Candle

I haven't had much time to paint this week, but today I managed to put in an hour on the still life I started last week. I focused on the rearmost object, the candle. I like the irregular shapes around the wick. I tentatively plan to add a little statute of a king on a drum; that's his cast shadow on the candle. 

Geoff Watson, "Old coffee pot and friends," detail, in progress, oil on linen, 18" x 24," 2017.

Geoff Watson, "Old coffee pot and friends," detail, in progress, oil on linen, 18" x 24," 2017.

Here's the whole piece; the rest is still just a sketch. I hope to fix that in the coming days!

Geoff Watson, "Old Coffee Pot and Friends," in progress, oil on linen, 18" x 24," 2017.

Geoff Watson, "Old Coffee Pot and Friends," in progress, oil on linen, 18" x 24," 2017.

Our Christmas tree

Today we put up our Christmas tree — a handsome Douglas Fir. There’s snow on the ground outside, so it was a good day to trim the tree and sit by the fire. I played a few carols on the piano, and then I painted this little watercolor sketch.

Geoff Watson, “Christmas Tree,” watercolor sketch on paper, about 4” x 6,” 2017.

Geoff Watson, “Christmas Tree,” watercolor sketch on paper, about 4” x 6,” 2017.

Shiny and not-so-shiny

I’m excited about my new project, a still life painting of shiny and not-so-shiny objects. Here is a photo of my setup and some early sketching.

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Geoff Watson, “Shiny and not-so-shiny,” charcoal on paper, 9” x 12,”2017.

Geoff Watson, “Shiny and not-so-shiny,” charcoal on paper, 9” x 12,”2017.

Geoff Watson, “Shiny and Not-so-Shiny,” oil on linen, in progress, 14” x 18,” 2017.

Geoff Watson, “Shiny and Not-so-Shiny,” oil on linen, in progress, 14” x 18,” 2017.

Buoys

I started this still life in summer, when I was studying with Walt Bartman, Jr. He set up all these colorful buoys, and I drew and painted them from various angles, but I didnt have time to finish. I still haven’t finished! But today I did put in some work on the piece. It’s fun!

Geoff Watson, “Buoys,” in progress, oil on panel, 18” x 24,” 2017.

Geoff Watson, “Buoys,” in progress, oil on panel, 18” x 24,” 2017.

Cabin John Woods

Again it was warm enough to paint outside, so I grabbed my big wide 12x24 linen canvas and drove around looking for a spot to paint. I stumbled on these woods, off Bradley Boulevard, near Potomac, Maryland. I loved the warm afternoon light flooding the scene, so I set up and went to work.

This is only the second time I’ve painted with a large-ish canvas outdoors, and I think it suits me well. The large support forces me to use large brushes — size 10 and 12 flats and filberts. And I made myself use them for just about the entire 2-1/2 hour session. The result is a less literal, more painterly first draft. I’m pleased with it. I’m tempted to sign it and call it a day, but I’ll probably go back tomorrow to refine things and add detail.

Geoff Watson, “Cabin John Woods,” oil on linen, 12” x 24,” work in profress, 2017.

Geoff Watson, “Cabin John Woods,” oil on linen, 12” x 24,” work in profress, 2017.

Just for fun, here’s a photo of an earlier stage of the painting on the easel.

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Mon Ami Gabi

Mon Ami Gabi is a lovely French bistro in restaurant row in Bethesda, Maryland. It's very popular at holiday time, with its festive lights and cheery interior. As I was painting, a waiter reported for work in his white top and black pants and shoes, and I just had to add him to the picture. I'd been planning to add a passerby, but the waiter was a gift! 

I tried to paint a bit more loosely here. I made myself use mostly big brushes -- size 12 and 10 flats, for you art geeks out there. Big brushes force you to focus on big shapes at first instead of getting caught up in detail. Detail is great, but if you don't get the big shapes right first, the details will inevitably wind up in the wrong place. Also, big brushes speed things along. My grand plan is to paint larger works outdoors, and to do that, I need to cover the surface faster.

Also, it's a treat to paint plein air in December! Here's hoping for more good weather. But this year I'm also determined to get outside more even when it's cold and snowy. Please remind me about that when I start wimping out. 

Geoff Watson, "Mon Ami Gabi," oil on panel, 9" x 12," 2017.

Geoff Watson, "Mon Ami Gabi," oil on panel, 9" x 12," 2017.

House on MacArthur Boulevard

I had 45 minutes free before a dentist’s appointment today, so I parked my car and painted this sketch of a bright yellow house overlooking MacArthur Boulevard, in northwest D.C. It’s obviously rough, but it has some energy. 

I hope to continue painting plein air in the winter months, at least occasionally. Cold I can manage; cold and wind is tougher! I’ve also resolved to swim (indoors) throughout the winter. We’ll see how these resolutions are holding up when the dog days of February arrive! (Or are they cat days?)

Geoff Watson, “House on MacArthur Boulevard,” oil on canvas panel, 8” x 10,” 2017.

Geoff Watson, “House on MacArthur Boulevard,” oil on canvas panel, 8” x 10,” 2017.

Elm Street

About a month ago, I did a plein air study at this spot, at the intersection of Elm Street and Arlington Boulevard in Bethesda, Maryland. I was interested in the stripes of light and shadow on the street, as well as the perpetual negotiation between car and pedestrian. Plus I liked the phtalo-green traffic light!

So now I’m doing a larger studio version. I intend to add crosswalk markings and a yellow centerline for the street. I may also add more pedestrians and cars, but I don’t want to take too much attention from the foreground car, patiently waiting for the jaywalkers.

Geoff Watson, “Green light,” oil on linen, 24” x 36,” 2017 (in progress).

