Michele Clamp Art


John Lovett Exercise - Landscape 3

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Rather a lacklustre performance today.    A very tricky photo and I got bogged down with too many greens.

The photo :

And Mr Lovett's version.

I rushed at this one somewhat and could definitely have benefitted from an initial value study.

John Lovett Exercise - Rocks

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Next John Lovett exercise.   A little lethargic with this one for some reason but my lack of interest managed to result in something pretty loose.

The original photo:

And Mr Lovett's version from the end of the book:

Very nice.   Simultaneously simpler and yet more detailed than mine.



John Lovett Exercise - Landscape 2

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I'm moving on through John Lovett's second watercolor book and now we're onto exercises for the reader!   He gives a set of photos at the end of each chapter and we have to go away and paint them using the techniques we've learned.    Here's the first photo :

Not very inspiring but let's see what we can do.   First a sketch:

Seems like a good plan to me.   Keep all the interest across the middle band,   plain sky and distant mountains, and nice and loose in the foreground.   Pretty much like we did yesterday but this time we're on our own for the details.  

Ok off we go :

Amazingly I managed to screw up the sky again the first time round so I went back with a different brush and evened out the wash somewhat.   Distant mountains in with a little more color variation than yesterday.   So far so good.    

Now the foreground.

I think we're still all right here.   Making good use of my trusty 1/2" bristle brush and keeping some variation in the washes but not making it too dark.

Now the scary bit - trees!   

The middle distance trees are pretty simple and the darks and contrast kept for the middle center of interest trees.   Still happy.

Now for gussying up the center of interest and adding in some detail to finish it off.

Phew!   Not too bad at all.   Didn't overdo the detail which turned out to be a good thing and added in a few splashes of red in the middle panel.    The final part was to put clear water on the river piece and drop in some color for reflections.   It all came together well in the end.

Now at the end of the book Mr Lovett shows us his take on the pictures (I didn't peek honest).  Here's his version :

Ooooh!   Now his version bears even less resemblance to the photo than mine and he's obviously got a lot more contrast and simplified the shapes more.   Maybe tomorrow I'll risk some glazing on each side on my version to see what happens.

John Lovett Exercise - Landscape

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I was rooting around on the bookshelf this morning and came across one of my favorite watercolor books:  John Lovett's Textures, Techniques and Special Effects for Watercolor.

Now I think the title is a bit misleading as it's a first rate instruction book for watercolor full stop.   Never mind the special effects.     As i was feeling a little jaded I thought I'd start at the beginning and go straight through the book doing all the exercises.    It'll keep me in practice but without troubling the brain cells too much.   And frankly it's too hot for the brain cells to do anything anyway.

First up - landscapes.     Start with a loose drawing :

No problem here.   Trying to keep the shapes interesting and uneven without sacrificing what the subject it.

Next the sky wash :

Yeah.    This was meant to be an even wash over the whole sky and I screwed this up royally.    I should have my watercolorist badge stripped from me for this.   But never mind.  Onwards.

Light washes over the foreground to indicate some foliage and a little detail around the road (or is it a river?).    Remembered to keep things pretty light and used my 1/2" bristle brush to keep the edges scruffy.    Pretty happy so far.

Distant hills in a slightly greyed purple.   Nothing fancy here and it'll be mostly covered by trees anyway.

Now the trees.   It's amazing how hard I have to try to keep the trees uneven.   It's almost as if the brush has a will of its own and physically resists me.    I'm also building up the foreground a little here - again with the 1/2" bristle brush.

We're actually almost there now.   Amazing how quickly things come together.   A little shadow detail on the houses followed by some dark doors and windows.    The foreground has yet another layer of detail.  This time some red for interest and some dark lines for fences/grass.   

The only remaining thing was to *very* delicately put in some white lines for branches in the trees.    So easy to ruin everything here with some clumsy marks so less is more.

I'm liking the foreground very much.    Feels good.

Lake Bled, Autumn

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Lake Bled, Autumn

14”x11”/20”x16” matted.

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I haven’t posted for a while but I have been painting.   However,  everything I’ve tried up until today has been terrible. Not pleased with anything at all.    In fact last night,  after stopping painting at 8.30pm,  I was wondering whether I’d completely forgotten how to paint entirely.    Here is some evidence :



I’ve wanted to do another version of Lake Bled for a while.    This should have been a walk in the park but oh dear.   Not quite what I’d intended at all.   Very dreary and dull.    

Ok let’s regroup - go back to the sketchbook and see if a smaller format helps at all. 




Hmm no it didn’t.    Although now I look back on this it’s not *too* bad.    How about another? 




