Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Logs and Landscapes

Avent Cabin
Elkmont - Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Watercolor painting by
Karen A. Cooke

In addition to painting, I enjoy hiking and since I live close to the Smoky Mountains, I do quite a bit of hiking in that area.  I love to take photos of the cabins to paint later;  or if time permits, I like to paint on location.  The painting above was painted from a photo I took in late February on a rare warm day.  The trees were still bare, but the sky was clear and blue. 

History of the cabin above:
From the 1920s to the 1940s, Avent Cabin served as a vacation retreat and art studio for Mayna Teanor Avent. She spent summers in this cabin and painted watercolors of the Smoky Mountain landscape.  The large window was added to let in natural light for Mayna's studio.

Would I love to have a cabin studio like this one! 

Today's blog will give directions on painting this landscape with emphasis on painting a log structure. 

Supplies Needed:

Watercolor paper (type and size of your choice)  - I used a 9" x 12" piece
Masking Tape
Watercolor board
Brushes: flat, liner and round (size of your choice based on the size of your paper)
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Sepia
  • Payne's Gray
  • Cadmium Orange
  • Yellow Ocher
  • Sap Green
  • Hooker Green Deep
  • Burnt Umber
  • Vandyke Brown

Painting Instructions:
Lightly sketch this painting on your paper.  I sketched this drawing on my watercolor paper. However, if you feel you may need to erase multiple times, you may want to drawn on a piece of sketch paper and transfer your completed sketch to the watercolor paper. I discuss how this can be accomplished in my blog of May 11, 2016.

As a reminder: Multiple erasures can damage watercolor paper and cause pooling of water as well as differences in the way the paint is absorbed into or on the paper. Deep sketch marks will show up in a finished painting, even if they are erased. Correct perspective is an important part of this painting. Confirm that you like the perspective that you have executed in your sketch before you start painting. A poorly executed sketch done in a hurry cannot be overcome no matter how great a job one does with the paint.

Masking the trees:
For ease in painting the sky, the lighter trees can be masked in using masking fluid.  Do not move forward to painting the sky until the masking fluid is dry. 

Use a large round brush to paint the sky area.  Wet the sky from the top down to the horizon using clean water. Using a pale wash of Cadmium Orange drop in some color in various locations in the sky.  See above photo for location.  While this is still wet, paint in a wash of the Cobalt Blue, apply the paint working from the top of the painting down to the horizon .  However, do not completely cover the entire sky area.  Allow some white areas to remain.  Using a tissue or paper towel, lift some of the paint to create lighter areas in the sky for clouds, if needed.  While the sky is still wet, drop in a pale green made from the Cobalt Blue and Cadmium Orange at the horizon for the shrubs.  Allow to dry.  

Using a wash of light Payne's Gray, Sepia, Burnt Umber and Vandyke Brown, painting wet on wet, fill in the logs of the cabin.  Deepen in areas of shadows.  Allow the chinking between the logs to remain unpainted.  Refer to the photo above for the location of the light and dark areas.  Allow to dry.  When dry, use a dry brush and darker shades of your paint, paint in the details on your logs.    A liner brush was used to add detail to the logs as well as the boards on the porch rains, roof, etc.  Again, refer to the photo above for paint color and placement.  Allow to dry.

Windows/Doors:  Using Payne's Gray, paint in the windows and doors.  Allow to dry.  Use a utility knife to scrape off a line in the paint to indicate the panes of the windows. 

Cabin Rock Foundation:  Using Payne's Gray, Burnt Umber and Sap Green (very weak washes of all of these colors), painting wet on wet, drop in these colors and allow them to blend and merge.  Allow to dry.  Using a liner brush and Sepia, outline the shape of the rocks.  Allow to dry.

Remove the masking fluid.  The hardwood trees are painted in the following manner:
  • Wet the truck with a clean wash of plain water.
  • Using a wash of Sepia and Payne's Gray and using a round brush, paint along one side of the truck and allow the water to pull the paint across the truck. 
  • Deepen the color in various location on the truck especially where a limb intersects.  Allow to dry. 
  • Using a round brush and Sepia, paint in the small branches. 
Evergreen tree:
  • Using a wash of Sap Green and a round brush start at the top of the tree and brush in the branches referring to the photo above.  Deepen the color in various locations especially near the truck by adding cobalt Blue to the Sap Green to deepen the color.  Allow to dry.  Using Sepia, paint in the truck.  Be certain to skip a few spaces to indicate the branches growing across the truck.  Allow to dry. 


Using a pale wash of Sap Green, Payne's Gray and Burnt Umber, lay in the foreground.  Use deeper shades near the tree line and under the cabin.  Refer to the photo for placement.  The lighter area in the center running down from the cabin is a footpath which is painted using Payne's Gray.  Allow to dry.  Cover the cabin, trees and sky area with a piece of paper or a paper towel, and spatter the foreground with Burnt Umber. 

Finishing touches:
Review your painting and add any shadows that may be needed for depth.  Check the cabin and trees for any details you would like to add.


