I have had two significant mentors in my life as an artist, Adolf Konrad and Betty Stroppel.  Adolf passed in 2004.  Betty passed this morning.  Both Adolf and Betty believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.  I now hold two batons in my hand.  Adolf, in many mysterious ways, has continued to be my guide.  I am expecting Betty to appear any time now.  It is clear to me that I will follow in their footsteps, sharing through conversation, teaching and example all I have learned.  The most basic lesson from Konrad was to draw every day …. every single day without exception.  From Betty, the most basic lesson was to paint every day ….without exception.

This blog is about Color……. however, I left my paint tins behind when I left by the light of flashlight on November 1st to catch a plane for California.  Hurricane Sandy ripped through New Jersey leaving us powerless.  I improvised.  Still, I ended up with mostly ink drawings.  That’s not such a bad thing.  As Adolf would say “Don’t ever stop drawing!”

Creative Color is about seeing, whether in black and white or full spectrum.  The important thing is to keep looking, keep exploring, keep searching and keep the eye and hand coordination in World Class Athlete shape.

United Club at Newark International Airport waiting for flight to San Francisco

Newark International Airport No.2

Newark International Airport

Cafe, Mountain View, California

California Transportation, BART and Cal Train

Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park

Hangar One, Moffett Field

Music Concourse, Golden Gate Park

San Francisco Streets

Warming up in a coffee shop by Golden Gate Park

Moffett Field and improvised palette

United Club, San Francisco Airport

San Francisco Airport

And there are more …….. I hope to pass on the excellent advice of my mentors …… draw, draw, draw ….. paint, paint, paint, be willing to share everything I know, be supportive, encourage good daily work habits, draw, draw, draw …. paint, paint, paint.

Sketchbook drawings: drawn with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Black Ink

As I sat outside Artfully Elegant (next to the historic Bethlehem Hotel), I sketched the street and the people enjoying the monthly Art Walk.

Art Walk, Bethlehem, PA, August 2012

A fountain pen, a waterbrush and a cd case with pieces of Peerless Watercolor Papers taped to the inside works incredibly well to add touches of color to a drawing.  Everything is conveniently on my lap and I’m able to stop at any moment to talk with people about the paintings I have displayed on the table beside me.

En Plein Air Sketchbook drawings: drawn first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Rome Burning Ink, followed by washes of Peerless Watercolor.

Painting en plein air forces me to make quick decisions about every aspect of my drawing or painting.  I must move along quickly.  The sun won’t slow down for me no matter how strongly I protest.

United Methodist Church, Washington, NJ sketchbook page

Springtime landscape painting is making me crazy.  I feel as if I have forgotten everything I ever learned.  There are no solid forms; everything is delicate, the lights and darks flickering everywhere without combining into strong, larger shapes.  My eyes and brain needed to go back to basics of value studies.  For several years, I’ve wanted to paint the pink and green granite church across the street from Gibson’s Gym.  I did two quick sketches this morning, one parked across the street from the church and one from the parking lot behind the gym.  The wind was so strong, I painted in the car. I braved the wind later today at Willowwood Arboretum.

United Methodist Church, View from Main Street, Washington, NJ

I spent an hour on this sketch.  When I finally was ready to lay in the value wash of burnt sienna the shadow shapes had changed drastically.  I compromised between the current and former shadow shapes.  I hadn’t indicated enough of the original boundaries of shadows.

I started this blog off with the study of color value.  I keep returning to the idea that the value of a shape is more important than the hue of the shape.  If the value pattern doesn’t work, if it isn’t strong, the best color in the world won’t make the painting work.

Sketchbook value paintings: sketched first in pencil, followed by washes of burnt sienna.

Since the sketch I did during Danielle’s graduation was meant to be a gift, I was nervous about applying watercolor washes to the original sketch.

Original Sketch of Danielle's Graduation, fountain pen, brown ink

I scanned the original and printed it on Arches watercolor paper using my Epson 2200 printer.  I then painted the print rather than the original.  I’ll let Danielle decide which one she wants.

