Friday, August 16, 2013

The Brushoffs Drawing Class

The Brushoffs are a group of artists who meet on Fridays at the Summerset Clubhouse in Brentwood, California.  They usually work on watercolor paintings with artist/instructor extraordinaire Sue Clanton, but this month I'm subbing for Sue with a focus on drawing. 

Today our topic was light and shadow -- how to see it, understand it and render it on a two-dimensional surface.  I started by demonstrating with a lamp to illustrate the different zones of light, shade and shadow an artist can usually expect to see.  Then we jazzed things up with some colored light bulbs and saw how the color and temperature of light can produce surprising, richly colored shadows and bounce-light.

Our first drawing project was a simple cube and sphere study with basic light and shadow effects using charcoal and white pastel on brown paper.  The artists then arranged some blocks and balls under strong lamplight and drew their set-up, considering the cast-shadow shapes an important part of the composition and carefully observing and rendering the subtle effects of light and shadow.  The results were really impressive!  Great composition, dramatic lighting and beautifully-rendered three-dimensional form.  Way to go, you guys!


Lilly and Linda

Pat and Sharon





Linda and Lilly


Pat's drawing





The group's work

Linda's drawing

Virginia's study

Lilly's drawing

Virginia's drawing

Zoe's drawing, "A Square Peg in a Round Hole"

J.J.s drawing

Sharon's drawing

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How I build a plein air painting

I painted this beautiful house during this year's Frank Bette Plein Air Paintout in Alameda, California. I thought some of you might be interested in seeing my process.  The painting is on exhibit now through September 28 at the Frank Bette Center for the Arts in Alameda.  Visit for details.

My subject -- a beautiful historic home at the corner of Pacific and Benton in Alameda, California.

I often start with a charcoal drawing like this. Here I've swiped it with a paper towel to knock off some of the charcoal dust, to keep it from mixing in too much with my paint in the next step.

Next I reinforce my drawing with acrylic paint and erase any remnants of charcoal. 
Here's the first stage of my underpainting.  I use transparent washes of color, very similar to a watercolor technique, to establish a warm glow and set up the light/dark pattern.
In this middle phase I'm gradually adding some opaque passages of color to solidify form and pull the painting together. Even in the opaque areas I like some of the colorful, translucent underpainting showing through.
Here's the finished painting.  Although my colors are pretty wild, I feel they were inspired by the warm, friendly spirit of the house and neighborhood.