A windy day at the canal

It was a cold, blustery, windy day down by the Potomac River today.  That didn't stop me from getting out there and painting!  Alas, I got cold, so I didn't really finish this piece.  I still had fun with it.

 Geoff Watson, "A blustery day," study, oil on canvas panel, 11" x 14," 2018.

Geoff Watson, "A blustery day," study, oil on canvas panel, 11" x 14," 2018.

Cherry trees just after "peak"

Our cherry trees reached peak bloom yesterday, I'd say.  Today we see more green in the trees, and fallen blossoms at our feet.  They're still pretty glorious, though. 

In this picture, I was interested in the "arch" formed by the trees dueling each other from across the street.  But I also sought to convey the subtle gradations of color on the street and in the sky, and I experimented more with the palette knife. I think I'm just starting to get the hang of these cherry blossoms -- just in time for them to disappear for a year!

 Geoff Watson, "Cherry trees just after peak," oil on canvas panel, 16" x 20," 2018.

Geoff Watson, "Cherry trees just after peak," oil on canvas panel, 16" x 20," 2018.

Cherry tree on a corner

The wind blew again today, and the cherry trees lost more of their blossoms, but they still look great.  It was also downright hot -- 85 degrees or so.  So it was a good day to get outside and paint once more. 

I struggled with this one more than the past few.  I drew a few sketches and settled on a plan, but once I started painting, I started rethinking the composition -- adding and removing background elements, fussing with shadow placement, etc.  I think I managed to recover, and I hope the picture doesn't reflect my early indecisiveness.  In any case, the blossoms look pretty, and that's what counts!

 Geoff Watson, "Cherry tree on a corner," oil on linen, 14" x 18," 2018.

Geoff Watson, "Cherry tree on a corner," oil on linen, 14" x 18," 2018.

More cherry trees!

It was a glorious day here today, 70 degrees and sunny, but the wind picked up, and our cherry trees started to shed blossoms.  A dozen blossoms fell onto my canvas as I painted.  (I picked them all off.  I don't think they're archival.)  The falling blossoms mean we'll be past "peak" bloom in a day or two, if not already.  So all the more reason to paint them again! 

It was especially fun today because I got to try out a new batch of gorgeous brushes from Rosemary, which are hand-made in England and yet reasonably priced.  Also, I painted larger than usual: 16" x 20."  I thought it turned out pretty well!

 Geoff Watson, "Cherries and bushes," oil on canvas panel, 16" x 20," 2018.

Geoff Watson, "Cherries and bushes," oil on canvas panel, 16" x 20," 2018.

Cherry blossoms along a road

The National Park Service says DC's cherry blossoms supposedly reached their peak five days ago, on April 5, but our blossoms in Maryland seem to be peaking right around now.  (For the NPS view, check out https://www.nps.gov/subjects/cherryblossom/bloom-watch.htm.)  So of course I had to get out there and paint them again! 

This time I chose a more ambitious composition -- a shadowed foreground and a lit background -- even though I knew it would be easier to paint the blossoms with a dark background, as I did in my previous blog post.  I guess I wanted a change of pace.  I also wanted to depict how the blossoms form a canopy over our streets.  To do that best, I'd have to stand in the middle of the road and paint, but that's not feasible, especially with the caravan of tourists.  The piece turned out reasonably well, but I still prefer the single tree I posted on the blog two days ago.

 Geoff Watson, "Cherry blossoms along a road," oil on canvas panel, 11" x 14," 2018.

Geoff Watson, "Cherry blossoms along a road," oil on canvas panel, 11" x 14," 2018.

A cherry tree

'Tis the season to paint cherry blossoms!  They'll be gone in a few days, so now is the time -- chilly weather or not.  To make the pinkish-white blossoms pop, I chose a tree with dark foliage behind it. 

I started this late afternoon, and my hands got cold before I could finish.  I had hoped to add a tourist or two for scale, and maybe some more foreground detail.  But I'm still pretty happy with this little painting.   

 Geoff Watson, "Cherry tree in April," oil on canvas panel, 8" x 10," 2018.

Geoff Watson, "Cherry tree in April," oil on canvas panel, 8" x 10," 2018.

Cherry blossoms

The artist Mitch Albala writes that colorful garden scenes are among the more difficult to paint plein air, and I think he's got a point. We think all the pretty colors will be easy to paint, but it's often hard to construct a compelling composition, or to depict values correctly. I had some of those difficulties today.

Also, ordinarily I love having the occasional onlooker, especially when things are going well. But today I had swarms of tourists, many of whom ask the same question: "Are you painting?" (I'm always polite when asked this question; I smile and say "yes.")  Still and all, I had a great time, and the painting came out reasonably well. I wish the blossoms would stay longer than a week; I need more time to practice painting them!  

 Geoff Watson, "Cherry blossoms," oil on panel, 11" x 14," 2018.

Geoff Watson, "Cherry blossoms," oil on panel, 11" x 14," 2018.

Flowering cherry tree

It’s brisk here, but our cherry trees are starting to bloom all the same. I spent about 90 minutes painting this tree before my hands got too cold to continue. I need to find better painting gloves! This picture would have benefited from another hour’s work. Not a bad start, though.

 Geoff Watson, “Flowering cherry tree,” oil on canvas, 16” x 20,” 2018.

Geoff Watson, “Flowering cherry tree,” oil on canvas, 16” x 20,” 2018.

Quick sketch of a woman

I love trying to sketch portraits of moving subjects -- or, as James Gurney puts it, portraits "in the wild."  Some people fidget endlessly, and I find it difficult to get their likeness.  But some people stay reasonably still, which is a wonderful thing!  I did this one a couple weeks ago, in about 15 minutes, but I forgot to post it.  

