Daily painting #53: iPhone

I actually made three paintings today, but only one of them is worth posting — this little sketch of my iPhone. I tried to paint it in as few strokes as possible. I counted about 350, but the actual number was surely more than that, as I’m sure I forgot to count strokes in the heat of the moment. The idea is to think more about each brushstroke, to make sure the brush is loaded with the correct color, and to get the brushstroke right the first time. I did find myself mixing paint and cleaning the brush more often, which is a good thing. It’s easy to get lazy and pick up paint that’s close but not quite right, or to make too many strokes with a dirty brush.

I like the resulting image, though the composition is a bit stark. If I’d had more time, I’d have added other objects or a more elaborate background. But it was a very worthwhile exercise.

Geoff Watson, “iPhone sketch,” June daily painting #22, oil on panel, 6” x 6,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “iPhone sketch,” June daily painting #22, oil on panel, 6” x 6,” 2019.

Daily painting #52: Voltaire

I have a plaster cast of Voltaire, the influential Enlightenment author, and while I’ve drawn the bust several times, I’ve never painted it before. It’s plain white, but it was more fun to sneak some colors into it. I didn’t quite finish, and the photo doesn’t do it justice, but I hope you get the idea.

When Voltaire was alive, he was often depicted with a smile, which seems appropriate for the author of “Candide.” My plaster cast does the same, and I’ve tried to follow suit.

Geoff Watson, “Voltaire,” June daily painting #21, oil on panel, 6” x 6,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Voltaire,” June daily painting #21, oil on panel, 6” x 6,” 2019.

Daily painting #47: Dakota

At today’s life class, our model was a nice woman named Dakota. I painted her portrait in about two hours. She held her pose perfectly, which helped me get a reasonable likeness. She was concentrating hard to stay still, and I tried to capture her rather serious expression. Alas, I forgot to indicate her shoulders, heh, and by the time I realized it, the model had left. Oh well.

Geoff Watson, “Dakota,” June daily painting #16, oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Dakota,” June daily painting #16, oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Daily painting #46: Bacchus cafe

I returned to the Bethesda intersection I inhabited a few days ago, but this time I painted a different corner cafe — Bacchus of Lebanon, on Norfolk Avenue. I stupidly knocked over my easel several times, and the third time I lost my favorite brush down a storm drain — arrrrgh! It was a No. 7 Eclipse long-handle flat from Rosemary Co. That brush and I have been through a lot of paintings together. It put me in a grumpy mood. (It didn’t help when a passerby sought to reassure me that the brush would make good gnawing material for the local rats.)

I still managed a respectable painting. The idea was to showcase the umbrella and its strange jungle of plants, juxtaposed with urban features like street signs and garbage cans. But if I paint this scene again, I might try leaving out the plants for a simpler composition. Also, I forgot to put flowers in the flower pots! I thought of it after the sun was already setting, and I could no longer see anything. :) I might add them tomorrow.

Geoff Watson, “Bacchus of Lebanon,” June daily painting #15, oil on panel, 9” x 12,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Bacchus of Lebanon,” June daily painting #15, oil on panel, 9” x 12,” 2019.

Daily painting #45: Grapes & blueberries

After two huge days of plein air, I spent much of the day doing errands, and I didn’t get around to painting until the evening. So that left time only for a quick study. I decided to practice painting grapes and blueberries. I learned a fair bit. (E.g.: blueberries aren’t necessarily blue.) I definitely want to try grapes and blueberries again.

Geoff Watson, “Study of grapes and blueberries,” June daily painting #14, oil on panel, 6” x 6,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Study of grapes and blueberries,” June daily painting #14, oil on panel, 6” x 6,” 2019.

Daily painting #44: The Jefferson Memorial

I had the great privilege to spend the entire day sketching and painting the Jefferson Memorial, in the Tidal Basin, just off the National Mall in Washington, D.C. What a joy to look at this splendid piece of architecture all day! And I think the painting turned out well! At 11” x 14,” the painting is larger than most of my plein air “dailies,” but in some ways larger is easier to paint than smaller. I may do it more often.

Geoff Watson, “The Jefferson Memorial,” June daily painting #13, oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “The Jefferson Memorial,” June daily painting #13, oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Here’s my setup. The weather was glorious, and I had lots of friendly visitors to my easel. Lots of people wanted photos of me with my painting, brush in hand, and I was happy to oblige. :)

Geoff Watson, Photo of my plein air setup at the Jefferson Memorial, June 12, 2019.

Geoff Watson, Photo of my plein air setup at the Jefferson Memorial, June 12, 2019.

As it happens, the nearest restroom was in the Jefferson Memorial itself, so I enjoyed a pleasant 20-minute walk from my easel to the monument. It was great to reacquaint myself with the famous statue. I prefer Lincoln as a President, but from a purely artistic standpoint, the Jefferson Memorial is an unparalleled work of architecture.

Geoff Watson, Photo of the Statute of Thomas Jefferson, June 12, 2019.

