The grey has arrived

While the NYCUSK went to Greenwich Ct, @JoanTav1 and I went to Port Jefferson to draw. The sky and the water were grey. Not a friendly lets paint your living room and chic grey, but the kind of grey sky whose calling card says, “don’t try and hide, wintier is on it’s way. ” It was raw and windy and miserable. Joan and I could barely muster the energy or enthusiasm for a subject. Nothing was calling to us. But 90% of making great art is about just showing up to the page and doing it. And no whining about boring subjects. I have seen a beautiful watercolor of an old rusty chain. It’s more about setting intentions and keeping an open mind and heart to letting something happen. Will it always be great , when you are uninspired or weather challenged, or just plain no in the mood. No., of course not, but I can guarantee you will get better regardless.

One of the things I kept reminding myself was, “don’t forget, the water reflects the sky”. Somehow the water looked darker but I restrained myself and kept it that winter grey. You know what? It worked! It’s a little darker then I intended but in the grand scheme of things, I am very pleased and proud of myself for following though and learning the lesson..

I am hoping for a surprise Indian Summer to extend my outdoor drawing practice for a bit longer, but while it’s the middle of October we still haven’t had a frost toast. I would love to see Northeast communities bathed in sunlight and not the sad and icy grey that moves in until May 31st .

Above find the still waters of Port Jefferson Harbor. It’s a busy place even on a day like today with a slew of boats moored and Ferries to Bridgeport, Ct. The scene was interesting, but ya just can’t replace a sunny day.

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Yeah I know you hate to do Notans, but they work!

This past weekend I taught a class to the Baltimore Urban Sketchers on Composition in Harve De Grace, MD. One topic we covered was values and how they help you to paint the story that you see. Making a small thumbnail or sketch in black and a mid tone grey on white paper  (three values), or even just using black and the white of the paper, (two), will make painting 95% easier. These sketches are called “Notans”. Notan is a Japanese term which literally means “light dark harmony”. It’s basically a small ( 3×4 pr smaller) where you draw with only a black marker and a 50% marker; I find the brush style the best.  It can be done in pencil but it takes longer. Create your Notan shapes using the side of the brush. Just block in the shapes.  By establishing where your darks and lights will be before you paint, you set up a road map to follow. You can then spend your time thinking more about the colors that match your grey values when you are painting, and less about the composition ( cause you have just set that up!).

Notans can be as complicated or difficult as you want to make them. Below are two examples

Forest HIlls Inn, Forest Hills, NY

If you squint at the Value sketch, and look back at the color sketch, it will become clear to you how I used those values to create the spine of my painting, making sure the darks got dark and the lights remained the white of the paper.

Below, the Guggenheim Museum which I attempted in just black on white. It took a great deal of concentration to decide where to put the blacks, but I think it worked out well.

After the class @toddpop1 and @sunamisue and I painted on the dock opposing the Concord Point Lighthouse. You can see that I followed my notan fairly accurately, although I did lighten the water significantly, and It made for a much easier paint. perhaps we painted for an hour and a half.

Concord Point Lighthouse, Harve de Grace, MD

Sadly I lost my Craig Young palette paint. It lays somewhere in the brackish water at the bottom of the Susquehanna River. Special thanks to Craig Young as he had an extra one on hand. ( should be here in two weeks. sigh) So you see as much as none of us want to do it. Those pre paint value sketches or Notans are truly a wonderful assist in getting both your colors, and your composition on the right track. Give it a try, after you do one I am betting you will start to do them all the time- and let me know!

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NYC Watertowers

The haze of the city still permeates the air as the summer comes to a close. From Union Square Park I looked uptown through the trees and spied these rooftop water towers. So quintesentially NYC.

The trick was to capture that hazy summer sky and the deep shadows that were falling fast on everything.

Of course I did a notan to freeze the shadows and have reference for them. Then I made sure to use lots of analogous colors and their complementary colors for the shadows. I can remember how beautiful it all looked and I hope that it gets translated in the picture for my viewers.

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