Plein air inspiration

Monroe St Bridge
Monroe St Bridge in process.

Inspired by a memory of a brilliant sunset recently.

 

I am working on completing a plein air watercolor painting of the Spokane river today. This started with a group outing at the Spokane library last month. The day waswa cold gray winterwday so I  exercising the artist perogatvepto improvise. AddingAthat gorgeousgsunset to the winter scene. It is a work in process will share more later.

Moose “A” Makeover

If I Were a Moose “A” Miner…

Witness the changes as we give Mr. Moose “A” his beauty makeover at my artist studio. This miner is looking for gold in the hills of Chewelah WA. Initially, he appears sporting a pair of patched blue jeans with red suspenders with his yellow miner hat. Miner Moose is a little large, okay VERY large and extending well beyond the edges of our table. I have to pay attention to drop cloth placement for this guy today. Doesn’t he seem like he is worried, as he lays on the table waiting for a “new look” after all his repairs?

moose A 02 ready for paint

First, his moose antlers are created with a light gray background that is shaped by working darks and lights into the wet paint for the different rounded horn surfaces.

Fur

moose A 03 fur moose A 04 fur

Similarly, the next step is to cover his fur with a basic brown.  I pull out 3D shapes in his body and face, by using combinations of red, blue and yellow in the wet paint. Oooops, mustn’t forget his hind legs showing at the base of his pants.

Blue Jeans

moose A 05 blue jeans

Next, I apply blue to the jeans followed by their highlights in white. If, while I am working, I have a color on my brush and notice an area that needs it, I simply apply it right then. You will notice that I like to use blue to make surfaces show more in the distance or shadow. With that goal in mind, blue applied to the eyes, leg backs, nose and around his ear.

Green Burlap Bag

moose A 07 damage gone moose A 08 damage less

The addition of a significant change as I add a small green burlap bag to hold gold treasures along his belt line, which eliminating the suspenders. This should draw attention to his middle body region instead of his legs. Just maybe, if the majority of the pokes are on his body center, it is possible that his spindly legs will stand a better chance at survival.

Moose Face

moose A 09bag moose A 08 faceHis eye and face are re-created here along with his little yellow “miner” hat, which is put-in without the light.

moose A 08 damage lessmoose A 07 damage gone

Stepping back, I examine Moose “A’s” makeover progress. While, I can still see some of the screw holes from the repairs from a few angles. But, honestly they are not all that noticeable when you step back. It is amazing what a good coat of paint does, isn’t it?

Gold Treasures

moose A 11 gold ready to gluemoose A 12 gold pebbles

Now it is time for the finishing touch in our Moose “A” makeover! The gold treasures are placed in his bag, and he is ready for his final sealing coat. He is all new and ready to go back home to his place up on the hill.

moose A & B done

There is a series of animal sign characters that were repaired by myself for the ski hill up at 49 Degrees North in Chewelah WA.

Moose Miners Animal Characters

Moose Sign Repairs

There are two Moose Miner animal character signs up on the hill at 49 Degrees North Ski Resort. They have both received extensive attention over the years requiring some pretty extensive repairs before they could be re-painted. Moose A has two broken front legs and Moose B has a broken antler.

moose A repair 01 glue

Moose A

This moose has had interim repairs on the hill leaving some damage from screw holes. But, this is minor and will not cause us any problems. Luckily, all the parts are still intact so gluing them back together is feasible. Initial gluing is shown with clamps from the front then the process of using sawdust filler and glue to fill in gaps.

moose A repair 02 sawdust fill moose A repair 03 wood shaving fill gaps

Pete glues the wood back together using sawdust filler for the gaps because with the drastic temperature variances. We must use similar product to fill gaps due to that old expansion and contraction law, you know. Placed upside down on his antlers moose A dries for 24 hours.

moose A repair 06 drying

Metal reinforcement is installed on the back of both front legs and a wood reinforcement is placed on his antler, which is not broken yet.

