I make no excuse for the fact that at times I slow down and work very slowly. I think all of us need to find our own rhythm. Some subjects develop quickly; others need to be savored like a fine wine. At least that is my philosophy. I have been working or perhaps I should say thinking on a subject for a few years now. It is a common ordinary neighborhood street. A tree lined street that is traveled regularly by a lot of friends and neighbors. The two lane street weaves its way past a golf course on one side and a pleasant lake on the left. In the spring and summer months the lake has more visitors than in the winter. Regardless, it is a local gathering place for young and old, walkers, joggers and moms and dads with strollers. Usually they are carrying lots of stale bread for the feathered inhabitants.
Nearly 35 years ago we began to receive new neighbors….Canada geese. If you don’t live on the edge of the lake perhaps you find them more enchanting. If they are overrunning your yard and your deck you may not feel so charitable. None the less they are now permanent residents. Since their presence is firmly established they even have their own traffic signs. It seems that the local human population has learned to adapt. It is not uncommon to see joggers take to the street to avoid a collision when the local goose population calls for a congregational meeting on the side walk. At times the group will choose to slowly move across one of the streets to a feeding spot in a nearby yard or return from their foray heading back to the lake. Whenever they cross, motorists slow down or come to a complete stop to allow the feathered residents to parade across the road. To human credit I see little sign of injury to any of the feathered pedestrians.
Earlier, I mentioned tree lined streets. At the edge of the golf course there are groups of ornamental fruit trees marking the boundaries of the course. Over the years I have painted several of these trees and incorporated some of their characteristics into sketches as well as paintings. I am greatly intrigued with their shape, color and texture. They have a presence that begs to be painted. I have indulged my passion for several years in that regard. I have tons of sketches and planned paintings that have not yet matured to the point of becoming paint.
In this case the sign haunted me for several months. I had never seen such a sign warning of a Goose Crossing. I am very familiar with Deer signs and have seen my share of Elk and Moose signs in my travels. However, a Goose Crossing was a new element. I though about it. I stared at it. I would drive by slowly and just look at it. Finally, I began to sketch it and some of the local feathered actors.
It is impossible for me to separate the process of thinking and sketching. However, for clarity I have broken these two elements into preparation and sketching. Preparation= contemplation. Sketching= bringing that contemplation into form. My personal taste is drawn to more direct observation and sketching with less photography. Don’t misunderstand, I own a great Nikon and I use it. However, I am more in tune with my own perceptions. In too many cases I find the photos don’t “see” or record the subject the same way my eyes and my memory does. As I have gotten older I have become less dependent upon the photo. Naturally there are times when the camera is absolutely essential. I’m merely trying to convey that I’m more concerned with my personal vision.
I fill up a lot of sketchbooks and I must confess that I often pick up one or the other when I need one. This has resulted in a group of sketches that are in no chronological order. In some cases there may be sketches on facing pages that are years apart in execution. No doubt that will disturb the neat and orderly ones. However, it is what it is. Lately I have had a couple of art dealers who have admonished me to become more orderly. I am making progress I now have a fairly accurate inventory listing of paintings along with where they reside. At this time my sketchbooks are still a bit of a chronological disaster!
Most of the time I use a refillable TomBow pen with black ink. Several years ago a dear colleague gave me one as a present. Since that time I have gone through about three or four. I tend to lose them and later find them in a jacket or pants pocket. I also use markers of varying widths. I find pencils to be messy and somewhat wimpy when I am in the field. I do own quite a few and use them regularly in the studio. Outdoors I like an instrument that is devoid of an eraser. It helps keep me focused.
Color is personal. As I began this piece I wanted to keep it low key but I wanted color. I chose to work with complementary combinations. Red and green were the primary agents I paired colors like Perylene Maroon with Permanent Sap Green and Hookers Green. Holbein’s leaf green with American Journey Copper Kettle. Other colors included Transparent Oxide Yellow, Gamboge, Andrews Turquoise and Joe’s Blue another American Journey color.
As stated earlier, color is personal. I paint in summer as well as winter. I love the cloak of muted colors as the plant world slumbers awaiting spring. When I look at the fungus on an old growth tree I see a riot of color, I also see silvery greys and tawny muted ochres. I try to create these colors with color combinations rather than using dull faded color. Experiment with the quinacridones. They are extremely transparent and can be manipulated in mixed combinations placed directly on the paper or they can be used in glazes to create vibrant jewel tones as well as lively yet subdued winter color.
