April 18, 2013
“Tuscan Hillside” ©Jill Rosoff 2012, 9″ x 12″
Imagine how funny it was that this question came up in two different workshops, two completely different groups of people. We were working on how to paint landscapes in each session, so it’s not a complete surprise. I love that it did, and it also made me a little curious. Is painting a tree a paint-by-numbers proposition? Nope. The starting point is: lets take a look at the kind of tree you want to paint.
“Trees have a spirit and personality; none of them are the same.” Trees come in all shapes, sizes and colors. The trunks of trees can be all ranges of browns, greys, even green, blue or, as in fruit trees, burgundy. The leaves are any and all shades of green, with touches of all the other colors used to create contrasts. The fun here is the learning, observing: first figuring out what the tree’s shape is, and then deciding how to put it down on the paper. Is the trunk the more visually interesting element? Or the way the crown of the tree is shaped? In watercolor, you put down the lighter elements, then build in the darker, more richly colored ones. Because, as always, in watercolor you paint light to dark. The other trees also punctuate, more because they are a textural contrast to the stripes I used in the patchwork of fields.
In the painting above, the trees, especially the pencil cypresses, act like punctuation marks, creating small points of contrast, which keeps the rest of the rich colors from sort of going flat. Put a finger up and block out the cypress trees and you’ll see what I mean.
Or look at this painting done by a fellow watercolorist/shopowner on Etsy, JC Strong. You know its a tree, but it’s a deftly shaped tree silhouette of lovely combinations of purples and greens.
I read this quote the other day on Facebook: ”The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.” When I teach my job is to lead people down the path to explore, look and learn by observation. There’s no one formula.
February 27, 2013
Whenever I want browns or greys in a painting, I mix them. I do not use brown, black or grey paint in my palette. I’ve just started a new workshop, and realized this is something I tell all my students. When new students sign up for the workshops I send them a supplies list so they’ll be prepared on day one. I don’t include white, either. I like my colors bright, clear, and initially un-muddied. When black, browns and white are included in a pre-fab set of paints, so be it, but they are never included on my list of colors for a new student to buy.
Why do I believe this? Because its easier than pie to mix your own greys and browns, and when you do, the colors are much more interesting. Browns and greys can be mixed using different combinations of the primary color triad, or secondary or tertiary triads for that matter.
Various warm browns mixed by using violet and yellow or orange (above and below)
Want a nice chocolaty-brown? Use Alizarin, a bit of cobalt blue or even purple, and a nice cadmium orange. Change the amounts of each color you add to get the tint you want.
red and green to make a cool brown, using drop-in and mixed methods
How about a nice warm payne’s grey? Start with Permanent Blue or French Ultramarine, add a little yellow, and then if needed, a touch of red. Or pink. Again, play around with the amounts you add to change the tint.
a Payne’s grey, mixed from primaries: blue and yellow
a whole different grey using three versions of primary colors
So my thought has been: why buy them, unless of course you use a lot of them? I don’t use them much. But also I think that when you mix them either in the palette or on the paper, they’re so much more intriguing. Shadows and dark areas are much more luscious using darker values of colors, or putting in a layer of an opposing color on the area you want the shadow to be. There’s so much more to discover in the painting.
Here’s a question: how often does brown occur in nature? Yes, the ground is brown. A lot of animals are. Tree trunks, generally, are brown, but there’s so many different colors. If you look at a eucalyptus tree, is the trunk the same color, as, say, a redwood? I find it so much more fun to see what I can come up with.
Detail, “Cherry Blossoms”, ©Jill Rosoff 2012
I did a painting last year of Cherry Blossoms. Have you ever noticed that the branches on fruit trees are sometimes more of a rich burgundy color, not at all brown? If you look closely at this painting, you may notice that the branches here are indeed a deep, reddish burgundy. What may not be so obvious is that I painted each branch first with a layer of Alizarin Crimson, a great, rich, deep, cool red. And while the strokes of color were still wet, I dropped in some Viridian green. This is a color you just can’t get out of a tube of raw sienna, or burnt umber. It’s a very complex burgundy. That’s right, its in the purplish range, and oh so very interesting! See the full painting here: Cherry Blossoms.