We heed the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin’s old phrase, https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/news/columns/beeftalk/beeftalk-an-ounce-of-prevention-is-worth-a-pound-of-cure/

”An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,”

….so, we decide to reinforce the antler now instead of later.

moose Repair B 01 moose Repair B 02 broken antler

Moose B

This moose has a broken antler when he arrives. The antler is glued back on and damaged areas filled.

moose Repair B 06 antler repair

The antler will need significant reinforcement to hold up. Additionally, we realize that placing reinforcement only on the antler portion of the sign will cause more stress to that specific area. Exactly what we don’t want to do. We can’t elevate the surface unevenly, without compromising the mounting (to the tree) concentrating more mounting stress on the weakest area. Consequently, we went with a solid top to bottom board reinforcement, intending to use paint to disguise it from the front.

moose Repair B 08 antler reinforcing

Both signs areset aside to dry, ready for repainting.

moose A & B repair 02 moose A & B repair drying

 

Plein Air Watercolor Painting

Outdoor Painting, Indoors

I went to a Spokane Watercolor Society, Plein Air Group get together at the Spokane Main Library downtown this weekend. The view from the Library windows is looking north overlooking the river. 

SpokaneLibraryPleinAirView

Certainly, plein air painting the outdoor beauty of the Inland Northwest in the warm comfort of the main library downtown is heavenly.

Plien Air Post St Bridge Spokane Library

Post Street Bridge Crossing

Today, I finished up one of the pieces started at the Spokane Library this weekend, of the Post Street Bridge crossing. The place that the Bloomsday Race used to end, with metal figures running on the sidewalk by City Hall.

What a great view the third floor library windows have!

This cityscape is chock full of many interesting images. Unfortunately, this large variety makes it is hard to select a specific view. Probably made more intense when you are also looking at gorgeous river and waterfall views at the same time. Decisions, decisions.

Finally, significant fun was had while getting to know my plein air brush from the Derwent kit I just got. I has it’s own tank of water in the pen which is really convenient. There are reasonable (under $20) kits available on DickBlick.com.

plein air paint kit Derwent plain air paint kit

Seems, like happiness is getting the water to look like it is really falling. Hence, a waterfall. Yahoo! While learning to use the plein air paint kit well enough to try it “on location”, without taking my other brushes.

Even more plein air painting events, along the river, are scheduled for January at the Inlander offices and February at Anthony’s Restaurant in 2019. Please feel free to contact any one of us to attend a Spokane Watercolor Society monthly meeting and/or come have fun painting with other artists at the next plein air event.

Leggy Frog Miner Sign

Frog Sign

The leggy frog miner is a relaxed and smiling green dude with large feet, He wears  a yellow gold miner’s hat and red pants. If we were to see a frog, mining for a living, this is the character we would see. It is obvious that the damages this amphibian has sustained over the years consist of concentrated target areas.

Ribbett Said the Frog

Are there amphibians on the hill? Is there water on the hill, oh yes!

frog 02 damages

Extent of Damage

Both the left side of our frog body and his eye are showing massive wear-and-tear. I don’t have pictures of him, but I remember him having a back pocket with a sling-shot protruding, which is now missing. There remains only two slight bumps at his pant line and near his hand. That sling-shot must have been a target area for little skiers to poke. Additionally, more than half of his right eye is missing as the wood has been worn off the right side of his face. It is safe to assume that this guy has been poked in the eye several times.

frog 03 repair plan

Changing Traffic Patterns

Re-routing the poke traffic seems a high priority for this leggy frog if he is going to be able to survive awhile. If he were to be holding a gold nugget, which is a natural draw, on the central part of his body than he would be able to withstand the blows better. Additionally, to be able to put his eye back in I will have to shift his face slightly to the right to give us room .

frog 04 repair frog 05 face

Using yellow, green and blues I begin making close portions light and further-away areas dark. A three dimensional impression results. Yellow spot freckles line his back and accentuate his smile. White eyebrows and blue outlines brighten his eyes.

