I want to take a moment and explain a bit of frustration. Many of you have been buying Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Vol.I directly from my create space site http://www.createspace.com/3657628 others have been going to Amazon Books. Currently at Amazon books the first image /icon that comes up is the OLD out of print edition with the white cover. If you click on it and or read the copy it will tell you that the book is not for sale on their site! If you click around a bit you will eventually find the paperback edition of about $31.00.
Down below that entry on the Amazon page you will find two images of the revised edition offered for sale at enormous prices! Unfortunately a part of the Amazon team sees no reason to modify or change the layout! I have discussed this issue with my Create Space support team. They are working on the issue. We have no idea how it happened but it is a mess to put it mildly. So to recap, if you buy, you want the revised edition and it is only about $31.00 USD!! I’m sorry for any confusion.
PS: Thanks for your overwhelming support of this site and my book. I am currently working on a new video series that is newer than The Antique Shop DVD http://www.createspace.com 350893
In this post I am trying something new. I’m currently working on a series of watercolor video tutorials. The intent is to try to bring portions of my revised edition of Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor to life via live video demonstrations. As a book lover I think books are great. However, let’s be honest, there are new toys available. In order to make some principles of watercolor painting come to life a student needs to see the procedure as it is being done. As is said, ” A picture is worth a thousand words”. In that spirit my post will be brief.
The video is a test. It is a small segment of an 8 minute tutorial. Your feedback will be greatly appreciated.
Want to know more about Don Rankin’s watercolor technique?
Check out Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume 1 , revised edition at
NEWLY RELEASED: DVD The Antique Shop: http://www.createspace.com/350893
You get to see the glazing technique from start to finish. A remastered classic best selling DVD.
Bluejacket, watercolor , 28″ x 20″ 300 lb. cold press Lana
I often get asked about using more than one color in the initial under painting. Questions range from can I do it to how do I do it?
I think it helps if you think of under painting as a process of setting a stage for what is to come. If you take the time to study past and some modern masters you will find many examples of artists who chose all sorts of underlying color schemes to provide a platform for what was to come in the final application of paint. Granted, most early works are either egg tempera or oil paint applications. I think that is one reason my first edition of Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor created such a buzz. In fact, here we are at least 28 years later and the book, now revised, is still popular.
The arrangements of color can run the gamut.
Are you aware that some early painters would often use silver hued paints for under painting some of their grand ladies? Others would develop color schemes that depended upon the use of complementary colors to effect striking contrast. In the watercolor entitled Bluejacket, a combination of colors were alternated. The next three shots will show the underlying structure of color.
Stage 1: The washes are faint. Three colors were used. You can see a combination of Thalo blue, Permanent Magenta and Violet
mingled in varying strengths of intensity. Some areas fade into nothingness while other critical points are fairly bold. Some of the washes were applied directly while the softer areas reveal that a wet into wet approach was used. These first washes help set the stage for what comes later. Keep in mind you are in control, make sure you have a concept or a direction in mind BEFORE you begin. Have a plan, then set out to execute it. The under painting session is the time to set the stage. Make use of wet into wet, direct wash and charging of washes to accomplish your goal. What is charging ? Some may ask. Relax, you don’t need your credit card! Charging consists of dropping a new color into a damp field of color that is already on the paper. With a little practice you will determine the optimum timing for this application. I would caution you to avoid the attempt while the passage is still very wet unless you want your charged color to dilute a great deal. Waiting until the paper is too near dry will also create unwanted effects. Once again practice on scrap paper until you get the hang of it.
Stage 2: If you recall basic color theory then you remember that violet and yellow are complements. Their combined use helps to increase or intensify the effect of one another. Perhaps it could be argued that Permanent Magenta is not violet but it is close and its presence doesn’t deter from the effect. I always try to teach students about the vital difference between pure color theory and the paints with which we work. Pure theory is one thing. Learning to work with the limitations imposed by our finite materials such as paint, is another matter altogether. Take a moment to compare the first two steps. The yellow in this case is M.Graham Gamboge.
