Sunday, December 30, 2012

More tango...

Tango 4, Langton cp, 30 x 40 cm
Still on the same subject, I started the above painting with the intention to make a dark background, like with the other three before it. But when it reached this stage, I liked it and decided to leave it alone. There is enough detail in the faces and the arms. The rest I like fuzzy and incomplete, to imply movement.

The one below is a large version of the study I did last week.

Tango 3, Langton cp, 54 x 40 cm

This is my last post for the year, so have a lot of fun ringing in the new year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Tango 1, arches cp, 23 x 28 cm
Tango 2, arches cp, 23 x 14 cm
I saw these tango scenes on one of the TV series that I follow. The figures, bathed in red light, looked so  beautiful. They also reminded me of Castagnet's passionate watercolors of tango dancers. I had to try painting this subject. So I captured a few frames from the show and here are my first two small size studies. I'm happy with the values, not so with the way I handled the darks - too spotty and muddy, even though I used only transparent quinacridone reds and indigo.  Have to be less hesitant next time in applying the deep dark colors in one shot.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Silent night

study of blue pigments and salt
Experimenting with salt. The effect could be practically nil with a granulating pigment, like cerulean or ultramarine. Indigo and prussian blue produce much better texture (top of the sky). And salt over phthalo blue creates a perfect snowflake effect (the horizon).
I did this a few days ago, but now it feels the right time to post it :)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas!

 I wish all of you, friends and family, from near and far, a lot of fun for the holidays!

Church in winter, Arches cp, 30 x 23 cm
A month ago, I decided to paint some winter scenes, appropriate for Christmas cards. Going through my photos, I realized that I don't have many good winter landscapes.
Bella Coola chirch - a friend's photo
At the same time, there was this beautiful photo, which I found very inspiring, only, it's season wasn't Christmasy. So, I changed the season. Oh, how powerful an artist can be! What else can I change now!?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Just having fun

Clementines, Langton cp, 26 x 23 cm
Clementines 2, Langton cp, 26 x 23 cm
I was so excited yesterday to find in the grocery store these clementines with leaves still attached. Had to paint them first thing today, before someone realizes that they could be used as food too.
Before starting I checked out the yummy paintings of a similar subject in Hazel Soan's books. I did these two wet-in-wet with only three colors - indian yellow, cadmium red and prussian blue. The second one was much more wet when I started applying the colors so it ended up with a smudged look and cauliflower effects, but I like that. The Langton Prestige paper that I'm trying, seems to dry quite fast and buckle a bit more than Arches, but its pure white color is delicious and I quite like it so far. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Poinsettia 1, watercolor on Langton paper, 26 x 23 cm

Poinsettia 2, watercolor on Langton paper, 23 x 26 cm

Friday, November 30, 2012

Nubian 2

Nubian 2, watercolor on arches cp paper, 30 x 40 cm
This is a new version on a subject that I painted once last year - a Nubian boat sailor from a photo I took in Aswan a few years ago. I am quite happy with this version, but it took me a number of attempts to produce it.

First, I decided to revisit Charles Reid's instructions on painting dark complexions. "Try to mix colors on the paper", "for dark colors do not make your colors very watery", "paint the whole face in one wash on dry paper"... Armed with these advices and without giving it much thought I grabbed the brushes. With the non-watery color mix on a relatively large size drawing no matter how fast I was trying to work, the edges were drying faster. I ended up with some interesting and spontaneous color effects, but overall the face color looked muddy and overdone.

A few days later I decided to try doing several small and quick sketches of this face, using the same technique. The sketch below was the most successful one of them.I quite liked the expression of that face too, so I decided to do another larger painting based on it. Only this time I did it in two more carefully planned washes, one with the lighter colors and the second with the darker. The lesson I learned from this experience is that I should not take the masters' advices literally, but rather should adapt them to my level of experience and to my style.  And, better start small when trying new approaches.
Nubian - sketch, 14 x 14 cm

Monday, November 19, 2012

The sandal maker

The sandal maker, watercolor on Arches cp paper, 30 x 40 cm
This portrait is based on a photograph of an ancient sandal-maker (yes, ancient, just keep reading...), which I took last spring during a re-enactment at Ephesus. I like his face and his expression so much that I think I will use this photo again. It can turn into a  wise man, a Sea-wolf, or even Santa.

