At the Fireworks

We had fun yesterday. The fireworks were phenomenal. William really enjoyed them as well.

Photograph: William at the Fireworks

William at the Fireworks

Today’s watercolor experiment:

I tried to extract significant images from my memory of yesterday’s time at the amusement park.  I began my painting with a section of a wheel from a wheelchair. We needed one so that Joy could enjoy the park along with the rest of us.

The car race was a lot of fun. The ride was a realization of a full length cartoon of racing cars. It was almost, but not quite as intense as a roller coaster. The terrain was designed to look like a desert, with all kinds of interesting rock formations.

Finally, the best image of all, pictured above, was of William pointing to the spectacular fireworks at the end of the evening.

My study below is a collection of these images.

Watercolor: Abstract Expressionist Fun at the Amusement Park

12″x16″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block


I don’t claim that this study is a great piece of art, or even a good design. It is more like a sketch pad of ideas that came to my mind when I thought of my experience of yesterday’s outing. One significant outcome of this sketch, however is that the wheelchair wheel in the lower right hand corner of the composition is almost totally obscured. That the wheel, indicating a handicap, was overshadowed by the pointing hand of an amazed toddler was indeed the point of the entire day.

Crowd Source Art – Final

It was a long day. Just got back to the kid’s house after a grueling day of fun at Disneyland and more than an hour after I normally post.

I thought I’d share my final artistic decisions regarding my crowd-sourced art project I began a couple of posts ago (Crowd-Sourced Art). I took many of your suggestions into account, and I want to thank all who participated (One’s a Crowd… So Far, Crowd-Sourced Art Continues) .

Here is the project after I removed the frisket (latex masking).

Watercolor: Abstract , White Lines Around Colored Fields

Crowd Sourced, without Mask
12″x16″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

In the final stage of the composition, I used a combination of complementary coloration (purple adjacent to the yellow fields)  in the white traces left by the mask, and coloration similar to the background.

Watercolor: Abstract - Fields of Color Outlined by Complements

Crowd Sourced
12″x16″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

The purple lines were painted with watercolor and ink and the yellowish colors surrounding the preexisting fields were painted with ink. The one wild card was a green ink line dividing the heart-shaped red field. I don’t think it is noticeable in this rendition but it seems to work very well in real life.

I think these are sound artistic decisions based on feedback you gave me.

I hope you like the final results.

The Phantom

I may have mentioned, a number of posts ago, I have been digitizing my collection of film negatives.

For those of you who may not remember, film was the medium that captured light from the lens of a camera before digital cameras existed. After loading a roll of film (in a light-proof canister) in the camera, clicking the shutter  and advancing the film 24 or 36 times, rolling the film back into the can, one would take it to the camera shop for development. A week or so later one would get a set of photos back, and the negatives from which the photos were printed.

I have negatives from the 1980s, which I kept in archival plastic pockets since that time.

Photography has changed a lot since that time. I had to set the aperture and exposure time manually with my camera. In order to assure that I got the right exposure in questionable lighting, I ‘bracketed the shot’. That meant I shot at least three pictures of the subject, changing the aperture or shutter with each shot, hoping that one of the exposures resulted in a properly exposed negative.

Found art:

In combing though my newly-revived photographs, I found this one.   After work we used to play softball. There weren’t many dirt fields in Manhattan available on short notice, so we would shlep to one of the asphalt school yards to play ball.

This shot, circa 1990 caught a glimpse of the phantom as he tried for a base hit.

Photograph: Softball - Running to First Base

The Phantom

Kilroy the Observer

Note: I mistakenly entitled this post, “Gilroy the Observer”, originally. Thanks to Liz Barrett for setting me straight. The real name for this character was Kilroy. I can only attribute my error to the fact that I live next to the Garlic Capital of the World, Gilroy, California. A natural mistake when one gets to my age. Apologies, and thanks for your indulgence.

Today’s watercolor experiment:

I used a straight edge and compass to start today’s composition. I drew two partial circles to create an ‘S’ shape, and a small circle on the upper right portion of the paper. I did not know where it would lead until I thought of drawing a ‘V’ shape, which I did, with lines tangent to the small circle. Later I completed the contours of the circles.

During World War II, a popular piece of graffiti was ‘Kilroy was here’, together with a partial view of a face, which seemed to be looking over a fence. I understand this to be a way to bear witness. This is the sense in which I used this figure in the composition below.

