Michele Clamp Art

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Fruit Demo 2

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Fruit Still Life. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14”

As it was still early and I had a fistful of reference photos I thought I’d have another go at a fruit still life. I haven’t done one of these in a long time and I was interested to see if I could still remember how to do things.

First the photo. A little more complicated than the previous one and I’ve always dreaded doing grapes.

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Drawing and first washes in. Not particularly confident at this point and I’d been a little tentative with the first washes so everything’s looking a bit washed out.

Next stage and things are looking a little better. Still not really very confident but at least the grapes aren’t giving me as much trouble as I’d thought.

Final version. To be honest I quit while I was ahead here. I could have gone back in and darkened up some of the grapes but felt the risk of ruining it was too great. Pretty happy with this to be honest.

And of course an easel shot.

Fruit Demo 1

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Fruit Still Life. Michele Clamp. Watercolor 11”x14”

I’m starting teaching on October 21st so I’ve been thinking about lesson plans and the like. I thought we’d start off with something simple to get people used to handling the paint and mixing colors.

I thought this would be much more straightforward than it was. Turns out that when you’re trying to think through what you’re going to say and paint at the same time everything gets more complicated. Added to that is that I was trying not to paint on automatic but only do things that I could clearly articulate. Easier said than done.

So here was the initial photo :

Nice basic shapes, good colors and distinct patterns of light and shade.

Drawing is fairly straightforward I hope. Concentrating on angles and junctions and negative spaces. I marked in the shadow areas and highlights more than I usually would for emphasis.

First layer with the midtones and some darks. My shadow on the lemon fell off but that’s ok.

final image with the darkest darks put in and some details in the stalks. I hope this isn’t either too simple or too complicated for people to follow along with.

And a nice easel shot. Always good to have one of those.

Value Studies

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I’ve been watching the fabulous Paul Foxton on youtube who has some mesmerizing videos on the Munsell color system and judging and painting color and value. Having watched him measure value using the Munsell color chips and paint perfect spheres and blocks in oils I thought ‘that doesn’t look too hard’. There’s always room for sharpening up your value judgement skills so I thought I’d have a go in watercolor.

I found this value scale and printed out a few. These are for measuring values from 1 (black) to 10 (white) so you know which area is which value.

I then squandered $7 at Amazon to buy some 2 inch wooden blocks and painted them in acrylic. One white (10) , one black (1) and two mid values (3 and 5). I didn’t have a light box handy so I cobbled together a floor and backdrop from some old watercolor block backing board.

The task was to paint a white block (and its background) by

a) first identifying the value using the value scale.

b) Mixing up the right value in watercolor

c) Painting the relevant plane with said value.

Boy was this hard. At least with oil you can directly compare whether you’ve mixed the right color. With watercolor you have to mix it, look at the consistency and flow, paint a little square on the paper, wait for it to dry, and then check whether you have the right color. I’ve ended up with a lot of notes on how the paint looks and flows on the palette and how that translates into value. It’s turned into a bit of a game. Say I want a mid value - 6. I mix up what I think is a 6, paint a little square and put my guess next to it in pencil. When it’s dried I measure it using the value scale and see how close I get. It’s hard.

These are my notes from my latest attempt :

I don’t have the full range yet but this is what I have so far :

10 - No paint - just the white of the paper. This one’s easy.

9 - Water consistency, transparent on the palette, brush doesn’t leave tracks.

8 - Water consistency, translucent on the palette, brush doesn’t leave tracks.

7 - Milk consistency, opaque on the palette, brush doesn’t leave tracks

6 . - Light cream consistency and flows on the palette. brush leaves tracks through the paint.

5 - Light cream consistency and flows slowly on the palette. Brush leaves tracks and the paint is opaque in pools.

4 - Nothing yet

3 . - Heavy cream consistency. Leaves tracks when the palette is flat. Flows v slowly across the palette.

2 and 1 - Haven’t done these yet.


I’ve shamelessly borrowed the water/milk/cream descriptions from Joseph Zbukvic and they do work well.

Of course these descriptions only apply to this color and probably vary between paint brands so there’s a long way to go.

It’s actually quite fun and each little block only takes 10 minutes of so. Even over a single day I’ve improved my mixing skills.




Life Class Again

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This came around quickly! Back to Post Road Art Center for life drawing with Andrew Cefalu. Had a pretty good week this week. I’m really getting into hands and feet and making good progress. This one was my favorite of the night due to the tight clustering of both the hands and feet.

So as usual we started with 2 minute poses.

It always seems to take a pose or two to warm up. The first one especially is very scruffy but but the third I’m off and running. There was a bit of a screw up in the second one where I had my pad angled too far away from me which produced distortions in the head. Nice line energy in these - pretty happy here.

Next were a couple of 5 minuters.

And the rest were 15 minuters.

Life Class

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Life class again last night - this was the last of the session. I thought the session had gone pretty well over all but I didn’t check over my work until this morning. Experience has shown me that how I feel the session went is not necessarily reflected in the result viewed later so I opened the sketch pad warily. But it seems my impressions were right this time. Hooray! I’m really feeling my way round the shapes much more confidently and even the hands and (sometimes) the feet are coming together.

So, as usual, we started with some 2 minute poses :

There’s some very nice stuff in here. I started off a little sketchily (first photo) and I had a few thoughts of ‘how do I do this again?’ but got into my stride quite quickly. Quite happy with these considering they’re only 2 minutes each.

Next a 10 and three 15 minuters.

Even had some time to do some shading on the 15 minute ones. Still having trouble with feet and hands but it’s a world away from where I was a while ago.

Finally 2 twenty minute poses.

Again I was fairly happy with these. Some screwups on the hands and feet but then there usually are. A good nights work.

Finally many thanks to Andrew Cefalu for organizing and monitoring the session and to Lindsey our model.


Dome Gallery Show

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Very excited to see that our paintings are up at the Dome Gallery in Cambridge MA. Many thanks to Judith Belt-Smith for hanging the show and congratulations to my fellow exhibitors Patricia Stimpson and Ching Lai. Paintings will be on show for two months until October 31st.

It’s a lovely space to hang paintings as you can see.

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I have five paintings in the show - all New England scenes from our travels over the past few years.

All paintings are for sale through the Dome Gallery and through this website. Paintings will be available for shipping and/or collection after the end of the show on October 31st.

Mystic Sketch

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Mystic CT Sketch. Michele Clamp. Watercolor

We were all sitting down by the dock on our Mystic, CT visit. What a good time to get out the sketchbook I thought. Just a small sketch but very enjoyable to do and I like the close crop that doesn’t quite reveal what’s going on immediately.


Life Class - Incremental Gains

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A good session at Post Road Art last week with Andrew Cefalu in charge and keeping us all in order. Unusually this short 5 minute pose was my favorite of the night. In previous sessions I take about 2 hours to warm up and the last poses are my best and frankly I prefer it that way.

For the record here’s the evening’s work in its entirety, warts and all.

First the two minute poses :

Some nice stuff here. We had a great model with expressive poses and it really does help.

Next the 5 minuters :

Not too bad. I seem to have concentrated on the head and hands which is fine by me. Heads, hands and feet are hard.

Finally the 15 minuters. Not my best of the night but they were fun. Good times.