Our frog’s pant line is lowered to allow more room to show his arm over his mid section. I decide to make his pants red and blue flannel with his blue sneakers, just because.  He is ready for his gold nugget to be glued in after a small slingshot is put in his back pocket.

frog 06ready for nugget

One of the most important changes in this characters repair is distraction. Our froggy miner holding a gold nugget in his hand attracts damages to occur in a more central location. Here is a picture of the nugget freshly hot-glued in place before sign sealing. Hopefully, a central location will make it possible to withstand the forces of ski pole pokes with more stability.

frog 07 gold nugget

Taking a step back gives a better perspective of this green guys fascination with his newly found nugget. The expression passes the test.

frog 09 frog looks at nugget

Another step back, shows our leggy frog dude body finished and ready to go back up on the ski hill.

frog 08 complete

Foxy Miner Sign Repair

Fox Miner Sign

Foxy Miner Sign

This red foxy miner looks like he is saying, “Aw, Shucks!” with his thumbs tucked behind his yellow suspenders. He must have a bag of gold nuggets stashed at the lodge. You can see that he has some damage around edges and at the base of his feet. He has minimal pokes all over his body in random areas with no specific areas concentrated on. With this in mind, my repair will concentrate on patching more than repainting the entirety of this foxy character.

No Stranger to Foxy Characters

This is not the first time I have painted fox images, the wiley fox is a character that has fascinated me from early days as an artist. One of my first watercolors was of, “Two Foxes“. Following is a link to the actual definition of the fox specie.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fox

Fox Repairs

fox 02 white repairs

Starting off with the fox repair white areas, I paint his miner hat lamp, then eye ovals, his tail tip, and then the space between his legs. Many times, when patching white areas it takes more than one coat to fill in and get full coverage.

fox 03 yellow repairs

Next in sequence are his yellow suspenders, and yellow helmet, and I notice that the new layer of paint is much brighter.

fox 04 Body YlwOrg Repairs
fox 05 Body YlwOrg

fox 06 Body YlwOrg

Yellows, Orange and Reds

Keeping yellow on the brushes I am able to start on the fox body areas. To attain a 3D effect I begin with the lighter yellow (more upfront) areas, gradually blending oranges and reds into the further away surfaces. His nose is definitely upfront along with his arms and hands over his chest. Additionally, I accentuate the top of his tail, top of his left foot and the big toe and ball of his right foot or paw that is facing us. The most needed is where his tail meets the elbow and shirt areas.

fox07BodyYlwOrg

Down to Details

Now I am down to finishing the details on our fox with black, white, and his green shirt. Luckily, I discovered that I needed to let him dry before completing all of his details as there are too many edges wanting to bleed together. Consequently, the fox is placed on the table to dry with the raccoon and bear.

fox08dry

You may notice that his eyes are darkly outlined in black, well, those eyes being outlined like that call to me every time I walk past. They are looking wide open and scared instead of friendly and happy. This is not what I had in mind for him.

Many of the changes needed to my art are discovered in this manner. I hang it and walk away, and then the next time I see it something reaches out and grabs me. Fortunately, you just keep noticing it more and more every time you walk by till you change it.

Fox Rabbit 10 finished

Correcting his eyes and exaggerating the darkness between elbow and tail along with accentuated fur around ears and eyes and an addition of polka dots to his suspenders completes the details. Here he is drying on the table with the rabbit. the Mr. Foxy Miner Sign Character is all finished and ready to greet people on the hill again.

Plumeria Watercolor

red plumeriaPlumeria Layout

Finishing a pencil layout for a plumeria watercolor of seven blossoms I am now able to begin painting the first red bloom. Painting this subject is therapeutic for my soul. I almost feel the soft smooth petals with their bends and curls as I imagine the intensely bright colors and intense perfume. Can’t say that I miss the sticky fingers from the sap. But, their heady perfume was always the most welcoming part of getting off the plane whenever I went back home. Isn’t it funny what things you miss the most about childhood memories?

The smell and feel of a bag of plumerias. Hmmmm.

red plumeria up closeThe Colors In Red?

Here is the red plumeria paint up-close as it dries. I love the way watercolor does half the work for me by moving of it’s own accord wherever there is water to blend with the other colors. It lets me add drops of bright magenta or yellow that completely changes it. I add light washes of darker shadow details after the wet parts dry. I re-wet the dark shadow areas putting a dark line “cast-shadow” where the petal curves up toward itself. To feather the inside edge of this cast shadow I carefully add a little more water for the paint to fade into.

