Newton Robinson

Newton Robinson, Hahnemuhle 150 dpi

My intention here was two-fold, improve my perspective skills and render the pine tree more accurately. My pine trees have generally been a mess of slashes of green at odd angles and I wanted to slow down and give this tree consideration. I’m a long way from where I want to be, but this is a big improvement. I used a little pen on the houses and again find myself frustrated by how sloppy it makes the sketch look. The windows had straight lines when I penciled them in but the pen made them jaggedy. It’s a platinum carbon pen and I do love it so I think it’s a matter of more control.

Simplify… sort of.

Wasaga Beach loose Hahnemuhle 150 dpi

Wasaga Beach simplified Hahnemuhle 150 dpi

Both of these are from one of my black and white fine prints of Wasaga Beach. Wasaga is the longest fresh water beach in the world and it’s one of my favorite places to photograph and just be when it’s off season. It’s a major tourist hub in summer.

In the first watercolour sketch I was trying to simplify by just laying down colour with one stroke to “keep it fresh”, as the sketching gurus say. Good thing I lived to paint another day.

In the second sketch I attempted to simplify by removing elements from the painting that contributed  strongly to the photograph, such as the large piece of driftwood at the water’s edge and all the clumps of grasses. I decided to bring it down to three horizontal bands- the sky, the waves and the beach. Nothing else.

I was also working on learning a skill. I want to learn to paint waves and as you can see I had no success in either of these. However between painting each of these I tried again on a 5×7 piece of 100% cotton Strathmore watercolour paper. I feel I came closer to actually making waves in this one, and true 100% cotton paper is easier to work on anyway. Because I had such poor separation of tones and over painted  the beach terribly, I inked in the driftwood and a bit on the grasses, adding some rocks. We’ll ignore that mess.

Wasaga Beach 100% wc paper Hahnemuhle 150 dpi 1

Painting from Black and White photographs and a this-and-that still life on a stormy day

Painting from Black and White Photographs and a this and that still life on a stormy day, Hahnemuhle 150 dpi

Over the past few days I’ve been using my black and white photographs as a resource for my sketching/painting. The idea was that using black and white images would cause me to focus on tonal values. That has not been true. When I printed the photographs from their negatives some years back, I made decisions about tonal values then, deciding how deep I would render the shadows and how much range I could create leading up to the highlights. Perhaps because those decisions had been made already, I wasn’t drawn to reproduce a print I had already interpreted.

I found myself, without even realizing it, giving all my attention to colour selection once the sketch had been penciled in. And I also found myself rather at a loss even though I know fully well and also remember the colours in these very familiar scenes. What colour was the light? Was that water really that dark? Is it black or deep, deep blue? How do I render the mosses and browns at the bottom of the trees?

I have thousands of transparencies from my life in photography – in beautiful colour: landscapes, travel, remarkable people. Perhaps, while it is too brutally cold for plein air painting, I should dig out some of those slides and select a handful.

This little still life comes of some frustration that I have been largely snow-bound all day. I took a few things from the bookcase and mantle just to have something to paint, just to keep the hand moving and the eye learning. The greater frustration would have been to have made no painting at all.

Black and White Photographs and a this and that still life on a stormy day, Hahnemuhle 150 dpi 2


Update on Hahnemuhle Watercolour Book

PHWBA6Yesterday I wrote about the binding separating on my Hahnemuhle sketchbook and posted a couple of pictures. I was pretty sure it was a fluke since Hahnemuhle produces other really fine products. Nevertheless, the sent an email to the company.  I received a reply today. There had been some problematic books on the market but that situation has been resolved. I can’t tell you how glad I am to hear this since I’m really enjoying this book otherwise.

Hahnemuhle is also replacing the sketchbook which is something I didn’t ask for or expect so I’m not only enjoying their book, I’m impressed with customer service.

It’s too soon to give the watercolour sketchbook a full review, but that’s coming.

Muskoka River Take II

Muskoka River 2, Hahnemuhle 150 dpiHahnemuhle Watercolour book, Daniel Smith watercolour

I couldn’t let go of yesterday’s watercolour sketch of the Muskoka, in fact I found it a bit unsettling. In trying to express the energy of the rushing ice and water, I think I made the painting look frantic.

Looking at the photographic print I see large passages of smooth white water as it surged along. So I decided to try the sketch again today to see if I could convey the feeling of volume and speed without the frantic energy. I wanted to smooth the water out somewhat yet keep the sense of rapid movement.  At my early skill level I don’t have a lot in my kit bag of experience and technique but I gave it a good go and now I can dive into some of my books by very fine watercolour artists to learn and practice.

Muskoka River Ice Wash

Muskoka River Ice Wash, Hahnemuhle 150 dpi 2Hahnemuhle Watercolour Book, Daniel Smith watercolour

In trying to not copy this in detail from one of my Black and White photographs of the Muskoka River, I may have been too representational. In spring when the ice melts it is driven down  stream by the heavy break up pushing from the north. Here the engorged river had poured over its’ shoreline as large slabs of ice and rapidly moving water drove on.

NOTE: Just a word about my Hahnemuhle watercolour book… although I really like the paper I’m disappointed with the fitness of the binding. I am only 15 sketches in and the pages are separating from the binding. I don’t paint into the gutter of my book, keeping a good frame around my sketches, so it is not because of water.

My hope is that this is just a fluke – I bought a lemon. I’ll contact the company to let them know. In the meantime, here is a photo I took that illustrates the issue.



Castor asleep on the green couch

18 Hahnemuhle ( 30 sketches in the Hahnemuhle)Castor on the Couche Feb 2 2018

Hahnemuhle Watercolour Book, Daniel Smith watercolours

The couch isn’t really that intensely green. It’s actually a lovely sage but this green insisted on itself as did the hearty yellow on the wall. I’m blaming it on a colourless winter.

Four Tomatoes

Four Tomatoes;  Jan 31:18 Hahnemuhle ( 30 sketches in the Hahnemuhle)Hahnemuhle Watercolour Book, Daniel Smith watercolours

I dated this sketch incorrectly … Today is February 1st not the 2nd.

These were some really ripe tomatoes about to go into sauce so I decided to sketch and paint them first.

I took a risk and applied masking fluid on the branches and leaves and the paper handled it beautifully. It actually felt quite liberating to use the frisket instead of struggling to paint around such tiny tendrils.

The Muskoka River

Muskoka River;  Jan 31:18 Hahnemuhle ( 30 sketches in the Hahnemuhle)Hahnemuhle Watercolour Book, Daniel Smith Watercolours

This is sketched using one of my black and white prints. I wanted to see if I could render the colours of the rocks appropriately as well as represent both the moving  waterfall as it flowed down the slope, as well as the ice covered and open areas at the bottom.

This is another one I want to paint again since I’m excited about what I’ve learned in this effort. Again, my darks are lacking and the sense of the water moving quickly down the slope is inadequate.


Chilling. Jan 29:18 Hahnemuhle ( 30 sketches in the Hahnemuhle)Hahnemuhle Watercolour Book; Daniel Smith Paint; Platinum Carbon Pen

This is a rather domestic sketch and something I would normally do in my Stillman and Birn Alpha 6×9 but because I am committed to 30 sketches in the Hahnie ( yes a pet name … what can I say), here it is.

I did a light pencil sketch then straight to paint and then inked a bit. Sketching with the book on my lap certainly changes perspective.

Here I let myself sketch and paint much more loosely, wanting to break free of the mess of yesterday’s effort. It actually felt quite good.