Stage 3: At this point a little hint of what is to come reveals itself as you examine the shadow side of the face where a combination of M. Graham Gamboge and American Journey Copper Kettle are combined as a tentative wash to see how the color combination will work. When I am painting faces I choose to develop distinct shapes that depict the architecture of the head I am attempting to capture. Don’t be afraid to use brush strokes in watercolor. Too often watercolor is considered to be pale, pastel and understated. Consider the works of Sargent and Homer. Look at the power they conveyed while using watercolor.
See the watercolor glazing technique in action: A number of years ago I was fortunate to have a wonderful producer named Dan Brennan. He and his team produced a video of my painting technique complete with a final segment that contains a composition and brush tutorial. The original VHS sold thousands of copies. I am delighted to announce that the original master The Antique Shop was found in Dan’s archives and has been remastered in DVD format.
It is now available at http://www.createspace.com/350893
You can also obtain Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume I, Revised Edition at
As some of you will recall I have often endorsed Mary Whyte size 8 Kolinsky sable brushes on this site. Well, Mary is preparing for an important exhibition and currently her brushes are not available. She needs brushes to complete her paintings for this exhibition.
Like most of us she is accustomed to her own brush design and heft. Personally I prefer the brush as well. Preparing for such an important event is stress enough without abruptly finding that you can’t get your preferred supplies.
Here’s what has happened:
The Fish and Game folks have shut down the importation of Kolinsky sable brushes. I am aware of some web-sites that are saying otherwise but I have had conversations this afternoon with two major suppliers. Apparently this has something to do with a UN treaty. I do not have all of the particulars but according to suppliers their brushes have been detained. That is, shipments are not being delivered. When will it end? I don’t know.
Will you help?
If you are a generous soul who happens to have a new or fairly new Mary Whyte brush would you please consider giving it to Mary? If so, please contact Tracy at firstname.lastname@example.org
What else can you do?
Contact your Senators and Congressmen and ask them to contact Fish and Game officials. The implications of this issue is very serious to those of us who paint professionally. While I am aware of the existence of synthetic blended brushes they DO NOT match the response of Kolinsky sable. Once again, we are faced with a major challenge for artists in the United States of America.
I want to comment on some new watercolors that I received in the mail. From the offset I want to make it clear that I have no monetary interest in promoting these colors. However, in view of the fact that I have taught watercolor for more than a quarter of a century, I owe it to my students. I want to thank Ms. Kelly Clawson, Brand Manager at Martin/F Weber Company for sending me these goodies. I was asked for comments. I think it is worth sharing with all of you. So here goes.
The brand is called Mission Gold by Mijello. If you Google the product you will see it listed at Cheap Joe’s and Dick Blick as well. No doubt other suppliers have them too. The package I received contains a few colors I don’t normally use. In fact, if I merely relied upon names, past experience with other brands would lead me to avoid the use of some of the paints. However, if you are going to try a product; you really ought to give every offering a fair shake.
First things first:
My first test was to use the colors full strength over a black India ink field. I prefer to use circles because they conform very easily to a book format. Circles can be tedious so if you want to duplicate my efforts any black line or bar on watercolor paper will do. I would suggest that you use waterproof black India ink for this test. Other paints such as acrylics may pose an absorption problem. My desire is to use the paint under the same conditions that I test all new paints I use. To do otherwise would devalue the results of the test.
Why a black field?
Beginning students will often ask me why I use a black field to test paint. In order to excel with watercolor you really need to know the relative transparency/opacity of your colors. Simple tests like this will tell you volumes. Full strength washes will give you a good idea of the nature of the paint. It will be obvious to those of you who utilize this test that some paints will be fairly opaque at full strength yet surprisingly transparent as you dilute them into washes. The only way you are going to know this is by working with your colors.
Starting with the first red, Permanent Rose, I’ll name the other colors as we work around the circle. You will note that I used a clean enameled butcher’s tray for my paints. The order of colors is as follows: Permanent Rose, Permanent Red, Rose Madder, Permanent Yellow Light, Viridian, Burnt Sienna, Van Dyke Brown, Peacock Blue, Yellow Orange.