Making the Center Hole

Later, re-wetting the center, I put a thick small drop of blue and paynes gray. A little dark dab expands perfectly making the hole in the center and, showing where you thread the lei needle through coming out the back stem ready to thread the next flower on.

red, white & yellow plumeriaThe next blossom starts out as a white with yellow center plumeria that is partially covered by other flower petals on both sides.

four plumeria colors

four plumerias up closeThe first four plumerias are painted on the top in a variety of colors. You can see that the top right blossom has changed to become a light pink & yellow and the blossom directly below it is now the white & yellow instead. A closer shot shows how I can go darker pretty easily, but not lighter. 

peach, white & yellow, red, pink plumeriayellow & white plumeriaAnother white & yellow center on the left side is followed by another dark red on the right. Here is a closeup to see how the watercolors are working, specifically where the hole in the middle bleeds so wonderfully. Now, the next trick is to decide what colors go where for the last three flowers. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Backgrounds

I am happy with the random placement of color for now but how about the background?

water background plumeriasI thought of another custom that used to be practiced by us, it was to put a lei in the surf when someone you love goes away or passes away. The flowers float on the water for quite a while. You can sit on the sand and think for quite a while.  I decided to paint water for these plumerias to float on. You can see how I use lots of water to drop different colors into. Fun!

plumerias final detailsThe last decision is to make the last central bloom a light pink up front and center. Our pink tree had a very sweet perfume. It took an hour or so to put light and dark shadows to help show shape with light and shadow.

plumerias finishedPlumeria Watercolor Finished

It is all pau! I am sending it to a friend I have known since 4th grade in Kahaluu, who used to make lei’s and ride the school bus among other things with me.

Betsy, Mele Kalikimaka!

 

 

 

 

Sandwich Board Sign Repair

Sign Surfaces

lessons sign sanding 1The sandwich board is laid flat out on the table ready to sand. You can see that it has been used quite a long time with 3 to 4 layers of different stuff. I even ended up using a grinder to get the glue-on letters off so that the sign paint would adhere without blistering.

lessons sign sanding 2

Recycling

This is a sandwich board sign needing repair for 49 Degrees North Ski Resort. It is used on the lower walkway to assist lost people going to their ski and snowboard lessons. The rub-on lettering says, “Never skied, Welcome.” I vaguely remember that sign on the hill years and years ago.

lessons sign snowflakes 1

Snowflakes

The request was for blue snowflake pattern on the sign with wording same on both sides. Some of my best friends are flakes, but, I still had to look up snowflakes. I was pleasantly surprised by how much geometry is involved with drawing them. They are six sided gems and quite beautiful how they reflect lights. Check paper snowflake instructions here… I enjoyed looking at actual pictures of real snowflakes to prepare good looking flakes. 

lessons sign snowflake closeup

I went with a basic bright white background for the sandwich board sign. Using light blues and touches of magenta, rendering 2 snowflakes, one large and one smaller on opposing corners. Using a small sponge dabbed into white and blue helped make snowflakes appear as a texture around the border and randomly in the center.

lessons sign snowflakes

Lettering

The wording and arrows were painted in simple black. By the way, lettering is not something I do often. It has been 30 years since sign lettering was even a weekly project for me. I didn’t take any chances and opted to trace the letters onto the board first. You can see the pencil outlines in these pictures. Honestly, any self-respecting sign painter would not be caught dead outlining the letters like this.

lessons sign snowflakes w/ background

lessons sign snowflakes wording penciled

For a 2-sided sign, I had been reminded to reverse the arrows, but promptly forgotten it. After finishing, I got surprised. One side of the sign told me to go one way and the other  side told me the opposite. Ooooops! Consequently, I had to reverse one side’s arrow heads to correct this.

lessons sandwich sign 1lessons sandwich sign 2

Sometimes, my memory goes missing when I least expect it, but luckily, most things can be fixed!

Bluebird Sign Gets Repair

Shovel Packing Bird Miner

This sign is a shovel-packing bluebird with a large orange beak who is ready to find his own gold mine. Spending some time on the internet I tried to identify what type of bird he must be. Unfortunately, I was not able to find him. But, there are really interesting things about birds to check out if you are interested in amazing beaks on birds.

bluebird sign dryingThis bluebird sign is in need of quite a bit of repair since he has had a lot of traffic on the trails. The first thing we do is sand him on both sides, seal the back with a coat of white paint and let him dry.

