Values or: It’s cold and, look there’s my backyard.

Honestly I am not a fan of painting in NYC weather in February. I don’t think it’s an unusual stance. I think, most people would feel that way. But, I felt like painting and I have a set of windows that when I sit in my living room I can see the whole backyard. I chose to focus in on one panel of glass and caught my garden chairs and the pillar for the corrugated plastic awning . Don’t be fooled by the composition, it was a bit of an exercise in values. Values, values, values. It’s all about the values. They say, ” color gets all of the credit, but values do all of the work.”

In order to get the values right, I followed my own teaching and did a notan sketch first. Mapping out the values in three shades of grey and the white of the paper. It really does help. A lot. Why do I resist so?

Once the greys are in place, it actually frees me up to match colors to values and go wild. No my chairs are not eggplant, they are dark umber and the back trees are pines, certainly not cobalt turquoise.

I did both pieces in a Stillman and Birn Beta book; the color one in an 8″x10″ and the black and white in the smaller 5.5″x 8.5″. The grey is markers by Tombow and the watercolors are mostly Daniel Smith

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No watercolors at the MET

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, like most museums is fine with you sketching in most anything as long as no paints is involved. Today I skirted that problem by drawing with water soluble ink in a fountain pen. Below, I have captured the area just inside the entrance to the Robert Lehman Collection, many people call it, ” the new wing”.

It is a fascinating juxtaposition of new and old. The left side is the original brick arched exterior wall of the MET, on the right modern facing of beige granite cover the bare walls and, the two flank a narrow three story glass window.

I used an ink I love called Pecan by Papier Plume . This ink has the special property of changing color when you add water. Moss green appears from the brown ink as water touches the ink but as you add more water the green turns pink. It’s a beautiful and subtle way to get a hint of color without calling attention to it.

It’s my secret weapon to allow me to get color on a piece in the museum. Stealthily I slip out my waterbrush and apply light washes on the piece. If it’s too crowded, I head down to the cafeteria and go to town down there. By the way, The MET’s cafeteria is a great place to be able to have a cup of coffee or a full meal without a table wait and cool your heels for as long as you wish. Below, you can see the photo I took of the location just after I finished sketching it.

By the way the fountain pen I was using was a very cheap pen ( under $5usd) that I ordered off the internet from China. I ordered 3 for about $16usd including shipping and 2 of them are as good as ones I have spend over $40usd on. Clearly an inexpensive low risk adventure.

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The Waterwitch Outboard Motor

At the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, on the Main floor all the way in the back of the good design area, under the stairs that lead up to the abstract expressionists, sits an outboard motor cased in a Lucite box. It is beautiful; silver and shiny in spots and grey industrial metal in others. It is a hierarchy of knobs, tubes, flanges and handles. The motor was designed by John R. Morgan and manufactured by the now defunct Sears, Robuck and Company in Chicago Ill , 1936. It is made of steel aluminum and rubber.

As the MET has a strictly no water media permitted zone, I drew this with Graphite Aquerelle by Faber Castell and a Printing pencil which produced the very darks. I had planned to add water in the cafeteria, but have since decided to leave it as is. It was a very focused sketch with all the engine’s parts weaving in and out under the gas tank and I really enjoyed it in spite of the fact that the pencils were a 4B and 8B making very difficult to keep a sharp line. I don’t often draw in pencil anymore and this drawing made me question why that is.

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