Checkout the circle:
The circle was painted on a sheet of 140lb. Lana Aquarelle cold press paper. For those who follow me or my books regarding the glazing technique you should note that some of these colors would be on my caution list. The reason is that in some brands, colors like Permanent Yellow and Yellow Orange would tend to be on the opaque side and thereby not a good choice for beginning layers of a glazing technique. If you look at the chart you will see that while there is some degree of film with these two colors and with Permanent Red; there is not as much as I have seen with other paints. Well, perhaps the Permanent Red is a bit opaque. That doesn’t mean that I would necessarily jump right in and use those colors right off the bat as beginning washes. However, take a look at the next series and lets see what happens.
Watercolor Exercise beginning wet into wet:
In this first pass I wet the sheet with clean cold water. I introduced Permanent Yellow Light with a 3″ flat brush and let it run down the sheet. I was immediately impressed with the strength of the wash and its ability to hold color while diluted. Into the sky I brushed a small portion of Yellow Orange and a bit of Peacock Blue. For years I have avoided paints with catchy names like periwinkle blue, etc. These names often suggest less than serious color. Not so with this blue . While the sky was settling I brushed in Viridian in the foreground. The photo was taken while the paper was still wet. If you look carefully at the bottom of the wash you can see the puddle. I wanted to capture the intensity of the wet color. All of us are familiar with colors “drying back”, that is, losing a bit of their intensity as they dry. Please keep your eyes on the intensity as you view the next few frames. By the way ALL frames were shot in my studio as they were produced. No shots have been manipulated.
The paper is still wet and a lovely misty quality is revealing itself. None of the first wash has been manipulated; it is drying unmolested. The only new color to be introduced is in the tree line. The paper is still rather damp. The tree line is a combination of Viridian, Van Dyke Brown, and Peacock Blue I used the side of a flat brush and took care to keep the fresh wash from mingling with the green pasture. I also left a spot for an outbuilding or two that will emerge later.
The paper is still a bit moist. I added the hint of a road with a bit of Burnt Sienna and used a small brush to work around the buildings. Note how the dark treeline accentuates the yellow of the tree. This is one of those happy accidents if you will. If you like misty watercolors this could be a good stopping place. Start to finish I would estimate that perhaps 25 minutes had elapsed allowing for some drying time. The color is still holding well.
The color speaks for itself and I could have just stopped here and concluded that I had proven the worth of the paint. Its good stuff. One of the most intriguing things for me was the fact the the color holds its intensity even as you dilute it as a wash. After I did my work I Googled the product and found a factory presentation that consists of running a wash from a full strength dab of the color. Very interesting.
I just couldn’t leave well enough alone. Later in the afternoon I looked at the completely dry sketch and wondered what would happen if I glazed some new color over the tree areas and in the immediate foreground. So I got a small brush for spots of detail in the barns and fence area. I mixed up Peacock Blue and Viridian and washed over the greys of the trees. I also introduced some Rose Madder into the landscape in several areas to provide a little balance. The results of the simple glaze was striking. I really didn’t know what to expect because as a general rule the results would have been a bit muddy without additional glazing washes of the same color. As a result a little bit of almost all of the color samples found their way into this little watercolor. It may never hang in the Louvre but it gave me a great deal of encouragement for this new paint. One last thought the grey in the immediate foreground was bit of Rose Madder and Peacock Blue
I will be purchasing a number of the colors that are not in the sample pack. I can’t wait to use them in a major piece I am developing right now. I think the color results will be outstanding.
For more information about Don’s revised edition of Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume I visit:
This is a bit of a different approach to my usual way of working. I’ll explain. I usually work with large brushes only using small rounds toward the end for detail. I rarely use any sort of masking agent and prefer to control the use of color by carefully dampening some areas of the paper and leaving other areas dry. The wet areas versus the dry areas is very logical since watercolor will not usually bleed into a dry area. A little practice and a LOT of patience plus some compulsion will pull you through!
This particular work has been completed after I have had some major health setbacks. Last summer, I was the victim of a rear end collision. Today I have to walk with the aid of a cane. It limits my mobility and the ability to carry a lot of gear. This piece was done in my backyard after a rainy spell.