Nope.  Not this one either.  I thought a simpler scene would help but obviously not.   I quite like the sky though. 

Ok back to a larger format with the same scene. 



Arrrrgh!   Look at all that green!   All that overworking!   What is wrong with me?   Sigh.   


So what to do.    I wondered whether the composition was hindering me.    A quick browse through Pixabay threw up a few much better pictures.     I also went back to the master Charles Reid,  watched a couple of his videos and took some notes.

Ok - so my plan was this : 

 -  More white paper.   You don’t have to cover everything.   You’re not painting a room

 -  Keep things lighter in value.   Except where it matters and then really have some juicy darks. 

 -  Vary the color.   Drop in pigment into wet paper.    

 -  Keep an eye on those negative shapes.    


And you know I think it worked.    A little different for me but I’m happier than I’ve been in a long while.    



Phew!   I live to fight another day. 


Vermont Barn near Monkton

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Vermont Barn, near Monkton.   Watercolor by Michele Clamp.  11"x14".

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We recently spent a week in Vermont and so much of the landscape is paintable.   This was one of my favorite scenes which was very near where we were staying.   I especially liked the harsh light on the roofs which made them seem white in comparison to everything else.

I'm tempted to have another go at this.  This has something of the light I wanted but could maybe be pushed even further.

A quick value sketch before I started.   These are definitely getting easier to do (or maybe I'm getting better at picking good scenes).

Seascape Joy

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I was procrastinating today and thinking what I really wanted to paint.  Then I remembered how I enjoyed the clifftop painting of a couple of days ago and thought 'Yes!  A seascape!'.

This was an absolute joy to paint and came out even better than I'd hoped.   Seascapes can be tricky.   The subtle tones of the water leave you one chance and one chance only to put in the delicate shapes of the water and foam.   Not to mention remembering to leave white where white should be.    Some people use masking fluid or go back in with white gouache to add spray but, to me,  both of those detract from the clean effect of pure watercolor.   

As usual some intermediate shots :

I put in a rough drawing just to indicate where the main lines of the rocks should go.  No heavy pencil lines here as they detract from the water.   Good so far.   I softened the sky and the background sea around the main spray area leaving things pretty loose.

I decided to do the rocks in two steps.   First an underwash to state the main shapes and put in some varied color.  The darks would go in later to give them some form.   So far so good - the paint was granulating nicely on the paper giving some good texture and visual interest.

Next I wanted to just put in an indication of where the dark blues were in the waves.   Had to be careful here not to overdo the color otherwise you lose the fluidity of the water and it becomes solid.  Still going ok!

Next step was putting the darks in the rocks.   I kept things crisper in the middle of the painting and also softened edges away from the shadow edges.   Still going ok.  

However, all this was the easy bit.    The real challenge comes next.    To finish off the water I needed to darken up the dense part of the waves just enough to suggest water volume but not so much that they start competing with the rocks for solidity.    After that is an even more subtle step where I have to suggest structure in the white frothy areas with almost no color at all.    Both of these steps need a confident yet really light touch of the brush.   The brush barely touches the paper but skims across the surface leaving speckles of color.   And hardest of all you have to know when to stop - this can get addictive and there's always a little voice saying 'I'll just do this'.  Was I up to it?

Well yes!!   Nothing is ever pefect but I managed to do just enough and he came out handsomely.    Sometimes all the frustration is worth it.

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Our wonderful local art center Post Road Art has a number of exhibitions throughout the year.    The next one is seascapes and landscapes so I thought I'd turn my hand to some sea and rocks.    Now historically this has been a danger area for me (What isn't?   Horses, buildings, snowy owls - all pose all sorts of problems).    But hey!  Nothing ventured, nothing gained so off I went.

The drawing was uneventful.   just outlining the rock shapes and where they meet the sea.   The washes went in fairly well :

Not too light,  not too dark and some nice rough edges in the sea to allow for foam.

The next step was crucial.   Getting the final darks in on the rocks so they stand out against the top of the cliffs was very important.   At the same time I wanted to get enough variation in the rocks to suggest structure.    This went pretty quickly and came out  well.    

Next was the sea.     Always tricky.    Don't overdo it as everything gets colored in and you lose the impression of foam.    Underdo it and you don't get enough depth of color to show the form of the water.     Again the gods were smiling on me and this went well too!!

The final piece was the foreground.   I'd tried to get some thick paint on and drop water in to create texture but that obviously didn't work.    One last try  - keep the board a little more vertical,  very thick paint with water and even thicker paint dropped in.    And it worked!    It's been a good day.

I don't think this will be my final submission for the exhibition but it's a good backup if nothing else comes together.