I like some aspects of the above painting, but I feel that the beard turned a bit flat - another reason to try it again some time.

Below is my original pencil sketch, which I then turned into the watercolor becide it. This one looks more dimensional, maybe thanks to the pencil under the paint, or perhaps because it was a sketch and I felt no pressure.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


The puffball, arches cp 30 x 40 cm
A dandelion puff-ball may be an annoying weed for some, but it is a precious discovery for others...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Blanket of Snow 2

Blanket of Snow 2, Arches HP, 28 x 34 cm
This is a second version of a scene that I tried painting more than a year ago. I used the remaining piece of hot-pressed paper, which accounts for the unpleasant spotty effects in the sky. Apart from that, I'm quite happy with the way it turned out - way simpler and looser than the first version and more dimensional too.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A little yellow flower

A little yellow flower, Arches CP 30 x 40  cm

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Me and My Shadow

Me and My Shadow, Arches CP paper 30 x 40 cm
Inspired by one of the tens of pictures of my little niece I took last spring. Her name is Sandy, but she is not furious and destructive... most of the time :)

pencil sketch, 12 x 17 cm

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My first experience with hot-pressed paper

Iris, Arches HP paper, 40 x 53 cm
When I painted a similar iris a month ago I wasn't happy with the jagged background. I have been wanting to redo the painting with a wet-in-wet background in which the colors smoothly fuse one into the other. For some reason I had the impression that the hot-pressed paper is ideal for that. I had never used it, but in the books they say that "it is ideal for large even washes". Well, that turned out to be the worst choice for wet-in-wet work. Its smooth, almost glossy, surface is not absorbent. The water just sits on top, waiting to run in whatever direction the paper tilts. Once some water does soak in though, the paper buckles and turns into a varied landscape of hills, valleys, rivers and lakes. So, I did not get the background I wanted, but I did learn something.

With the remaining paint I decided to try to do just a wash. This time I did not tape the paper, but soaked it wet and laid it on a plexiglass surface. Then I poured the different paints and tilted the surface a bit in different directions. Some colors fused nicely. But the sedimentary green and brown pigments just sat on top. When I think of watercolor and why I like it, the first thing that comes to mind is the wet-in-wet work, and hot-pressed paper is very unsuitable for that. It feels like the right choice for technical drawings. Maybe one day I'll find some use for it, but for now I'll stick to the rougher cold-pressed.

wash of colors poured over wet hot-pressed paper

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fishing on the lake

Angler, Arches paper, 27 x 21 cm
What attracted me in this scene was the outline of light separating the figure from the background. I think I did a good job with the values and contrast here.
Thanks to Karl and Paulina for sharing the beautiful photos from their trip in the BC mountains.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Autumn colors

Fall colors, Arches paper, 27 x 21 cm
Autumn colors in Toronto
 The weather here has cooled. The mornings are getting quite cold and the day temperatures are hardly above 10 C. The trees got the message and quickly changed into their autumn attire. There are several places in the city, where the display of yellows, oranges, reds and greens is as picturesque as it can get. Unfortunately, it is too cold and windy to try to paint outside. I tried just taking pictures, but the sun was not cooperating either. Nevertheless, the colorful forests gave me enough inspiration to do the above sketch when I got home.
The maple tree seeds below I picked from the path, attracted by the lovely warm colors produced when touched by sun-light.

Maple seeds, Arches paper, 27 x 21 cm

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Crossing the bridge

Bridge in Vancouver, Arches paper 40 x 30 cm
This is based on a friend's photo, taken while crossing one of Vancouver's bridges on a motorcycle. The fused colors of the evening lights and reflections seemed perfect for a watercolor. I did it in three washes. Maybe if I could have finished in less washes the colors would have been fresher, but I'm not unhappy with the result.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Indian summer and outdoors sketching

At the cafe, live sketch, 23 x 18 cm
Last weekend was nice and warm, Indian Summer or Gypsy Summer type of weather. Great time to ride my new bike, after an almost thirty years break. It is true that this is something you never forget. I realize now what a perfect means of transportation the bicycle is for painting en plein air. Well, it may be a bit late for that this year already, but I can make plans and dream for next year's warm season...

