Panoramic Penguin Watercolor Painting – The Study

penguin watercolor painting
Panoramic Penguin Watercolor Painting Study. Michele Clamp. 6″x17″

Today was time to get back to the penguin watercolor painting. I had a piece of paper ready cut but it had curled too much to paint on. So while I was waiting for it to flatten out overnight I used the offcut to do a quarter size test study. This is 6″x17″ and the final thing will be 32″x11/5″ which will be a pretty big scale up.

I’d done some sketching out of the composition on the ipad a couple of nights ago and was pretty happy. Everything is out of my head and from experience of previous paintings. I’m still wondering whether a few extra penguins will make their way in there but it hangs together pretty well so far.

ipad composition sketch for watercolor penguins
ipad composition sketch

First the drawing.

penguin drawing
Penguin drawing

Looks ok so far. The shapes are good. There’s lots of overlapping shapes and the background cliffs tie everything together horizontally.

Now into the painting.

penguin watercolor painting first stage
Penguin painting first stage

The sky went in ok. I was thinking of maybe masking the cliffs but in the end it wasn’t an issue. The darks of the penguins look good. Not a lot of detail here. All the work is being done by the shapes.

penguin watercolor painting second stage
Penguin painting second stage

I’m pretty far along here. Everything went pretty straightforwardly. Just goes to show what a bit of planning can do. I’m still wondering whether to add in a couple more penguins on the right. And those two wings in the center two penguins are a little too similar so that might change.

And the final thing

penguin watercolor painting final
Penguin watercolor painting – final

Henri Lehmann Clementine Portrait in Watercolor

Henri Lehmann Clementine portrait in watercolor by Michele Clamp
Henri Lehmann Clementine portrait in watercolor by Michele Clamp

Today was an Henri Lehmann Clementine portrait in watercolor. The original is oil but I went crazy and tried it in watercolor. The likeness (as always) is off but it has something I think. Many thanks to Julie Beck for introducing me to this painting.

How fast can you paint a watercolor?

Knaresborough watercolor by Michele Clamp
Knaresborough watercolor by Michele Clamp

Sometimes Painting Fast is Better

How fast can you paint a watercolor? I had 30 minutes before the Newton Watercolor Society zoom call and a bridge scene to paint. The picture above had about an hour longer but I got a lot of the main areas in in 30 minutes. Brushes were flying and there was no time for detail or hanging about. To be honest it looked pretty good before I started noodling with it. As always the jury is out on this one until later.

But Don’t Forget the Basics

Edit: It’s a day later and I’m still on the fence. The drawing is a little dodgy (make those verticals vertical!) and the value pattern isn’t quite as well defined as I wanted. The color is good – I like the blue of the sky which works well with the sandy brick and the maroonish shadows. I think it needs another attempt.

Scaling Up a Watercolor

I’m thinking it could benefit from being larger. The composition is strong – hard not to be with that bridge. I struggle with larger paintings but no time like the present to get better. I find scaling up watercolors hard. Watercolor on paper behaves the same whether you’re working large or small. It blends and spreads on the paper similarly whether you’re on a 5×7 or a 22×30. Just using a bigger brush (although it helps) doesn’t make the paint behave differently.

One I did a while back was a detail of a Vermont farm

Vermont farm Michele Clamp watercolor painting
Vermont farm Michele Clamp watercolor painting

This is 16″x20″ which doesn’t sound that much large but I had to work a lot more interest into the paint than I would have done at a smaller size. I kind of like it but it’s not one of my favorites. Looks good on the wall though.

Michele Clamp Studio Wall
Michele Clamp Studio Wall

Landscape Demo Video

Due to time constraints I didn’t video this painting. However if anyone is interested in my process I have a number of real-time demo landscape videos on my youtube channel. A nice example is this one of a late afternoon English cornfield after harvest.

Rose Still Life Oil Painting

rose still life oil painting
Rose Still Life from a Paul Foxton Workshop. Michele Clamp. Oil on panel. 16”x12”

The Paul Foxton rose still life oil painting is not finished but a long way along. This was the final session in the workshop and it’s been the best one so far. The painting is almost at the end point. I can probably finish the painting after another session. Phew!