Danielle's Graduation, Watercolor washes over digital print

I’m not crazy about the way the stained glass windows compete with the flags for attention.  They are too close to being the same width as the grouping of flags.  I think it would be a stronger painting if the windows were eliminated completely, allowing the back wall to be in the purple family, complement of the yellow flags.  The touch of blue in the graduation gowns would play a more important role.  The color scheme would be analagous with one complementary color (Purple/yellow complements with accents of red and blue.

The original drawing was done with a fountain pen filled with brown Noodler’s Ink.

Thankfully there is a bit of blue to offset the analogous colors.

"Kathleen" watercolor portrait painted in 1980 from a reference photo taken on a trip to New York City in 1969

I continue to be fascinated with the abstractions created by reflections in store windows.  I love the way that the reflected shapes work with the objects on display.

This painting is mostly neutrals, set off by the pink neon sign and the blue scarf.  A few more cool colors would have added a greater illusion of depth to the painting.

This is one of the paintings that has survived the sorting and dumping of older work.  It still hangs on my wall.  It reminds me of the wonderful adventures Kathleen and I had as teenagers exploring New York City with my camera.  At night I transformed my mother’s kitchen into a darkroom.  I had fallen in love with black and white photography.  Kathleen was a cooperative model to add human interest to architectural abstractions and my obsession with rows of objects whether they be dump trucks or loaves of bread.

Photographs as reference materials can be extremely distracting.

Villeneuve, France - oil on canvas 24" x 36"

This painting is based on two photographs taken while in France with Mlle. Jane in the spring of 2009.  The photos were taken on two different days at two different times of day.  One day was sunnier than the other creating a warmer color scheme.  The second photo was taken later in the day creating more interesting shadow patterns.

In spite of my careful preliminary drawing to establish the shadow patterns and values that I wanted in the painting, I found that referring to both photographs led me astray over and over again, confusing both the color scheme and the light source.

Eventually I abandoned the photographs and looked only at the painting making the necessary adjustments to pull it all together.  I prefer not to work from photographs, but painting large paintings while traveling is always difficult if not impossible.

For the past year I focused on mixing clean color using only two (maximum three) colors, as well as studying color as light waves.  Understanding how the light sources (the sun and the sky) effect the landscape helped me to see the warm and cool variations of leaves in light, turning from light, out of light as well as the changes of color and value due to the transparency of leaves.  The Villeneuve painting tested my understanding of the science of color.  I found that I enjoyed painting the vines and bushes more than I’ve ever enjoyed painting green leaves before.  I will no longer be intimidated by summer greens.

I posted several of the earlier sketches and stages of this painting in earlier posts and on my other blog.

My focus is on correct color/value and paying attention to the effects of playing warm colors against cool colors.  The painting still has a long way to go.


Villeneuve, France - Oil Painting in Progress


There is a bit of curvature happening in the camera when I photograph the painting in the study.

Staring at the greens in the trees all summer long has helped me with this painting.  I am finally achieving better cool greens as seen in the leaves of the climbing rose.  The cool green helps to create a sense of light shining on and through the leaves in the foreground.  The greens in the pots below are also a playful mix of cools and warms.  I am mixing no more than two colors at a time throughout the painting, even for my neutrals.


Villeneuve, France - detail



Cast shadows too dark and opaque


When working from a photograph I often make poor choices when it comes to painting color value.  I fall back into bad habits of painting the values I see in the photograph instead of paying attention to the local value of the objects and determining the value range of the local color as it falls from light into shadow.  When I painted this old, vine-covered building with a strong shadow cast from an adjacent building, I painted the shadow too light. I should have left it alone instead of attempting to follow the photograph.  I knew better than to fuss with the shadow.


Washed out shadow and reworked with pastel


Instead of leaving it fresh and luminous, I began to add more layers on top f the cast shadow shape.  the color lost its freshness and the illusion of light vanished.  With nothing to lose, I washed out the overworked shadow shape and reworked it with a bit of fresh color and pastel to pull some lights back into the brambles.

The local color value of the building is light.  The cast shadow on the building will never be as dark as the darks on the metal roof or in the brambles.  A shadow should look cast, not painted onto a surface such as the side of the building.