Demonstration: painting on Yupo

Painting on Yupo
My husband, Rob Jenter, has a time-lapse camera and knows how to edit video. That let us make a demo video of me painting on Yupo, the synthetic paper I have used for most of my recent work. The photo below shows how Rob rigged up the camera to hover over my drawing table in the Sheffield studio. Rob edited the video, which is just a minute long, arranging it so you can see me work on each painting in sequence, That's not how I work, though. That day I alternately worked on these two paintings plus another couple, alternating to give the water and paint time to dry. And for me to step back and figure out what to do next.

I kept working on the two paintings after the camera stopped, in my usual look-glance-think-tweak way. You can see the final paintings at right.

 The time-lapse setup in my studio space in Sheffield. The time-lapse camera is on the tripod, but duct tape wasn't enough to keep it level over my drawing table. Solution: counterbalance by ladder!

The time-lapse setup in my studio space in Sheffield. The time-lapse camera is on the tripod, but duct tape wasn't enough to keep it level over my drawing table. Solution: counterbalance by ladder!

 "Color on the Green" is what I named this in the end. It's the October image for the 2017 calendar.

"Color on the Green" is what I named this in the end. It's the October image for the 2017 calendar.

 This one is "wetlands."

This one is "wetlands."

California is a different color

In many years of painting landscapes of the Berkshires and other eastern scenes, I had worked out which paints best captured the kinds of greens you find on maples, hornbeams, birch—luscious leaves full of water and chlorophyll. (I usually mix all the greens I use.) Phthalo Turquoise mixed with Hansa Yellow Medium for the freshest leaves; with New Gamboge for the full green of summer, with French Ultramarine for darks and perhaps some Quinacridone Pink to “toughen up” the sweetness.

 The Santa Barbara beach and pier

The Santa Barbara beach and pier

The greens in California, I found, are different: grayer, drier, leathery. One of the first things I did with my paints during our stay in Santa Barbara was to look around the deck of the house we were renting and see what made these greens. The live oaks: Quinacridone Deep Gold added to Phthalo Turquoise and Hansa Yellow Medium made a good leathery green. The tree ferns: Green Gold with Cobalt Blue. The cool yellow of Aureolin, a paint I don’t use much, mixed with cobalt caught the green of sycamore leaves, still full of yellow in the California spring. Quinacridone Purple with turquoise made a gray-green perfect for the exotic Pride of Madeira shrub back by the creek.

Other aspects of the view seem to require different colors, too. The Pacific has the look of Homer’s wine-dark sea, while the Atlantic is typically a merciless, steely gray. A line of red through ultramarine worked for the clear far horizon where the Channel Islands lurk off the Santa Barbara Coast. If there was haze, it had a pink tinge. Closer to shore, the water is greenish, maybe because the sand underneath has a yellow rather than gray cast. Phthalo blue, a powerful blue I rarely use, mixed with some Green Gold seemed to catch it.

The sky seemed more cerulean than cobalt, especially near the horizon. The bluffs by the shore show off that red-gold California soil: Cadmium Red for sunny parts and purple for shadows. The salt-sprayed foliage that drapes down the cliffs has tiny gray-green leaves, maybe gamboge mixed with turquoise and a little red.

The sand was the hardest thing to capture—light where it was dry and reflecting the sun, dark where it was still wet. There was purple in it, but also some of the rusty red of the cliffs. New Gamboge, cadmium red, and ultramarine? Quinacridone Pink, gamboge, and purple? I kept trying different combinations.

California of course is known as the “golden state.” So perhaps it’s fitting that two of the Daniel Smith watercolor paints useful for the California landscape are ones I have hardly used in my East Coast work—Quinacridone Gold and Quinacridone Deep Gold.

 

 

Brushing up

Good watercolor brushes can last a long time, but eventually they get less perky and pointy. Lately, I’ve been wondering if it was time for a brush replenishment.