I used the ‘V’ as a design element. Everything outside the cone of the ‘V’, I painted in dark tones. Within the outline of the ‘V’ I painted bright colors, as if it were a shaft of light.  Kilroy is looking in from the darkness as an observer, to bear witness about what he sees.

Watercolor: Circles and Triangle with Gilroy Looking In

Gilroy Was Here
12″x16″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

Perhaps Kilroy should look around him… But that’s another story.


Stems – Abstract

Today’s watercolor experiment:

I began with ink today. I painted yellow ink with a brush to create the form at the top of the paper. Then I added red calligraphy ink, hoping to make an orange color. I did the same with the shapes above and below the first long shape.

After applying the ink, I painted similar forms with latex masking fluid. I painted the background with ultramarine violet, but this color was not dark enough.

Watercolor: Abstract - Stage 1, Latex Mask, Colored Ink and Textured Background

Stems – Stage 1, Latex Mask, Colored Ink and Textured Background

I used a combination of Payne’s gray and Moonglow pigments to darken the background and create more contrast with the foreground. For maximal contrast, I traced the latex-masked shapes with undiluted Payne’s gray.


As I created the long, thin shapes ending in a circle, I thought of a photograph I took the other day. I was attracted to a brilliant yellow flower, lit by the sun, completely surrounded by darkness.

Photograph: Yellow Hibiscus

Yellow Hibiscus

I was attracted by the inner parts of the flower, which were illuminated by the glow of the light that came through the flower petals. The major colors of the flower include bright yellow, the outer flower petals; yellow-orange inside the flower and a greenish gray color for the bulbous stamens at the center.

Translating to the composition:

The most important feature of the photograph is the contrast between the dark background and the bright flower. I tried to capture this quality by darkening the areas around the long stem shapes in my watercolor.

Watercolor: Abstract - Ink, Watercolor and Textured Background

12″x16″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block


I’m not sure if this composition holds together. I began by inking the red and yellow shapes, without any idea of where that would lead. I echoed the first ink shape with latex mask, and only then did I think about my photograph. One can see where I shifted from a design based on the original ink shapes to forms inspired by the hibiscus flower photograph. On the other hand original ink shapes that span the width of the composition have a unifying effect.

Underwater Leaves

Today’s watercolor experiment:

I began with pencil swooshes today. They seem to be working well for me lately. After looking at the lines, I had the notion that this composition would be about falling leaves. I began painting the lines with frisket to mask those spaces from the watercolors with which I would be flooding the paper. I built on an errant drop of masking fluid, creating more drops. Taken together, I imagined these vertical groupings of frisket drops as air bubbles in an underwater scene.

Here is the first stage that includes the frisket swooshes, plus the raw sienna that surrounds them.

Watercolor: Abstract - Stage 1, Frisket

Underwater Leaves – Stage 1: Frisket

In stage two, I applied aureolin yellow around the frisket in broad strokes. The idea was to glaze this yellow with an appropriate blue, which, in combination with the underlying yellow, would give the effect of a pleasing green color. I tested several blues and decided that Peacock Blue (Holbein) gave me the best results.

Watercolor: Abstract - Stage 2, Raw Sienna Swaths with Aureolin & Peacock Blue Washes

Underwater Leaves – Stage 2, Raw Sienna with Aureolin & Peacock Blue Wash

If you look carefully at the thumbnail above, you might notice that green areas surround the brown and latex curves. These were areas that were painted with aureolin and subsequently glazed by peacock blue. The peacock blue color itself comes through where there is no yellow beneath.

In the third stage, I rewashed with the Peacock Blue, applying it unevenly onto the paper. I tilted the paper so that it flowed.

Watercolor: Abstract - Stage 3, Second Peacock Blue Wash

Underwater Leaves – Stage 3, Second Peacock Blue Wash

I flipped the paper 180 degrees and applied aureolin in the same manner as above.

Watercolor: Abstract - Stage 4, Second Aureolin Wash

Underwater Leaves – Stage 4, Second Aureolin Wash

Finally, I removed the frisket and painted the white spaces underneath with a combination of inks. I used Winsor Newton’s sunshine yellow and a red calligraphy inks.

Watercolor: Abstract - Final stage, Water Background with Inked 'Leaves'

Underwater Leaves
16″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block


I particularly like the background in this composition. The vertical striations could represent underwater seaweed. And yet, the coloration at the top of this composition could just as well be a view of the sky, from the air or from under the water.

I love ambiguity… in paintings.

[Note: More ‘Crowd Sourced Art’ painting progress will be posted in the coming days. Keep the feedback coming, if you are so inclined. Thank you!]


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