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The Trading Post No. 1

July 29, 2014
Hi All Artists Hearts,
Face Book clues were "purple, antique, strange frills, trading post & Port Perry".
Anyone guess what the series would be about?  Well, it's all about a stunning decorative Kale I once discovered while visiting the Port Perry Trading Post years ago!

So as promised we are beginning a brand new Watercolor series today entitled, "The Trading Post".  As usual we will begin with my original sketch for this new painting.  It has taken me weeks to decide what elements to include, leave out or change altogether, and a further month to draw the decorative Kale in this composition.  I was going through my reference photos and found this picture taken way back in September 2011.  On and off I have played with the idea of painting it.  I just couldn't resist any longer.  So here we go!

As you can see this is a very complicated sketch, but that was the new challenge for me because I needed to include many of the details, more so than usual, so that I could find my way within each Kale leaf within the drawing. Even so, many times I lost my way in drawing the sketch, but even worse, especially as the painting progressed, it often became difficult to distinguish between what was a frill and what was clearly a dark
interior shadow space. So my reference photo was a life saver. Even with this much detail I will still have to define and re-define some areas as I go along.

(In fact, if you tap your Control button and your + button at the same time, several times, you can enlarge your screen and see just how confusing the frills get!)

However, as I began to paint in the first few layers of paint for the frills and shadows I began to find that I had taken a wrong turn in several places.   I soon discovered that the frustrating process of re-creating the drawing on the fly became a bit too nerve racking and filled with questions.

Question like, "If I take the drawing this way, then that will effect this part of the drawing. If I scrub the last color out will it take it back enough to repaint the area successfully?  By doing so will I damage the paper or dull the underlying veil of color too much?"  It was like playing a very tricky game of Chess, fearful that I would make a fatal error and forfeit the game, or the painting in this case,  all together.

The best thing I could do in those moments was to put the painting aside and study the entire composition long and hard before making any further decisions on how to advance.  It meant being inventive and very patient. It was important to make sure the bones of the painting were securely in place before moving onto the more exciting layers of adding beautiful color and details!

I must admit there were a couple of times I really thought I had ruined the piece for all together, but those times of setting the painting aside to study it always helped me to see a way to rescue it. So the challenge was constant, but with perseverance and relying on the lessons and experience previously learned I was able to rescue many of those troublesome areas and grow in the process. 

Looking back would I do things differently? Yes for sure. I learned some very valuable lessons while doing this study and I will try to pass along some of them with you during this series,
whether it be a flawed sketch technique, or working on the rust inside the bowl of the Cream Separator, the myriad of white garden stones, potting soil, small roses taking too much attention from the Kale, or the difficult center leaves of the Kale itself.  We will try to cover as many of these topics as we can in the time allotted for this series.

Until next time stay inspired and paint what you love. Be always learning.


Birds Eye View No.8 FINAL

July 3, 2014
Hi All Artists Hearts,
Today is the unveiling of the final post in our Watercolor Series, Bird's Eye View.

The last thing I completed was the Lady Bug on the lower fence rail which has become of great interest to our Purple Finch.  Let's hope Finch has already had lunch! :>) Here's a small inset clip of that here, and then see the completed painting below.
I should just mention that the photo below does not capture the blue sky as it is in the actual painting and a tiny sliver on the right hand side of the painting was cut off while I was editing the photo for this post.  I had to replace my Computer again (my 15 month old laptop died suddenly! I have now switched brands!), so the files are still being sorted, and thus the long delay in publishing this post.  However, when I find the full photo I will certainly post it here. 

So we have all the individual parts together now in one place and the story is finally complete. I can almost hear the Finch singing sweetly and hear the soft movement of leaves in this little garden, a "fair havens getaway."

A beautiful sunny day filled with the promise of rose perfume in the air and the visit of lovely blue winged,  Adonis butterflies".  This is what our sweet little Finch enjoys all summer long. How nice.

On days when my life becomes overwhelming, or I need to be quietly re-energized I would love to pull up a comfy lawn chair and simply read one of my favorite books here by the roses, drink in a wonderful relaxing day of the pure beauty of all that God has created for us to enjoy.  I can realize afresh that indeed, "The Lord is my strength and my shield..." and therefore "with my song will I praise Him." (Psalm 28:7)

Our next series will start in a couple of weeks and the clue words are "Decorative in the Fall, antique prop, frills, Trading Post, and Port Perry, Ontario."  Got you wondering? Me too! :>) It will be fun to figure this all out and see a new composition come to life.  In the meantime keep painting what you love.

Birds Eye View No. 7

May 19, 2014
Bird's Eye View Watercolor by Jan Howlett, Stage 7

Hi All Artist Hearts.
I must apologize for the extra delay in posting this update for Bird's Eye View.  Quite suddenly my 15 month old Computer gave up the ghost!  It was only 3 months over the expired warranty and in spite of the fact that I had tried several times to have some issues corrected from day one the Company would not help at all.  So the search for a new laptop was a month long excursion, but we are set up now and bit by bit ironing out the bugs and getting used to new software.  So we are up and running and will, hopefully, be free of any disasters or further delays.

Today we are focusing on the Purple Finch in our painting.  I thought it would be interesting to see my simple black and white sketch with it's flat graphite markings transformed into a brilliantly colored three dimensional feathered bird.

I started with some pale light washes for the basic body features.  The key to obtaining the body weight is a slow build up of veils of color before adding in the various details that bring the object, or in this case, the bird to life.  Painting in the shadows brings dimension and realism as well. 