In this piece I shifted my approach. Working on a 300lb. Lana cold press sheet (30″ x 22″) I used round brushes to set the under painting stage, large brushes for overall washes; then small Kolinsky rounds for detail. One additional item was maskoid or frisket. A bottle of liquid maskoid will last me for years. In fact they usually dry up before I can use up the bottle. One tip: If you purchase a medium to large bottle, open it up and put a marble inside. Decant a small amount into a tight fitted film can. Work out of the small airtight container. Replenish from the larger container. EVERYDAY when you come into your studio flip the larger container over on its head or base. The marble will help agitate the mixture and keep it fluid. Merely shaking the container with agitate the air in the partially full larger container. The shaking and infusion of air will cause your supply to dry up faster.
My brushes for this painting were :
- #8 Mary Whyte Kolinsky round. (It only comes in a size 8 from Art Express.)
- #4 Winsor & Newton Series 7
- Grumbacher size 20 “Gainsborough” bristle brush
- 1″ flat sable or sable blend brush
- Winsor & Newton Perylene Maroon
- M.Graham Indian Yellow
- Holbein Marine Blue
- Holbein Yellow Green
- Winsor & Newton Emerald Green (Blue Shade)
- Winsor & Newton Permanent Sap Green
- Winsor & Newton Manganese Blue Hue
- I prefer a brand called White Mask
- In this case I wound up using a tinted Grumbacher variety
Prior to applying the first wash I made a number of preliminary sketches. I capitalized on a somewhat obscured “X” design in the basic concept. Watch of it as the work progresses. You will note that there are mixtures of Indian Yellow and Marine Blue predominating the page. Note some major leaf shapes, the branch and a few flowers have been left white with only the shadows being delineated.
After the limited under painting was dry I applied the maskoid. The pink areas denote the rubber masking fluid application. I can give you several reasons for not liking maskoid even though I use it once in a while. Primarily I find it blocks spontaneity and inhibits changing directions when “happy” accidents occur. The predominant yellow you see is the M.Graham Indian Yellow….good stuff!
The making on the flowers is straight forward. The masking of the lichens on the limb are another matter. The overall shape of the lichen mass was masked. As several layers of wash was applied I would modify the masking area. It is very simple. I would put down a wash, let it dry. Sometimes the wash was only on the lichens. After it dried I would use my fingers and rub the masked surface randomly disturbing the surface. Then I would apply another wash of another color. The final result is a random selection of colors that help create a natural texture. Experiment with it. It has many applications.
After a lot of time the painting is nearing completion. I love to get lost in the little minute areas of these sorts of studies. The colors blend and swirl over one another. I will elaborate on some of the steps when Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume II is published some time in the future.
Meanwhile Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume I is available direct at
Also available at Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff and other outlets.
Better said something weird happened to my post. Will fix on March 29. Sorry for any confusion. Half of the post just disappeared. Go figure!
Thankfully it is now resolved. Sorry for any inconvenience.
From time to time we all need to go back to the basics. This is especially true of watercolor. Aside from paper and pigments the brushes we use are of utmost importance. Even more importantly is the manner in which we use our brushes. All brushes speak their own language. You and I just need to learn to observe and/or listen. The best way to do this is via practice. I have photographed a series of brush exercises that I often use with beginning watercolor students. These exercises help me to explain and they help students to see the result.
Basically I will be working with two brushes one is the flat brush. In my photos the brush I used is a 1″ (one inch) flat brush. The round is a size 8 Mary Whyte red sable watercolor brush. Two distinct shapes. MANY different results.
In my paint gear I have a number of rounds of differing size as well as a number of square edged or flat brushes from 1/2″ up to 3 1/2″ wide. Regardless of size the marks or tracks they make are similar.
RULE 1: Often a novice will attempt to make a brush perform a task for which it is ill suited. That is very counter productive and can prove to be most frustrating. Start out playing with your brushes. What kind of marks will each kind of brush make?
RULE 2: Thoughtful play will reveal a number of brush secrets.
Here are some examples:
Sheet 1 shows a few examples of just getting acquainted with the brush.
Now let’s get specific. Look at your flat edged brush. Do you know its potential? It can make large passages of wash as well as fine lines. Very versatile. Look at the palm tree for an example.
2. The palm fronds are developed with a quick movement with the flat or broad edge of the brush. Very simple, yet effective.