 Geoff Watson, "Sketch of a woman," graphite on paper, about 5" x 7," 2018.

Geoff Watson, "Sketch of a woman," graphite on paper, about 5" x 7," 2018.

Vacation sketches

My family and I took a 4-day trip to Disney World in Florida, complete with a side trip to see the Harry Potter theme park at Universal Studios.  Great fun!  Also exhausting!  I didn't have much time to draw, but I did do a couple of sketches on my iPad.  I forgot my Apple pencil, so I had to draw with my finger.  Here's a view of the hotel pool from above:

 

 Geoff Watson, "Swimming pool sketch," iPad, 2018.

Geoff Watson, "Swimming pool sketch," iPad, 2018.

And here's a sketch of a coffee maker in the hotel room.

 Geoff Watson, "Sketch of a coffee maker," iPad, 2018.

Geoff Watson, "Sketch of a coffee maker," iPad, 2018.

Car truck

It was cold here today, but I saw this car-truck parked outside my local pharmacy, and I just had to paint it. I knew the clock was ticking because my hands were cold, and the skies were threatening a cold rain. So I made myself paint loosely. I'm glad I did: I got some of the painterly look I was going for.

Unfortunately, it did start to rain after about an hour, and by then my hands were really freezing -- even though I had them in thin plastic gloves. Even if I could've toughed it out, the truck driver suddenly appeared and fired up the engine. I rushed over to show him my painting. He seemed kind of unimpressed. "Aquarella?", he asked in Spanish. (Watercolor?) Nope -- oil, heh. 

Anyway, it all ended abruptly -- I didn't even get to put in any tail lights --  but I like what I got on the canvas.
 

 Geoff Watson, "Car Truck," oil on canvas pad, about 16" x 20," 2018.

Geoff Watson, "Car Truck," oil on canvas pad, about 16" x 20," 2018.

Mallina looking left

Mallina is a lovely model with olive skin, and I really wanted to emphasize her skin tone -- and her cheerful expression.  I also wanted to experiment with composition, so I moved her to the right of the picture.  (Usually I have the model gazing across empty space.)  I struggled with the shape of her shoulders; I probably should have blurred them more than I did here.  Also, the likeness is close but not quite there.  I needed another couple hours of tweaking to get it right.  Still and all, I'm pretty happy with this picture.  It captures her good cheer.

When I first started painting, I had little interest in doing portraits.  Now I love to do them!  If you're interested in sitting for a portrait, please let me know.  I'll supply munchies, television, music, or anything else to keep you entertained while I paint you.  :)

 Geoff Watson, "Mallina looking left," oil on panel, 11" x 14," 2018.

Geoff Watson, "Mallina looking left," oil on panel, 11" x 14," 2018.

Victorian Harry

I painted this portrait of Harry in less than two hours today.  He was wearing an elaborate Victorian costume, but given the time constraints, I merely suggested some colorful clothing, as I was most interested in his penetrating eyes and ruddy cheeks.  I was closing in on a likeness when the bell sounded.  I think it turned out pretty well!

 Geoff Watson, "Victorian Harry," oil on panel, 11" x 14," 2018.

Geoff Watson, "Victorian Harry," oil on panel, 11" x 14," 2018.

Auto shop

I’ve always wanted to paint the various auto repair shops on Butler Road in Bethesda, and today I had my first go at it. I should have chosen a different time of day, as I was painting contre jour — into the sun. Also, I realized that I was more interested in the stacked cars on the left; next time I’ll make those the focus. So, not my best effort, but an interesting first study.

 Geoff Watson, “Study of an auto shop,” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2018.

Geoff Watson, “Study of an auto shop,” oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2018.

A messy but interesting start

I usually pick bony protuberances as my landmarks when I'm drawing a portrait or figure.  So the chin, or a clavicle, or a knee.  Bones stay relatively still.  Today, though, I struggled to get this drawing right, so the artist leading my life group suggested I try using the nose and left eyelash instead.  That did help, even with the eyelash fluttering, but I ran out of time to fix the rest of the features.  Fortunately, it's a two-week pose, so we'll see what next Saturday brings. 

 Geoff Watson, "A start," in progress, oil on panel, 11" x 14," 2017.

Geoff Watson, "A start," in progress, oil on panel, 11" x 14," 2017.

Figures

These are three five-minute sketches from life class.  I made myself put them all on one page, which meant I had to vary the size of each.  A good exercise, and some interesting results.

 Geoff Watson, "Figure sketches," graphite on paper, about 12" x 16," 2018.

Geoff Watson, "Figure sketches," graphite on paper, about 12" x 16," 2018.

House behind trees

It was chilly today, but it was so sunny that I just had to sneak outside for an hour to paint.  I'm glad I did!  I did this painting on a canvas pad, so it was intended as a practice painting, but I like how it turned out.   

 Geoff Watson, "House behind trees," oil on canvas, 9" x 12," 2018.

Geoff Watson, "House behind trees," oil on canvas, 9" x 12," 2018.

Shoshana redux

Shoshana sat for my life group again today, but I couldn’t get the same seat, so I started a new picture. I wish I’d had fifteen more minutes to model the eyes! But I’m still happy with it.

 Geoff Watson, "Shoshana looking left," oil on panel, 12" x 16," 2018.

Geoff Watson, "Shoshana looking left," oil on panel, 12" x 16," 2018.

Shoshana, take 1

This was the first week of a two-week pose.  Sometimes I think I paint better if I have only one session!  I got a good start, but I need to improve the drawing, soften her features, and clean up the chin so she doesn't appear to have a beard!  Plus I need more vibrant colors.  Still lots to do!

 Geoff Watson, "Shoshana, in progress," oil on panel, 11" x 14," 2018.

Geoff Watson, "Shoshana, in progress," oil on panel, 11" x 14," 2018.