The painting Goose Xing has been recorded for instructional purposes. It is under going final editing. It will probably be several hours of demonstration. At this time the final cut is uncertain. It was painted in real time and will be available in a few weeks.
Want to know more about Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor tutorials? Check out,
Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume 1 by Dr. Don Rankin is available direct at
The Antique Shop DVD, a remastered classic of the watercolor glazing technique featuring Don Rankin
I want to share a bit of a story about some of my paintings. I have been painting Indians for about 20 years or more. These are not made up characters. Rather, they are friends and relatives who hold deeply to their traditions. They are living human beings that I have known for many years. We have laughed and cried together, we have faced challenges together. A lot of folks don’t understand because they don’t have similar experiences in their life. I’ve had some who would often say, “Oh no, are you painting ANOTHER Indian?” Well, yeah I am. I’ve had occasions when I have asked myself, what is the point? Sometimes it gets hard to continue on a road. This is true when you get a lot of questions about why you are following a given path.
About 3 years ago a dear lady named Mary Whyte took a look at some of my paintings of my relatives and friends. One of her comments was, “Hey, I think you are on to something here. Keep it up!” Well, I have and now I am looking at a possible traveling exhibition that will record a little known portion of America.
Why am I telling you this? I have a motive. I can write reams about watercolor technique or the do’s and don’ts of just about any technique. You must remember one thing. Technique is only a part of the equation.
What is in your heart? What drives you to paint? What are you willing to continue to paint even if no one else understands?
Perhaps better stated what is it that you can’t avoid painting? What draws you, what drives you to pick up that brush and try one more time? What ever that something is; that is your passion.
I do paint other subjects. I recall listening to Raymond Kinstler urging us to not only paint figures but paint landscapes, paint still life. Get outside and paint. Leave the fear behind. Certainly learn some techniques. Find the best instructors you can and above all paint. The more you paint, the more you learn. I hope my words don’t make it sound too simple. No, it is hard work.
However, it is work that brings joy.
Every one of you who reads this has a still small voice inside of you. You have your likes and your dislikes. Find your path and travel it. Listen to your heart.
What about technique?
Yes, technique is important. Make your brush strokes count. Do you merely want to render a surface or do you want to use strokes that help build the sense of form. Think about this. Do you know what your colors can do? Mix them to find out. Write notes so you will remember. Pretty soon it will become a part of you.
If you have read this post you know that I have produced a new on-line watercolor course. I designed it with a method in mind. It is one thing to demonstrate or show finished watercolors. It is quite another thing to share principles. I developed several easy exercises. Nothing complicated. Just simple exercises that will help build confidence and share knowledge. The tutorials cover fundamental elements like paper, paints and brush handling; it is these things that build competence. Nothing fancy, at first. It helps you plant a seed. Nurture it with thought and work. Watch it as it grows. You can analyze this foundation below.
Under painting: this is the foundation. Two colors; Holbein Marine Blue and Winsor & Newton Permanent Magenta were used. Note the areas of concentration. Both colors are staining colors which means they are not likely to be lifted or disturbed by additional washes applied over them. Also note that in some areas the wash is applied directly to dry paper. How can you tell? Look at the edges. If they are sharp and crisp it is a light wash applied directly to dry paper. At the end of the arm and around the back of the head you see soft edges. Some are wet ‘n wet while other areas were applied in a direct manner and the edges were softened with clear water. The colors were chosen for their staining ability to help create transparent washes but also because they can help amplify the effect of flesh.
What is the point?
Use the technique to create an effect. Use your brush to suggest form not to just merely color in an area. Even a pointed round red sable has the ability to create interesting texture by dragging the side of the brush across the paper. Experiment, explore.
Want to know more about watercolor?
Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume 1 by Dr. Don Rankin
DVD: The Antique Shop, 56 minute tutorial selecting and painting a site
On-line watercolor course, by Don Rankin lifetime access. Watch the lesson, do the lesson, learn the lesson. Review as often as you like. https://www.udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-watercolor Regular price $49 .There may still be some reduced coupons available at $20 off the regular price. MGTIWa. Slots limited!
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.