And by the way, do you know where the two browns’ names, sienna and umber, come from? Go to northern Italy. The earth in Sienna, in Tuscany, and in Umbria, which is next to Tuscany, are just about those colors. And the difference in raw and burnt? The raw versions are straight from the ground. The burnt, or warmer, versions, have literally been burned, where the fire brings out the warmer tones. Don’t you just love knowing that?
January 27, 2013
“Three-plus Poppies”, ©Jill Rosoff 2013, 4″ x 6″
I have these small pads of watercolor paper that I keep around for quick “jots” of ideas like this one. In watercolors, any whites in a painting are the paper left untouched, since watercolor is a transparent medium, and the transparent version of white is, well, nothing. Transparent. It’s a fun conundrum to play around with.
In this piece, I wanted to leave no blank paper, no white areas, but instead to paint the whole piece of paper, and to let the shapes of the flowers do most of the talking. Getting the colors this rich and intense is a fun challenge in watercolors. And there’s still good contrast between the brightness of the yellow centers, and the dark lines where the green paint overlapped the red. Unintended, and perfect.
One other thing: I love rich, vibrant and maintaining a sense of the transparency in the paint. In watercolors it is possible to use too much paint, which when it dries, looks dry, dusty and opaque, qualities that you just don’t strive for in watercolors. I like striving for the saturation and the transparency, especially since they are paradoxical. Fun!
It’s now available on Esty here.
January 11, 2013
I started this piece in the fall, as a demonstration piece once again in one of my workshops. This piece actually started me on the intention of loosening up on color ‘rules’ I have consciously and unconsciously obeyed. Since I often use a subject I know when I’m playing around with ideas, and I have been painting Iceland poppies forever, so shape, color and composition are like second nature to me, I find it really easy to go for changes and experimentation with them as my subject.
There is no such thing as a lavender Iceland poppy. Yellow, orange, reds, pink, and white yes, but nothing in the blue spectrum. And I’ve always wanted them. So ‘tada!’ I made them. In the grand scheme of things its really not much of a huge plunge, but then again, baby steps are just fine to start out on new paths. I also broke another covenant I heard early on in my painting education, that paintings with red backgrounds can be difficult to make work, let alone sell. Thank goodness Henri Matisse didn’t believe that! There are essentially four different reds used in the background, but with layers and some mixing, it looks like more. I am really enjoying how this piece turned out. You?
This piece is now available through my Etsy shop.
November 23, 2012
“Leaves 2″, ©Jill Rosoff 2012, 12″ h x 6″ w
This experimenting I’ve been doing these days with leaves is fun. As much as it is about the shapes of the leaves, negative space and wet-in-wet, it’s also about color combinations. This one started as orange and blue leaves first, and I added the alizarin crimson and yellow ones as I developed it. It’s become about the primaries plus one secondary. Hmmm!
This piece is now for sale via my shop on Etsy. I have a pre-Christmas special on both my Etsy Shops to celebrate Small Business Saturday through Cyber Monday, November 24th – 26th, 20% off everything in my shops. Just use the coupon code Thanksgiving12 during the checkout process. For my paintings, notecards and reproductions, go to RosoffArtworks. My silk scarves are available in BloomingSilks.
Support artists and their handmade work on Small Business Saturday!
October 17, 2012
Continued from Part 1, posted on September 25th
One of the first things that occurred to me after I made the commitment to pose for this painting group was, “geez, if I could only lose a few pounds before this!” When I shared this with Connie on the phone a few days later, and she replied, “Oh no! Mom wants you for how you look now!” For a woman of size, that’s some statement, and rarely heard. But I got it, it was actually really sweet. And I remembered from my days as an art undergrad that full-figured women were usually great subjects in my figure drawing and painting classes, their shapes are so, well, round and fleshy. So I put aside my knee-jerk vanity reaction, and got more into the mindset of the Venus of Willendorf.