 Favorite brushes

Favorite brushes

My favorite brushes for a while have been sable/synthetic mixtures from Daniel Smith, a Seattle-based art supply house best known for its paints. The brushes are less floppy than the all-sable brushes I’ve used, yet are easy to point up, even the jumbo #30 round, and they hold a lot of paint and water. Such brushes also cost a lot less than all-sable brushes. One of my favorite sizes is the #20 round—about a half inch in diameter at the ferrule, big and fat and good for painting large areas or with big gestures. A #20 blend costs around $50. Top of the line sable—$450.

Sadly, Daniel Smith is now selling only its paint by mail. I emailed the company to find out what brushes might be comparable. It turns out that Daniel Smith had been getting its brushes from DaVinci, which, despite the name, is a German company making brushes in Nuremberg since the 1950s. As it happens, I’ve bought some DaVinci brushes over the years, including two of my favorite travel brushes.

A painter buying new brushes is like a writer sharpening the pencils or hunting for the perfect pen—an act of hope and also of stalling. There’s always the chance that a new tool will lead to a breakthrough. And it’s fun to contemplate the choices. Watercolor brushes come in myriad sizes, from a few hairs to a fistful. Shapes include rounds and flats, mops and filberts (flat but pointed), and fans, liners, and riggers (long and flexible). The handles, usually wood but sometimes plastic, can be long or short or collapsible in various ways to make the brushes easier to carry. The pointed end can be a painting tool too. Natural bristles come from various creatures—squirrels, oxen, goats, ponies, hogs, even badgers, each with its own stiffness and shape and paint-holding abilities, with the finest being Kolinsky sable—not the fur animal but a relative, the Siberian weasel, Mustela sibirica. Synthetic bristles vary in how well they mimic the water-holding and paint-delivering capabilities of natural ones.

(Oil painting and specialties like retouching, gilding, and sign painting require even more types, such as the mottler, short and stubby; the fitch pounce, round and fluffy: the dagger striper, a long flat brush whose bristles are in the shape of, well, a dagger.)

I carry my working brushes in a canvas roll that holds maybe 30, more if I double up the smaller ones. (I also have a couple of handfuls of “retired” brushes standing on end in jars by my painting table.) When I set up to paint, I take out the five or six that are my current favorites—#12 and #20 rounds, a big soft flat for washes and some smaller, sharper synthetic flats for painting grasses and edges and lifting in straight lines. A #6 round is about as small as I go. Oh, and lately I’ve been experimenting with a three-inch house-painting brush to smooth out washes on the Yupo synthetic paper I paint on.

Here’s a good goal for the tool: “I'll dip my brush into the sunrise, and the sunset, and the rainbow.” —Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barrett in The Barretts of Wimpole Street.

 

(Oil painting and various specialties, like retouching, gilding, and sign painting require even more types, many with evocative names: the mottler, short and stubby; the fitch pounce, round and fluffy: the dagger striper, a long flat brush whose bristles are in the shape of, well, a dagger.)

I carry my working brushes in a canvas roll that holds maybe 30, more if I double up the smaller ones. (I also have a couple of handfuls of “retired” brushes standing on end in jars by my painting table.) When I set up to paint, I take out the five or six that are my current favorites—#12 and #20 rounds, a big soft flat for washes and some smaller, sharper synthetic flats for painting grasses and edges and lifting in straight lines. A #6 round is about as small as I go. Oh, and lately I’ve been experimenting with a three-inch house-painting brush to smooth out washes on the Yupo synthetic paper I paint on.

Here’s a good goal for the tool: “I'll dip my brush into the sunrise, and the sunset, and the rainbow.” —Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barrett in The Barretts of Wimpole Street.

A sudden show

 That's my painting, Berkshire Barns, at the bottom front. The acrylic with the blue sky next to it won second place. First prize went to the large canvas of the field just beyond, made of—not kidding—acrylic and dirt.

That's my painting, Berkshire Barns, at the bottom front. The acrylic with the blue sky next to it won second place. First prize went to the large canvas of the field just beyond, made of—not kidding—acrylic and dirt.

I was reading the Lakeville Journal, the local paper for northwest Connecticut, a few weeks ago and saw an article about an art show to benefit a private school in Lakeville, the Indian Mountain School. This show had been an invitation-only show in past years but now was going "open." The theme was farms. Sending in a submission was easy—no fee, send a jpeg by email. I had an appropriate painting, so I entered it.

