Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sizing Up A Composition

I've got a new piece brewing already. One of the members of my Michigan garden forum posted photos of tiny tree frogs sitting on her shasta daisies and generously agreed to share them with me for a painting. I'd like to make this at least a half sheet, maybe larger. I'm trying to determine how large I want each frog in relationship to the others within the composition I have in mind. This is a compilation of two separate images so I will need to do some adjusting.

I used edge detection in Irfanview and traced my line drawing onto tracing paper. BTW, I use my PC monitor as my lightbox. I then taped the tracing paper to a scrap piece of foamcore and am posting a photo so I can size things up(pun intended). Pretty rough at this point. PSP is outside my budget and I've about given up on my Elements 6. I think it's been corrupted. Whatever it's malfunction, it's just too darn frustrating to try and put together a comp with it. I'll have to use some ingenuity or just do it the old fashioned way and make umpteen drawings until I'm satisfied. I'll also need to take some photos of my own daisies to complete the scene.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Garlic Braid ~ Complete

I just finished this a moment ago and wanted to post it so I could check for problem areas and make tweaks if necessary.

The braid and the loose stem tops were painted with DS Undersea green, burnt umber, raw umber, a little violet I mixed up with Crimson lake and mauve and various greys I made from palette muck. I removed the drawing gum and finished off the roots with a mix of mauve and burnt umber. The twine is also palette muck grey. I'm not going to do a background. I like this as just a simple vignette. I even left the Fabriano mfg. mark clearly visible which I've never done before. It seemed to work with this painting as part of the composition.

P.S. This is my first painting done entirely from life. Working from life has it's challenges but I enjoyed it much more than anticipated.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Garlic Braid ~ WIP 2

Quick update: I'm happy with the garlic bulbs at this point and am getting ready to start on the braided stems. I used a mixture of blues as my under painting, then glazed over that with a mix of mauve and burnt umber. I want to bring in some DS Undersea green where ever it will work. This needs some green, IMO.

I don't usually paint still life and rarely from life. I normally work from photos. This is certainly a new experience for me. I'm anxious to see if painting from life really makes that much difference in the final result.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Garlic Braid ~ WIP

Just starting to add color. So far my palette consists of cerulean blue, phthalo blue, raw umber, mauve & a tiny bit of crimson lake. I used a little Pebeo drawing gum to mask the roots of the garlic beforehand.

My sketch

Braided softneck garlic hanging on my studio door knob over my painting smock

mid-July 2011~almost ready to harvest

I've been the moderator of a garden forum devoted entirely to Michigan gardeners for the past several years. In recent years the forum has seen more and more experienced vegetable gardeners join and I've learned so much from them. Being primarily a flower gardener I didn't know much about veggie gardening but these members got me fired up.

One member is a connoisseur of garlic and an expert at growing his own. He graciously offered to share a few bulbs from his private stock with me for planting. Since I had already planned to convert one of my flower beds into an edible garden I started with his garlic. It's easy to grow...peel and break apart the bulb, plant the largest cloves in the Fall and by the following July you have a lovely crop of the pungent bulbs. There's a bit more involved but not much.

After the bulbs were harvested and cured I made my first garlic braid and decided it was a worthy subject for a painting.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Photos From the Moon Garden ~ 2011

Last year I began refurbishing my Moon garden as it has been in need of some extra TLC for a few years. For those who have never heard of a Moon garden it's a type of theme garden devoted primarily to white flowering and/or night blooming plants, vines, etc. The aglaya daisies are especially beautiful this year and I've added a new variety of Asiatic lily called Eyeliner. Today I snapped a few photos I'd like to share with my followers and visitors.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Time to Loosen Up...again

My creative juices haven't been flowing in great abundance this year and I've noticed that I'm falling backwards in terms of painting style. I'm painting tighter and tighter and enjoying it less and less. I've never striven to achieve photorealism with watercolor because I simply don't have the patience it requires or the desire to try and tame this medium. I chose watercolor because of it's unpredictability but old habits die hard it seems.

Yesterday I cut a little bunch of Houttuynia cordata, 'Chameleon' (nicknamed 'Hot Tuna' by some gardeners) out of one of my flower beds and brought it in to pose for me. This plant is a great little ground cover if kept under control and serves to brighten up my flower beds when nothing is blooming. Apparently it's grown as an edible in China and Vietnam(according to Wiki) and has a slightly fishy taste so it's aka 'fish mint'. I just tasted a leaf and it reminds me of the white fish with citrus beurre blanc I had for lunch this past Saturday. (BTW, that's not a compliment to the taste of houttuynia)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fraise Des Boise ~ Complete


Done! I decided the red of the berries was enough to break up all the green. I was afraid adding burnt sienna would 'muddy up the waters'.

