Tag Archives: #watercolor

Looking Out of My Window

Sometimes when I run out of ideas, I stare at the trees outside my window. Occasionally, I draw or sketch them:

Since I am a bit running out of topic recently, I turned my window scene into a couple of paintings:

Window Scene 1, watercolor on paper, August, 2020
Window Scene 2, watercolor on paper, August 2020

There are usually squirrels dancing on the branches and crows meeting on those roofs, and once in a while, I am waken up by wood peckers attacking the trunks. Some day, I will manage to catch them in my “window paintings.” 🙂

Experimenting with Materials (3) – Caran d’Ache

Caran d’Ache is a brand not a specific product, but I only know that now! The product is Caran d’Ache Classic Neocolor II Water-Soluble Pastels. My former watercolor teacher introduced it to me many years ago, and called it Caran d’Ache. Even though I bought a 40 colors pack, all these years, I never bothered to read the words on the package, and thus I never knew it was pastel!

I didn’t like Caran d’Ache back then. It’s waxy and leaves a mark like that of a crayon. It also won’t completely dissolve in water. I didn’t appreciate texture very much at that time, and was afraid of any mark that I couldn’t get rid of or hide. I only recently started to pay attention to marks making and textures, and how they enrich composition and set free expression. That why I decided to give the product more chances.

Here are some of ways I tried. First I just used it to sketch, and them apply water and watercolor on top of it. Toward the end, I used them to add more accents.

Catherine, draft.
Catherine, watercolor, 7.5 x 10 in, 2020

I also tried to wet the paper first, with some color, and then applied the Caran d’Ache before the paper dried. Some color bleeds more than others. In the red color figure, I went back and force a bit with the pastel and a wet brush to achieve a desirable result. In the greenish one, the paper dried quickly, and I was only able to do a drawing.

Female figure, 5 x 10 in, 2020
Female figure, 9 x 12 in, 2020

Here a lot of the design in the painting came as an after thought, and Caran d’Ache is a very convenient tool to draw out ideas. While it won’t completely dissolve, it’s easy to hide it with gouache, and it’s also effective in adding textures:

Tigger, watercolor and gouache on paper, 18 x 24in.

A few notes about Caran d’Ache:

  • It’s versatile but overall, works better in expressive drawing – where you don’t care to hide your marks.
  • It’s useful in finalizing or amending a painting,
  • I am not entirely satisfied with the way I am using it, still too careful and too timid.
  • I feel like if I am more competent with or have more confidence in my drawing skill, I could make better use of this tool.
  • I’ll keep playing with it. I have a hunch that it will set me free some day. 🙂

100 Day Art Challenge (4) – Day 76 – Day 100

For the first 75 days, see 

Click on the thumbnails to see a bigger image:

New Pages Added

My site zhisu.art just grows a bit with a new “Gallery” page. Please take a look and click on each image to see more.

I also updated the “About” page, now “Meet the Artist” to expose a little more about me.

Putting oneself out there is not easy, and I will do it one step a time. 🙂

Steps, watercolor on paper, 14 x 20 in, 2014

Experimenting with Materials (1) – Rice Paper

I did a watercolor painting on pre-matted rice paper (xuan paper) before, and I tried it again recently with different paints:

After Feiniaogongzuoshi, 12 x 12 in.
Crazy Hair Day, 8 x 8 in, June 2020
Kaydee, 8 x 8 in, June 2020
Nikki, 8 x 8, Jun 2020

A few notes:

  • The paper I used is something like this, but I bought it from China and it was a lot cheaper.
  • The first two paintings were done with Chinese paints that commonly used for brush painting on rice paper. The brand is Marie, and it’s available on Amazon.
  • “Kaydee” is done in sumi ink, a cheap one from Daiso.
  • “Nikki” is in western watercolor.
  • The Chinese colors are a lot more opaque and hold better on rice paper, which is very absorbent.
  • The western watercolor dries very light and very flat. I went back multiple times trying to enhance the value. When the paper is wet, the pigment swims away to wherever with a blink of eye.
  • There’s no lifting with rice paper after it’s dry. You can pat it with a tissue paper and lift some pigment, but you can’t get rid of edges that way.
  • Sumi ink is the most staining of all.
  • I absolutely don’t know how to apply the skills involved in the first painting (the rooster one) to the later ones.

