Creative exercises cont’d

Faerie Folk 8×10 watercolour and gouache

Today’s exercise was an interesting lesson in creativity… or “A funny thing happened on my way to an abstract painting.” I was continuing with Friday’s challenge of abstraction to reproduce an earlier painting using a variety of implements and techniques including sponges, credit card, fingertips, feather, and a quill pen. I admit to resorting to brushwork in the final layer but often chose the end of the brush, not the bristles. However, it’s far from abstract. It’s evolved into something completely opposite and feels stylistically more like an Arthur Rackham or Brian Froud illustration. A little presumptive on my part, sure, but I love fantasy art so that’s probably the direction this subject was destined for. I now believe the painting controls the artist and not the other way ‘round. I’ve included the original for comparison below.

Original watercolour

Creative exercises

Sumac watercolour sketch

Our zoom art group has started some weekly challenges. This week’s challenge is “abstract” using multiple tools to render the finished product. The sumacs here were done using brushes, fingertips, a straightened paper clip, the end of an eraser, and a broken stick.

Last week’s challenge was a zen approach using single brush strokes with no fussing once the stroke is laid on the paper. Difficult but bold. For that I chose to try my “ground cherries” again which I’m glad to discover have indeed turned into jack-o’- lanterns.

Last week’s watercolour sketch

Both techniques were fast and freeing. Giving up control was unsettling but fun. I recommend giving them a try!

Tucked Away – Gaspereau Valley

Tucked Away – watercolour sketch

Sometimes what you’re looking for can lead you to something else. While looking for reflections in the canal along Black Rock Road in the Gaspereau Valley, I turned to my left and saw this barn. It was nestled deeply among the autumn colours in a lower field. It took a little longer to complete than planned but it was an idyllic setting that reflected the essence of the Gaspereau Valley in the fall so worth the effort. While painting, I enjoyed the company of a very interested bee and a red dragonfly who took turns checking out me and my work.

Above highway 101

Blomidon from highway 101 – watercolour sketch

With temperatures near 20 degrees it’s hard to stay indoors. I’ve wanted to paint this view for a while so I carpe diemed and headed out. This idyllic view turned out to be not such a great spot for peace and quiet. The highway was very busy with a lot of large trucks and air brakes. It was nerve rattling rather than meditative. Perhaps that’s why my sketch turned out a bit wobbly though colourful.

Scott’s Bay – Wharf

Scott’s Bay watercolour sketch

In 2014 post tropical storm (Arthur) tore out the centre of the wharf at Scott’s Bay. The split prevents the local fishers from using it but there is still a slip for boats to launch when the tide is high. It’s visually interesting as a structure and trying to capture it in the rain caused a few challenges. The damp weather did, however, provide some lovely looseness. Details were tightened up once I retreated to the car.

Harvest Plate

Harvest Plate still life watercolour sketch

After giving away a few bags of gourds, I kept these five for a table centrepiece and I might have had this still life in mind. The day was grey with short breaths of sun so I set them up by a north facing window to bring up some soft highlights. I worked the freehand sketch to get the position and size of the gourds mostly accurate. To get the tonal variations that would render these 3D, I concentrated on mixing the correct values and hues and then layered or lifted off as needed. As a bonus, I’m super happy with the plate and the reflections. Feels like fall now. If you’re celebrating the harvest this weekend please do so safely and enjoy!

Cornfield, Linden, and Maple

Cornfield, Linden, and Maple watercolour sketch

The maple was a bit sickly when we moved here so thinking we were going to lose it I had my husband plant the linden as a replacement. After that the maple doubled in size. I’m not sure if it felt in competition or if it needed a friend. Either way they’ve become companion trees.

Homage to North Mountain

Wolfville Dykes Watercolour sketch with North Mountain in the distance.

No matter where you go in the valley North Mountain is omnipresent. While it was my intention to paint the dykes along Wolfville’s stretch of the Harvest Moon Trail, the drama was in the distance. Clouds stretched along the ridge holding a tension between the mountain and the sky. We were gifted with sprinkles of rain and blustery winds during the session. Deliberately ignoring the weather and the rules of perspective, I used intense pigments to highlight North Mountain and the band of dark clouds above. The background trees along Starr’s Point are played down to counter that. I like the effect and feel pulled into the background. It was the place to be. As if to say thanks for the attention, the sky gave us a beautiful rainbow over Starr’s Point just as I finished up — happy with my little watercolour treasure.

Eave’s Hollow

Eave’s Hollow – sketch: watercolour and ink

So much of Nova Scotia has a story book quality to it. It’s difficult to tone down my pallet to the darker hues of real life. The trees in the background were darker and duller as was the red brush in the foreground. But, the bright colours are often what I see first and in this case I tried to use the darks simply to enhance the focal point of the fence.

Houston’s Beach last days of summer

Houston’s Beach 2 watercolour sketch

I was going for sparkles on the water which I think I captured better in the warm up painting. A kid came by to see what I was doing. I asked her if she thought the first one looked like the scene. She said, “I don’t see it.” I felt I had to try again.

I chose a closer perspective in the second one and included the buildings. What was gained in precision was lost in freshness. The first practice piece below was looser and less fussy, with more sparkles.

Houston’s Beach 1 watercolour sketch

By then my art critic was gone. There were challenges with the wind (my paper kept lifting though it was taped). And despite the presence of some kids in swimming, my four layers of sweaters and jackets did little to dispel the cold reminder this was the next to last day of summer. If there are fall sessions, we will have to hunt for sheltered sunny corners instead of windswept beaches.