An office building, sketch, 23 x 18 cm
A patch of red sumac, sketch, 23 x 18 cm

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Iris, arches 30 x 40 cm
My iris "Immortality" happily blooming in September
There is an iris in full bloom in my garden. When I planted it I knew that it is a re-bloomer and comes back in the fall, but I didn't expect that it will be blooming through August and September and will keep coming up with new flowering stems again and again. This is definitely a winner in my search for long blooming perennials. And as one doesn't get many chances to paint irises in the fall, here it is. I didn't plan well the background and am not very happy with how it turned out, but you get the idea that I was  after strong contrast.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Foliage 1, 30 x 23 cm
Foliage 2, 25 x 18 cm
A couple of studies of cascading foliage, to play with greens and with different shapes. Although I did them without pencil and much preparation, once I got to the actual leaf shapes the looseness started to disappear. Still, I like some parts and areas of these watercolors, and I'm learning stuff from doing them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Morning Glories

Morning Glory, 24 x 43 cm
These morning glories flower abundantly now and I love their sky-blue color...

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Roses 2, 43 x 24 cm

Roses 1, 23 x 33 cm
I needed some inspiration to start painting after a couple of weeks break and I found it in Jean Haines' roses. So I cut a few roses from the garden and rolled up my sleeves...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Eggshells study 1, 33 x 13 cm

Eggshells study 2, 13 x 33 cm
These studies were inspired by Rita's and Judy's paintings of broken eggs for the Daily Paintworks challenge. For now I am sticking to just eggshells. I wanted to explore (again) the challenge of painting white rounded objects on white background. I wish I could paint an eggshell with a couple of brushstrokes, but I find it hard to let the edges be, I keep softening them and fussing and fiddling... but it was still much fun!

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Sunflowers, watercolor on arches paper, 40 x 30 cm


Summer is approaching its end. The greens outside are changing towards the yellow spectrum and soon the trees will start changing into their spectacular autumn costumes. The season of bright warm colors is coming and I feel the need to paint flowers again. I couldn't resist buying a bunch of sunflowers yesterday, and then, of course, they had to be painted...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Horse jumping

watercolor, 32 x 23 cm

watercolor, 40 x 30 cm

This will be my last attempt at portraying Olympic sporting events. I have been a little intimidated to try to paint horses, as I have much respect for these animals, but know very little about them. That's why I left this subject for last. I know I didn't do justice to this magnificent animal with my pictures, so, Horses, I promise to make it up to you, with time...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Still at the Olympics

Discus thrower, watercolor, 22 x 32 cm

High jump, watercolor, 32 x 22 cm

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Anatomy of a long jump

Anatomy of a long jump, watercolor on arches paper, 56 x 20 cm
I feel that I am learning so much about the movement of the human body while painting these athletes. We think we see how a figure moves when watching these events, but try to reproduce it, and you realize what a complex series of moments is involved. You cannot really see any one stage of it, without running it in slow motion.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Lightning Bolt

Watercolor on arches paper, 40 x 30 cm
Another scene inspired by the Olympic games. This one and the previous watercolor were done without  a pencil drawing, directly with the brush and paint. I started to understand Jean Haines' words that this method gives you more freedom. You build the scene gradually one shape at a time and can change and move things around, not confined by pencil lines. There is a bigger risk of getting the proportions wrong, of course, but it is so much fun when things turn out right.
I'm planning to explore a few more sport disciplines ...

Monday, August 6, 2012


The sprint, watercolor on arches paper, 30 x 40 cm

watercolor sketch of sprinters
I am still on the subject of motion. And what better time for that!? 

Yesterday I tried to sketch athletes, while watching the games on TV. This proved harder than even sketching moving figures live. Not only the figures were moving very fast, but the camera would change every few seconds and show a different perspective. Even using stick-man figures didn't make the task much easier.

Eventually I saved several good frames from a recorded program and started working from them. These athletes in all kinds of sports present a great opportunity to exercise painting figures and motion and hopefully I keep my enthusiasm for at least a while.