Watercolor of a tulip, loose and free

A watercolor sketch of a fading tulip by Wren M. Allen

Observational art doesn’t have to be tight and detailed! This loose, gestural watercolor sketch offers a strong impression of a dying tulip flower.

I painted this rough sketch of a fading tulip on Tuesday in Lisa Coddington’s class at Santa Fe Community College.

Loose, gestural painting is fun and relaxing, a nice break from the tight and tiny markmaking common to botanical illustration style.

I selected a limited palette for this watercolor: Winsor-Newton’s Permanent Magenta and Rose; Ultramarine Blue (W-N and Daniel Smith), Daniel Smith’s Hansa Yellow Light, and a few touches of Holbein’s Opera and Alizarin Crimson.

Fortunately, I took a few snaps on my phone, so I can have the option to work with this faded beauty in a more detailed fashion at a later date.

Hello Soul, Hello Mantras: Using intentions while painting

Painting intentions can have many variations. In this watercolor and colored pencil painting of red Indian corn, I am focused on rendering the textures.

I find that painting intentions work best when they relate to the subject at hand–in this case, detailed rendering of an ear of Indian corn.

One of the key aspects of Kelly Rae Roberts’ Hello Soul, Hello Mantras e-course is the notion of working with intention. Kelly Rae encourages her students to put stickies with their intention for the painting session before they begin to work. The idea is to create a guide for how you want to feel while working on your painting, and a goal for things to learn about yourself while in the act of painting. Some examples might be: “Cut loose!” “Dance with the paint.” “There are no ugly colors!’

In other words, the focus of the intentions is on the act of painting and the painting session itself.

For me, this has been difficult. I really like to set my focus on the work of art. In the case of the mantra paintings I prefer to think about the mantra itself. Certain phrases suggest certain textures or colors. Maybe a mantra about flying would have a blue and white color scheme or fluffy, feathery textures in the background?

When I’m working on a botanical art painting, my intention is to render the subject with its textures and colors.

Currently, I’m working a watercolor and colored pencil portrait of an ear of Indian corn.

My intentions while painting are some key words about the two halves of the vegetable.

While working on the leaves, I think, “Crispy. Brittle. Ribbons.” For this ear of corn, I think of the leaves as “Wild-haired.”

My intentions for the kernels are, “Juicy.” “Glass.” “Jelly.” “Glow.”

These intentions influence how I apply the colors, the shape of the marks I make, the color combinations I choose.

You can use intentions while you work in so many different ways!

Travels with Sketchbook: The Grand Canyon

Watercolor and pigment marker on watercolor paper. Image of the Grand Canyon's North Rim at sunrise.

Sunrise is a special time at the Grand Canyon! After loosely placing the washes on site, I added detail with pigment markers later that day.

My portfolio page, Travels with Sketchbook, has been updated with a new gallery of images made during our recent trip to the Grand Canyon.

For this series of landscape sketches, I returned to the slightly “naive” style I’ve used in earlier travel sketches—loose watercolor sketches defined with pen and ink lines and marks.

There are 2 botanical sketches in the gallery: One is rendered in color pencil, the other is color washes with pen. Both were made at the side of some of the main trails in the park! It just goes to show you that you can find interesting things right under your nose, if you’ll only take the time to look carefully. 🙂

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