Eyes tired, head spinning (Ps)

working on the border and central panel

working on the border and central panel

Central panel colors coming together

Central panel colors coming together

Well, the colors are coming together. But I don’t know if I’ll try this combination again for a while.

The intense autumn palette is working well. Rich oranges and reds, a touch of Q-violet, bordered with a nice olive green, and the reds just pop right off the paper. I’m working up an overlay of India ink spirals on the border, which is the eye-wrenching part. It looks great when it is done. But I may need a cool cloth over my eyes. No caffeine for me on this one, thanks.

The central panel is also clipping along nicely with some cooler colors, washes of blues and some Q-violet to tie into the reds in the border. I’ll be done with it soon.

I initially intended the moon to have some 3-d elements in it, but the flat yellow, picking up a bit of unintended green tint from the surrounding color harmonics, works well with the heavier detail in the running pookah.

The central panel has become cool and smooth, in contrast to the brilliant motion on the border. I like it.



Three words and a photo (Ps)

As I have been working on the actual sketch of the Pookah, my ideas on what the final picture should look like have gotten more concrete.

A heavy border of spiral work, dense with detail, and shining with intense autumn colors. So one word for this piece will be “intense” and another would be “detailed”.

What other word will I focus on? I’m not necessarily focused on movement, as the Pookah is somewhat frozen in time, and the spirals I’ve chosen are less flowing than some designs. It has the feeling of a snapshot of a second in time. Everything stops moving so I can catch it in a painting. Perhaps “potential” is the word I want, a feeling that everything keeps moving as soon as I’m done. I want a feeling of ’stop’ then, when the painting is done, it can continue.

I also want a feeling much like A. Rackham’s black and white illustrations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Der Ring des Nibelungen. Detailed, but not necessarily realistic.

So, we’ll go with “potential”, “detailed” and “intense”.

Below is a photo of the final design for the border of spirals for the Pookah.

A Pookah Encountered - border detail

A Pookah Encountered - border detail


Work in progress (HRK) photo

Basic blocking of color is complete. Some graphite lines are still visible, especially around the outside edge of the moon rays, and on the main tower and roof of the hall. The grey of the tower stones in the front and on the first of the three ‘crooked spires’ on the right is a bit too close in tone to the grey behind the waves, so I need to work up some more changes in order to bring out the towers against the waves.

Look closely at the green, 4-armed spirals in the round moon design, and you’ll still see the graphite lines. The design slid while I was transferring it, and I needed to move the spirals up to keep them within the blocked background color. A bit dizzying to do freehand in bright green on purple-grey, especially when the graphite lines were already there and incorrect.


HRK unfinished picture

HRK unfinished picture


Silver Layer (DoL)

Working up the first layer of Daughter of Lir silverpoint. At this stage, the silver is highly metallic, cool grey, and a bit bland. All the darks are similar in value. As the silver tarnishes to a browner color, it will darken, and I will add more layers of silver.

But this is a closeup of some of the detail.

details of the silverpoint layout

details of the silverpoint layout


More color than anticipated (BI)

Well, it looks great, so far. Much more color than I thought I would use. My central seascape has become a brilliant sunset, contrasting with the darker blue of the winter forest. I like it. Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow and a dark Indian Red have blended nicely, I’ve come up with a beautifully intense purple from the Cobalt Blue and Quinacridone Magenta. Just a little of each.

A bit of Sienna and Yellow, some more Cobalt Blue and I have a nice series of rolling hills.

I blocked in some of the snowy background and the crescent moon, and those will be primarily shadowed in blue, but I need some more white watercolor paint, and will have to wait to finish that up.

It isn’t exactly how I planned it, as will happen occasionally, but I am enjoying it.

Working up the central landscaping.

Working up the central landscaping.


Mixing it up (BI)

Drawing and sketching are my first joys, and it tends to show in my paintings. I prefer a very limited palette, selecting only a few colors at a time.

For Birch interlace, I have indulged in blues. Pthalo Blue and Prussian Blue are two of my favorites, but I do not have a Prussian Blue liquid watercolor jar, so I’m starting with Pthalo for lighter areas around the crescent moon. Ultramarine and Cobalt blues move the corners into a cooler range. To deaden some darker areas at the edges and make the lighter areas stand out, I have dabbed a bit of Raw Sienna, and a sneaky bit of Cadmium Orange.

The central seascape will work with the blues as shadows, and move into some Sienna browns and maybe a bit of green. Always make sure your colors move throughout the painting if you are going for an integrated look. If you isolate blocks of one color in one place, it isolates that space from the rest of the painting, and can make things look a bit cartoony.

The birch trees on either side of the crescent moon have been carved into the gesso with a small engraving blade, and the lines are barely visible to me as I paint. They don’t show in the photo very well. It makes it easier to create a smooth background, since I don’t want to keep painting around the tiny branches. I tried a bit of frisket on a corner, but the chalk gesso wouldn’t let go of it, and I didn’t want to put up with that considering all the fine lines I would have to remove.

Egg tempera is laid down in thin layers. It suits my own watercolor style, as I like to work with glazes, laying down thin, multiple layers rather than one thicker layer. Tempera does not develop the thick texture of heavy oils or acrylics, and seems flat to some artists.

I’m waiting on a delivery of some golden ochres and a red ochre from Sinopia pigments, to see if I want to include them. Sinopia carries a large selection of dry pigments, tools, books and gilding supplies. I use them for more than half of my supplies, as they are based in the U.S. and shipping is cheaper than buying from European sources.

working on Birch Interlace

working on Birch Interlace

The photo does not clearly show the depths and richness of the egg/watercolor mix. But I’ll work on getting a closer photo with the tripod next time.


View Sketch (DoL)

Daughter of Lir

Well, yes, rather fuzzy. The sketch was larger than the scanner bed, and I had to finagle a bit.

The decorative spirals forming the “splash” of water are adaptations of very early Celtic La Tene designs. The La Tene style of Celtic art is named after the first location that the distinctive style was observed, in an archaeological site at La Tene, near Lake Neuchatel in Switzerland. The site was first excavated in 1857.

Dating artistic styles is a complex issue, but the La Tene style is generally accepted to be dated from 450BC to the first century BC, in an area stretching from what today is France, east to Hungary and the Czech Republic.

The outer framework of the piece (not visible in the scan), is based on an even older Hallstatt pattern, adapted from artifacts dated from the early Iron Age in Europe, 8th-6th centuries BC.


View Sketch (BI)

fuzzy and crooked, but visible

fuzzy and crooked, but visible

Well, the scanner isn’t cooperating. Future pictures will be taken with a digital camera, but for now, we have fuzzy scans.

Note the second “layer” of distance within the portal formed by the moon.

The interlacing of the birch branches is somewhat visible. I worked some of the lines with ink, which may make it easier to see.

The guidelines visible on the sketch represent a development of classical proportion in the design. I work frequently with the “Golden Section” and other proportions documented in Medieval manuscripts.


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