100 Day Art Challenge (1) – Day 1 to Day 25

I’ve been doing the 100 Day Art Challenge at New Masters Academy for a while. I chose to focus on the figures and portraits for this challenge. Here are the first 25 days of the paintings and drawings I’ve done.

Take a look (click on the thumbnail to see a bigger image) :

Dancers

Found a beautiful book, The Art of Movement by Ken Brewer and Deborah Ory. It’s a collection of dance photography. It’s a great book to study figures and motions. I did some sketches and drawings from it:

Dancers, watercolor on paper, May 2020
Couple Dancers, watercolor on paper, May 2020
Infinity, charcoal on paper, 18 x 24 in, May 2020

The last one is a strange pose. It has an enclosed and squarish quality and a lot of symmetry. The lighting is mainly top-down, making it more grounded and static. It’s not a composition that I would normally choose to work on. On the other hand, there’s a nice contrast between the infinity loop formed by the arm, and zig-zag pattern formed by heads, torso and the legs in the middle. There’s tension and connection between the two dancers at the same time and that’s what I was aiming for when starting the piece. However, as I worked on, and as always, I was distracted by the details, and lost my focus. I think the zigzagging is there, but the details of the hands cut in the flow of the loop. I also think the value contrast is not enough and shapeless. I think this is mainly because I am still copying what I see instead of using it as a reference to create. I hope when I have a better grasp of human figure, I could look beyond the photo and draw my interpretation.

Copying Masters (11) – Yoshitoshi

Japanese woodblock printing (ukiyo-e) has a profound influence in western art since 19th century. “Japonism” has a visible presence in the art of many big names, such as Van Gogh, Degas, Gauguin etc.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 月岡芳年 (1839 -1892; also named as Taiso Yoshitoshi 大蘇芳年) was generally regarded as the last great master of the this art tradition. He was a very bold, imaginative and prolific artist. Some of the images he created are regarded as gruesome and disturbing. His most famous series are One Hundred Aspects of the Moon (1885–1892), and New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts (1889–1892).

In “Kiyomori sees hundreds of skulls at Fukuhara,” from the series New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts, Yoshitoshi portrayed the famous Japanese general (or soldier-dictator) Taira Kiyomori (平清盛, 1118 – 1181), who created the the first samurai-dominated government. The main attraction for me is the decisive and effective line work, and the presence of the character:

The original:

My copy:

After Yoshitoshi, watercolor and ink on paper, 11 x 15 in, 2020

A few notes:

  • This is not an exact copy, partially because the paper I used was a failed texture experiment. I have to work with un-intended marks here and there.
  • Copying line work is a tricky business: you want to be careful because the ink is permanent; but if you are too careful you’ll lose the force and the gesture of the line.
  • Sometimes having random textures or marks on paper is not necessarily a bad thing. You are forced to be creative since you have to work around or work against it.
  • My general has funny little hands.

Here’s my attempt of the ukiyo-e style:

Where to, watercolor and ink on paper, 11 x 15 in, 2019

This earlier post is in that line too:

Full moon, watercolor on paper, 11 x 14, 2019

By the way, the art of ukiyo-e fell out of fashion in Japan in the late 19th century but saw a come back since the 70s in Asia. Some young artists incorporated the line works and the fanciful contents into Chinese fine brush painting or watercolor painting.

Color Studies (4) – Triadic Colors

I changed the title of the previous post for better record keeping. I am still staying home, still doing art.