And much to my surprise, it was accepted into the show—one of 24 accepted out of 64.

The show opening was February 4. Though I didn't win a prize (and they were handsome money prizes), it was great to have been chosen. The party was well attended and well appointed. And it's probably an audience I don't reach that much with my shows in Massachusetts and New York.

The show is up till March 2.

Sold a painting!

I just collected the paintings from the Redding library show and discovered that I sold one! This unframed painting was in my "bin." It's a small work on Yupo of light streaking across Oblong Valley in Millerton, N.Y. We were on our way to the movies in Millerton in late October when we rounded a corner to see the valley in this extraordinary evening light, I made my husband stop so I could take pictures. A big motivation for me to paint is capturing—or trying to capture—such moments. 

 Oblong Valley at Dusk

Oblong Valley at Dusk

Most of my painting is done from photographs, which is a lot easier in many ways than painting plain air, from live. I've done it long enough that I can usually escape the imperative of the "right" way things look as defined by the camera. Instead, I've learned to treat the photo as direction and inspiration, not instructions, and because of that, I print out the photos on plain old printer paper, not photo paper. But escaping the imperative of the photograph is hard, as I and many painting friends have discovered. Taking the time and effort now and then to paint from the scene itself is a good corrective. I don't do it enough!

Selling something I've made to a total stranger is exhilarating and humbling. A person liked "Oblong Valley at Dusk" enough to pay real money for it, a compliment of the highest order and a validation of the worth of my creative effort. But I'll never see this painting in person again, probably. So: a bittersweet moment. 

Two paintings accepted....

 In the Falls—a closeup of water and rocks at Umpachene Falls in New Marlborough, Mass.

In the Falls—a closeup of water and rocks at Umpachene Falls in New Marlborough, Mass.

Two paintings, "In the Falls" and "Egremont Barns," were accepted into the benefit show for the Mark Twain Library in Redding, Conn., running from last Friday to next Sunday. I took a look at the show on Monday, and it was quite fine, with only a few clunkers. Both my paintings got good locations, where you can stand back and look at them (always a good thing to do with my paintings), and my bin of unframed works has a nice spot across from the checkout desk.

Shows and sales in 2016

 In the Shade

In the Shade

The 2016 show season started off with a prize. "In the Shade" won the Stone Studio Award at the Greenwich Art Society show in the Bendheim Gallery in March. It's one of my wilder paintings on Yupo, inspired by an indifferent photo of trees and a stream in Tyringham, Mass.

In April and May, I had my first full-fledged solo show, in the Greenwich Art Society Gallery. I had many new paintings framed for the show, but I also drew on the many works I've had framed through the years. Altogether, there were 39 paintings, covering work from the past 10 or 12 years. I created a show catalog, available through Lulu.com: Catalog on lulu.com

 End of the Road

End of the Road

At one of the Housatonic Valley Art League shows during the summer, I sold a painting, a scene from one of my favorite Sheffield locations: "End of the Road."  I sold another, unframed, from my studio ("King Harvest Has Surely Come"; it's the November image in the 2016 calendar).

 

 Upstream

Upstream

Also in the summer, "Upstream," a near-abstract view of the Umpachene River in autumn, was accepted into the Greenwich Art Society's Flinn Gallery show, held at the Greenwich Library. If any of you know Greenwich, you will not be surprised to hear its library is new and exceptionally well-appointed. Unlike most shows in libraries, where paintings are hung amidst the books, the Flinn Gallery is a separate gallery space. The show, judged by a curator from the Whitney in NYC, was diverse, and maybe the highest level of work of any show I've been in. (Only 60 or so of 200 entries were accepted.)

I'm now getting ready for my last show of the year, the benefit show at the Mark Twain Library in Redding, Conn. This show, which Sherry and Hugh Karraker introduced me to some years ago, is a good one for sales, since artists can have their own bins for unframed works. One painting of barns in Egremont, Mass., is at the framers, and also four new smaller works on Yupo, which are being matted and bagged for the bin.