3. Broad leaf trees can be developed by using the side of the brush. This gets a little more tricky but with a little practice it will become easy. The secret is to reduce the moisture in the brush and allow the ferrule of the brush to rest or tap onto the paper. The idea is to create a not so perfect shape of the tree you want to emulate. With practice you will be able to create very delicate trees or robust ones. 4. You can use the sweep of the brush to create sparkling effects like sunlight on water or to create larger passages of wash.
…or try creating grass and other textures via dry brush. (Dry brush is a bit of a misnomer, in fact the brush is damp. However, the ratio of water to pigment is different. The brush has more pigment than moisture.)
Round Sable Brushes:
This is probably the best known of all watercolor brushes. It is probably the most abused. I often see students fearfully using a small round brush in an attempt to paint large expanses of wash on paper. That is sort of like trying to dig a ditch with a teaspoon! Not entirely impossible but very nearly so. In the following examples I am going to attempt to break down a typical use of a round brush. Do keep in mind that rounds can be used for dry brushing as well.
FIRST: The finished exercise and then the segments. To many of you the results will be self explanatory.
A simple approach to a simple, yet lovely, subject. The green’s are a mixture of Hooker’s Green and Holbein Leaf Green. Some of the color variation is due to reloading the brush with fresh wash. Remember the round brush is extremely sensitive yet very versatile. This often makes it more frustrating in the beginning.
Let’s Look at the Sequence:
1. First Stroke. Better stated the end of the first stroke. Take a look at the next step to get a better understanding of the sequence.
2. In the beginning the loaded brush is pressed down to begin the broader portion of the leaf. As the brush progresses the pressure on the brush is relaxed and the point of the leaf begins to appear. With very long leaves or grasses and fine limbs it is often a good idea to SLOWLY twirl the handle of the brush between the thumb and the forefinger to get a very fine line. Practice! Practice!
4. Study nature and try to emulate the basic shapes. The examples I have used are very basic with little detail. However, the effects are profound. Oriental Masters have understood the power of the simple brushstroke for centuries. If this concept is new to you pick up a book on Oriental calligraphy. Take note of numbered exercises or brush sequences used in making basic Chinese and Japanese characters. Sumi-e technique will also help open doors for you that will empower your method of expression.
Take time to master these simple techniques. It will be a small investment of your time that will pay huge rewards in your painting results.
Want to know more about watercolor painting techniques? For more examples check out Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume I at
Watercolor on site demonstration. 9″ x 12″ on 140lb. cold press. Blue Ridge Farm
There is a lot to be said for painting on location, especially when there is an abundance of magnificent subject matter. Wonderful views can be breath taking but even more importantly one should seek out the subjects that excite YOUR passion. In this series I will be exhibiting on-site watercolors that were done in the Blue Ridge Parkway area in North Carolina.
Blue Ridge Farm
This piece was done fairly quickly and has a spontaneous feeling to it. It was accomplished in under an hour, more like about 40 minutes. While there was no rush, the sunlight and the breeze speeded up the drying time. The palette was simple. I used thalo blue for the sky, Indian yellow and thalo blue for the green and a hint of violet for the distant mountain and the house. The stand of pine trees was added after the paper was dry. The initial wash for the sky was applied over a wet surface, taking care to avoid wetting the house. With a bit of practice you can paint right up to the edge of an area with a great deal of precision. The trick is that the watercolor wash will migrate freely over the dampened area but with care it will not venture onto the dried sheet.
When I use the word care I mean to say it is best to allow the wash to migrate on its own. If you have too much water it may be difficult to keep it from wandering into a dry portion of the paper. With a little practice you can take advantage of the dampened sheet without diluting the color too much.
Materials / Travel Light
I prefer to travel light leaving non-essentials at home. What is essential? Water, watercolor paper, pencils, brushes and paint. For paper I prefer to use a 140lb. coldpress watercolor block because it is convenient. In the studio I often staple my paper to a 5/8″ thick sheet of plywood. I have several that I have sealed with varnish and have been using them for years. Today a lot of my students choose Gator board. Since I still have good plywood boards I see no reason to change. However, this is a matter of preference. In the field the block lightens my load and allows me to work without having to worry about buckled paper. I always find a log , rock or some other support to rest the block without an easel.