Happy Painting!
Karen Cooke

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Sunshine, Blooms and Painting Outside

After a morning of yard work, I could not think of a better way to relax than to do a quick loose watercolor outside in the yard. 

Painting outside can be challenging if you are painting on location away from home; however, painting in one's own yard is an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon or just an hour.    I set up my portable easel in from of an azalea brush that was just starting to bloom. 

All elements of this painting are loosely painted with minimal amounts of detail.  The painting was also painted on a slight slant to allow the paint to flow on the paper. 

Supplies Needed:
Watercolor paper (type and size of your choice)  - I used a 9" x 12" pad of practice paper 140# weight
Note:  Practice paper is intended for practice of brush strokes, quick paintings, etc.  This paper does NOT allow for very wet paintings or overworking.  Paint cannot be lifted from this type of paper without damaging the paper.  Feel free to use what ever type of paper you would like. 

Brushes: round (size of your choice based on the size of your paper)
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Sap Green
  • Hooker Green
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Cadmium Yellow Dark
Note:  if you are painting outside you will need to be portable with all of your equipment.  If painting at a location away from your home, double check all of your painting supplies before you leave home.  While it is easy to simply run inside for a forgotten item when painting at home, a forgotten piece of equipment can often mean an abrupt end.

Painting Instructions:
Lightly sketch the flower on the paper.  Do not make this a detailed sketch.

Using a round brush and  washes of Sap Green, Hooker Green, Ultramarine Blue, paint in the background area to give some color and shape to the branches of the bush.  Drop in some Alizarin Crimson in a pale wash to indicate other flower blooms.

Using the round brush and a pale wash of Alizarin Crimson and painting wet on wet, paint the flower working from light to dark and leaving some of the spaces unpainted and white for highlights.  Refer to the photo above for color placement.   While the wash is still wet, use the tip of your brush and place some dots of a deeper Alizarin Crimson on the middle petal and the two pedals adjacent to it.  Refer to the photo. 

Using the round brush and a deeper wash of Alizarin Crimson, paint in the stamen and dot the end with Cadmium Yellow for the pollen. 

Finishing touches:
Add a few leaves, using your round brush and various shades of Hooker Green and Sap Green.  Refer to photo. 

Tip:  Loose watercolors are intended to be loose and flowing, so not attempt to paint in details - that is the joy of loose watercolor painting!

Happy Painting!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Watercolor Journaling - How to Get Started

Watercolor journal and supplies

The trend today is toward journaling of all kinds - from daily diary type journals to trip journals and everything in between.  This post is intended to give some basic tips on how to get started with a watercolor journal.

Watercolor journaling is simply a way to put down thoughts and locations via the media of watercolor.  It takes some drawing skills and a basic knowledge of watercolor painting.  But, it does not need to be a scary task.  A way to transition into watercolor journaling is by first starting with a daily sketchbook and then moving into adding watercolors.  The more one sketches, the better one gets at recording what is seen.  So, if you have never considered a daily sketch book before, you may want to do so now.

Materials needed:
  • Pencil (mechanical or drawing pencil with sharpener)
  • Eraser
  • Watercolor journal (I use one with 140 weight watercolor paper)
  • Watercolor brush ( used a portable travel brush specifically for painting on location)
  • Portable watercolor set (I use a Windsor Newton set which opens to a palette)
  • Small water container (I use bottled water and use the cap for the brush)
Where do I start?
As you can see from the photo above, I like to watercolor journal in specific locations rather than simply doing a daily sketch/watercolor journal.

The secret to any journaling is to get down the basic shapes with not a lot of detail.  This is not intended to be a detailed watercolor painting, but simply your impression of the location. 

Steps involved:
  • Start off with a pencil sketch.  Don't make this sketch detailed.  You are telling the story of the moment and recording it with your own artistic impression. 
  • I try to box off a section of my watercolor journal rather than paint to the edge.  So, I drawn a box about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in from the edge and keep my drawing within that area.  This will help keep the paper from buckling from the water.  (Refer to photo.)
  • Don't use a lot of water in your painting.  You will not be working the paint in the same way as one would in a wet watercolor.  Remember this is supposed to be a fun way to record a location or thing - not a watercolor masterpiece.
  • Approach your painting  in the same method as you would any watercolor painting - working from light to dark; i.e.  Laying in the sky first and moving forward.
  • Depending on your location, don't be surprised by people watching you work. 
Most important part of journaling:  let this be fun!  Don't put pressure on yourself to "achieve" - simply enjoy being and painting.  As you get accustomed to painting on location or journaling it will become easier and more natural.  As with all things - practice.

There are many books on the market specially addressing watercolor journaling.   One of these books may be helpful and give you additional tips and encouragement.  Also, browse through an art store either online or in person and look for specific journals, brushes, paint sets, etc. to make your journaling easier.

The most important part of journaling is enjoyment!  If journaling is not the way you like to paint, then  paint in the way and at the place and location that works for you.

Happy Painting!