Saturday, October 29, 2011

Stream: Work in Progress #2

     I've been fiddling with this painting since I posted the first stage in September. If you compare the two, you'll see that I've added another layer of shadow on many of the foreground rocks. I've also given more definition to the trees on the left and added softer definition to the more distant trees on the top right.
     Unlike the previous two paintings, this work is pure transparent watercolor, since I'm using it as a demo painting for my Tuesday afternoon watercolor class in Kettering. I'm in no hurry to finish, and I think it's about 85% there. I mostly want to work in the lower left quarter. The little bit of white water needs to be detailed, and some fine detail added to the rocks immediately around it.
     Anyone see anything else I should do to it? Comments welcome!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cedar Falls -- Completed?

Cedar Falls (c) 2011 Susan Bertke
 You saw the beginning stages of this watercolor on September 2nd. I think it's finally finished. (Or as "finished" was my paintings ever are. The longer they sit around my studio, the more likely I am to go back and fiddle with them.)

That dadgum waterfall has been driving me crazy since my last post. I can't tell you how many variations I've painted. Watercolor purists maintain that the only white in the painting should be the original white of the paper. Early on, it became clear that this would not be a pure transparent watercolor. I ended up overworking fairly extensively with gouache (opaque watercolor).

The trick to combining transparent and opaque watercolor is to do so in a way that seems intentional. It should look like the opaque bits were intended from the beginning, not desperate attempts to cover up mistakes. Since I took Chris Leeper's workshop, I've been a lot more relaxed about the idea of mixing watercolor with either acrylic or gouache. It's helped my transparent work, I think, because I'm a lot more relaxed in the beginning stages of a painting. I think, "Oh, I can be a little more adventurous about my colors, because I can always use this as an underpainting if I don't like the result."

The finished size is about 14"x20" on Arches 140-lb. watercolor paper.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Braided Stream

Braided Stream (c) 2011 Susan Bertke
 Here's the completed version of "Braided Stream." (If you look at my previous post, you'll see the underpainting.)

The background hills gave me the most grief in this painting. I vowed I was going to keep them a bit out of focus so the center of interest would stay in the foreground. But I went back to make "just a few corrections," and the next thing I knew I was painting individual branches on trees! So then I had to go back and paint over most of that detail. :-)

I'm happy with the texture I got in the foreground, especially all the gravel and stones. And the bark of the trees came out nice, too. The really tricky part was the water, or rather showing the mud and stones under the surface of the water.

The painting is done in acrylic on Arches 140-lb. watercolor paper, 14"x20".

Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Braided Stream - Work in Progress

I started this painting during the Brown Bagger session last Monday and haven't done a thing with it since then. It's acrylic on paper, and definitely is just the beginning step. Watch here for future progress...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"Summer Woods"

"Summer Woods" by Susan Bertke (c) 2011
When I started this painting at the first Brown Bagger session at Rosewood Art Centre, I shocked everyone by working on an Arches watercolor block instead of a canvas. Coming from a watercolor background, it seemed perfectly normal to me! I see several advantages to working on a good quality rag paper:
  • I'm not crazy about the woven texture of canvas, especially when I'm working with thin glazes. And watercolor paper comes in three different finishes (hot-press, cold-press, and rough).
  • It gives me the option of starting the painting with watercolor or acrylic thinned to the consistency of watercolor -- which gives a transparency and luminosity that I haven't achieved with opaque media.
  • I have more framing options:
    1. Under glass with a mat (I'm not sure that having the glass in direct contact with the acrylic paint would be a good idea.) in a standard frame (not necessarily a canvas-deep frame).
    2. Framed with neither glass nor mat, so it looks more like a canvas work. 
    3. Dry-mounted to a support of some sort and hung without any frame at all. (I haven't tried this, but I'm sure someone has.) Chris Leeper actually mounts his paper to a board before he starts working.
That said, I have had one problem with working this way: for some reason acrylic washes seem to soak into the blank paper more than watercolor does. I can't imagine why this is so, but that's my experience. It's not a problem if I start with watercolor washes, or if I thoroughly pre-wet the paper.  So maybe I'm simply not using enough water in my acrylic washes. I also know that some artists prime their watercolor paper with gesso, gouache, or matte medium. Any of these would cut down on the absorbency of the paper.
Anyway, this painting is acrylic on Arches 140-lb cold-press watercolor paper, 14" x 20".

Monday, October 3, 2011

Name This Painting!

I've declared this painting completed, except for one thing--I don't know what to call it. Stream #2 (which is how it's filed on my computer) just doesn't do it for me. Any ideas?
For those who like to know, it is acrylic on 16x20-inch canvas board.