I was now going to be the figure being drawn or painted, after years of being the artist/observer in a figure drawing class. These artists were going to be looking at me, concentrating my pose. Now, I have a pretty good idea of what to do as a model from all my experience in figure painting classes. And Pat had told me how she wanted me to pose, so there was no guesswork, really.
When I was in those painting classes, working out the my composition, where to place the figure, getting the gesture the model presented onto my canvas or paper, in the back of my mind, I always sort of wondered what the models were doing or thinking about while holding a long pose. Were they planning that night’s dinner? Reflecting on a recent conversation, or a book they’d read? All the while, they’d keep physically still, and hope that their leg or arm didn’t go to sleep. Being zen enough to be able to empty my mind and meditate is certainly a goal, and would’ve been a great thing to have perfected for this workshop. I would do my level best.
So there I was, watching artists paint. I started feeling a little envious, actually, I hadn’t painted the figure in ages, and here I was, in a painting studio, with a model. I suddenly realized I knew exactly what these artists were doing and what they were going through in their minds as they started working out their compositions. They were looking at their subject, then back to their canvases or pieces of paper, then back at the model and gradually forming their composition. Where will I put her on the canvas? How will I incorporate those paintings she did that are up behind her on the wall? Will I keep the scarf she’s wearing on her? I was watching them looking at me, at my pose, and at the whole setting as all this was going on in their minds. I started to really enjoy watching them paint me.
One artist contemplating his painting, stepping back to get a longer view of it…
Another artist concentrating on her drawing. See how she holds herself while she draws.
I realized that I have this sense memory of the postures I saw each artist in. They are suddenly posing for me, in a way. And each pose telegraphs to me ways I’ve felt in their places. I’m sure I’ve sat or stood those ways countless times. I identify with them: the step back to get some perspective on the work in progress, with maybe something to lean back on which temporarily counters the muscle tension of the normal lean-in toward the artwork while working on it. Or the hunch forward in concentration, elbows on the table holding the rest of the body still, toes pointing in. And when working so delicately, that ones body moves into delicate positions, even almost on tip toes. I would sometimes get to the end of a 3 hour session and find that my neck ached, or some part of my body was incredibly tense because I’d been holding myself oddly as I was getting something onto the painting just so. So even though I’m not painting on this day, I’m having a glorious time with these painters. And hopefully they did with me.
Part three coming very soon!
October 8, 2012
Last week I participated with the local Alzheimer’s Association’s annual Visionary Women Luncheon, which honors caregivers. What a lovely thing to do, to honor these individuals who are caring for people with Alzheimers, or a working to find ways to treat this devastating disease. One aspect of the event is during the social time before and after the luncheon, where this year they featured eight artists demonstrating ad presenting their work. I showed my scarf-painting technique, and of course brought my scarves to sell. It was a really good day, I enjoyed showing the dying process, and sharing my scarves with a new audience.
While setting up the scarf-painting demonstration, photography by Ting-Ting Lee, of Ting-Ting Lee Studio
I had a lovely time, talking with everyone, showing and describing how I paint my designs, that each scarf is individually painted, and then signed and numbered. So each scarf is really a piece of wearable art, which is one of the reasons I wanted to make the scarves in the first place.
I have envisioned some of my paintings printed on textiles, because for the longest time I thought it would be fun to be able to wear designs from some of my paintings. I’ve always loved Liberty patterns, and vintage Lanz and Villager, too. The methods of painting on silk with dye are very different from painting watercolors, but can be done in a way so that many of the same themes and colors that I do in my paintings can be adapted for my scarf designs. I am constantly working out ways to make the scarves evoke similar imagery to my paintings.