This week I tried triads – 3 colors evenly spaced around the color wheel. A word on color wheel: I use a commercial one from The Color Wheel Company. Many artist make their own, especially if you work in watercolor, because different brands of colors do differ slightly. It makes sense to lay out your frequently used colors in a circle, add shade and tint, or even make a value chart for each of it. You can also make a list of the complementary, analogous and triadic color schemes. I think this kind of work may help you to understand your color better, and I always feel like I should do it, but … What can I say? I am lazy and unorganized.

Back to triads. They are somewhere between analogous and complementaries. Much more vibrant than the former, and less contrasting than the latter. More importantly, the color spectrum yielded is much richer – if you mix them properly, they can give you almost everything.

That caused a problem for me. As you can see from my first try, I used red, blue and yellow, and I mixed them, got everything, and confused myself. What’s the difference between using a triad and using everything then?

Portrait of a Young Woman, watercolor on paper, 7.5 x 10 in, April 2020

So I tried to separate the colors in later attempts:

Portrait of a Young Woman, watercolor on paper, 7.5 x 10 in, April, 2020
Portrait of a Young Man, watercolor on paper, 7.5 x 10 in, April, 2020

Of course later after a few minutes of googling, I found out that when using a triad in a design, you usually choose a dominant color and that’s how to differentiate it from using everything.

So far I’ve tried some of the most commonly used color schemes. These are things I learned from doing these studies:

  • Limiting palette helps me to explore the potential of each color more extensively.
  • It also forces me to pay more attention to value.
  • Colors are very distracting, so it’s good to have a strategic approach. Do I want a harmonious piece or a contrasting one? Do I want the solemnness or the richness? Etc.
  • Restrictions spur creativity.

There are more color combos one could explore: tetrad – four colors consisted of two sets of complementary; split complementary – choose one color, and add the two on each side of the complementary (a narrower triad) etc. Maybe I’ll come back to these in future. Maybe.

Color Studies (3) – Analogous Colors

In order to push myself to work more, I participated a “100 Day Art Challenge” by New Masters Academy, of which I became a member last year upon a Black Friday sale. I committed myself to figure or portrait drawings or paintings for 100 days. We’ll see how it turns out.

Since it’s not a small commitment (for me at least), I think it would be a good idea to shoot a couple of more birds in the meantime, such as incorporating some color studies into the challenge.

This week I did a couple of small paintings using analogous colors. Analogous colors are a group of 3 to 5 colors next to each other on a color wheel. From a design point of view, complimentary colors are for contrast, and analogous ones are for harmony.

I tried to limit my choices to 3. With tint and shade of each color and various intensity, there should be enough to work with. In theory.

For the first painting, I planned to use red-orange, orange, and yellow-orange. In practice, the darkest I could get is a deep shade of red-orange. As it seemed not dark enough, I kept adding black to it, and in some places, I just used black directly. The black also contributed to the greenish color in the background. Meanwhile, since I mixed my yellow-orange with yellow and orange, some of that yellow also got in. Looking back, I blamed my disastrous control of color on a lack of design. The reference I chose has strong contrast, and darker colored clothing. If I want to use colors in a limited way, I need to go beyond a literal reading of the reference, and have a better strategy for value:

Portrait of a Young Woman, watercolor on paper, 9 x 12in, April 2020

For the second painting, I chose yellow-green, green, and blue-green. I think I still got the value wrong in some places, but at least I stayed within my color choices:

Female Figure, watercolor on paper, 9 x 12 in, April 2020

The last one I used blue, blue-violet, and violet. I started this painting with Tombow water-soluble markers. Tombow has a hard and a brush tip, allowing more diverse lines. However, they are not as water-soluble as Crayola. There are lines I couldn’t disappear with water, and a big part of the painting process was to resolve the problems caused by those lines.

Portrait of a Woman, watercolor on paper, 9 x 12 in, April 2020

In the end, I am very glad I did this experiment. Even with the painting I cheated, I can still see how analogous colors help bringing things together. It’s not that each painting has to follow a color formula, but these are tools to help us to achieve harmony. Because of that unifying power, using analogous colors is also a great way to create a mood in paintings.