Transitions between figures using color.

Todd Wolfe, Rob Fraser and Steve Decker, playing at Tuesday's Blues Jam

For me, this little painting is what jamming is about.  Todd and Rob are face to face, not playing to the audience.  They are playing off one another’s rhythm and sound, held together by Steve’s drum beats.  The colors and little shapes that are suggested by their bodies play off of one another, separate and unique, but creating one whole.

Drawn first with black ink using a dip pen, followed by brushstrokes of watercolor.

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There is something about this rainbow effect, including the complementary color accent in the upper left corner (Todd’s shirt against the yellow background) that intrigues me.

Todd Wolfe and Four-legged Rob Fraser

When I purposely use gradations moving from one end of the spectrum to the other, I have failed.  This sketch done last night at the Blues Jam surprised me.  The color choices were totally right-brained.  I wasn’t aware that I had painted a rainbow until I looked at it later.  It was the first painting of the evening after a week of mental and emotional challenges.  The fact that I had given Rob four legs (the fourth was Maria’s suggestion) left me free to be ridiculous.  Ahhhh…. I should be ridiculous more often.

Watercolor Sketch: Drawn first with black ink using a dip pen, followed by watercolor.  Painted during the Tuesday Night, Todd Wolfe Blues Jam at the Larry Holmes Ringside Restaurant in Easton, PA.

Adding watercolor washes to wet ink is always a bit risky.

Rob Fraser, Blues Jam, March 15, 2011

The lines in Rob’s hat were strong.  I wanted to leave it alone as an ink drawing, but it was the first few strokes of the night and I couldn’t resist adding color.  As I washed in the shadow under the bill of his hat, I got too close to the lines I loved and everything went into a big blur.  Having lost the strength of the lines I simply moved into paint mode and continued to blur color and ink.

There is something to be learned from every painting.  The high key yellow works with the broken white shapes in the microphone, the body, the guitar and the face, connecting Rob to the background.  The warm hues of the background create a sense of artificial stage lighting while the cool greens and purples on Rob’s clothing place him in his own shadows and set him apart from the background.  The white shape of his guitar head helps to balance the heaviness of his dark face and hat.  I like that there is still a bit of light on his hat thanks to the translucency of watercolor and the clarity of the green color in spite of the ink bleeding into it.

I can’t help but wish I had moved on to another piece of paper before adding color to the ink drawing, not because I don’t like the end result of this little sketch but because I really liked the original line drawing of the hat.

Black Ink applied with dip pen, followed by watercolor washes using only pure color or a mix of only two pigments.

When I painted at the Blues Jam last Tuesday evenings I was not intentionally using a color scheme of double complementary colors.

Todd Wolfe and Rob Fraser at the Blues Jam

It was the next morning when I lay out the little paintings that I analyzed their strengths and weaknesses.  I am often surprised when paintings fall into particular color schemes.  In the case of these two paintings, the color scheme is one of double complementary colors that are adjacent to one another: Blue/Orange and Purple/Yellow.  In the painting above, Todd Wolfe (left) is predominantly purple /yellow with the blue pants acting as an accent.  Rob Fraser’s (right) orange guitar brings out the subtle blue of his shirt while his purple paints link him, visually, to Todd.  The yellow strap also links to Todd’s yellow guitar.  Of course, these are not the actual colors of the clothing they wore.

Imagine how separate the figures would be from one another if the colors didn’t, in some way, link the two musicians together.

Blues Guitarist, Todd Wolfe

In the painting above, the double complementary colors appear in a single figure leading your eye around the figure to create a sense of depth, motion and rhythm.

Both paintings were drawn first in black ink using a dip pen, followed by watercolor washes.

Often, the identities of the figures I paint at the open mics and blues jam are recognized in spite of the lack of detail.

Maria Woodford Spillane and Rob Fraser

Rob’s hat and guitar are strong clues to the identity of the figure on the right.  It turns out that the brush stroke that represents Maria’s left hip is what identified her to a woman as she glanced at the paintings drying on the windowsill last Tuesday night at the Blues Jam in Easton.

I’ve often wondered how it is that a person seen from a great distance, bundled up for winter, can be recognized simply by the way she stands or walks.  As I paint these quick sketches of the musical moments my goal is not portraiture.  My goal is to express the energy and movement inspired and created by the vibrations of the sounds.  When the paintings also capture the unique movements and personalities of the musicians I am just as amazed and delighted as the curious friends and strangers who stop by to see what it is I am doing.

I used a dip pen to draw with permanent, black ink before applying washes of watercolor using a limited palette of vemillion, aureolin yellow and peacock blue.

So many musicians, as do painters, wear black.

Roberto and Rob Fraser, Watercolor Sketch

This past Tuesday at the Blues Jam in Easton, Roberto was the major inspiration for me to brighten my colors.  Rather than the standard black clothing or the dark shirt with blue jeans, he wore a pale green shirt and khaki colored pants.  Under the lights, his gorgeous guitar looked almost red.  Though Rob was wearing dark pants, he, too had on a light greenish shirt.  (It’s always difficult to tell what the colors are in the dark of the restaurant or under the lights of the stage.

The equipment is generally black, too.  I like using the speakers to bridge between the musicians.  Since I am painting so quickly, the shapes of the equipment and the shapes of the dark clothing often get confused.  The visual effect of watching Roberto’s light valued body against the dark background wall and equipment opened up new possibilities for next week.  Thanks, Roberto!

Watercolor Portrait of Roberto

I like the way the ink works into the color.  I used a dip pen to draw with the ink before washing over it with watercolor paints.