Starting to Paint Again…

February 23, 2015

150206_LavenderportraitBLeft: 7 B pencil sketch to mark some contours, then layers of gouache. On an 8 x 10 inch piece of Fluid 100 Cold Press Watercolor.

I've done very little painting in the last two years because of a shoulder injury and a forearm injury. Mostly I'll throw a little bit of color over a sketch, but often I'll just work in pen and then slap down a background, or use markers to make broad bands of outlandish color.

I've been fanatical about my physical therapy, but sometimes my behavior during the day is not the best, and there have been flair ups—most notably because I love the squeezy pens!


Left: Here's a detail around the lips.

Then at the beginning of February I decided to get the paints out again and do something on the new Fluid 100 watercolor paper. (This is the cold press I was working on. This post will not be a review of the paper, which is Fluid's 100 percent cotton paper available in sheets, pads, blocks, and packets—Since I have been away from painting for so long I need to work back into it on papers I'm familiar with and then make an assessment—so I'm not blaming the paper for my own rustiness!)

150206_LavenderportraitForeheadLeft: a bit of forehead detail. When you click to enlarge this detail you'll be able to see something funky happening with the sizing on paper—the paint has granulated in the oddest way in one small area only, despite the entire wash area being laid in one go, one smooth movement. I said this wasn't going to be a review of the paper, but I wanted to show you this while I was writing about this image. I was working with 22 x 30 inch sheets that I cut down myself while wearing cotton gloves so it's not something I did to this paper (which also was brand new in the package, and only sitting here unopened a couple weeks.

Since I was still recovering from a bronchial infection I wasn't able to go to life drawing so I used some old photos. I put them up on the computer and then sat back and sketched. It's not ideal, but it's better than not sketching, and I figure if I do enough painting like this, and get Dick to pose for me a couple evenings, I'll get back into the painting groove and be all set to get back to life drawing.

Dick came to say good night and I was staying up late. I was pretty grumpy at that time because I'd just laid in a little bit of color that was pretty weak. Since I was tired I told myself "to just concentrate on getting some contrast in the eye area and then you can go to bed." I ended up messing around for 40 minutes and having a lot of fun. There are lots of things I'd like to adjust and smooth in this sketch, but there are also lots of bits I enjoy—just getting paint down on paper for one thing after such a long time; messing with the few colors I had out on my palette for another; some of the textures and value choices. 

PencilStart03069Left: I didn't stop to scan the pencil sketch but I did take a quick photo of it (I taped it to the bookshelf so it would hang flat). I thought some of you might enjoy seeing what I used for the base.

But most of all it was heaven to have a filbert (my brush of choice) in my hand again, dipping into water and paint and rinsing and thinking and dipping into paint—not as fast as I am accustomed, but building up a head of steam. When you come back to a medium you have to allow yourself a chance to build up steam. Realizing this is a way to keep the fun in your process. You can still use your critical eye to assess, but you can also thrive on even small bits of ease because you know they promise more. 

And as for leaving a large portion of the hair unpainted? I'd done what I promised myself I would do. The next step in hair would have been more detail and I had run out of paint. It was time to go to bed.

I'll be doing more painting on this paper both in the studio, the zoo, and life drawing. I'll give the paper a full review after I've worked with it for a bit. I may even bind a book with it (I have enough whole sheets left).

If you're getting back into painting or another medium you've left for a long while, give yourself the luxury of staying up a little later and pushing things around. You get the added bonus of knowing exactly where you are and how to approach your next session.

  1. Reply

    Great painting!! Have you been to Dr. Sketchys? I know if we have one in Augusta you are bound to have one…Life Modeling but burlesque dancers, circus entertainers, side show performers…best fun sketching all month long!!

    I do believe I have five sheets of this upstairs in the junk room…will have to get some out and give it a whirl! Cant wait to hear what you have to say on the subject!

    • Lisa
    • February 23, 2015

    Fantastic. Gorgeous use of color. I always like seeing the pencil sketch or line drawing before the color. I don’t know. ..faces and using color must be part of your DNA by now. I’m sorry you haven’t felt the best, but I hope you continue to get well. I’d love half your energy and focus!