Even painting in the background color and textures is an important finishing touch to push the bird forward and into focus as seen in the samples in our photo.  The background here helps to harmonize all of the colors into a cohesive whole and avoids any appearance of the elements as simply a group of individual subjects pasted together on one page. 

When this is accomplished we are drawn into the picture plane allowing our eyes to travel comfortably through the rest of the painting to the next area of interest.  

In the next post we will try to wrap up this series by adding in a ladybug within eye-shot of the bird, giving our bird feet, adding background textures and a few more deepened shadows on the driftwood fence as well as finishing off some of the foliage.  Hopefully it will only need a final once over to check details and any fixes needed before signing it off as a finished, ready to frame painting.

Until next time, stay inspired and keep your brushes busy.

Birds Eye View No. 6

April 9, 2014
Hi All Artist Hearts,
As you can see I am well on the way to completing the Bird house for this painting. It is tucked in on the far left side of the garden and made entirely of old weathered driftwood.  It was fun to include this in the composition and have it nestled in amongst the flowers and rose leaves.  I still have a little more detailing left to complete for the wood grain on the walls and darken the shadow inside the entrance as well.

I used a very pale wash of Payne's Grey and a touch of sepia and reflected here and there some of the pinks from the surrounding, distant roses. It has taken several washes to gain this amount of depth to the wood, not only in the bird house itself, but the supporting posts as well. 

It was fun to work on our two visiting Blue Adonis butterflies.  This is rather fiddly work, especially the markings on their wings and their large black eyes outlined in white (the white of the paper that is, when using watercolors), but if you love detail work, then this will be a delight for you as it was for me.  The larger one of the two is complete now as is the pink rose it is fluttering over.  The rose petals are a soft blend of pinks and shadowy pale violets over a pale under-wash of New Gamboge.  The last details painted in were the golden yellow stamens.

It is always hard for me to start filling in the background textures and colors and still keep it soft and muted, but at least it is well started.  The picture has finally moved past the awkward stage and is really starting to take on that finished look.  I love this part of the transition where I can soon concentrate on the little details that begin to let the story behind the painting come forward and completes the journey for the viewer. 

Next post will help us see a section go from raw sketch to the final layers on the Purple Finch. With Spring this year comes the melting away of mountains of snow at last and the start of one of my favorite seasons, that of beautiful flowers!  What better time then to be approaching near the finishing line for our Watercolor series on "Bird's Eye View" than now.  Maybe it will help us through the last few cold spells until the lovely warmer weather arrives for good!  So until next time, stay inspired and paint what you love.  : > )

Birds Eye View No.5

March 24, 2014
Hello All Artist Hearts,
Well today we will consider the rescue issue of reconstructing the center rose that I spoke of last post and see how it all turned out.  It was definitely a challenge to remove the staining color enough to allow me to repaint the area and have it look natural, allowing for the additions of the various green leaves without red color ghosting through the greens.

I created a 3 part power clip of the actual progress from the original problem through to the final correction.  I have used a dotted line around the area that would remain as a small rose, and showing the parts outside of the dotted line that would be reshaped and eventually changed into about 6 new leaves and 2 new small rose buds.

As I very gently scrubbed and blotted away the staining colors of Alizarin Crimson and Permanent Rose they slowly began to lift off beautifully without disturbing the surface fibers of my paper, at least not visible to the naked eye and that was a good thing.  That was a big hurdle and once done I could breathe a sigh of relief. 

The next challenge was the redesigning of this area into differently shaped rose leaves so as to make the rose appear as if it was nestled in among those leaves and therefore no longer prominent.

I used various tones of green to create subtle transitions, show the different levels of growth age from new to mature as well as give the allusion of the different planes and angles for the new leaves. I was really pleased with the outcome and relieved that the composition looked more balanced once again.

Next time I will do another 3 part power clip for the Purple Finch so you can see the different stages of its development as well.  Until next time keep inspired and know that by the next post we should be well into Spring with warmer weather and the return of many of these delightful  birds.

Birds Eye View No. 4

February 17, 2014
Birds Eye View Watercolor by Jan Howlett Stage 4
Hi All Artist Hearts,
Well Bird's Eye View has come a long way with a lot more detail painted in.  The story line has more substance as well, but I can see a potential problem developing with the center bloom that needs attention.  As I study it I feel that this flower will command too much attention and if left as it is now will end up too close to the center of the composition and draw the eye, and I don't want that to happen.

So I have decided one way to correct this is to introduce some extra foliage to tone down the size of both the flower itself and the open span it creates that, if left unedited, would dominate the piece.  So in the next stage I will show how I rescued this issue.  It may be a risky move since it will probably require some careful removal of paint, but I need to attempt this correction as soon as possible.

I have also worked on more of the surrounding rose leaves and developed their veins and stems along with some of the shadowed areas as well. It has really added depth, contrast and rich tones by doing so. I mixed several different greens on the palette to capture the various summery greens I saw in my reference photos.  Then I started work on the blue Adonis butterfly and a bit of the sky (although the sky part is not showing in this photo) with a first wash of pale Cerulean Blue as well as a few of the tiny blue flowers sprinkled here and there in the background.

I also decided to start filling in some of the background grasses to help begin to anchor the scene down and get away from that "floating" look phase.  So it is a good start and I am happy with the work so far.

Until next time, enjoy your painting sessions and make it a learning journey.  Every painting is an adventure and can even lend itself to building new ideas for your next composition. Paint what you love.




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