Day 24 - Casa Del Desierto (Barstow Harvey House)

Finally done with this painting! I started it on a plein air outing over a week ago and worked on it in tiny pieces of time since. It even went through an ugly stage (which is normal, particularly for paintings done in multiple sessions) and through a husband-critique stage (that's how you know it's getting serious ;) ). I

Watercolor and ink on hot press paper. Original sold. Prints and cards available.

A few progress photos:


First step: completed drawing at the plein air session. By the time I was done drawing, it was getting close to sunset and windy, so I decided to do the painting part at home.


Here, I am beginning to lay first washes. The paper is hot press, so I'm getting some nice blooms!


I have some white areas left here but most of the painting has a layer of paint. Evaluating if the contrast between the white columns and dark spaces between them is too dark. So it is. Also, not crazy about the foreground.


One step further: I toned down the white areas and lightened up the shadows between columns. I also decided to separate the far right side of the building from the background by darkening the tree area. The foreground got another wash of gray-blue to tone it down and ground the building. Brick detail on the left side and a bit of cleaning up in the shape of the columns and bottom of the building.


At this point, I got a feeling that my problem with the foreground might be because it was also too large. I began thinking about the best way to crop it.


Final, cropped version. The foreground is significantly darker and quieter. I took off some of the paint first, by wetting the area with a soft brush (to agitate the paint and make it liftable without damaging the paper) and blotting with soft tissue paper (like Kleenex). I repeated the process once or twice. Then, I covered the area with a fairly uniform wash of mixed gray (French Ultramarine + Quinacridone Red + Quinacridone Gold).

And that's the story :). I think I've lived in the desert for too long (4 years!), because I am beginning to find cool things about it and even like some of them...

If you would like to see an excellent virtual tour of the Barstow Harvey House, watch this:

Day 14 - En Plein Air, En Progress, and a Yucca

Today, I spent a couple of hours at one of the local landmarks, the Barstow Harvey House, also known as Casa Del Desierto. It was one of my scheduled paintouts with the High Desert Art Meetup. The meetup was a bit on the lonely side, as nobody except me showed up, but I didn't mind that too much. I was able to really focus on the drawing, which is probably why I spent around an hour and a half on it and didn't have time to paint and dry it.

So, I plan to finish that painting tomorrow. Meanwhile, here is another painting from a paintout a week ago. I added the background at home.

22 x 15" Watercolor on hot press paper.

22 x 15" Watercolor on hot press paper.

Day 13 - Lunchtime

Warning: this post also has a baby in it. Or, rather, a toddler. Because I can't post today's painting without telling you how Katia (our 1.5-year-old), while I was blissfully finishing the painting, took my bottle of sepia acrylic ink and spilled it all onto our living room floor (tile, fortunately). She then proceeded with multi-sensory exploration of the puddle of ink (full bottle, by the way...I only started it today). By the time I snapped out of my zone and began wondering why she was so quiet, she had ink on her face, in her mouth, and all over her body.

14 - 1.jpg

So...moral of the story? Don't have kids Don't leave your stuff where a toddler can get it and never ever let yourself be lulled into thinking you can do your own thing while the toddler is awake. A bit sarcastic...I'm sure I will remember these days fondly one day.

As for the painting, I finally tried something I wanted to for some time: the ink + watercolor method but on a larger scale. I used a half sheet of paper and a brush to apply ink. It was actually pretty fun! I don't have as much control of the brush line as I do of the pen when I work on a small drawing, so this was a bit out of my confort zone. But I liked it.

22 x 15 " watercolor and ink on hot press watercolor paper.

22 x 15 " watercolor and ink on hot press watercolor paper.

Day 12 - to France!

At least, virtually for now :) I got a few reference photos of windows and doors from Bix of France Painting Holiday and used one of them today. Not crazy about the result but happy that I actually managed to paint some. There are things I like and dislike about this painting, but in general, I declare it a dud, a stinker, a wiper. Any other terms for unsuccessful painting attempts? Often, my "wipers" turn into experiments (since I already know it can't get much worse, I'm not afraid to mess it up with wild ideas). On this one, I want to do a few things...One is to apply gesso with a bristle brush (for texture) over the timber and freshen up the color on top.


Day 7 - Italian Window 4

I was too wiped out last night to post this, so...I was about to say that it means two posts today, but probably not. Small changes in routine seem to mess up my painting opportunities in a major way. Yesterday, I had the baby's 2-month checkup appointment in the morning and then, a sick 1.5-year-old for the rest of the day. So not much happened in terms of art production and marketing.

This reminds me of the popular artist-blog expression, "life got in the way." On one hand, I can relate completely: "life" can demand so much attention and energy that you don't have anything left to feed your creative self. Or, in another scenario, you have to constantly switch gears between "life" (in my case, it means being a mom and wife) and art-making or business mode, can't focus on either, and become very frustrated. Multitasking, you say? What is that?

Now, as to the other hand...I am slowly beginning to realize that life, the one that "gets in the way," is actually more important to me than, albeit more pleasant and fulfilling in the short term, process of making and selling art. (This may be the reason why women artists rarely "make it" in the art world).

Anyway, another window from Venice today. Hope you like it :)

10 x 7" Watercolor and ink on hot press 140lb watercolor paper. Special price of $75 until February 1.

10 x 7" Watercolor and ink on hot press 140lb watercolor paper. Special price of $75 until February 1.

Day 4 - Neighbors

Venice yet again! I noticed these two windows sitting next to each other on two adjacent buildings. They have an intriguing balance of contrast and shared old world charm that I couldn't walk away from.

