Gray Studies=Fun In The Studio

gs-stork

I’m back home after my Wyoming trip with no big juried show deadlines to paint for, so it’s my time of year to work on my painting process, in which I review the work I did over the last year thinking about what worked and what didn’t, what I might want to do in the coming year and how. I’m also going back to basics in a couple of areas to improve my skill set. One of those areas is contour drawing. I shared some of the those from the SKB workshop in last week’s post. Another is value studies or, as David Rankin, the nationally-known watercolorist who I studied with at the workshop, calls them, Gray Studies. You can find a number of his excellent tutorials on his Facebook page here and on his website here. (Go to “Watercolor Training Files” on the left hand side and then “Grey Studies Training Files”.

I spent quite a bit of time one afternoon at the workshop simply figuring out, with his help, how to put down a correct single tone watercolor wash (the *secret* is plenty of water) using a 1″ flat brush (I usually use rounds). The really important exercise was learning his four value “recipe” for doing gray studies by painting along with him as he did one.

Once back home in the studio I wanted to build on what I’d learned. I’ve done value studies as a preliminary step for my paintings for years and it was something I’d learned in art school. I’d done them as graphite drawings or very small oils and it always felt a bit time consuming, however necessary. But this way of doing them in watercolor was an eye-opener. So easy, really. Paint around the whites, covering everything else. Then add layers of middle values. Save the darkest dark, if there is one, for last. But it took some new thinking and seeing to be able to do it and know what I was doing.

So I’ve spent most of the week painting gray studies from my photo reference. It was fun to revisit some of my Kenya wildlife images. These are all in Payne’s Gray (which has a very nice blueish tone) on an Arches 140lb cold press watercolor block, using sometimes a flat and sometimes a round. None took more than an hour or so. The stork above was the second one. In order:

gs-bison

gs-hippo-buff-hyena

gs-warthog-rhino-gazelle-lion

At this point I felt that I understood the process enough to paint some that might become finished oils.

gs-sparrow-vulture-horse-camel

gs-horses

I did the quick preliminary drawings with a 9B Cretacolor Monolith pencil. It’s important not to labor over them, just indicate the basic shapes, plus where the white¬† of the paper will be. So there you have it…a quick and inexpensive way to try out art ideas and value patterns.

Art And Memories From The Susan K. Black Foundation Workshop In Dubois, Wyoming, Sept. 2016

mt-moran
Mt. Moran; pen and ink, grey felt tip brush on paper

I got back home at midnight last Saturday from two days in Grand Tetons National Park and five days at the 15th Annual Susan K. Black Foundation workshop. Both were a resounding success. You can read about my time in the park here. This post is about the workshop, which I’ve attended four times in the past and plan to go to next year.

All the previous instructors had been invited and almost all of them where there, including nationally known artists like James Gurney, John and Suzie Seerey-Lester, Greg Beecham, Mort Solberg, David Rankin, Jeanne Mackenzie, Andrew Denman, Guy Combes, Ann Trusty Hulsey and John Hulsey, all of whom I know personally or have studied with or both.

One of the main events is the Quick Draw, a traditional name but almost every artist at this workshop did paintings. Here’s some photos of the event in action. It’s followed by sketches and watercolors that I did in the Grand Tetons and EA Ranch.

gurney-pronghorn
James Gurney, known best for his “Dinotopia” books, painted a portrait of this pronghorn antelope in casein, gouache and colored pencil
rankin-osprey
David Rankin, who I worked with most during the week (more on that in a future post) painted an osprey
guy-cheetah
Guy Combes did a lovely painting of a cheetah
andrew-owl
Andrew Denman created a graphite on paper drawing of a barn owl
phelps-portrait
Although he’s better known for his sculpture, John Phelps painted a portrait the old-fashioned way…from a study drawing
j-s-l-moose
John Seerey-Lester chose to paint a moose, one of the very popular animals to see in the Grand Tetons
hulsey-landscape
John Hulsey who, with his wife Ann Trusty Hulsey, publish the online art website and newsletter The Artist’s Road, went for a late light landscape in watercolor
beecham-polar-bear
Greg Beecham chose to paint a polar bear, bringing in the whites over a toned canvas

The weather was partly cloudy while I drove around Grand Tetons NP, which meant interesting light that could change very quickly. The aspens and cottonwoods were turning to their fall colors, too. All in all a perfect time to be there.

Both of the first ones were painted over the course of a couple of hours along the Moose Wilson Road.

aspens
Aspens- watercolor on Saunders Waterford paper 8×8″
aspens-and-storm
Aspens with storm clouds- watercolor on Saunders Waterford paper 8×8″
dsc_8090
Clouds and light
ea-ranch
Scenery at EA Ranch, near Dubois- watercolor on Arches cold press paper 8″x4″
ea-horses-1
Pen and ink sketches- Sakura Micron .01 pen in a Beta Series Stillman and Birn sketchbook
version-2
Pen and ink sketches- same media as above
skb-cd-1
Contour sketches at SKB- same media as above
skb-cd-3
Contour sketches, SKB and the Denver airport- same media as above