    • Lisa
    • February 23, 2015

    I also had a question that a lot of other people might have, too. If you place your gouache in a watercolor palette and keep it for any length of time (over a week), don’t you find they harden and crack (even the m.grahams) and become unusable? I like gouache, but I feel like I have to apply fresh tube paint each session which creates a lot of waste.

  2. Reply

    Thanks Lisa, I’m glad you enjoyed seeing the pencil sketch. Thanks for the good wishes. I’m hoping this will blow over quickly and I’ll be back to full steam soon. 10 days feeling good was just a tease!

  3. Reply

    I have plates of gouache all over the house (in the rooms I paint in that is, which is every room but the bedroom and the kitchen. They are just dried out bits of gouache, and they rewet beautifully (I use Schmincke Horadam Gouache and M. Graham Gouache. Other brands are more problematic, especially Holbein.)

    Before I start sketching I spray the plate (or take along palette if I’m out and about) and let it sit. It softens in the time it takes for me to sketch, which is usually under 10 minutes. Maybe you aren’t using enough water?

    I have a very DRY environment whether it’s winter and it’s dry hot air (from furnace) or summer and it’s dry cold air (from a.c.) so I think I’m pretty much the test case for dryness.

    So I would suggest try using more water when you spray them before you start sketching. (Or spraying a little earlier if you know you’re going to start to sketch soon, so for instance you get to the zoo and aren’t sketching yet, just looking—spray your paints, close them, keep looking and then check them before you sketch, maybe you need to spray them again, sketch and then use them. It all becomes second nature.)

    Put out less paint than you think you’re going to need and add more as you need it if that’s a waste problem you’re having.

    And, something I do if I am working on a painting, not a color sketch, and have put out a lot of paint but have to stop painting—put the plate (all my studio palettes are white china plates used only for palettes) in a large ziplock bag with a small (1 x 1 inch) square of folded paper towel that has been wetted, set on a blank area of the palette.

    That creates a moist environment in the bag and keeps the paint really fresh (tube fresh) for about 24 hours. And I’ve keep them pretty fresh this way for about 10 days. After that you might get a science project.

    You can do the same thing with your take along palette and put a bit of wet paper towel in there and close it up.

    But the main thing I find helpful is to spray the palettes with water before I start, and if I see them drying out I spray again, as I sketch with other colors.

    Good luck.

    • Lisa
    • February 23, 2015

    Thank you so much for all of these tips. I’m going to put them into practice this week. (I was holding out on buying more gouache until I had a solution for keeping them workable.)

  4. Reply

    I thought you already had some gouache. Since you don’t you might want to take advantage of the fact that Wet Paint has some M.Graham Gouache sets on sale. They will stay moist a long time for you even if you forget to spritz them enough. The set has a red, yellow, blue, Titanium white and I think Black. (I’m not a fan of black, but it’s still a nice set for someone just starting out. (I’m not an employee of Wet Paint—St. Paul, MN— I’m just a customer and I was in on Friday picking stuff up and saw these on the counter.

  5. Reply

    Sorry to hear you are sick AGAIN…I know its SO annoying…first winter NOT sick…I think due to the vitamins I am taking. Friend has had the bronchial crud since about the first of January…the gift that keeps on giving…GET well!!! You dont have time to be sick!!

  6. Reply

    Too RIght Margaret! I don’t have time for this. But thank you because your comment reminded me that I need to take my vitamins!!!

    • Lisa
    • February 24, 2015

    Yes, I already have some M.Graham gouache, but I needed to replace and add to my palette if I was going to stick with gouache. Thank you for the info!

    • Idyllis
    • February 24, 2015

    Fantastic painting. I hope you get well soon!
    Maybe it was just that certain color of gouache that made it granulate.

  7. Reply

    Idyllis, thanks for the health wishes.

    Nope it’s not the “certain color of gouache” granulating here, it’s in the paper.

    Perhaps if you saw it in person you could tell the difference.

    • Alison A
    • February 25, 2015

    Love it… Is this Anna Chancellor….?

  8. Reply

    Alison, sadly it is not Anna Chancellor. Though I have to say Anna is an actress I much admire, and if she’s in something I’m watching I’ll stop and sketch her. She has two criteria that make sketching a face interesting to me—a fun nose and fun hair (regardless of how she cuts it). She also happens to have great cheekbones.
    Thanks for writing in. I’m glad you liked this sketch and hope you continue to do so even though it isn’t Chancellor.

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