I was tearing some large sheets of Arches 300 lb. watercolor paper to work with next week and remembered a little sketch book I made with that paper several years ago. It’s a simple accordion structure and I wanted to have it to sketch things in my garden. Wanted heavy paper so I could work on both sides of the accordion pages. I hadn’t worked with paper that heavy and my watercolor didn’t take to the paper very well. It made an interesting texture but wouldn’t do what I wanted. I was busy and set it aside.
Today I remembered reading (John Pike’s book, “Watercolor” that had belonged to my mom) about heavy watercolor paper having a sizing on it that might be washed off, so… I washed my paper. Just a simple run through with slightly warm water and then gently sponged off with a clean soft sponge. When the water first hit the paper it beaded up like crazy but after the sponging, nothing! No rubbing or soaking, just a gentle sponging to remove the excess water. Then laid on paper towels to dry.
Also did a quick test strip—just rinsed and sponged half the strip. When dry I took a brush full of watercolor and swooshed over both washed and unwashed areas. On the blue sample I also did a dab of color on each side.
Mystery solved! Now I need to rinse my book without making a mess or messing up the existing sketches. A job for another day. But I did wash my prepared papers today!
Thought I’d share this as others might run into the same thing. I’ve studied watercolor formally years ago in school but then I used lighter weight paper that I stretched on a board. Since then I’ve used water color blocks of about 140 lbs. as I mostly take them for quick sketching. Other than my early work I’ve been mainly self taught in this media and missed this bit of the watercolor world! Always something…
Just came back from a wonderful week long painting retreat with Michael Chesley Johnson in Maine—way Downeast in Lubec Maine and in Campobello Island in Canada. I took a workshop with Michael years ago. It was good to see him again!
Michael Chesley Johnson demo and Quoddy Head State Park
Finally unpacked, wash is done, house reclaimed and grass is cut. Now to think about all that happened. On the way north we spent two days on Monhegan Island with Holly and Stig—one takes the ferry—no cars—lots of hiking—lots and lots of hiking—beautiful forest and coast line—good food and beautiful music by a woman composer (whose name I’m sorry I didn’t get). She practices on the piano in the little church next to our hotel.
Monhegan Island—view from hike and a new friend
Then Sunday, back to rt 1 and north. We stayed at West Quoddy Station in a little cabin called “the Camp”. West Quoddy Station is a repurposed life guard station that is now lodging in one of the most beautiful locations in Maine. About a mile from there is the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse and Quoddy Head State Park which pride them selves as being the most eastern point in the US—the sun does rise early! We met Sunday evening with Michael and the other artists for orientation. Our plan was for me to paint as part of the retreat and Bob would go off and photograph—both happy!
Light house and our home away from home!
Michael mainly is a plain air painter as were most of the others but as this was a “retreat” as opposed to a workshop or class we were free to pursue our own directions. People worked in oils, watercolors or pastels. They came from all over the US and Canada. Days began with a sharing/critique of the previous days work and then we all headed to a specified location to paint. Some days Michael demoed and others he painted with us. Quoddy Head State Park, the fishing village of Lubec and Campobello Island all offered a wealth of locations—the weather was perfect—perhaps too perfect—post card days. Afternoons were free to continue painting, visit other locations, hike or just veg and soak up everything. Many peopled worked as long as there was light! On the third day I just sketched and photographed and took it all in.
Something around every turn!
I realize that I’m not a plein air painter but rather a painter who enjoys plein air painting as a resource for studio work. It was hot in the sun and working with warm oils was a relatively new experience—didn’t master that this week but I learned a lot. But I did bring back lots to work on and think about during cold winter days in PA.
Two of my quick plein air paintings.
Been working this spring on a series of landscape paintings, concentrating on my mark making with palette knives etc. They are not finished and will post about them when they are.
I like to work in different media at the same time. Clears my head, yet keeps me working—that accounted for the book project in the last post and as an extension of working with fiber and “slow stitching”* I’ve begun a new project involving bridges—combining fiber, photography, and painting—not all in the same piece.
I love bridges, how they connect different places and allow people to interact in ways they couldn’t before. Previously I’ve painted older bridges over the Wissahckon Creek and some will be included in this series. Recently I hiked in Deleware, along the C&D Canal and photographed several bridges that cross it. I’ve ridden over them on my way south to VA before but never walked slowly under them, photographing and sketching both the man made and nature’s response.
My plan currently is to print my images on rusty dyed fabric and combine them in slow stitched collages which also include stitches depicting the plant life under the bridge.
It’s a start.
The second part of this project is to create paintings of the bridges. Planing on studies of at least three bridges—love that number three! Should keep me busy and out of trouble this summer.
* Slow Stitching is a way of working, on this case stitching, that is slow and allows for contemplation and a release from the other wise busy things todays life so often demands. It is almost zen like and I find it complements my other work which tends to be more hurried and frantic.
Been exploring mixed media (currently oil pastels, charcoal, ink and acrylic) on paper. Trying hard not to begin with a direction but rather prepare my state of mind by reading or a walk for example, and see where it leads me. It’s difficult for me once I see a direction not let my thinking mind take over and to become literal. I am also trying with this work, to not dwell on the dark forces that occupy the world today as they take up too much of my life as it is but rather use these explorations to examine hope. Here are two recent results. Different days- different images.
I’m interested to see how these studies affect my other work.
I said I’d post some of the paintings from studies I did several years ago in Ireland. Took a while but here they are. I’m still working with the idea of time and the landscape. The ancientness of this land and it’s history is overwhelming to me. Ceide Fields are bogs covering settlements over 5500 years old. I’ve done several more in this series, but this gives you an idea.
Ceide Fields and the North Sea
Down Patrick Head in the distance with Sea Stack, Dún Briste
The impact that people make on the land and how people and our civilizations with all our grand ideas pass on and the land has remained is haunting to me. Nature reclaims—so far…
Been a while. I did get back to painting. Fall has been busy and I’ve been working on landscapes. I’ve been trying to capture a sense of timelessness in my work. It’s a continuation of some of the work I did this summer with my blue images. This was the first of this session but the rest so far have been studies of images I took years ago in Ireland.
Tidewater Trees and Marshland.
I’ll post the Ireland images soon but they also contain marshland. That area between the land and the sea—so threatened right now— is magic to me.