Geoff Watson, “Green light,” oil on linen, 24” x 36,” 2017 (in progress).

Thanksgiving at the farm

I had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends today. Before the feast, I had an hour or so to do a quick oil sketch of this quaint farmhouse. It was only 45 degrees outside, but the bright sunshine -- and the lack of wind -- made it feel much warmer.

I was most interested in the intense light falling on the left side of the house and the roof. I didn't have time to finish the picture -- I didn't even paint the whole surface of the panel, and my vertical lines are wobbly. But I do think I managed to catch some of that afternoon light.

Geoff Watson, "Thanksgiving at the farm," oil on panel, 11" x 14," 2017.

Geoff Watson, "Thanksgiving at the farm," oil on panel, 11" x 14," 2017.

Chair sketch

With the colder weather, I've been drawing indoors more. This is a chair from my living room. I know nothing about furniture, but I think it's a pretty chair, so I had to draw it. 

Geoff Watson, "Living-room chair," graphite on paper, 9" x 12," 2017.

Geoff Watson, "Living-room chair," graphite on paper, 9" x 12," 2017.

Wayne

Wayne was a last-minute substitute model in today's life-painting session; the scheduled model failed to show. Wayne turned out to be great! He showed up with ropes and posed with them. We started with a couple 10-monute poses. Here's one.

Geoff Watson, "Hauling," carbon pencil on paper, 9" x 12," 2017.

Geoff Watson, "Hauling," carbon pencil on paper, 9" x 12," 2017.

Then it was the main event -- a long pose of about 90 minutes. This is not a great photo, but it does show my main focus -- the intense light on Wayne's left shoulder. 

Geoff Watson, "Wayne," oil on panel, 11" x 14," 2017.

Geoff Watson, "Wayne," oil on panel, 11" x 14," 2017.

Herring Point revisited

Over the summer I painted an 8" x 10" plein air study of Herring Point at Cape Henlopen Park in Delaware. This week I've been trying to develop that study into a larger studio work. I always find this translation process challenging: how does one preserve the charm of the study while incorporating enough new information to enlarge the work?

One approach is to supplement the study with photo references, but I often find it more helpful to work off the study and to fill in gaps with my memory. In this case, I remember thinking I didn't have enough time to record all the human activity on the beach. I've added more beachgoers in this version. 

Geoff Watson, "Herring Point," oil on canvas, work in progress, 16" x 20," 2017.

Geoff Watson, "Herring Point," oil on canvas, work in progress, 16" x 20," 2017.

Deodorant

I've been messing around with deodorant. I'm not happy with any of the compositions I've come up with so far; they all kind of stink! But it's still fun to paint the strange shapes of various anti-perspirants. I haven't really been sweating the details.

Geoff Watson, "Deodorant Study 1," oil on canvas, 8" x 10," 2017.

Geoff Watson, "Deodorant Study 1," oil on canvas, 8" x 10," 2017.

Geoff Watson, "Deodorant Study 2," oil on panel, 6" x 6," 2017.

Geoff Watson, "Deodorant Study 2," oil on panel, 6" x 6," 2017.

Self-portrait (in progress)

I've been working on this self-portrait for a few days, using a single mirror, so the image is reversed. One can cure this problem by using two mirrors, but it's very tricky to do this. Anyway, I'd like to add more color to my face, make me smile a tad more, refine the shirt and glasses, and fix other stuff.

Unfortunately, the likeness is pretty good! I should have stopped painting when I looked like Paul Newman. :-)

Geoff Watson, "Self-portrait," oil on canvas, work in progress, 14" x 18," 2017.

Geoff Watson, "Self-portrait," oil on canvas, work in progress, 14" x 18," 2017.

Large projects

With the colder weather, I've beeen working on larger projects in the studio. One is a self-portrait, in oil, on canvas. Unfortunately, it looks like me! I'll post it soon.

Today I also started work on a 16" x 20" version of the study below, which I painted on location at Cape Henlopen this summer. I plan to add clouds to add interest to the sky, and I'll add detail to the people and umbrellas on the beach. It will be fun!

Geoff Watson, "Herring Point," oil on panel, 8" x 10," 2017.

Geoff Watson, "Herring Point," oil on panel, 8" x 10," 2017.

Emily - week 1

I started this portrait last weekend, but I forgot to post it until now; it's been a busy week. The drawing is good as far as it goes, but I hope to develop it further in the remaining two sessions.

Geoff Watson, "Emily," work in progress, oil on panel, 11" x 14," 2017.

Geoff Watson, "Emily," work in progress, oil on panel, 11" x 14," 2017.

Knife-painting at Great Falls

Who needs brushes? I did this painting entirely with a painting knife. It depicts the Virginia side of Great Falls National Park, on a balmy Halloween. In fact, painting with a knife reminds me of carving Jack-O-Lanterns: it's messy but fun, and you end up with something scary.

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Dog Park

I painted this picture last month, on a balmy fall afternoon in McLean Gardens in Washington. The painting depicts the Newark Street dog park. One of my relatives was instrumental in the planning of the park, and today I gave this painting to her as a surprise birthday gift.

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House and Pole - Day 3

I had only an hour or so to work on this today, but I made progress on the foreground greenery. I was trying to increase the amount of depth in the picture with overlapping bushes. I also was glad to add more objects with a light side and shadow side. Now I need to straighten the pole and start adding detail.

I may not get back to this for a couple days. I'll be painting a model tomorrow, and it's supposed to rain Sunday. Plus I have to attend our group show this weekend at the Yellow Barn Studio in Glen Echo Park!

Geoff Watson, "House and Pole," work in progress, oil on panel, 16" x 20," 2017.

Geoff Watson, "House and Pole," work in progress, oil on panel, 16" x 20," 2017.