Weston Paint Out

14 July, 2019.

I arrived nearly two hours early for the Weston Paint Out, knowing in advance which locations I thought had the most potential. The point in arriving early was to allow me time to walk around and get my sketches made, then to sit on a bench to ponder which worked best and which one to begin with. The air was densely humid and my paper felt clammy and almost wet within the first five minutes. That made it tougher than usual to draw, and I had to take it easy not to dent the paper with my pencil point. So much for being a planner!

After scouting locations a couple of days earlier, the spot I was most excited about was an old mill at the end of the business district. No longer in operation, the place has been repurposed with a B&B, a popular bar, and an architectural salvage. The truck in the foreground was my favorite part and I had my fingers crossed that it wouldn’t have been moved by Saturday morning. Later on I met the owner and learned the truck was a very recent purchase.

I neglected to make good photographs of the sketches; hopefully I’ll get a chance to do so before they sell. Unfortunately, I documented these with frame glass over the paintings.

The strategy of working out the sketches first thing in the morning, then revisiting each location to paint was, if nothing else, incredibly efficient. I was able to complete each of these paintings in about forty-five minutes.

The second one completed was this view of the city park. What caught my eye was this small cluster of buildings peaking out from the foliage. I love white washed walls! The unusual roof on the left injected a touch of warm color.

After finishing the second painting, I took a break to go in search of a pastry: it was hot, I was really sweating, and breakfast had been five hours earlier – I knew I’d be getting shaky if I didn’t get something inside me quickly. Along the way I stopped to chat with Denny and Tammy, and to snoop at their work.

Sated, I strolled further up the hill to work on my third painting of the morning. The strong diagonals appealed to me, as did the repetition of the roofs.

As I was cleaning up I noticed some smoke drifting up from behind one of the buildings. The foremost structure is the Avalon Cafe and I wondered if they were firing up a grill for the lunch crowd. The paint in that area of foliage was plenty dry, but I hadn’t used a staining pigment: “Lifting” it with a damp paper towel leaves the area hazy and smoke-like.

Meandering back down the hill near the spot where I’d begun my morning, I stopped at this cool, restored Phillips 66. I don’t know if it’s because I was getting tired or if the angle was just wonky, but this one whipped me. By this time I was getting quite a few passers-by stopping to chat, and the pauses were more than welcome. Instead of finishing it, I tossed it in the back seat of my car.

After eight hours of standing mostly in direct sunlight, I was ready to crash and nap. It’s times like this that I am thankful for the gods of air conditioning. 🙂

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Watercolor and pencil on Strathmore Aquarius II watercolor paper.

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30 x 30 Direct Watercolor Challenge

25 June, 2019.

The challenge is to create thirty watercolor paintings over thirty days, working directly. Translation: no under drawing in pencil – just start painting, working wet-in-wet for the most part and avoid lots of “after action” touch ups such as multiple layers of glazing.

I decided to do thirty small (2 x 2 inch) paintings on one sheet in one day. I’m pretty sure that’s not exactly in the spirit of the challenge because the idea is to develop the work over consecutive days, but it’s a rainy day today and I was bored, and this kept me entertained for a while. And besides: I already work on consecutive days constantly.

These little paintings were the perfect interlude for a couple of longer term project I’ve been working on this month. And naturally, as I painted I was mulling over a new project idea: a series of small watercolor paintings in a grid like this, each focusing on a single subject. What I really like about doing this is the discovery I go through doing the “same” thing over and over, and trying to find new ways to say that thing differently each time. Meanwhile, the small size forces me to be restrained – which if you read this blog with any regularity you already know is an important characteristic to me.

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Watercolor in a … what the heck? I have no idea what kind of sketchbook this is… it’s something unmarked that’s been on my shelf for years and I noticed there’s some empty pages in the back.

#30x30directwatercolor

Steamy night for some street music.

24 June, 2019.

Make Music Day is a world-wide, free celebration of music that takes place on June 21. Our town has been so enthusiastic about participating that this year the decision was made to spread things out over two days, Friday evening and all day Saturday.

The concept is simple: musicians set up at various places around the community and play. In my mind, it’s a throwback to the days when neighborhoods were filled with kids running up and down the street, folks gathered on front porches, and in my family my dad would be comfortably seated on a metal yard chair playing his accordion.

