Stalks on Sky

I had a piece of scrap watercolor paper left over from getting my house sheet down to the correct size.  Since my house had no sky to speak of, I didn’t get the chance to apply Tom’s tips for painting clouds.  This scrap piece – long and skinny – seemed perfect for a sky.  I also had a super neat sky picture, taken by my brother Beentz, who is quite the photog.  I can’t find the exact picture in our mammoth library of pictures, so here are a few sample photos, so you can appreciate the kind of source material I have to work with.  I’m pretty sure Benny took all of these.

The picture I based the painting off was pretty similar to the first picture, only even better (you can kind of see it in the photo below).  To begin, I used my wash brush to wet the whole paper, then I watered down solid blue and painted in the blue areas, leaving white areas for clouds.  I then added in some purple mixed with brown mixed with blue, to add shadows and depth to the clouds.  Here is my first stage:

Here is the painting after adding in the cornstalks:

Here is the final draft, after layering in some more colors on the stalks (brown mixed with purple for the base of the stalks and the undersides of the leaves and brown mixed with orange for the lighter leaf sections):

I’m fairly happy with how this turned out.  Part of the reason I’m documenting these drafts on this blog, is so that I remember how I did this!  I feel I got lucky with how the clouds turned out, but hopefully I’ll be able to achieve a similar effect next time by following these notes.

I think I’m going to tackle a Lucent pix next time.  He’s mostly shades of tan, so that shouldn’t be too hard, right?!  Speaking of Lucent, do you want to see something gross?  Tim gave him a bath on Sunday and washed, literally, a whole Lucent’s worth of hair off the poor chihoo.  See for yourself:

Ugh, Why do they do that to themselves?!

Whenever I see a runner, toiling under the burden of transporting his carcass around on his two skinny, white legs, face red with exertion, sweat dripping off his chin, I wonder, “WHY is he doing that to himself?!”  Well, I kind of found the answer in this post on Runner’s World about why people run marathons.  This line, especially, I found interesting:

Therefore, the marathon is an event that requires a unique blend of physical, mental, and even spiritual training, which is very unusual in today’s world.

I have been getting the itch lately to start running outside again.  The weather is warming up, and it’s still fairly light when I get home.  Maybe if I started running after work, I could lay off the 4:30AM workouts a couple of mornings a week.  That would very, very nice.  Maybe one day, when I break the 2.5 mile mark, I’ll start working towards a marathon.

Here is picture of Tim and me after the Quad City Marathon 5K last year.  I felt like crap as I crossed the finish line, but I was A-OK 10 minutes afterwards.  We got some coffee from Red Band and some donuts from Donuts and More.  It was a beautiful morning.

Better Late than Never

The time has come.  I am finally going to write about my art class.

First of all, I need to provide some history.  There are two important facts you need to know.  Firstly, in high school I really enjoyed art.  I took 4 years of it, and it was one of my favorite classes.  I even got in trouble by the principal once for trying to skip a school assembly to hang out in the art room.  My two favorite things to make were pottery and pencil drawings.  I loved drawing people and houses.  I melded these two loves in this picture:

This house can be found in Monticello, by Riverside park.  I got the idea of the eye looking through the house from my Psych textbook which contained a photograph of a sidewalk with a puddle on it that reflected the sky and trees.  I liked the idea of a picture within a picture.  I cannot draw solely from my mind’s eye, so I scoured magazines and found a picture of a convict glaring through jail bars.  His eyes had the menace I was looking for, so there it is.  As you can see, I struggled with the background.  At my teacher’s instruction, I added the full moon to make the background more interesting.  Of course, if the moon was really behind the house, the shadows of the house would be all wrong, but whatever.  I still liked the drawing.  My uncle actually tried to buy it off me, so it must be cool to other people besides me.  By the way, the poor background here was a portend of things to come…

The second thing you need to know is that while I loved art in high school, I have produced maybe 2 pieces of artwork in the past 14 years.  This is the case for a few reasons.  I’m essentially a lazy person, and it’s easier to read or watch TV or check my email than to pull out all of my art supplies and try to uncover a patch of house in which to be creative.  Also, I was a non-traditional student, so on and off for the past 14 years (since high school), I have been working full-time whilst also getting my AA, BA, and then MBA.  I finally finished school last summer.  I enjoyed my free time for a few months, and then I saw that the Figge was offering this Architectural Rendering in Watercolor class, taught by Tom Hempel, a local artist whose work I have always admired.  If you’ve gone to any art shows in the QC, you’ve seen his striking, colorful paintings of houses and local landmarks.  My time to jump back into artistic waters had arrived.