And some designs come about simply for the scarves. One of these, my new “Leaves” design, is one of three I’ve recently developed. Here is the first new design, modeled beautifully by my friend and colleague Susan Haldeman, who helped me with sales at the event while I was demonstrating. And the great thing about this pattern is that it can be done in any color combination. As a matter of fact, I’d love to hear what combinations of colors you’d like to see it in! Use the Comment button below!
So I got to the event early, unloaded my scarf boards, on which I pin and then paint the raw scarves. You can also see my scarf display rack, with more of my scarves on it.
Setting up, photography by Ting-Ting Lee, of Ting-Ting Lee Studio
Talking with people while demonstrating my Dragonfly design, photography by Ting-Ting Lee, of Ting-Ting Lee Studio
Satisfied customer and Alzheimers’ Association supporter in her new Leaves scarf in lavender and turquoise, next to the event Sponsor Board. Yes, that’s Shirley Jones there on the board, who was the keynote speaker for the event.
photography by Ting-Ting Lee, of Ting-Ting Lee Studio
All in all it was a terrific day, and I was particularly pleased for the opportunity to work with the Alzheimer’s Association. Look for my upcoming post featuring more new scarf designs! And also Part 2 about modeling for the painting class!
September 25, 2012
The artist, next to my tulips painting (see the clipping of it over in the right-hand column, there). Segment of painting in process, by Janet Logan
A little over a week ago, for my first time ever, I was the model for a small artist’s group. This all came about when 2 friends, mother and daughter, came over for coffee in July. I met Connie while at an former job, where one of my responsibilities was to schedule educational seminars for the members of the professional organization. Connie worked for a company in New England that gave qualified educational seminars, which she brought to us and was the seminar presenter. She came out a total of three times, over the years, but when she came to do the first one, she asked if her mom, who lived nearby, could come to see her give the seminar. Her mom, Pat, turned out to be a painter too, and we immediately hit it off. After I left that job, I lost contact with Connie, sadly. Then a little over a year ago, Pat emailed me that Connie had an artist client for whom she was doing PR who was going to be a group show nearby here, and could I come to the opening? And suddenly, happily, we were back in contact. Thank goodness for the internet!
So Pat and Connie came to visit, we were having a great conversation over cafe’ lattes, when Pat suddenly said she loved the way I was sitting on my couch, under one of my paintings, and would I consider modeling for this group she paints with? Long story short, we scheduled it, and it happened a week ago Thursday.
In the emails confirming the date, Pat was so excited that I was going to pose for them. She wrote, “You were just so elegant sitting in your space with your large painting behind, being so animated about your work. So, if you could bring your couch and that large painting, that would be good.” I howled as I shared this little gem with Connie. Just so you know, the painting she was referring to is a very large piece, the paper is 40″ tall by 60″ wide. Unframed. But her enthusiasm was so fun and so sweet to hear, that I offered to bring one or two of my 22″ x 30″ pieces with me to hang on the wall behind me while I posed, if she wanted. She was thrilled.
So, here is where I was sitting when Pat and Connie came over: my couch and the painting over it. I was sitting on the right side of it, leaning on the arm of the couch, as you can see in the drawing up top, with my legs up on it, out to the side.
And here is the set-up Pat had ready for me at their studio, with a futon approximating my couch, and two of my watercolors (obviously not as large, and much easier to transport) up on the wall behind.
Very similar! And particularly easy, since I don’t have a bevy of nubian slaves that would be able to schlep my couch and painting onto my car, and to this painting studio. Yet.
And here is Pat with her painting of my part-way through the session. And yes, Pat is wearing one of my scarves that her daughter Connie had ordered from me for Pat’s birthday. Doesn’t she look great in it!
More of my experience watching others paint while I model, and their paintings in the next posting.