Geoff Watson, Photo of the Statute of Thomas Jefferson, June 12, 2019.

I also enjoyed re-reading the stirring quotations on the walls. Yes, I know these omit Jefferson’s awful side; to get a complete picture of the man, one needs to read, say, his “Notes on the State of Virginia.” But that didn’t stop me from reciting the famous lines from the Declaration of Independence, out loud, in the (thankfully empty) elevator.

Geoff Watson, Photo of Excerpt from the Declaration of Independence, June 12, 2019.

Geoff Watson, Photo of Excerpt from the Declaration of Independence, June 12, 2019.

Daily painting #43: Great Falls

Time to renew my annual visitor’s pass for Great Falls National Park! It was a gorgeous day today: sunshine, low humidity, no clouds, and a strong breeze that is unusual for Washington summers. I hiked from the Visitor’s Center to the overlook trail, then found this view of the river. It was one of the few times that I didn’t have to alter the scene to suit the composition: everything was already placed just so.

That said, the conditions were a bit challenging. I painted “contre jour,” into the sun; you can see this from the angle of the shadows. As the afternoon wore on, I had increasing difficulty seeing my canvas. Bugs were biting. And I was set up on a somewhat rocky slope, and my feet hurt after a while. So when I got back to civilization, I found a few stray marks on the canvas that I hadn’t noticed. But to maintain this piece’s status as a pure “plein air” work, I have left those marks where I put them. :)

Geoff Watson, “Great Falls,” June daily painting # 12, oil on linen, 8” x 10,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Great Falls,” June daily painting # 12, oil on linen, 8” x 10,” 2019.

Daily painting #42: Corner cafe (unfinished)

Cityscapes are still, for me, the final frontier of plein air painting: challenging but exciting. Here I tried to get the feel of a corner cafe, on Norfolk Street in Bethesda, and its surroundings. At first I had a clean image of the sign and front window of the cafe, but I didn’t like it and wiped it out, and never got around to restating it before sunset. I still learned a fair bit from this tiny (6” x 8”) study.

Geoff Watson, “Corner cafe (unfinished study),” daily painting #42, oil on panel, 6” x 8,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Corner cafe (unfinished study),” daily painting #42, oil on panel, 6” x 8,” 2019.

Daily painting #41: Peach sketch

I didn’t have much time to paint, but had to do my daily painting! Just a quick sketch of a peach. I spent too much time on the plate, not enough time on the piece of fruit. :)

Geoff Watson, “Peach sketch (study),” June daily painting #10, oil on panel, 6” x 6,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Peach sketch (study),” June daily painting #10, oil on panel, 6” x 6,” 2019.

Daily painting #40: Turban and earring

I had great fun painting this model today. I had about two hours — not a lot of time. He was wearing a gold chain around his neck, but I didn’t have time to put it in. He was also wearing a turban, an earring, and a rather curious expression; I did have time to put those in. :)

Geoff Watson, “Turban and earring,” June daily painting #9, oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Turban and earring,” June daily painting #9, oil on panel, 11” x 14,” 2019.

Daily painting #39: Creek

Apologies for another bad photo with glare (especially in the top left). Fortunately, I’m upgrading my photography setup. I’m getting a new camera tripod tomorrow, and then I will invest in some photography lights.

Anyway, I improvised a lot more than usual here, with mixed results. I was emulating David Dunlop, who does amazing things by moving paint with squeegees and trowels. Not really my cup of tea, but it was interesting to try. :)

Geoff Watson, “Creek study (unfinished),” June daily painting #8, oil on panel, 8” x 10,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Creek study (unfinished),” June daily painting #8, oil on panel, 8” x 10,” 2019.

Daily painting #37: Roses

Sometimes I paint better when I paint fast, and today may be an example. I spent an hour, tops, on this tiny little 5” x 7” sketch of some roses in my garden. Apologies for the bits of glare on the photo; I need to invest in a better photography setup. But I like the painting itself.

Geoff Watson, “Roses,” June daily painting #6, oil on panel, 5” x 7,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Roses,” June daily painting #6, oil on panel, 5” x 7,” 2019.

Daily painting #36: Public storage

After yesterday's trail, I wanted something more urban. I tried to use the telephone poles to lead the eye into the distance. In fact I initially thought I'd make the first pole the center of interest, but I was seduced by the intense light on the orange-red storage unit. If I do the scene again, I’ll try toning that down. 

Geoff Watson, “Public storage (study),” June daily painting #5, oil on panel, 8” x 10,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Public storage (study),” June daily painting #5, oil on panel, 8” x 10,” 2019.

Daily painting #34: Thinking

It’s always fun to paint someone working on a computer or phone, because they tend to stay still. Here I was especially interested in the three different light sources: the computer screen and the two interior lights in the background.

Geoff Watson, “Thinking,” June daily painting #3, oil on panel, 9” x 12,” 2019.

Geoff Watson, “Thinking,” June daily painting #3, oil on panel, 9” x 12,” 2019.