Often, our imaginations wander and we reminisce about a day and age that maybe didn’t really exist anywhere else but in a film or a television show. The small town I live in is a lot like Mayberry. Take a stroll along the streets leading up to the historic town square and you’d be forgiven if you thought you’d somehow wandered onto the set of one of those shows. So encountering a pair of guitar players under a yard umbrella really isn’t much of a stretch.

People parked their cars all around the Square, pulled out folding lawn chairs from their trunks, and set themselves up in the shade of buildings to enjoy the music. While I was sketching, one fellow stood, rolled up his sleeves and wiped the sweat from his forehead, and meandered over to the players. He stood close to the group tapping his foot, then began to sing along. It was a remarkably convivial moment, one that I truly wish existed every single Friday evening.

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Uni-Ball Vision pen and watercolor in Stillman and Birn Beta sketchbook.

Tranquility.

16 June, 2019.

We got a little wet at first, but the morning dried out nicely by ten. Urban Sketchers Kansas City held a pop up sketchout at the invitation of Liberty Hospital Foundation to sketch the surroundings of The TreeHouse, a place offering amenities to guests, including sleeping quarters and quiet rooms, and the tranquility of trees, walking path, and swaths of wild flowers.

The path is certainly peaceful and calm. At one point a baby bunny hopped right up to my foot as I sketched and seemed not at all taken aback when I exclaimed in surprise, “Well, hello there!”

I struggled to get started this morning, abandoning my first page. Each time I had myself positioned to begin, the rain returned and drops of water dotted my paper making it difficult to use my pen. After two aborted tries, I waited out the rain, turned the page, and began again.

I like the weight of the Stillman and Birn Beta paper, but I’m unsure about the spiral binding. On the one hand, each page lays perfectly flat, and I really like that aspect. On the other, it’s not really possible to draw across the spread as I might do with a perfect bound or stitched book. I’m not sure which outweighs the other. What do you think?

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Uni-Ball Vision pen and watercolor in Stillman and Birn Beta sketchbook.

Just around the corner.

15 June, 2019.

It’s a rainy Friday morning and my thoughts have drifted to Europe. Coincidentally – actually, is there such a thing as coincidence? – photos from my visit to Obernai, France popped up on my Facebook “memories” yesterday. I recall one morning in particular, similarly overcast. The cobblestones were wet and a little slick. I’d often go out for a stroll early, before anyone else was about to enjoy the beauty of this picturesque town. The streets are curved in many places, and it seemed like the turning of every corner brought another delightful view.

There were window boxes overflowing with flowers everywhere, potted plants introduced the green of foliage in lieu of lawns. There’s a sense of history on every door step.

Taking a step out of my reverie, I fast forward to today. Glancing at one of the photos I take pen in hand and quickly start to scribble. Soon I’ll be heading out, despite the drizzle, to sketch the home of Thomas Hart Benton. But this photo is hard to ignore and so I sketch quickly, guiltily – I don’t often sketch from photo reference and the experience is a little strange. I find myself trying to “look around” the corner to see what else is there… but of course I can’t: the photo is only two dimensional.

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Uni-Ball Vision pen and watercolor on Strathmore Aquarius II watercolor paper.

What a difference a couple of months makes.

14 June, 2019.

It was late in the day, and between thunderstorms – although I didn’t realize it at the time: I thought the first downpour was the entirety of the weather and I’d headed off for a long ride in the country. The sky was still pregnant with potential though, and I stopped atop one rise to quickly record the dense wash of sky and the long shadows. A little later, I realized the rain was a sandwich and I was the filling. For the better part of forty minutes I pedaled through showers, enjoying the breeze and the feel of rain on my face, and hoping the kit on my back remained dry.

I’ve been working almost exclusively in my Stillman and Birn sketchbooks recently. I like the paper in these books for sketching with pens quite a lot, and they are better than acceptable for adding watercolor. Strathmore Aquarius II also does an excellent job with this particular combination, and excels with pencil and watercolor. It’s why I make “sketching pamphlets” from that paper – accordion-fold booklets that are light and easy to carry with me for watercolor sketching. On this day I selected a pamphlet that was nearly full: One small spot remained untouched, and today I would finish it with my impression of the post-rain/pre-rain farmland I encountered.

