power

Watercolor 11" x 15" Mats to 16" x 20"

My watercolor class focus this session is on landscape painting.  I think the students all agree that the most difficult part of landscape painting is selecting the subject to paint.   I'm not saying that executing the painting is not challenging, but that there are so many wonderful things to paint that getting started is one of the hardest parts!

Painting a sky in a landscape sets the tone for the painting.  In my painting above, Wind Power, I selected a stormy, cloud-filled sky to accent the power of the wind as well as give additional credence to the wind blown grasses/reed in the foreground.  My favorite part of this painting is the foreground.  The reeds, which emphasis the movement of the wind, are the first part of the painting to catch the eye.  The viewer is then drawn into the painting.

Landscape Painting Tip:
Give the foreground preference.  Draw the viewer's eye into the main focus of the landscape painting. 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tile Roofs

Field of Flowers
Watercolor 9" x 12" Mats to 14" x 16"

This entry will focus on how to paint a tile roof.  This was the topic in my advanced watercolor class this past week.  I am trying to tie elements of a landscape together by focusing on specific features that may be found in a landscape.  Since Mediterranean landscapes are popular subjects now I thought I would highlight an element that might be found in one of those types of landscapes.  In the painting above, "Field of Flowers,"  the farmhouse has a tile roof.    Although the main element of the painting is not the farmhouse, a poorly done roof would spoil the painting.  The following steps should help with painting a tile roof.

Tile roofs fall into the color range known as terracotta, which can be anything from a light, sandy red to a deep orange with a splash of blue. Terracotta color is achieved by mixing several different watercolor paints together. The following watercolors are often used for tile roofs:

• Burnt Sienna
• Raw Sienna
• Burnt Umber
• Cadmium Red
• Windsor Orange
• Ultramarine
• Cobalt Blue

Note: Not all of these colors are used at the same time.

Sketch in a section of tile roof and paint using the following steps. Your choice of colors depends on the shade roof that would fit appropriately in your painting. The following colors are simply selected as a sample.

1. Wet the roof area with a round brush (a #12 works well).
2. Drop in Windsor Orange followed by Burnt Sienna.
3. Leave some areas of the roof white and/or light in color.
4. Drop in Cobalt Blue wet into wet to create an uneven, weathered effect on all tiles.
5. Continue working wet into wet; run the Cobalt Blue down the gulleys between the tiles.
6. Paint the divisions between the ridge tiles and the shadow beneath with a small round or liner brush and Burnt Umber mixed with Ultramarine.
7. Using the same brush and paint mixture, paint the tile with little half moon shapes. There is no shortcut t painting these – you must take your time.
8. Paint the vertical shadows between the tiles with a slight darker mix of Burnt Umber and Ultramarine.
9. Paint the reversed tiles under the roof which carry the water away. This step completes your tile roof.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Winter Landscape

Snow Days
Watercolor 9" x 12"  Mats to 14" x 16"

Landscapes are some of my favorite types of paintings.  Although I enjoy painting a still life and other subjects, I enjoy the act of recreating a landscape.  There’s simply something about a magnificent landscape that makes me long to capture its essence on paper, to be able to create a landscape painting that generates the same powerful feelings in someone who views the painting as the landscape did in me.   A well done landscape allows the viewer to be pulled into the scene and become a part of that moment in time.    To me, painting a landscape allows me to make time "stand still" and to create memories for the future.

I love snowy weather and the fun memories that a "good, fresh" snow can make.  In the painting above, the color of the sky and the use of browns and grays in the house, trees, and buildings convey the idea that this snow probably fell overnight and the storm is not over yet.  I included the snowman and sled to add some "happy" color, tell a story and introduce the idea that this snow has been enjoyed by the children living in this house who may well be inside warming up with steaming mugs of hot cocoa! 

Whatever type of landscape you paint, consider the message you are trying to convey and use your paint to bring that idea to life. 

By the way,  landscapes are one of the top-selling subjects for paintings.    So, I am not the only one that enjoys a good landscape!

Friday, January 1, 2010


Soulful Reflections
Charcoal Pastels on grey paper by Karen Cooke - 9" x 12"
Artist's private collection

The start of each new year calls for reflection on the year past and a commitment for renewal and growth in the coming year.   As we take stock of where we are currently, remember to be proud of accomplishments and growth no matter how small and set goals for the coming year - both personally and artistically.

As I review 2009, I ask myself these questions:

  1. Did I paint as much as I had planned?  Absolutely not!  No matter how much I enjoy and plan to paint daily; everyday life, jobs, and commitments, kept getting in the way.

  2. Can I draw or paint more in 2010?  Positively!  I will schedule more time for painting, just like I schedule time for grocery shopping, doctors' appointments, etc. The time is mine to prioritize in any way I see fit.

  3. Did I  make mistakes in my painting?  Of course!  But, I learned from those mistakes and am a better artist because of them.  Happy mistakes make some of the best paintings!

As I plan my goals for 2010, I am reminded of a comment by one of my watercolor students when a painting does not turn out as planned.  "It's only paper!"  So live each day with an unlimited supply of paper.  Don't be afraid to start over on a new day.   It's only paper -- each day and each sheet is yours to create!

Happy Painting and Happy New Year!