I have a beautiful French easel but it is added weight. I started out using one outside but found the weight was a restriction in many of the places I was visiting. Try rappeling down the face of a cliff with a lot of added weight or jumping from rock to rock to get to the right vantage point. I do use an Army surplus ammunition can for my water storage and for a painting bucket. Yes, it is heavy but a good tight, no leak, water source is vital. That is why I suggest that you consider what you REALLY need and what you can do without.
I’m old school. When I paint on-site, I sketch and paint on-site. At times I will take photographs for later reference but my primary focus is the subject I am painting. This is why I believe PASSION is vital. If you are not aching to paint it, why bother? I don’t use Photoshop or other manipulations on photos. To each his own but I prefer to get caught up in a dialogue with the object that has sparked my desire. Later in the studio if I desire to delve deeper I will drag out the photos, if I have any, to take me back to the moment. I like to use photos like a sort of time machine. I hear the sounds, smell the smells and am transported back to the spot.
Mountain Pasture, Blue Ridge
Another simple on-site attempt. The palette is very limited. Indian Yellow, Thalo blue and Winsor Red. I quickly drew in a simple horizon line and roughly positioned the buildings before dampening the sky down to the horizon line taking care to avoid getting any water on the buildings. I took a moment to carefully introduce water around each of the building shapes. This is a critical moment, so be careful. A pale wash of dilute Thalo blue was washed into the sky and allowed to descend to the horizon line. While the paper was barely damp I put in another wash of pale blue with a touch of Indian Yellow to create the distant mountain range. If you consider the edge you can see that some dry areas produced a crisp edge while a couple of damp spots blurred, creating a hazy effect.
A careful examination of the horizon line will reveal a very thin white line. While the sky and distant range was drying completely I took my large 3″ brush and dampened the foreground. I was VERY careful to keep the area above the horizon line from bleeding into the damp foreground. While this is not quite like brain surgery you do want to be careful to keep the two damp areas from intermingling. That way you can prevent an uncontrolled bleed between the two areas from occurring. While the foreground was damp I brushed in a wash of Indian Yellow. I brushed it in a varying degrees of intensity but it was not a totally flat tone wash.
When the yellow was completely dry; a second wash of Thalo blue was washed over the area. After ti was dry a mixture of Thalo blue, Indian Yellow and Winsor Red was applied using a large 3″ flat brush. Some areas were dry brushed.
Once the major tone was set I began to develop the barns with dry brush strokes, using a mixture of Thalo Blue and Winsor Red. The white of the paper was allowed to shine through in critical areas to denote highlights. The darker detail lines, doors, etc. are merely stronger mixtures of Thalo Blue and Winsor Red. You will find it to be a very versatile mix. It can range from pale weathered grey to deep optical black. The cedar tree is dry brush Thalo Blue ans Winsor red as well.
North on the Blue Ridge Trail
A beautiful vista. I think the thing that really captured my attention was the sense of freedom. It was almost like one could just fly off toward the horizon. The wind was blowing gently with an occasional gust moving the grasses around in circular patterns. The distant haze of the mountains added to the power of the view. The palette is identical to the last painting, only the proportions are changed.
As you look you can see that almost the entire sheet was flooded with varying degrees of Indian Yellow. Once again the basic shape of the house and barn were avoided with the initial water wash. The entire sheet , except for the two buildings, was dampened. The yellow was not introduced into the sky. Look closely and you can see the effect. Due to the weather, the wash dried rapidly. After it was dry another clear water wash was applied down to the horizon line. Once again the buildings were avoided and left dry. A wash of Thalo blue was applied creating a misty effect. As the paper neared drying the darker portion of blue mountain on the right was put in.
A very pale wash of Indian Yellow was washed over the entire foreground that had just been dampened with clear water. Once the area was dry a pale wash of Thalo Blue was flooded over the same area creating a delicate green. As the large expanse began to dry I washed in a dry brush mode several washes of Thalo Blue, a bit of Indian Yellow and Winsor Red to create the shadow areas. The darker trees are Thalo Blue.
The language of the brush and a painting that was started outdoors and finished in the studio.
