Monthly Archives: August 2017

Entranced by Jerusalem

I was in Jerusalem, and took my outdoor-painting gear with me to the old city. I found a comfortable bench to sit on and started painting what I saw. I had meant to take photos of my painting as it progressed, but I forgot, painting completely absorbed me. I sat in a very touristy area, and there were people about, but they generally respected my privacy and left me alone. Children however are different, and are less hindered by social restraints. There were three little children, maybe between 5 and 8 years old, who came and sat by me, watching me paint, and not uttering a word. They watched until their mother called them away. They lit my imagination though, I think three bright-eyed children watching someone intent on their work can make an interesting painting…

This painting didn’t feel too difficult. It is hard to do too badly with a view of Jerusalem and with people watching it.

Outdoor Painting

“Have you ever painted outdoors?” I asked one artist. “Yes, I have” he said. “I try painting outdoors at least once a year. It is a hassle though” he explained, “you must deal with the wind which blows your things away, then there is the sun glaring on your painting and blinding you, so you need a parasol. There are  also flies that come to you. It is not as romantic as it sounds.” He thought a moment. “It is not easy” he continued, “painting from real life is very different from painting from a reference photo. In real life your eyes pick up much more detail and much more color than a photo can produce, and all this information can overwhelm you. You must learn to discriminate, and to simplify what you see.”

I wanted to do this outdoor painting thing, or, as it is called in art jargon, plein air. I took a market trolley and packed it with the following items:

  1.  A small paint box
  2.  Two brushes, one large and one small
  3.  A black pen and a black brush pen
  4.  A pad of watercolor paper
  5.  A jar
  6.  Some toilet paper (to wipe the brushes)
  7.  masking tape
  8.  A plywood board (larger than the watercolor paper)
  9.  A small folding stool
  10.  A large bottle of water
  11.  Some nuts (to give me energy)

I left the house with my trolley and made my way to a local botanical garden. By the time I arrived the sun was high, it was hot, and I was tired. Desperately I looked for a shady place to sit and rest. I found a small dark path, shadowed by large trees. I went there, took out my stool, and sat down. I looked at the path and the trees, wondering how they would look in a painting. As I was contemplating the path, I noticed this stem with leaves waving in the breeze, and I thought it sweet and liked it. I turned my stool around to face it squarely, and took out my painting supplies.

I taped a piece of watercolor paper to the plywood board with the masking tape, and put the board on my lap. I filled the jar with water, opened the paint box, and put the brushes and pens beside me. I looked at the leaves I wanted to paint and wondered how to start. It was quiet except for a few birds chirping. There were very few people around, nobody was foolish enough to come out in that heat. In the shaded spot where I was sitting it was cool and comfortable. I made a few lines with the pen, then started painting the leaves.

I ate some nuts and continued:

The rock underneath the plants was challenging. I realized what the artist meant by being overwhelmed by all the detail and colors our eyes can see in the real world. I continued with some darker colors:

I looked at my watch and realized that I was sitting there already an hour and a half, and I was starting to feel uncomfortable on the stool. I added some washes for the background, then traced the stem with the black brush pen. I was done. 

I packed my things and left.








African violets with DIY painting set

I had received some new watercolor paints that came in tubes. I didn’t have pans to put the paint in, and so decided to make my own watercolor box with paint pans.  I took a plastic box and glued inside it caps from empty water bottles, and filled the caps with the new paint. For a color mixing palette I cut out the bottom of an empty water bottle. This worked so well as a color mixing palette, that I made myself a few more.

With my new watercolor set, I went forth to paint a pot of African violets that my mother had given me. It started like this:

But it looked too simple, and so I added some dark accents:

It looked too childish, and I was losing patience, and so I took my big brush, soaked it in water and pigments, and just let go, adding wet paint generously and carelessly, soaking up the paper, until it looked  like this:

I thought it good enough, and let it be.