While sipping my morning cup of coffee there is always time to do a quick color study of something simple.

Cotton Swabs

Cotton Swabs – Artist Trading Card

My bathroom provides a multitude of objects to use as shapes for an abstract design with which to play with color.  Cotton Swabs is a study in complementary colors,  a limited palette of Yellow and Violet.  The cotton swabs are the supporting actors in the design performance.  The shapes of the background and shadows are the lead actors.

Morning Sketch playing the Color Scheme Game:  Cotton Swabs – Ink and Watercolor – ACEO – Artist Trading Card

Color Scheme: Complementary

Dominant Color:  Yellow

When teaching workshops focused on a variety of watercolor techniques, I present the students with a project that allows for experimentation and encourages a playful, curious attitude.

Abstraction From Traced Objects

Abstraction From Traced Objects

Why don’t I set up a lovely still life for the students to work from?  Because a still life requires drawing skills that many students have not yet acquired.  By the time the students are ready to add paint to their drawings, half the class is over and the students are already discouraged.  The poor results are blamed on watercolor being a difficult medium.

One cannot be either good nor bad at tracing objects.  By placing and tracing objects in a variety of positions on the paper, numerous overlapping shapes are created from which the students can easily extract an abstract design.  Within half an hour the students are still excited about painting and are ready to begin the adventure of playing with watercolor.

On January 14th I will present this exercise on the “Tools and Techniques” blog of my website.  This is just a sneak preview.

Sketchbook Image:  Watercolor  illustrating various watercolor techniques – Wash, glaze, splatter, adding salt, lifting, and wet in wet.

Color Scheme:  Extended Analogous with one complement

Art can be about creating believable illusions.

Star Ornament

The geometric overlay shapes don’t really make sense.  If the circles and the yellow square were translucent acetate sheets, where the yellow square overlaps the red circle, the circle would appear orange through the yellow square.  Where the yellow square overlaps the blue circle, the circle would look green.  The only way you might see part of the blue circle looking blue would be if the yellow square had that shape cut out of it so that the blue color of the circle could be seen.  The blue circle would have to be opaque to block the red circle from being seen.  Sometimes reality doesn’t matter.  I like the blue shape and it was fun playing with the primary and secondary colors.

Sketchbook Drawing: drawn first with pencil followed by watercolor.

Working on top of rejected, unfinished paintings is intimidating.

Altoid Tin Watercolor Travel Kit

Fortunately I packed a few empty half pans in a different bag, not the one I left on the table at home when making my way through the dark with a flashlight.  (Tom got power back yesterday morning!)

Leaves, shadows and telephone poles

Once pen touched the paper and I randomly drew leaves, shadows and the metal hardware that screwed into the pile of telephone poles I was sitting on, intimidation vanished and the game of creating puzzle shapes began.  Working on recycled paintings hijacks my brain and unforeseen possibilities present themselves ….. puzzles to solve ….. solutions to find.

en plein air sketchbook drawing: original recycled painting in pencil and watercolor… Today’s addition was created in two stages.  First I drew leaves and their reflections on cement in ink and watercolor. The second stage was drawn and painted in the woods while sitting on a pile of telephone poles at Moffett Field.  Limited palette of aureolin yellow, carmine and ultramarine blue.

As much as I love my fountain pens, I am enjoying this new direction of journaling the light and weather throughout the day.  It allows me the freedom to let colors mix and merge across the paper, producing somewhat unpredictable and often lovely results.

3:45 pm on September 28, 2012

It’s no surprise that watercolor paper is working better for me than the BFK Rives printmaking paper working wet into wet.

I am perceiving the nuances of color changes as clouds cross the sky, filtering and altering the sun’s rays, more each day.  I wonder if this is the result of the color studies I’ve been doing, having opened a door to another level of vision.  I like this new world that has opened up to me.  Landscapes have transformed into a theatrical stage with the sun and the sky acting as the Lighting Engineers.  I’m learning their trade so that I can manipulate the illusions I create on canvas and paper.

Another set of rules …. to be broken, of course ….

Glass Inkwells No. 9, Hiding  …

The goal has always been to increase my Color Vocabulary and to use that expanded vocabulary in my plein air and studio work.  My morning color exercises are so much fun for me that it is not unusual to spend the entire day playing The Color Scheme game instead of grabbing my plein air bag and heading outside.  The Painting The Seasons variation is meant to bridge the gap between my morning exercises and easel painting.  It can be played with or without throwing for a color scheme.  I do not throw for a dominant color since the colors are determined by the season and the time of day.  Neutrals are determined by the real or imagined weather conditions.

The drawing above is  “Autumn Evening”, indicated by nine dots on the twelve-sided die.

#1 … Spring Morning

#2 … Spring Afternoon

#3 … Spring Evening

#4 … Summer Morning

#5 … Summer Afternoon

#6 … Summer Evening

#7 … Autumn Morning

#8 … Autumn Afternoon

#9 … Autumn Evening

#10 … Winter Morning

#11 … Winter Afternoon

#12 … Winter Evening

Sketchbook Drawing:  Drawn first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Black Ink, followed by watercolor washes using a palette that relates to the colors seen as the sun is going down on a crisp evening in autumn.

Sometimes strangers go unnoticed in a crowd, sometimes they call attention to themselves by their shape, size or attire.  And so it is with elements in a painting.

“Stranger in a Strange Land” (14″ x 22″) watercolor

While preparing for tonight’s demonstration of The Color Scheme Game for the members of the Art Association in Roxbury, NJ, I painted an abstract composition of geometric shapes, larger than I normally work when playing the game each morning.  I thought this might work better than the over-sized keys.

Over-sized Keys on a Keyring

I’ll be painting beneath a mirror. The audience can watch as I work on a flat table.  The room is a large cafeteria.  I’m concerned that demonstrating my morning ritual of drawing in my sketchbook will be difficult to view because of the small size of the sketchbook.  However, by playing the game on a large piece of paper I would present the game as a way to create something to mat and hang on the wall rather than as an important and fun exercise to sharpen my skills and explore new territory without the pressure of making everything work.

There is one small shape in the geometric abstract that I washed out and repainted.

Detail of “Stranger in a Strange Land”

This resulted in a blue-green shape that clearly does not belong in the color scheme of the painting.  This is a perfect example of what can happen when painting a street scene en plein air ….. the light of the late afternoon sun is reflecting off the buildings, streets and trees …. a crowd of people are shopping at an outdoor market ….. a woman is wearing a beautiful, blue-green dress that the artist can’t resist painting into the scene ….. but the effect of the light is lost as the artist mixes a beautiful blue-green color based on what she thinks she sees instead of the color as it is affected by the sun and the late afternoon sky.

Abstract Painting: ( 14″ x 20″) drawn first in pencil followed by washes of watercolor using a limited palette of one red, one blue and one yellow.

Giant Keys: (14″ x 20″) drawn first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Black Ink followed by watercolor using a limited palette of one red, one blue and one yellow.