Tom taught his 4 step process to produce an architectural painting in watercolor.  To begin, we drew very quick (15 to 20 minute) sketches of our houses, then used a T-square to straighten out the horizontal and vertical lines.  Then we filled in the basic color of the house.  After the first 2 hour class, this was my masterpiece.  Oh wait, first of all, I have to show you the photo I was drawing from.  Please keep in mind that the tree background on the printed photo is much darker than it appears here:

Okay, now that you’ve seen that, here is my starting point:

Actually, I think this was my painting after Week 2.  I forgot to take a picture after Week 1.  It pretty much looked like this, sans the shadows and the color in the windows.

After week 2, we started adding in the details.  This included drawing the shadows to represent the wood siding, using an exacto knife to painstakingly scrape paint and a very thin layer of paper off of the painting to get the areas that should be white to actually be white.  FYI – If you want an area of your painting to be white – DON’T PAINT IT!!!  It’s much easier than scraping layers off the paper.

I worked on the painting over the weekend (Tim and I set aside “creative time,” where he worked on his short story, and I painted).  Well, first I had to do some more art supply shopping.  The $2.99 brushes I picked up from Major Art and Hobby majorly sucked.  They were losing bristles the first night I used them. Based on recommendations from a friend, I bought some short-handled sable brushes from Micheals.  They made a world of difference – the paint went on much more smoothly and more controlled.  Here was the painting after the weekend:

The next step was to add the grass, steps, flowers, and background.  As you can see from the photograph, the background is very dark.  It’s essentially trees.  To start me out, Tom had me paint a few patches of blue, and then paint the whole background light green, as a base.  It actually looked pretty cool at this stage.  Tom said it looked like the cover of a storybook.  I wish I would’ve taken pictures, but somehow I forgot.  Anyway, during the last night of class, I put on layers and layers of dark, greenish/bluish/purplish paint to try to achieve the dark-looking background of the photo.   I kept a few places light, to convey light striking some of the foliage.

The background kept getting darker and darker and wetter and wetter.  This was my first foray into watercolor painting, so I was/am still learning how to manage water and the paper and the brushes.  I didn’t know before we started that you are supposed to stretch and tape/staple your paper to the drawing board.  This is a very important first step.  You can’t really tell from the photos I’ve posted, but my paper (140 lb cold press (made out of cotton)) was ultra wavy and crazy.  I eventually had to use duct tape to keep it attached to the board.  As a consequence, my dark, wet paint kept sliding off the peaks and settling in the valleys.  It made for a strange effect.

While I was trying to figure out what to do about the encroaching darkness, I worked on my grass, sidewalk, and flowers.  Tom recommended using acrylics to do the flowers, to make them really pop (I’m using that sardonically, but you can’t tell).  I got a couple of tubes of Folk Art paint and set to.  I’m really happy with how the flowers turned out.  Tom gave me lots of tips regarding the colors, shading and shadows, and it really helped.  I worked on the painting a little bit last weekend after the final class, and here is the semi-final version:

Overall, I am quite happy with how it turned out.  I LOVE the greenery, the door, the windows, and the foundation bricks.  The grass could use some highlighting/lowlighting – something to make it less uniform.  The background needs the same thing in a big way, but I’m at a loss.  I need to lighten up sections.  I might take Tim’s advice and have a go at it with the exacto knife.  I’m afraid of making it worse, though.  I have to ponder on it a little more.

