Just a few more pictures of a few more paintings…

Here are my last photos of the watercolors I was working on while visiting my mom in the Bay Area… and the last of my tips for easy ways to have fun with watercolor paints…

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Flowers are always a good way to practice painting. You don’t need to draw fancy flowers. Just paint some stems and put some leaves on them, and then paint some random flower shapes at the top. You can use any colors you want, any shapes you want. They do not have to look like real flowers.

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Just play, have fun, go crazy. Let the colors grow like a wild dream garden. Every painting might not end up as something you will hang on your wall. But you will learn from every painting you do.

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And don’t forget to use a very large brush to do a background wash of color for a sky before you start.

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Some pictures of some paintings… part 2… that we might have more fun with later…

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These are just some photos of some of my art that I am still working on. They mostly started off as rough sketches, just for fun, and then they start to grow into… something… You might be wondering why I start to cut them out. The idea is that someday, I will mount them on wooden plaques, and then varnish them. I like that one, because it doesn’t have an ‘up’ or a ‘down’. You could hang it in any direction. I often do that with weird pieces of art. You could rotate them every day, if you wanted to.

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These sketches didn’t begin with a plan. Sometimes the best way to start a picture is to put a blank piece of paper in front of you and just let the art happen. That is what ‘pouring your art out’ is all about, I suppose. Once I have a page full of… whatever it ends up full of…  I start adding color. It might be colored pencils, or watercolors, or crayons or oil paints or ink pens… or all of the above.

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These are just some of the pictures I happened to stick in a bag full of unfinished art, watercolor paint sets, and brushes. I take the bag with me when I go anywhere that might allow me some time to paint. You may notice that there are some pictures of my face in the unfinished picture above… you know how much I love my own face… Yeah, they are pictures of me from when I still had the long hair, but some of these I started that long ago. There is no time limit on art.

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Oh yeah, you might as well throw yourself into your work… HA!

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Now that one is just me practicing drawing eyes. This is another good way to have fun while brushing up on your painting and drawing skills… ha… see what I did there…

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That’s me as a samurai… it is going to look awesome mounted on a piece of dark wood.

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That picture you might remember from the last time I was at my mom’s house. I think it is finished now. As I told you in the last post, simple geometric shapes done in pencil are a good way to learn watercolors. Find some objects around your house that have interesting shapes, and just run a pencil around the outside edge… you do not have to be able to draw a perfect circle or square. Let the shapes overlap, and where they do, you can play with letting the wet watercolor paints run together. Try using different amounts of water to let the colors swirl and run. And try getting a brush very wet and full of pant, and then dribbling or flicking the drops onto the paper. The splatter can end up being beautiful. And it will react in new ways, depending on how wet the areas where it lands happen to be. Play with your colors! Have some fun!

a 1 a 8I think that one is finished also… if art is ever actually finished. You can see that I colored over my lines of the geometric shapes with felt pens and colored pencils. I also added some very simple flower shapes over the top… because: why not?

I may come back and show you some of the unfinished art in this post again. I have a vague idea that it might be fun to finish them in Photoshop. Remember, that is how I finished the pictures of the funny monkeys for the children’s book I wrote. Maybe I will do another ‘step-by-step’ series. That could be fun.

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Some pictures of some paintings… part 1… oh, and a free art lesson…

Yesterday, I told you I was almost done posting photos of my trip to see my mom in the Bay Area, except for some pictures of some pictures. I always do some painting when I am at my mom’s house. I am trying to get her interested in watercolor painting… not that she needs a new hobby… she is over 90 and is more busy and active than most people I know.

So I took some pictures of the art I brought with me, and some of the ones I keep up there to work on, but I thought I might take this opportunity to give you a little art lesson if you think you might like to try watercolor painting.

The hardest part of watercolor painting is not the painting itself, although watercolors can be tricky, because unlike oil paints, or other thick paints, you can’t always paint over mistakes… and watercolors tend to run and bleed into each other unless you let each new color dry all the way, which slows you down. Also, watercolors can ruin the paper you are painting on, especially if you aren’t using the right kind of paper.

But the part that most people find difficult is the sketch, the drawing, the putting down on the paper whatever it is that you intend to paint. I have previously suggested doing geometric shapes, and taking a modern art approach where you do not worry about the form. Because not everybody can draw a house or a horse of a flower or a face or a mountain.

A few years back, I found a coloring book about the civil war. I study history, and military history intrigues me. So I bought the book, and I have been using it to practice my watercolor painting…

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Once you take away the worry of having to do a drawing yourself, it is really just adding color where it needs to go. This is an excellent was to get used to painting trees and backgrounds, playing with color and shading. This book was not made for watercolors, and the paper is not the right kind, but I have fun with it, and that is important when doing art.

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I love the way a pictures begins to come alive, to pop out of the page as you add the colors. The book had some text on each page, so I came up with a clever idea. I cut the text off. This led me to the idea of ripping the corners of the pages. Then I sort of singe them with a cigarette lighter. This makes them look like they were actually done by some civil war soldier during the war… sort of… I haven’t finished doing this to all of them, but you get the idea.