Those sketches of houses were made in March, and wow! What a difference the world has undergone in that short time! And wow! What a difference my color selections have undergone as a result!

Greens fight me when I toy around with gouache, and I feel like they are overworked. The same colors are more readily accessible to me in watercolor, which I think it is likely due to their transparency of pigment.

I’m drawn to dramatic skies, and that looming rain holds more visual appeal for me than the clearest and bluest of atmospheres. I’ve a vivid recollection of swiftly laying down the grays of the sky in that house sketch to the left of yesterday’s scribble. It was so satisfying to capture some essence of that day! Each stroke was deliberate and intentionally restrained, intentionally leaving some parts of the white paper untouched. And suddenly, in a matter of seconds, it emerged. Sometimes, watercolor is infuriating, and sometimes it’s just magic. I live for those latter moments.

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Watercolor and pencil on Strathmore Aquarius II watercolor paper.

The junction of urbanization…and not.

17 April, 2019. This is the edge of town, the place where “rural” begins and the city ends. Beyond this point are farms and two lane blacktop roads, cows, corn, lakes and ponds, rolling hills of trees, and lots and lots of gravel lanes. But here, this is where they meet fast food and gas stations, shopping carts and car washes. Here is where there was a field not long ago, unbulldozed. There was a hill, in fact. And there was not an intersection, so complex and so filled with traffic signals that an instruction manual wouldn’t be out of line. This tree is the only reminder – and a faint one at that! – of what once was. It’s gnarly, and not especially beautiful – even had it a full coat of leaves – and one is left to ponder why, even, did those bulldozers leave this forlorn remnant alone?

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Pencil and watercolor on Strathmore Aquarius II watercolor paper.

Even Creepier.

16 April, 2019. I shared the black, gray, and white version of this a couple of days ago. That iteration had a distinctly “comic book” sort of vibe to it, but I missed the vintage colors and beat up paint… those were part of what drew me in to this object in the first place. And to be honest, I’d planned to add spots of color all along. The highlights where what interested me most of all, and that’s where I’d left the drawing originally. However, now that the color has been incorporated it all feels much more complete.

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Fude tip fountain pen, Uni-Ball Signo white gel pen, and gouache in Stillman and Birn gray sketchbook.

So impatient.

4 April, 2019. Everyone was impatient and wanted to eat the stuff. I understood: I hadn’t made it to be the subject of a sketch. Nevertheless, the fresh colors of green and salmon and rose and violet were captivating, and as always, I had a pen and sketchbook close at hand.

Yet still, everyone was impatient to eat. And thus, I only had a very limited time to sketch. I suppose enough extra should be prepared and then set aside to allow for both nibbling and sketching…

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Uni-Ball Vision pen and splashes of watercolor in Stillman and Birn sketchbook.

Hum-dinger.

3 April, 2019. I love period architecture. Really nice examples of Art Deco and Art Nouveau style designs and decoration are simply wonderful. I love the moodiness of Gothic structures, and Gothic Revival is always what I picture when I think of a haunted house. But there’s one thing I will nearly always pull over to see: an old school diner or burger joint. The more of a dive, the better I like it.

Gaudy stripes, overkill on signage, lots of custom neon, cheesy graphics? Love, love, LOVE it!

And if it’s got a great big sign and a uniquely crazy name, all the better. This place is in a run down neighborhood near downtown Kansas City, Missouri. I thought I’d explored most of that area, so I was really taken aback as I drove along 9th Street and saw this place through my windshield. I had to stop to check it out.

“Hum-Dinger.” Now that’s a great name for a total dive. It’s a small place inside, and one you have to stand in line to get in. I read that there are 14 different kinds of burgers, not to mention tacos and barbecue and Italian steak sandwiches, malts and fries and onion rings. If you want vegetables, you’re out of luck unless you are good with them being deep fried.

I love how weathered the exterior has become over the past half-century of operation. The red paint has flecks of white showing through, and the neon on the sign is out in places. And that sign! Faded patches of paint surround the neon graphic of a mid-century carhop that adorns the top of the sign.

Thus far, I’ve only made a sketch of this most perfect of places. Next step: a burger and onion rings.

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Uni-Ball Vision pen and watercolor in a Stillman and Birn sketchbook.