We’ve been on this workshop for 8 weeks and we’ve done various aspects of the full painting before spending the last 2 sessions on the final thing. We’ve done a value study, a color study, a close-up of the roses, and a session on painting cloth which I didn’t post about for some reason. The first session didn’t involve painting but Paul took us through how he sets up and lights a still life. My interest in this a year ago would have been pretty small. However, the setup is an extremely important part of the painting. If your setup doesn’t work well the painting never will.

In progress

Michele Clamp oil painting easel setup
Michele Clamp oil painting easel setup

I try and keep a tidy painting station as far as possible. I’m used to painting with watercolor and it’s easier to keep the paint under control (on the palette if not the paper). The paint does wash off (mostly) but with oils it can get everywhere if you’re not careful. A near mid-value gray on my glass palette makes it easier to judge the values of mixes. Probably due to my watercolor background I try to use only a few brushes which does mean I have to clean them as I go. The upside is cleanup at the end of a session is pretty quick.

This rose still life oil painting has been my most ambitious oil painting to date. Paul has done a lot of the heavy lifting of course. His setup was fabulous and he took us through all of the mixing and the brushwork as we went along. I highly recommend him as a teacher. His knowledge of color and mixing is worth it alone.

Penguin Watercolor Sketches

rockhopper watercolor penguin sketch
Rockhopper watercolor penguin sketch. Michele Clamp

Penguin watercolor sketches were the topic for today. The reason for this is that I’ve had a commission on the todo list for a while now. Specifically it is for a panoramic penguin painting featuring multiple species of penguins. James has requested it and the final painting will hang in our main living room. It’s going to be a challenge. First things first – start off with some sketches to see how the different penguins look.

There are many different species of penguin

There are apparently 18 species of penguin. Some are more visually attractive than others so sorry, but the little Australian penguin probably won’t make the cut. Of them all the rockhopper sketch came out very well as did the gentoo sketch. I also found out that I’ve been painting king penguins and calling them emperor penguins all this time.

My approach was to pick a penguin and quickly get down the main shapes. I tried not to dwell too much on the drawing accuracy (within reason of course). Keeping the lines and shapes interesting was more important than accuracy. I took a couple of liberties with the feet. Not all penguins have orange feet but I like that pop of color so orange they were. One of the sketches that wasn’t quite as successful as the rest was the ‘unknown penguin’. I really liked the pose with the outstretched wing but the penguin plumage itself wasn’t particularly interesting. I may transplant the pose onto another species and see how that works.

You have to paint quickly on sketchbook paper

I was painting these fairly small (around 4 or 5 inches) in a Strathmore watercolor sketchbook. This isn’t the worst paper to paint on in the world but it’s no Arches or Fabriano Artistico. The paper is fairly substantial but not very absorbent. The paint dries quickly and blending is hard. This means that you have to work fast and not noodle over things too much. It lends itself to a very loose and energetic style which I like.

Next Steps

These penguin watercolor sketches made for an enjoyable afternoon’s painting. The next step will be to compose them so they look interesting and not just pasted in a line. Wish me luck…

Vermont Town Main Street – Initial Washes

Vermont town main street watercolor painting in progress
Initial washes for Vermont Main Street

Enough with the apples. Let’s get back to some watercolor. I’m really enjoying the street scenes recently. They need a lot of tweaking to design them into something that works. But you also have to keep the sense of place in there. And also make a decent painting out of them. It’s tricky – but rewarding.

So this is the reference image

Reference image for Vermont town watercolor painting

The tower is great of course. But there’s a lot of space in there not doing a whole lot. I toyed with keeping this in – maybe a wider format – and making it more of the subject. But after noodling with some value studies in paint and on the ipad I plumped for compressing the road and keeping the tower and the car as central. Of prime importance are the light roofs leading down to the car. Great arrangement of darks and lights.

Initial value sketch for Vermont town watercolor painting

Those three lights and the car on the left hand side hold everything together. Well that’s the plan. The initial washes went in ok. Some light and dark but I’ve still got half the value scale to play with so a long way to go.