Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spring! Maybe

This month just can't make up its mind. Nice weather, then snow. On April 19 there were at least two inches of snow here at the house, other places in the region got more! Maybe it will settle down and leave like a lamb. Currently there is one of those April showers that bring May flowers.
I did get some yard work done: cleaned up the flower bed near were the large tree was taken out last fall, picked up and sift the white rocks that where on the path through that flower bed (the new tree will be put where path was), cleaned out more flower beds and remulched. Still more, always more! I wish the window installers at the catering business would finish. Their scaffolding is over my rose bushes.
I needed change from all the tree drawings that I have been doing, they were starting to look alike. In my "will do someday" files is a photograph of a yellow rose "Topaz Jewel". We have two bushes of this variety and they have spines like cat claws. Though not quite seasonal, it is a nice change of pace.
Topaz Jewel, 18" x 24", oil pastel
Stage 1, I gridded the white primed colorfix paper and did the basic drawing with yellow and green pastel pencils. and blocked in the background with blue-violet.

Stage 2: I finished blocking in the background and leaves with my cheaper, harder oil pastels and just starting with the petals.

The finished drawing: this is when the nice, expensive Sennelier Oil pastels are used. The colors are toned down from the garish under painting. To reduce the brightness the leaves were gone over with a complementary red-violet color.

As relief from the large, demanding flower oil pastel drawing, I did a smaller, quicker drawing in a medium I rarely use: Conte crayon. The subject is my late Gracie cat. She had to be put down last fall. She was a faithfull companion in the studio. For this drawing I used a tan background to stand in for the bits of light brown fur mixed in with the gray and white tabby stripes. Gracie was what is know as a grey or dilute tortieshell cat. A regular tortie has black, dark brown and red fur with much more dramatic contrast. I did this drawing with out gridding first.

For even a further change of pace I did two drawings just in graphite pencil. The dead tree is from an old slide I took many years ago at my parents. The barn was a color photograph with little contrast. I did a lot of "pruning" on the foreground trees to the barn could be seen better.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring has sprung!

March has been doing a lot of transitioning from winter to spring. On March 23 there was heavy snowfall here in La Crosse. Here is the view from my studio window. Then it warmed up, melted off then snow again on April 1st! The temperatures are very nice now; up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday. Last weekend a major thunderstorm system went through spawning tornados and hail, fortunately not in La Crosse itself. The weather warning siren went off, prompting us to turn on to the Weather Channel and finding this area the center of attention with at least five tornados sighted on the ground in the three state area (Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin). I finished Coulee Pine Tree and posted it on Wet Canvas for critique. It was suggested that the tree was too dark for the scene and the forground grasses where unnecessary. So I erased back the green on the tree, lightly went over it with a dull red colored pencil and erased back the yellow sky in the upper left corner and put in light pink. Redoing the foreground was a major undertaking. I removed as much color as possible with tape and poster putty, then erased with a soft white eraser and picked up the crumbs. The erased area got two light coatings of white opaque watercolor. Then I colored in with blue and white colored pencils, dissolved them with Odorless paint thinner and smoothed the layers out with a piece of wool felt. If you look very carefully at the actually drawing, some of the original grasses faintly show through. I also wasn't careful enough in layering the white watercolor and had some hard edges that showed up when colored over. This has been a learning experience and an idea what to do next time major changes are needed.

For a change I did a drawing in Derwent Tinted Charcoal. The subject is an old apple tree at my parents. The source photos where taken the previous March. Old Apple Tree, 16" x 20", tinted charcoal on gray charcoal paper.

The remodeling at the catering business next door isn't done yet! The original windows that where covered up when it was resided about 25 years ago are now opened up with new windows. I was concerned for our privacy and the window installers said there will be stained glass inside. That should be beautiful at night. I will have pictures of that later this summer.

Gardening is coming along, I had covered a bed to warm it up faster and last week planted kale, spinach, bok choi, chard, red onion sets, radishes and carrots. The radishes have sprouted. I still have all the white onions from last year and will harvest them before the rest of the seeds are planted.

The watergarden has a leak and will need to be drained and the join between the old and new sections redone. That won't happen until next month.