This is fairly small...10" x 7". To complete the berries I did an underpainting using indigo mixed with a little crimson lake to indicate the shadows and create volume, then finished with a few washes of crimson lake to get that strawberry red color. There's probably more I could do to this but it's time to set it aside. I'll get it back out in a few weeks or months and if I still like the way it looks it'll be 'officially done'.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fraise Des Boise ~ WIP 2

Quick update: I just removed the frisket film and am wondering if there's way too much green going on here. I'm not sure the few red berries left to paint will pull this one out of a dive. I'm posting this as much for myself as for my visitors to better spot any problem areas before continuing. I may add some burnt sienna to some of the leaves just to break the green up further.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fraise Des Boise ~ WIP 1

Still today I had no idea how I wanted to go about painting this or what palette I wanted to use so I started by covering the blossoms and berries with frisket film to protect them. Then I began with a light overall wash of D/R Vivid green. I've added various greens I mixed up using indigo, Indian yellow, and perm. yellow to define the leaves. I also started working on some areas of the background and dropped in some WN Quin. gold while the paper was still wet to add interest and break up all that green.

I prefer Windsor Newton's Quin. gold to Da Vinci's because it's not so orange.

I scattered some salt in the viewer's upper left corner for effect but fear I may have over-done it. I plan to darken that corner later so I can tone it down then. Forgot to mention....I'm using #140 Fabriano Uno w/c paper.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fraise Des Boise ~ Study

After adjustments to composition. I added an extra berry toward the center and got rid of unnecessary detail.

After applying edge detection

Original photo

I've grown fraise des boise aka wild French strawberries aka alpine strawberries in my flower beds for years. I grow both a red and a white variety. Originally I planted them simply for ornamental purposes but discovered the tiny berries these plants produce (no bigger than an average person's thumbnail) all summer long have the most amazingly intense strawberry flavor.

This Spring I took a few photos when they were starting to set flower and a few baby strawberries were beginning to appear. Yesterday I decided to use the fraise des boise as a subject for a painting. I selected one of those photos and to save time applied edge detection to it in my photo editor, converted the altered image to negative and printed out a copy. Then I used pencil to make adjustments to the composition. I'm not sure how detailed I want to go with this one yet but better to have too much information than not enough.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

New Look For ArtByCrain Blog

My blog needed a facelift so I'm experimenting with Bloggers new templates, colors, etc. Warning: Be prepared to see some changes over the next few days.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bearded Iris ~ Complete

This is one of those paintings that I could fiddle away at for days and days but I think it's time to call it done. It's already slightly overworked for my taste. Iris 'Chasing Rainbows' lived up to it's name. I think I used almost every color on my palette save for red.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Bearded Iris ~ Update

After adding the background which defines the outer shape of the flower.

Here I've gone as far as I could before adding a background.

I finally knuckled down and got back to work on this one. I seem to have no self discipline this summer and it's not like I'm crazy busy either.

I worked some more on the standards (upper petals) of the flower, painted the bud and then wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do with the background. I settled on a mixture of Indathrene blue and Indigo with a dash of Indian yellow. I dropped in some extra Indian yellow and perm. yellow while the paint was still wet to break up all that dark green. I also spritzed the background with plain water to add a little more interest. Since the flower is so busy I wanted to avoid creating a busy background. More work to be done on the flower but I'm in the home stretch now.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Bearded Iris ~ WIP 1

The Iris Farm
5385 E. Traverse Hwy
Traverse City , MI 49684

After attempting to paint another landscape and failing miserably (several times) I lost my momentum. It happens. I hate when it happens but it happens. I always feel better when I have something on my easel and after just so long I was ready to paint anything just to get my brushes wet again. I found some photos from 2006 I had taken at the Iris Farm, six acres of prime farm land devoted entirely to just about any variety of bearded iris one can imagine. The farm belongs to William Alpers of Traverse City, Michigan and when the irises are blooming it's a sight to behold.

I chose a photo of bearded iris, 'Chasing Rainbows' as my subject. I love all the colors in the falls(side petals) and the deep ruffling. I hope I can do it justice.