As the afternoon passed, the sky became more animated, expressing itself in shades of gray…

Clouds over the Wicomico River, Maryland

My week painting along the Wicomico River in Maryland has been incredible.  Next October, perhaps I’ll schedule two weeks rather than one.  I’m already planning to spend one night on the sinking Holland Island.  Thousands of pelicans are now the only residents, roosting in the silver branched trees and lining the sandy shoreline facing south.  At one time there were 60 houses and a few stores.  Most of the residents took their houses with them when they left the sinking island around 1920.  The last house on the island succumbed to the water in October of 2010.

En plein air oil sketch of dancing storm clouds, 5″ x 5″, Sky above the Wicomico River, near Whitehaven, Maryland.

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Three days on the road and nothing but gray skies….

7 am Route 79 in West Virginia

A bit later on Route 79

The sun broke through only twice so far ……

10:30 am on Route 64, West Virginia

Once on Route 64 in West Virginia and once ….

Keeneland Race Track, Lexington, Kentucky

at the Keeneland Race Track in Lexington, Kentucky.  We arrived early enough for me to do a quick ink and watercolor drawing before the races began.

My waterbrush and limited palette of the Altoid tin filled with five pans of watercolor pigments is working great for in-the-car-as-we’re-driving sketches as well as the carry-it-all-in-my-pockets touristy stops.

I’m getting a great deal of practice mixing an assortment of grays!

Sketchbook drawings:

Weather sketches ….. watercolor

Keeneland Race Track – drawn first with fountain pen followed by watercolor.

My eyes are transforming into hue, tone and value meters!  It’s great.  It does, however, make driving a car more challenging.

Morning Watercolor Sketch, 8 am on a gray, rainy day

It’s no wonder plein air painting is such a challenge.  The colors vary, in every way possible, from day to day, from moment to moment.  Yesterday morning was also gray, but a cool gray rather than the warm gray that illuminates my backyard today.

When I get bold enough, I will try this same exercise on a large piece of watercolor paper, just to see what the impact might be.

Morning watercolor sketch of the light and weather conditions at that moment of the day.

Applying what I learn playing The Color Scheme Game to everything I paint is the purpose of playing the game.  Making a conscious decisions along the way is far easier when I have the experience of playing with color schemes as a foundation for my choices.

Deciding on the color of the shadows and cells

My first choice for the shadows was to give the sketch some punch by using a yellow-green.  The bleed of the Noodler’s Rome Burning ink already was giving a yellow glow to the paper.  I reminded myself of the original intent of the sketch.

This is part of the series of Family Treasures Drawings and Paintings.  In the box of treasures I saved from my father’s house are three doll shoes, one red, one white and one black.  Where are the mates?  Perhaps on a road somewhere.  Haven’t you wondered why you see so many single shoes on roads?  Or maybe they are hanging out with the lost socks that never make it back from the laundry.  This sketch is about the shoes, not about bright color interactions.  I wanted each shoe to maintain its significance.

I chose gray.  I can’t remember the last time I used gray as a shadow color!  I mixed the most beautiful gray I could, A warm gray for the heel and sole in shadow of the white shoe, and a cool gray for the shadows cast by the shoes.

Family Treasures No. 26, Doll Shoes, Red, White and Black

Drawn first with a Sheaffer Fountain Pen filled with Noodler’s Rome burning Ink, followed by watercolor.

Analogous Color Scheme with Red as the dominant color.  All other colors are neutrals.

My black was created by mixing alizarin crimson, french ultramarine blue and a touch of yellow ochre.

While exploring the woods with my father on Thursday, I put to use the re-discovery of beautiful grays and browns possible when mixing cadmium red light with different blues.

subtle grays of sunlit tree branches


The original intent was to find a blue that would produce a purple when mixed with cadmium red light. Only Ultramarine Blue came close to succeeding. I had forgotten what beautiful neutrals are possible using cadmium red light. I mixed a lovely brown with Cad Red and Ultramarine Blue for dried leaves fallen on the ground in another sketch I posted this morning on Third Time Around. I mixed a miniscule touch of cad red into cobalt for the subtle gray of the branch in the sketch above.

Sketchbook drawing: drawn first with fountain pen filled with black ink, followed by watercolor.