But, overall, since this is my first watercolor painting ever, I am very happy with it.  I have tons of brushes, paints and paper now and all the reason in the world to keep at this, I just have to make myself do it.  I really enjoyed the class, and it’s  just super nice to get back into an artistic mind frame again.  The class shifted my perspective, and I started seeing all the variation of color and shadow that make up things I looked at cursorarily daily.   I started to notice how the tan weeds growing up through the snowbanks were actually a dark lavender at the base, how the clouds in the sky actually had brown and purple in them, how grass isn’t just green – it’s red and orange and blue, as well as green.  The class really made me see things differently.  Even if I never paint another watercolor, at least I’ve learned that.  Plus, I got to meet some really neat people in the class, one of whom sent me this class picture.  That’s Tom, our teacher, in the middle:

What am I going to do for my next project?  I need to paint a picture for Tim – one of Lucent, I think.  I need to paint “Serenity” for a friend.  I want to paint this photo:

One of my fellow students, who has a BFA and is an art teacher, asked me what I was going to do next, and I described this picture to her.  She said, “Wow, you’re ambitious!”  Am I biting off more than I can chew?  Painting people is probably harder than painting houses.  I guess we’ll see.  I would also like to do another architectural painting, to reinforce the concepts.  Should I re-paint our house, in which case I could actually measure out the house, so it’s to scale?  I had a problems with parts of the house not matching up correctly (don’t look at the stair railing too closely).  Plus, I could paint a beautiful cloudy sky behind the house instead of Fangorn forest.  Or, I could try my hand at a brand new house…  So many choices.

Well, if you have any ideas on how to fix the background, let me know. Otherwise thanks for reading, and if you ever get a chance to take Tom’s class, go for it!


Tim and I, along with two of our other couple friends, attended an Alex Reymundo show at Penguins Comedy Club last night.  Alex, and the opening act, Beck Something?  Something Beck?, were actually pretty funny.  Of course, there were the typical, endless sex jokes, and the language was atrocious, but my stomach hurt from laughing so hard.  The funniest moments were the extemporaneous ones – where the comedian would go off on a tangent based on something happening unexpectedly.  All-in-all, it was a good show.  I could have done with 90 fewer b.j. references, but Tim helped me understand the reason for those.  The comedian is constantly trying to keep the rowdy, bucket o’ beer drinking audience engaged, so he constantly has to dumb down the comedy  in order to prevent himself from getting heckled to death.  Drunk frat boys think penis references are the bees knees, I guess.

A very odd thing happened at the show, however.  As I was watching the comedian, I would start to space out and feel as if I was watching TV in our living room at home.  Then, suddenly, I would remember that I was 10 feet away from the live entertainment, in a room full of strangers.  It was a little disconcerting, and it made me feel kind of anxious.  What was even stranger was that Tim experienced the exact same sensation!  I think it’s caused by the darkened room, coupled with the predictable laugh-track response after each joke.  It was unsettling.  I still really enjoyed the show, but next time I think I’ll ask to sit in the back.  I always feel more at ease when I’m close to an exit.

Still no post including the watercolor pictures, I know.  Again, I solidly blame Tim.  I don’t know how to get the pictures from the camera onto my computer, and I don’t want to know how.  I balance the checkbook, and Tim transfers the pictures.  That’s just how it is.

We actually had a pretty productive day today (outside of not making my promised post).  I updated our check book and budget, booked our hotel rooms for the trip to Florida, did some laundry, went  to the gym, did a little shopping (I got 2 dresses for our trip.  Hopefully someone I know will get married or have a party, so I will have more than one opportunity to wear them), and got groceries.  Not bad for sleeping in until 8AM.


Man, I haven’t written a post in a long time.  Actually, I take that back, I have started and not finished several posts – one about Legend of the Seeker, one about Crazy Heart, one about my new Philosophy products that are messing up my skin, and one about the architectural rendering in watercolor class that I’m currently taking.  I actually plan to finish that last post; I am waiting for the Teems to download our February pictures, so that I can actually post pictures of my pictures.  According to Tim, people like pictures in posts.

Hopefully this weekend I will get a real blog post done.  But, I felt I owe my 5-7 readers an explanation for my absence.  I guess I didn’t really explain why I didn’t complete any of those other posts, though.  Regrettably, I think it boils down to sheer laziness.  Putting words together in a coherent, witty fashion is difficult, and when I get home from work, I really just want to eat supper, sit next to Tim on the couch, and watch Community and Bones all night.  I know that’s what I’ll be doing tonight.

So, stay tuned for the super awesome post this weekend about my first art class in 15 years.  It’s going to be super delightful and engaging.  And, if you’re lazy like me and don’t want to actually put forth the effort to READ, you can just look at the pretty pictures.