For more tips on watercolor technique you can purchase Don Rankin’s revised, updated edition of Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume I . Purchase direct at www.createspace.com/3657628
Watercolor; a great choice for plein aire
Perhaps no medium is more adaptable to outdoor on-site painting than watercolor. It is quick drying, very light, versatile and easy to carry. Many years ago I developed a travel pack that takes up very little room while offering me a great deal of flexibility in the tools and paints I can carry. I became accustomed to trekking into wilderness locations. Anyone who has enjoyed back packing knows that your gear can become very heavy. While french easels and the like are great, try carrying one along with your other necessities over rugged terrain. It won’t take long before you decide it is not worth it. My gear is very simple and light weight.
The travel pack consists of a clear plastic container that measures about 5″ x 9″ x 1.25″. It has a snap lid and will float and has a built in bracket where you can attach a lanyard if you like. The sketchbook is a 9″ x 12″ American Journey sketchbook. As for an easel or painting surface, I make use of what I can find in the wild. I may use my lap, a rock or log or the gunwale of the canoe; whatever works.
Make sure you have some sort of water container. Years ago I would carry an Army surplus ammo can. However, if you carry it full of water it can be rather heavy. The most important thing is to make sure that you are using a reliable water source. Contaminated water can adversely affect your painting. You can filter drinking water or take a little from your canteen. In the sketches I will display I took my water directly out of the lakes.
Boundary Waters Trek
These days one would wisely think twice about drinking directly from a lake or stream. Years ago I had the joy of canoeing the Boundary Waters just northeast of Ely, Minnesota. We canoed from there up into Canada. The following sketches chronicle some of the moments of that trip. These are watercolor sketches that were produced during my down time between paddling sessions. Most of them are quick pieces that I completed while “deadheading”, that is sitting in the middle of the canoe while my partners paddled. There was a small cup tied to a lanyard. That was our drinking cup. We would drink directly from the lake when we were not near beaver dams. We were in an area where no internal combustion engines were allowed and the water was clean.
Imagine , if you will, reclining in a canoe in late summer in the north woods completely out of range of any telephone, TV or radio. Nothing but you, the dark water, billions of stars and a magnificent display of northern lights. Sadly, my sketch doesn’t even begin to approach the beauty of the moment. However, this simple sketch does help me to recall the experience. Will I ever be able to do it justice? We shall see.
Imagine acres of ripe blueberries. For me it was like heaven since I dearly love blueberries. One caution, the bears love them too. You have to be very respectful and mindful of your furry neighbors if you decided to feast.
A fleeting scene of the landscape as we made our way toward Le Grande Portage and into Canada.
Le Grande Portage
The lakes are interconnected. When one lake ends you get out and carry your canoe overland to the next lake. At times the lakes are at a much higher elevation. In this case were were jumping from boulder to boulder on our way into Canada. I had the privilege of scaling a cliff with a canoe. It really helped me get in touch with my ancestors who used this path on a regular basis.
In the Mist
A wonderful way to paint wet into wet is in the rain. Never say never. Finally the mist gave way to full rain and I had to close my gear.
At times I find painters who are reluctant to show some of their sketchbooks. I do this because I have students who are often confused about plein aire work and why it is important. I think it is important for many reasons. It helps sharpen our observation skills. Working on the spot is an never ending challenge. It is also a wonderful lesson in humility. We win some, we lose some. We keep on trying.
These are quick fleeting sketches. By no means do they approach a finished state. Yet, in their simplicity I wanted to use my brush to capture moments for me. The world may not hold them in high regard but this is a part of my working method. I’m not sure why but there are times when I will mull over sketches for years before I paint the subject. No explanation for it. It is just my way. Perhaps that way I filter out the unnecessary. When I come back and do the final pieces I’ll get more involved.
Too often students and the general public will think of the glazing technique as a long boring labor intensive chore. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Glazing can be what you want or need it to be. Get out in your own neighborhood, select a spot and paint. Try to focus your attention on a simple subject and don’t try to paint the entire world in one sitting. Focus, focus. Be kind to yourself and don’t be afraid to dive in. Good Painting!
You may order Don’s book, Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume I direct at : www.createspace.com/3657628