Thursday, January 3, 2013

1st of 30 paintings

Day 1 of my 30 paintings in 30 days project:

Yesterday I agreed to participate in a group effort to paint 30 paintings in 30 days.  These could be EN PLEIN AIR PAINTINGS or studio paintings.

I chose a photo I recently snapped at Shem Creek, just outside Charleston, SC, to be the first of my 30 paintings.  Shem Creek is home to many shrimp boats and other boats, birds of all kinds, and beautiful savannahs all around.  The challenge given to us for this 30 day project was to choose a topic or theme of some kind, and stick to it.  The theme could be anything related to the subject matter, the medium, emotions, and so on.  Emotions are always a big part of my choice of scene, but this time I decided to choose a medium and paper to focus on.  All 30 of these paintings will be done in watercolors with pen and ink.  I may also incorporate some acrylic inks which I water down like watercolors.  They're not "liftable" so they pose a different challenge when you tackle the individual washes of color.  The paper I'm choosing is Italian-made Fabriano 140#, whereas I usually rely on my good, old Arches 300# paper.  (I can already tell that the Fabriano is buckling a lot more than what I'd like, but a nice thing is that the granulation of pigment is happening very easily on it.)  Like!

About the scene:  It was late afternoon (about a month ago) as the sun was about to go down.  It was really cold that day...I remember being bundled up (but not as bundled up as my Northern friends have been lately!).  I also remember my patient husband walking ahead of me, allowing me the time to take as many pictures as I wanted to gather that afternoon.  We were headed to VICKERY'S for dinner (right there at the Creek), and we were both thinking about the seafood meal we'd share in a bit.

Here's the research photo that I'm working from:

Research photo I'm working from.  Shem Creek, just outside Charleston, SC
The first thing I did was staple down the Fabriano paper to help avoid the buckling that was sure to happen.  Secondly, I sketched the main shapes in, very lightly, with my 2H Pencil.

My light pencil sketch, just dark enough to show the simple shapes for now.
After sketching, I sometimes go straight into the drawing itself with my pen (I use a Sharpie fine point marker which won't bleed when you later apply a wash of color).  Other times, I paint the wash first.  I chose to do that in this case.  It actually helps me to keep the whole thing a lot looser overall if I'm not restricted to the final drawing too early on.  It looks like a mess at this point, and a lot of my students get to this stage and then they "freeze up"...they don't know what to do next.  Take a look and I'll talk you through the next steps.  (I can still see my faint drawing...can you?)


Painting in watercolors means allowing ample time for each layer of color to dry before proceeding (in order to avoid making mud, or just plain overworking it).  That's not a bad thing (to have that extra time), especially if I'm also trying to capture my thoughts in this blog today.  But let's not forget I also have OTHER commitments I'm trying to get to, and I'm sneaking those in as well during the periods of time dedicated to letting the paper dry (I multitask constantly):  I have several deadlines approaching for competitions, and I'm painting on my newest series which I'll start talking about soon as well.  I'm also lining up some WORKSHOPS starting mid-January through October (when I'll take a group of artists with me to Venice!  Come!).  So much work ahead...what a great year it should be!

In this image below, I've started drawing over my newly-dried first wash.  I'm not going to add the grasses yet.  I want to get another layer of color down.  I did, however, add a few swipes of masking fluid to keep some of grass blades in the color that it is right now.  As subsequent layers dry, I'll add more masking fluid to the grass area (it'll build up an overlapping effect).

Some pen marks are begun.  It's slow going right now because the boats need to "read" correctly.
All the various lines matter.  I probably will NOT add pen to the reflections in the water.  We'll see if I think it needs it.  Can always add it later.  (I do, of course, plan to add watercolor for the reflections.)

Here I've added a 2nd layer of paint to the top half of the painting.  Things are starting to pop out and take form.  I'm going to let this dry and then start on the grasses.

"Negative" painting...painting around objects helps to pop them forward.  
In this next image, you'll see I've begun working on the grasses.

Grasses added at this stage.
I then let it dry and added more masking to some of the grass blades.  I painted another darker layer over the grass and built up some more of the color in the rest of the painting.  Then I signed it!  I hope you enjoyed this step-by-step process.  Check back for my other daily postings of paintings during this 30-day project!

"Docked at Shem Creek II" (11.5" x 8.5" watercolor with pen and ink)
by Helen K. Beacham
To see all of the painters who are participating in this 30 day project, go to:  LESLIE SAETA.

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And you'll be able to see all of the 30 paintings in this 30-day project on my website under ARTWORK.    You may also sign up for email notification of new artwork on my website, at the bottom of any of its website pages.