August 29, 2012
This painting was hanging around for a good part of the spring and summer unfinished. It actually was hiding from me at home because I had it in my supplies basket that I take with me to my watercolor workshops. I had used it, mid-stream, as an example to my students about contrast.
Imagine it with no background. A field of yellow color on a white background just isn’t very contrast-y. So it’s a delicate balance bringing the yellow up enough to work on that white background. For comparison, look at my blog post from April 30, 2009. However, a composition that is built up over the whole piece of paper, instead of focusing on one part of an image, comes together more readily, more often than not. Usually when one of my students brings a painting to me with the problem that a certain area isn’t working, it’s because they are fussing with that area, and the rest of the pice of paper has, for all intents and purposes, been left alone. When they start to focus on the rest of the painting, the problem either resolves, or changes.
So this painting is not only of daffodils, its about the yellow subject on the magenta patterned background. They are two colors that I’ve enjoyed contrasting to one another in the past few years. Its also fun to use a warm and cool version of a color to bring some contrast between them.
A red background is fun to do, and not often done in a still life. There was this story about a painting Matisse did for a Russian client, that I read about somewhere. The painting was one of his depictions of a room, with a woman sitting in a chair, and the background was a wonderful blue patterned oriental rug. The client took it home with him to Russia, very pleased with his purchase. Then awhile later he got a message from Matisse who said there was something about the painting that bothered him, that he wanted to change, just something to make it work better, that would more complete it. The client sent the painting back, Matisse did the work on it he wanted, and returned it to the client. And when the client opened up the packing crate, Matisse had changed the rug color, and so the whole background color, from blue to red. Sometimes its the little things.
August 17, 2012
“Plumeria”, ©Jill Rosoff 2012, 6″ x 17 1/2″
“Hi, my name is Jill and I’m an art supplies-aholic.” Someday, somewhere I’m going to be someplace where I’ll introduce myself like this.
Yes, I love art supply stores. LOVE them. Kid in a candy shop love them. They are a world of possibilities, tools and supplies that look so fun, so interesting that usually my imagination goes on overload after awhile. These days its a really like a treat to go to a good art supply store, there are good suppliers online and I usually know what I need to get. It’s wonderfully easy to order and have the supplies arrive at my door, or get specialty items I need directly from companies that specialize in products, say, for painting silk scarves. But a really good brick-and-mortar art supply store is hard to find anymore. There used to be three great stores I would go to, and now there’s just one left. >heavy sigh!<
So the other day I went to the art supply store, and as I walked inside I was immediately sideswiped by the huge table-full of watercolor brushes on sale for ONE DOLLAR EACH. I kid you not. Right there, right as I walked in. Now, I’ve spent my fair share on lovely sable brushes for watercolor painting. But these were right there, tempting me. And it was a one-day !Surprise! sale to boot. What did I do? I surrendered, just a little. Actually I got them for students who needed to fill out their brush selection. So I felt a certain sense of justification, even care-giving for them, so they could take advantage of a good deal even though they wouldn’t actually be there.
I went primarily to make a list of specific supplies for students signing up for a new watercolor workshop I’ll be giving at Orange Coast College in October in the community education division. I spent almost 2 hours there, sorting through to recommend the supplies they’d need: watercolor papers, paint colors, brushes, palettes, so I could make recommendations on the supplies list I made up for the workshop. When I finished with those, I looked for whatever new things I could use for painting and printing new designs on silk scarves for the fall and the holidays. Dangerously fun. And coming soon.
About this painting: I started this piece after returning from my vacation/music workshop in Maui in June. I have always loved Hawaiian slack key guitar, its soul soothing, and found this workshop where some of my slack key favorites were going to be the teachers. So off I went, lugging my guitar, my small traveling paint kit, and a camera just in case (!) something caught my eye. The great little place we stayed had plumeria trees growing right outside the door of the rooms, so we would sit on our little patio in the mornings with our coffee, with the trees framing our view of the ocean. A visually and aurally delightful few days. It didn’t suck at all!