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Please bear in mind that these are all still unfinished. This is just to get your creative juices flowing.

a 1 a 4If you have enough fun painting some pictures drawn by someone else, you can think about teaching yourself to draw, right?

a 1 a 5 If you look at the picture above, you might notice that there are different shades of gray on the Confederate uniforms. The only real skill needed with painting is shading, and adding a sense of depth. You can see where the color needs to be just a bit darker… inside the folds of cloth, or under an ammunition box on a belt. Imagine where the sun is in the sky, and just add a little more black, or use a darker shade of gray, if your paint set has it.a 1 a 6Painting on finished sketches is also a good way to practice doing color washes with a big brush to fill in the sky. I always start with a light blue wash, and then add streaks of color to it while it is still wet… this can lead to some beautiful backgrounds, as long as you don’t get carried away and turn your paper into mush. Do the big background washes first. It is hard to go back and do it around every object in the foreground. So paint the grass, water, or sky first.

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There, I threw in one original painting of the civil war that I did with my own sketch. It isn’t the best painting in the world, but it is colorful, and it sort of captures a feeling of a battle. And art is really all about feelings.

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These are the last pictures of our trip to the Bay Area… sort of… except for the ones I am posting tomorrow, but those are pictures of paintings… so… uh… yeah.

At the top of the Grapevine, the freeway over the tall mountains just North of Los Angeles, Mollie and I stopped at the rest area in the pass at the summit to grab a bite to eat. I took this picture…

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They have been doing construction at this rest area for over a year now, and there was still this huge pile of sand. Put that together with the sign, and all I could think of was: ‘Wow, they must have some really big cats around here’.

And as we approached the city of Los Angeles, that smog-choked, traffic-snarled, too-hot, misfit of a city, taking an unusual route suggested by my GPS to avoid the worst of the car-clogged arteries of the beating heart of this strange desert mirage, I had Mollie grab my camera and take this shot…

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I think, in a way, that this view sort of sums up Los Angeles… it is a place best viewed from a distance, because it will seldom live up to the dream that Hollywood has shaped for it.

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An adventure within an adventure… part 3…

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To continue or amazing adventure, I took the girls on a walk around lake Anza in Tilden park. I always loved this lake. You might not think this looks particularly adventurous.

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I mean, yeah, there was a duck sleeping in a tree… and that branch is way higher than it looks like it is… I think that duck thought it was an eagle.

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And yes, we saw some cute little turtles.

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But the trail itself was pretty adventurous. I don’t know if the picture captures how narrow and slippery it was. Someone could have gotten their feet wet!

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And look at that. We were hanging onto the rocks… the wet, slimy rocks, dangling precariously hundreds of millimeters above the water.

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And who knows how old that bridge was.

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And there were roots and rocks to stumble over, and branches to bump your head on.

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Okay, sometimes a walk around the lake is just a walk around the lake… but there were a few parts of the trail that seemed exciting at the time. And an adventure is what you make of it.

We finished off this lovely day by having a bunch of friends come to my mom’s house, and we used the sushi kit Mollie gave me for Christmas and everybody rolled their own sushi.

That really was an adventure.

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An adventure within an adventure… part 2…

After I took the girls exploring in that fancy hotel, we drove through the back streets of Berkeley… which also happens to be the name of a song I wrote a long time ago… The Back Streets of Berkeley.

Once again, I did not plan a route or a destination. I just let instincts and fun guide my way. We ended up in the hills above Berkeley, and I stopped to take this picture…

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As I have mentioned, it was a hazy day, and there was fog over the bay, but if I zoom in a little, you should be able to see San Francisco in the distance…

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We drove further into the hills, and ended up on Grizzly Peak Blvd. I know I have shared lots of pictures of this view, but I just never get tired of it…

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This is one of the few times I have gone back home to the Bay Area and not driven to this spot to take a sunset picture…

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There is a tree growing there that always makes me think of Hobbits. The rock is very stratified… made of these layers of shale… and the roots of the tree have grabbed hold of the rock and done interesting things with it. The white flowers nestled within the roots just adds to the Shire-like quality of the tree.

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Even without the setting sun, this view never gets old.

 

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An adventure within an adventure… part 1…

Whenever I travel, even when it is to go back home to the Bay Area, I like to throw some mini adventures into my bigger adventure. My friend, Chris, who I have known since I was 6 or 7, has a delightful stepdaughter named Lucy. She is the same age as my daughter, Mollie.  Lucy was off school for spring break also, so Mollie and I picked her up and took her with us.

I call them adventures, because I do not plan them. I open up my mind and just go where the mood takes me. This time, I thought it would be fun to explore this beautiful old hotel…a 1 a 1

It is called the Claremont, and it is located in the North of Berkeley, only a few miles from my mom’s house.

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For whatever reason, I have only been inside this place once in my life. When I was rather young, my parents took my three brothers and I there for a brunch. I barely remember it. But you can see this grand old building from miles away, nestled in the greenery of the hillside, and I have always planned on checking it out.

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There is a stately majesty to old hotels. They make me think of an earlier time, and an America that is long gone.

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We walked all around the place, even back behind where the dumpsters are, and we saw where all the workers hang out… it was sort of a behind-the-scenes, self-guided tour.

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There was a faded glory to this remnant of the past, as if its best days were behind it, but it is struggling valiantly to remain in the present.

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I hope it stays alive.

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Of course we went inside. We found a balcony and enjoyed the view… you can make out Mollie and Lucy sitting on a comfy couch looking at San Francisco in the hazy distance… or maybe they were both texting people on their phones…

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Funny how, on a day that is both hazy and foggy, San Francisco seems like a faded memory.

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We wandered around inside for a while. The lobby wasn’t all that exciting, but there were some very expensive shops.

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That was the beginning of our little adventure. I hope you join me later for the rest of it.

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