Saturday, June 28, 2008

White Cap Crowd

Some folks on Metro last week. The tan paper on the left is the BFK again. I am obviously into those white gouache highlights. This is a page and a half scanned from my small everyday sketchbook.

The little blue sliver on the left is a page of Québécois St. Armand paper, which was part of a sample pack that I found in New Mexico. I chopped it up and put pages into the sketchbooks here and there. Nice to have different textures and colors to mess around with.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Fingers portrait and why not? Done with ink, watercolor, white gouache, and then finally some smudged Pierre Noire, on tan BFK Rives paper. The "negative space" is kind of a smile, isn't it? Hadn't noticed that.

BFK, by the way, stands for
Blanchet Frères et Kleber, the original manufacturers of the 'Rives' paper, at a mill in Rives near Grenoble, France.

Speaking of France, I have been studying (not reading, but actually studying) the old and respected book about Cézanne by Erle Loran, an art professor at UC Berkeley, entitled
Cézanne's Composition: Analysis of His Form with Diagrams and Photographs of His Motifs. It was written in 1963 and lately re-printed.

The term 'motifs' in the title refer to photos of the actual places and scenes in France that
Cézanne used as subjects. One of Professor Loran's excellent analytic diagrams is reproduced below, from page 77. (It's his diagram of La table de cuisine, now at the Musée d'Orsay.)

I have learned two new and interesting things from the book so far. First, that Professor Loran is convinced that Cézanne himself did NOT construct his compositions using the same kind of analysis or forward planning that the professor uncovers. He goes to great lengths in the introductory material to 'prove' that Cézanne had no systematic/academic understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of composition.

It was all pure instinct, according to the fine professor.

And second, for
Cézanne, the choice of initial subject matter had little to do with the success of the painting, as measured by Professor Loran's analyses. So really, all the parts in the book that are devoted to discussion of the original 'motifs' are pretty moot, in my opinion. Cézanne wantonly re-arranged what he saw in front of him to meet the needs of his picture. He made a timeless masterpiece out of a picture of some old rocks in a quarry.

What this also says to me is that you need not and ought not to wait for your surroundings to provide you with exciting or inspiring subject matter. You can learn and grow and get satisfaction and enjoy the heck outta just drawing a door handle or a chair leg.

And so there it is.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sketchcrawl, Saturday June 21st

Sketchcrawl June 2008! Once again, I am the only one to show up. But it's still fun. Above, on the right of the sketchbook page, is the view along the north side of the golden NMAI, with pinky-gray Air+Space in the background (with the top of Ad Astra, which means 'To The Stars', that spiky sculpture by Richard Lippold in front of Air+Space, popping up above the trees), as well as ye ole Washington Monument.

On the left side of the page is an experiment: sketching a face with just a dark watercolor tone. No detail, no line. A few more wc sketches are below. (Here is another one.)

Speaking of NMAI's Mitsitam Cafe, is it my imagination or is it getting even more expensive? A simple lunch of roasted salmon with two sides, and a Key Lime tart (excellent!) cost just shy of thirty bucks. Oh, wait. I guess it was that cup of coffee that almost put me over the top. Hmmm!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Gouache for Field Studies

I enjoyed my weekend workshop at the Art League with Diane Tesler entitled Gouache for Field Studies & More. We spent all of the second day outside, painting scenes in Old Town. There were a few demos at the beginning, but we were pretty much on our own, with a little bit of individual critique, when and if Diane could catch up with us. It was very instructive just to get down to it and mess around.

One of the elements that she emphasized was to begin with strongly tinted paper. Depending on the scene you intend to paint, tint with a warm or cool acrylic wash. The watered-down liquid acrylic wash also seals the charcoal underdrawing, which is very handy. (But I'm not sure I am willing to give up that pristine white page! I suppose when one of your colors is white, it isn't that critical. I have put some BFK Rives tan colored paper in my everyday sketchbook, to test it with watercolor. If it works well I might add that white gouache to my palette.)

Once again, there were some very nice folks in the workshop. As always at the Art League. One of them is going to Provence with Susan Abbott in a few weeks. ENVY!!

I spent some considerable time on the painting above. Really messed around with it. The one below was a very quick sketch with minimal prep. Gouache worked well for both of them. I think.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pierre Noire

Here is an experiment with Conté à Paris Pierre Noire charcoal pencil and watercolor. The charcoal is dark as the darkest night and smears really nicely. More experiments to come!

I have enrolled in a two-day workshop on gouache this weekend. I am worried because the techniques used for gouache are diametrically opposed to all those used in watercolor. In common with oil painting, with gouache you apply the paint dark to light. Where in wc, you do the opposite.
As per MacEvoy: We get a hint of what's involved in the use of gouache (pronounced "gwash") by considering the origins of the name: it comes from the Italian aguazzo, for "mud." I may be hopelessly muddled/muddied by Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


I don't know why. Why not?