6.5 x 10" ink and watercolor on hot press paper. Special price of $75 until Februrary 1.

6.5 x 10" ink and watercolor on hot press paper. Special price of $75 until Februrary 1.

Day 3 - Restaurant "Chiodofisso" in Venice

I love street scenes. It's probably very obvious if you look at an archive of my work :). And I am particularly fond of European street scenes. Beautiful architecture, good food, people enjoying life - what's not to love?

This little restaurant is tucked around the corner from St Mark's Cathedral in Venice and, according to Yelp, it also serves great food. Next time I'm in Venice, I'll have to see for myself!

"Chiodofisso" - 7 x 10" Watercolor and ink on paper. Special price of $75 until Februrary 1.

"Chiodofisso" - 7 x 10" Watercolor and ink on paper. Special price of $75 until Februrary 1.

Italian Window, December Virtual Paintout

Or, I suppose, it's more of a door...Virtual Paintout is in Venice this month, and I just couldn't miss it! During my first few minutes of virtually riding in a gondola down the canals, I realized that you can't go to Venice for a couple of days. You have to spend at least a month there. Inspiration is going to stab you around every corner!

I found a dozen of spectacular views on my short walk but settled for this charming architectural detail of a balcony for now.

Day 30 - Avalon Pier, Late Afternoon

The day is finally here! This is the last painting of the 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge. A few days late, but I'm pretty sure nobody cares except me, and I did have some tough few days.  

Avalon Pier. 11x15" Watercolor and Ink on watercolor paper. $120. Buy here. 

The painting is continuing (and probably not concluding) my Catalina theme. I put quite a lot of time into this one, beginning with a a fairly complicated drawing: and even some masking (and if you know me, you know I hardly ever use masking liquid):

I also wanted to keep the sky fairly dark and wasn't able to achieve that in the first wash (stuff dries quickly here in the desert!). So it took several washes to get to where I was sort of happy with it. The rest of the painting was just a lot of detail and small-brush work, which I don't do that often, either.  

Avalon Pier, cropped. 

I made the sky area large intentionally, but it seems to make the whole painting a bit too gloomy...So I am considering a more conservative crop. What do you think? 

Day 29 - An Old Church on the Isle of Wight (Virtual Paintout)

It seems like during this 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge, I couldn't stay away from architecture completely! It keeps peeking through the trees and suggesting itself in geometric abstract forms. But I did try :). Overall, I am pretty happy with how many landscapes I was able to paint during the challenge and I would like to spend a bit more time exploring the abstracts.  

11 x 15" Watercolor on paper. $95. Buy here.

So, with my challenge theme in mind, I gave the landscape a big part in this painting, while still keeping the church as the focal point. It was tricky modeling the building without any drawing - I usually like more structure in my structures. Here, I scraped the light areas of the church with a palette knife after laying in some color wet-into-wet. I added a few lines and reinstated the darks after it began drying.

Day 23 - An Avalon Street in Ink and Watercolor

More Catalina! The city of Avalon, to be specific, the little street called East Whittley Avenue. I snapped the reference photo while pushing a double stroller with both of my kids in it up that hill.

East Whittley Ave. 7.5 x 8.75". Ink and watercolor on hot press paper. $75 (special pricing until October 1). Buy here. 

As predicted, I had no time or energy to do a daily painting yesterday. I had an amazing second (and last) day of my portrait painting workshop and I'm super proud of what my students were able to accomplish. However, I was also experiencing symptoms of a cold and of being very much pregnant, so by the end of the day, I was dead. With a little over a month left until we get to meet baby #3, I am glad to stop being so active and lay low for a while. Of course, I will want back in the saddle before I know it...but for now, I feel like taking a break. 

Day 21 - Mission San Luis Rey

I spent the whole day teaching the first half of my portrait painting workshop and hanging out with the husband and kids in the evening, so I am cheating today. This sketch of the Mission San Luis Rey is from a few months ago, when we visited San Diego. Miraculously, I think I was even able to finish the sketch on site.

Watercolor and ink pen on paper. 6x11" 

I'm teaching the second day of the workshop tomorrow, so I may not have an opportunity for a new daily painting again. Good thing I have a ton of unpublished pieces...On the other hand, I am still reliving the Catalina trip and want to paint a few things based on my photos from there.

Day 20 - Santa Catalina Island!

Aaaand I'm back! This week, we went on a family mini-vacation on the Santa Catalina Island. It was exhausting, as our baby daughter pretty much refused to sleep and was throwing tantrums left and right (not at all typical for her). But it was also great. I enjoyed plugging off the daily life, the housework, the art business, the social interaction, even just for a few days. And, of course, the island is beautiful. It would be fantastic to return there just by myself, or at least without kids, on a plein air trip.

Eureka! I should organize a plein air workshop there! Hmm...

The Casino (which is not a casino but a movie theater) in Avalon. Pen and watercolor on paper.  

The uncropped version, with my daughter's contribution on the left :) 

Lena Amstrand, Swedish watercolor artist

lena amstrand watercolor

...who is another architect addicted to watercolor and whose influence I can now clearly see in Rebecca Elfast's work (Rebecca is an architect, too. I feel like I'm not that unique in having an architectural background and a burning passion for watercolor. I only hope they aren't doomed to sitting in front of a computer screen wishing they'd rather be painting). Amstrand's paintings make me think of the so-called Scandinavian design and of quiet places that are great for things like pondering and reminiscing.

lena amstrand watercolor
lena amstrand watercolor