Me and my camera

I love my camera! It’s most important quality is the deep, shiny , cherry redness of it. Let’s face it that’s why I really choose it above all the other offerings out there. Oh … and the 60 x zoom lens which makes me go weak at the knees.

Sure I read some reviews – well actually a lot of reviews because I’m just that kind of person. Sometimes the thing I want has evolved beyond all expectations just by the time I finish the review process. And that’s good thing right? Otherwise I’d be lumbered with what used to be a top of the line , “you won’t buy better than this” thingummyjig when there’s a new generation ( or two) thingummyjig with much better features and benefits. I do know my features and benefits – I read a lot of reviews!

A typical “I really like, want, need one of those” starts with a lot of internal struggle to overcome the guilt of spending a large amount of money on something I don’t actually need. Every human needs clean air, food, water, shelter, safety, love – and there are so many of our human family who don’t have these basic needs that my “wants” start to seem pretty selfish. After the struggle I usually donate a chunk of money to the Fred Hollows Foundation and start the serious business of choosing the best thingummyjig for the amount of money I’ve determined is morally acceptable to spend.

I’m a bit emotionally exhausted at this stage and my enthusiasm starts to wane … I know I want it but the longer the review process goes on the more I think my current model is pretty OK and will I ever work out how to use all those new features anyway. All the weighing up of pros and cons starts to make me tired and grumpy and in the end I give up and make do with the one I already have. The upshot of this is that inevitably my thingummyjig stops working at a critical junction and I race into the nearest shop and buy whatever model stirs some distant memory in the review archive part of my brain. That’s how I bought my last mobile phone anyway.

I probably could have put off the whole camera buying trauma for some time if I hadn’t tripped on a hike at Zion National Park and sprained my ankle. You’re asking why I needed to buy a new camera because I sprained my ankle? Was it because I couldn’t hobble close enough to all those desert icons and needed a longer zoom lens? Actually it was a bit simpler than that-I failed to mention that my camera was enjoying an outing from it’s protective bag at the time of the fall and started faking a critical injury and refusing to work. I suspect it just wanted a holiday too.

I wasn’t looking forward to the hard slog of choosing a replacement – it was only 6 months old but that’s a long time in tech time and I knew I couldn’t just buy the same model – there was bound to be a better one out there by now.

So it was a relief to start reviewing cameras and come across a chunky little number with a stunning red exterior which set it apart from all it’s drab competitors. The other clincher ( as if I needed one) was the “moon” zoom. As soon as I saw the moon crater photos the reviewer claimed I could take with Red Velvet ( yes I named her) from the comfort of my back yard with no more than a simple tripod and a click of the zoom button I was sold. ( Actually I was so lazy I didn’t use the tripod but the moon still looked pretty fab!)

Moon by Red Velvet.jpg

 

Travel sketch books

I had a very wobbly moment today. I wanted to check one of my travel sketch books and I just couldn’t find it! I spent last weekend moving my art supplies into our home office and my husband out ( he’s retired now – why does he need an office?). It’s a tiny space, 2×2 metre , so not much room to lose anything you would think. Wrong! I’ve got a complex system of wheeled storage that I move around depending on what I’m doing and where I need the space. There’s a lot of storage for such a tiny space. And then there’s all the other nooks and crannies around the house where I’ve squeezed in a bit of art ephemera that just won’t fit in that little 2m cube. ( I used to have a bigger room but the prodigal son returned and there went my art studio).

So I emptied drawers, moved piles of books, checked under the bed and in the wardrobe. I found some odd socks, 2 dollars, a missing earring and finally three sketch books – but there’s a lot more than that. I could feel my skin getting clammy and a mild sense of panic rising at the thought I might have lost them. Of course I eventually found them – there’s always that one drawer you forget about even when it’s right in plain sight. The heart rate returned to normal and I sat down for a satisfying hour of memories.

The travel collection
Here they are! All those travel memories.

 

Why did I panic at the thought of losing them? Because these travel art journals bring back a lot of sense memories that I just don’t get from my photos.

I can smell the lavander…

Lavendar fields - Provence

I can taste the salt in the breeze….

Walking round an island in a day - Porquerolles

I can feel the heat bouncing off the rocks…

Nursing a sprained ankle - Arches NP USA

I can hear the sound of my laughing children in the room behind me as I sketch at the open window…

View from the Gite window - Burgundy

I can feel a frisson of fear as my husband stands too near the edge….