Standing Mr. Orange beak bluebird up alongside the table edge shows me that he is still stable and intact on the bottom, even though there appears to be a lot of damage.

bluebird sign vertical

He got hits all over!

bluebird sign on table

After lifting him up onto the tabletop I begin to see the details of his damaged edges and surfaces. It is evident that his claw feet are simply worn away on the bottom edge. Along the right side, his shovel handle has become quite uneven with repeated ski pole pokes. I won’t worry about the rough edges for these though, as both claws and shovel handles can be uneven and no one will notice.

Face and Neck Repairs

bluebird sign close face

Now, our bluebird has damages that require some creative redesign and crafty  changes. Wear and tear shows on his neck, his left eye and the light bulb on his helmet. I believe I can remove his mining helmet and use that upper area for his blue head instead. This will allow me to move his face to the right enough to be able to give him his eye back. Artistic tweaking.

Bluebird Back and Tail

His body back and all his feathers got traffic but his lowest feather got the worst of it. The bluebird needs lots of paint.


bluebird sign close tail

Beginning with his bluebird tail feathers and the rest of his body, then proceeding to orange claw feet and beak.  Browns are next for the shovel handle and grays for the shovel. I put highlights on wings and body, purposely making them rougher looking to help disguise the damage and uneven surfaces.

Using black and white paint to repair his eyes and the space between him and his shovel, the last touches are complete. I hit any highlights or shadows that seem lacking in other areas at the same time .

bluebird sign dry with raccoon

The final adjustment is taking his beak right across his eye in the rear, which gives a better representation of 3D with it’s overlapping. Another last minute item was the addition of some orange eyebrows.bluebird sign finishedOur shovel-packing bluebird with a large orange beak is finished and sealed, ready to go back up on the hill and be discovered by those skiing the trails. Another of the fun animal character signs at the best family ski resort, 49 Degrees North  Ski Resort in Chewelah WA.

 

Gold Panning Bear Repairs

Damage Assessment

bear panning gold beforeThis gold panning bear is grinning happily because he has some gold nuggets in his pan. He has had a lot of interaction with the kids on the hill over the past ten years. Honestly, his gold pan is completely empty, so, it is logical to assume that gold nuggets are an  intense natural target area.

bear Gold Panning InitiallyInitially, we had placed him in the “trash” stack because his right leg was gone! But, I see minor damages on edges and scattered across his interior body, so he catches my attention again. 

Barely a Second Chance

bear panning gold face & hat

Looking at this poor gold panning bear dude a second time an idea comes to me. We could change his standing position to a kneeling one. This would require only minimal grinding and painting. Hopefully, this will work. If it does, there will be one more animal character returning to the kids trails up on the mountain

Gold Pan Bear Repairs

gold panning bearFirst, I seal this gold panning bear’s green hat and edges along with any random poke holes in this color area.
Second repair area, are the whites in his eyes and teeth and then switching to black doing the same.

Third, I get out the blues and work on his blue jeans figuring out the best shape to make him kneel. The trick being, to try and make the trimming at the base simple yet strong as possible.

Fourth, his gold pan needs new shadow and some bright highlights to be ready to discover some gold. We start with pan paint still wet and sprinkle in some glitter to give the pan some shine. Then blue dots are added to his red suspenders over where the holes are from getting poked. Nothing wrong with filling the dents in if I can.

bear gold pan glitter
Fifth, all of the brown fur area needs repainting to fill in pokes and accentuate the highlights and darks to bring them back alive. Then, we cut the bottom of the sign off even and paint in his blue jeans as if he is kneeling on a rock by a stream.

bear gold pan upper body

Foremost in my mind is a desire to direct the anticipated damage to a more durable area on the animal. The gold pan is low and centrally located and the gold pebbles were all taken that were glued there a decade ago. So, the logical solution is to make that gold pan a real attractive area, with shine and gold again.bear gold panning nuggets be4ar gold pan nuggets

Our happy gold panning bear is all done, ready to return to the trees on the hill! Would you like to learn a little about gold panning?