An evening walk - Etretat

I can feel the joy of finally getting to those US desert national parks after a decade of wearing my husband down –  he loved it! ( not the wearing down part –  the desert colours part)

Red Rocks - Nevada

Travel is a big part of our lives – and travel sketch books have become an integral part of that experience for me.

And yes – I’ve put them somewhere safe.

How to paint a pastel seascape -demo

This is my very first post! I thought I would start with a demo painting of a local seascape to share my painting process with you. Hope you find it interesting…

Getting started.

Sometimes I’ll know just what I want to paint – other times I’ll  look through old photos or my ideas board until something says “paint me”!  Today I chose a photo of a local beach at low tide – I like the sense of distance and the diagonals in this photo. I know it will need something else to bring it alive but I have an idea for that.

Choosing the paper.

So I’ve decided which reference photo I’m going to use and now I need to choose the colour of my sanded paper. I use either Canson or Mi- Tientes sanded pastel paper because the tooth holds layers of pastel and I don’t need to fix the finished paper. ( more about fixative later!)

Anyway how to choose one colour from all the possibilities?

I take the photo and look for papers that either  provide a strong contrast with the main colour or temperature of the subject  or one that matches the dominant colour and temperature or maybe one that matches the temperature but is a darker or lighter tone than the dominant tone of the subject.

Here I’ve narrowed it down to 3 colours so I lay the photo over the intersection of the papers and see which one I think feels right.

Choosing the sanded paper
Choosing the colour – and the middle ground mid tone colour wins!

I choose the mid tone colour as I think it will give a good under colour showing through the pale foreground sand , it takes care of the middle ground and won’t dominate the sky which I want to stay light and bright.

Now for the pastels!

This is when I get out my boxes of pastels and the fun starts. I’m going for my Great American ArtWorks seascape set, a fantastic set of Sennelier half sticks and my “orphans” box and a couple of pastel pencils to sketch it up.

Sketching up

I could transfer the image by any number of methods but I’m not too fussy about getting it exactly right and just sketch in the  main forms of the mountains, hills, horizon, sea and sand The one thing I am careful about is getting the horizon dead level! I use a dark pencil for the background and then a light one for the sand and sea as I don’t want the dark to show through later layers.

Measure on painting
 

Rough sketch- but measure that horizon to get it level!

 

 Blocking in

Now I start blocking in the main shapes loosely. Mostly I use the local colour ( the actual colour I see in the photo) but in the middle ground hill I pop in some bright reds and golds. I want these to show through a little under the final greens to give some added warmth to the painting. I make sure to put in some light pinks and yellows at the base of the sky for some sparkle. The wet sand gets a swathe of dark blue as it will be useful later in establishing the dips and shadows in the sand. Once I’ve finished blocking in smooth the sky and hills with the side of my finger to blend the colours.

 

The sky and hills

Next I work in some blues in the background hills and some greens in the middle hill. I add the suggestion of trees and some more golds into the dry paddocks. Also a little work on the junction between the wet and dry sand.

Add some hill colour
See – the red hill has dissappeared

 

 

 

The sea and sand

I add more layers of pale pinks, yellows and blues to the sky and some of the same colours in the sea. I start adding layers of creams, siennas, ochres and some purples to the wet sand and darken the edges of the sand bar . Now I add a sprinkle of washed up sea grasses to the edge of the wet sand.

Adding some middle ground detail
A bit of sparkle on the water

 

Next it’s a bit of a suggestion of the path and then some seaweed on the dry sand.

I work up the grasses around the path using darks and then some lighter colours for the sunlit side. I use some hard conte sticks for the grasses. Notice I’ve darkened the water’s edge some more and added a little pink to the water as well. I want to give a sense of how shallow it is here. Some shadows from the grasses help to show the slope of the path.

 

Finishing touches

I want to add a little life and movement so I pop in a few wading birds on the wet sand. They also help carry the eye from the strong sand diagonals back towards the water and hills. You can see I’ve also strewn a few white shells and some darker marks around for a bit of added interest and texture to the sand.

Some birds

All done!

A final distant sail boat , my signature and the painting is finished. On the whole I’m quite pleased. The finished painting retains the strong compositional lines that first drew me to the subject but I’ve warmed it up, strengthened the contrasts and added some movement.

Signed and finished

 

Learn, create,share!

%d bloggers like this: