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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Showjumper WIP #4

     I headed out of dodge with my dog for a few hours today to recharge my batteries. We went for a hike to a favorite spot where I never run into anybody. I've been feeling a bit burned out the past few days with so much going on with my studio, my son and summer activities. Then it was back to the studio and I had several uninterrupted hours of painting.
    So here is where I left off. After this dries I'll put more time into this later this evening. This painting is a watercolor and the support is a full sheet of Arches Hot Press 300lb paper. For those of you who missed the previous posts see my earlier blog posts for photos of the progression of this piece. I am really getting in there with the darks. I am using a really strong mix of alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. The pigments are not thoroughly mixed on the palette .  Instead I charge a large squirrel mop and really load the brush so the colors can mingle on the paper. This prevents the darks from becoming flat and dull.
I am really careful to keep a lot of soft edges at this point by wetting and softening with a brush any hard lines that appear. I save most of the hard edges for the final details or any place I want to place emphasis.

    The eye is now getting it's initial glazes. I start by working wet on wet. This keeps soft edges as I start to describe the shape of the eye and ears and find the expression. In addition the values around the muzzle and nostril have been increased. As I push the darks the initial lightest glazes start to take on a very cool glow. This is the part I love about watercolor.

Stay tuned! This is coming down to the finish!  You can click on any of these mages to get an enlarged view.

Deborah O'Sullivan Art
Epona Studio

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Showjumper WIP #3 & Children's Art Classes

 Showjumper WIP #3

   Today's post is the latest update on the Showjumper WIP (Work In Progress) . I have to admit I approached this last night with a LOT of trepidation! I am liking it so far and watercolor is not very forgiving.  I got into the zone working n this stage where I  just lost track of time. I love it when that happens

    My original plan had been to  do the eye and get rid of the creepy-mask-horse and just get some life into the piece.  I can paint eyes in my sleep.  But... because I was afraid to get in there with some darks I knew that THAT was where I needed to start.  I got a lot further then I had planned and when I took a break a breathed a sigh of relief! I haven't killed it yet!

When I  lay down the glazes in a piece by looking for different shapes  I can get away from fussy details because  the viewers eye fills in the rest of the information. I do like to use unorthodox colors in my horses and  even though I ramp up the saturation in the initial glazes I will go over all of it with a light uniform glaze of ,say, Burnt Umber to pull it all together.

You can get a larger view of the image by clicking on it.

Watercolor Classes For Kids

My children's watercolor art classes are a go! Starting in September I will be teaching art classes at the Front Street Gallery in Patterson, NY. I will offering 6 week courses  for homeschoolers during the school day  and after school classes for children attending public school

We will cover basic techniques, such as getting to know our materials, wet on wet, wet on dry, finding basic shapes, basic color mixing and color value. We will then jump in and explore the fun world of watercolor. Students will work from still life and photograph reference material.

If you have an interest or would like to sign up , please, add your name to the mailing list for information and updates.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Jumper WIP - Continued

     I hope today's blog post finds everyone well.I have been doing great. Things are moving along smoothly and after quite a few setbacks I am onto Plan B. It is all good.

  I have been getting quite a lot of painting done these days. The previously posted jumper WIP has been coming along nicely.  At this stage I am continuing to add glazes to the horse, finding the shapes of the light and shadow. I started adding darks to the rider. Painting people is my nemesis and watercolor is very unforgiving. If you mess up ....well...oh well.  Do over. So with that thought in mind I am getting the worst of the rider over with.

Now I am adding some darker values to the horse. This really brings out the light. Adding darks is one of my favorite parts of working with watercolor. It is the opposite of working with acrylics where you save the lights for the end.
    The eye still has that mask like quality to it. So my next step is to go in and get some life into the painting and detail the eye. The horse is really looking like it is emerging from the page now.

     I have some decisions to make at this point. #1 is the background. I usually have a pretty well thought out plan of what I am going to do relative to a background when working this large in watercolor. But not this time.  I seem to enjoy flying by the seat of my pants these days.  :) There is a wing of a jump on the bottom right corner and I may let the paints fly and run and do it's watercolor thing to keep it loose on that section.  But the rest? I am kind of liking the white but we'll see how it goes.

   On other studio news. I am once again a participating artist at the Sea/Hear (aka Slide Slam)  that will be held September 18 at the Kane House on E. Main Street in Pawling, NY. The exhibition will provide a unique opportunity to hear directly from the artist, their thought process, motivation, experience and influences.  My next blog post will provide more information on this fun event.

Til next time!


Friday, August 20, 2010

Watercolor Jumper WIP

     After working with acrylics for the past week I find I must get back to the watercolors. It is my favorite medium. I am once again working large and this painting measures in at 22 x 30. This is a full sheet of Arches 300 lb Hot Press paper. Which is my favorite support and is a super heavyweight, archival, smooth paper. It is really fun to push the colors around on the paper. If I dampen the paper first and drop in pigment the colors will mix and mingle on their own creating wonderful effects.

     I always think it is kind of cool in watercolors how my horses start to appear out of the paper! :-)  This first step is the intial glazes of color. Just trying to find the light. I went ahead and added the darks of the riders helmet because I had such a nice mix of colors left on my palette. I don't know how I  made that one..a lttle of this...a little of that. I believe the primary colors are burnt sienna, alizarin crimson and Ultramarine blue but then I dropped in some partially mixed violet and let it mingle on the page.
Untitled, watercolor 22 x 30 WIP 2


      In watercolors I work from light to dark. I rely on the white of the paper for the white as opposed to acrylics where you mix with white paint. I use mostly transparent pigment. I do sometimes use some of the cadmiums at the very end of a painting when I am adding the details. The transparency of watercolor paint is what gives a painting such a beautiful glow.

  This horse has the scarey mask thing going on because I haven't addressed the eye yet. Once I have all of the lightest values completed I will move right in on the eye to give it some life. Then next comes the middle values then the darkest values and the fine detail. Not sure about the background yet...I am playing with idea of leaving it white or perhaps just the lightest hint of color..

    Going backwards here. This next image is the initial sketch. The rainbow of color here is due to upping the saturation in Photoshop so that you can actually see the sketch. The paper is white. I do a pretty light sketch first with wc.

      I am going to need a title for this piece so suggestions are welcome. All of these images are clickable so that you see a larger version. Til next time- Have a great day!


Deborah O'Sullivan Art

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Victory Gallop

     I mentioned in a previous post that the model for the painting Victory Gallop was a horse that I used to have named Henry. I received several emails from you readers asking to know more about him. SO here  goes.
      Henry was 1/2 Irish Draft and 1/2 Selle Francais. He was imported from Ireland when he was just turning 4. He did not show much talent as a jumper so he was brought here as a Dressage prospect because he had 3 really nice gaits. It was love at first sight. I adored this horse. He was tempermental, funny, sensitive, smart and so willing to try anything that I asked him to do.
     For the first few weeks after he got there he was uncatchable when turned out. He had been rushed as a youngster and was overfaced with big jumps so being ridden was not something he enjoyed.
     I started out by bringing him lots of treats and I would just sit with him in his paddock. He got to the point, eventually, where he would come galloping flat out to me whenever I called and he would come to a sliding stop just inches in front me. He would follow me around like a puppy. I let him just be a horse for the first few months and developed a really good relationship with him on the ground before I even attempted to ride him.
    The first few rides were rocky at best, He had not been started well and instead of being taught what was expected of him he had been forced. So he just didn't understand basic aids. When he didn't understand something he would stop toss him head up and down several times and stomp his right front foot. A lot of trainers might want to smack him forward and get on with it. But I felt that this horse had been frightened with that kind of riding and needed patience and a chance to work things out with a calm, patient no-rush attitude. I would let him get over his little tantrum drop the reins and just ask him to walk on. Then I would back up a step and ask him to something really simple that I knew he could do well. By using this approach he learned to trust me. When he "got" something you could see how pleased he would be with himself when he got praised.
     When he progressed through the levels in dressage if something was a little challenging he still would do his little head toss and foot stomp. I used to joke that the tempermental side of him was his French side coming out and at those times he was known as Henri (pronounced with a accent).:)
     He eventually showed great talent as a jumper and we would play over the jumps but I decided that we could continue down the path with him as my Dressage partner. He was a BIG boy 17.1 hands and was just a late bloomer. One day he started having trouble getting his 3 tempis. For you non-Dresaage folks ..three tempis are multiple flying changes of lead every three strides at collected canter.It requires a lot of strength and precision from the horse to do them. Henry started have trouble with them one day. He had spectacular flyng changes and would really jump through them. But now he felt funny like he couldn't organize his hind end to even do one. Over the next few days he started to resist work and he seemed afraid to even go forward under saddle. He, also, got very clingy to me on the ground.
     It was eventually determined that he had EPM which is a protozoa that attacks the nervous system.  I miss him terribly.... He was such a great horse.

   I think one of the reasons I got out of riding was that I went through a string of loosing my own personal horses to a variety of illnesses and freak accidents. I get too emotionally attached and it just got too hard having to make the decisions to put the horses down or to give them up. I needed a break. I continued teaching for a while but then moved on to painting them.

     This is photo of Henry right after he arrived from quarantine. He is just shy of 4 years old (he had tiny little M & M teeth!), already 16.3 hands. I always seemed to end up with BIG horses. He has the big head that so many Irish horses have. Once he developed a good topline everything came into proportion. Oh, and he was not over in the knee..he is just standing funny in this photo.

      Last evening I worked on Victory Gallop for a few hours. I think that I have just about completed this painting. I need to let this sit for a bit in a spot where I can see it for a few days so I can decide what needs a bit of tweaking. The area to the left of the eye appears be a little flat and dead to me so I may do a little something there.I tried to get a better photo but this still has some glare on it. Victory Gallop is 24 x 20, acrylic on gallery wrapped canvas. That means the canvas wraps around the sides of the wooden stretcher bars and the staples are on the back. I paint the sides so framing is not necessary but it would look gorgeous in a wide barn board or gold Plein air style frame. This is available for purchase. Email me if you are interested in giving it a home.

Deborah O'Sullivan Art

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Victory Gallop WIP (Work In Progress)

Victory Gallop-

    It is back to the acrylics and going large again. After painting so many small pieces last year I am feeling the need to break free and paint bigger. I love doing these very close-up compositions on large canvases. Victory Gallop is an acrylic and is a 24 x 20 canvas. I used a reference photo of a horse that I used to have named Henry. I lost him to EPM.

  The first photo is the initial sketch done with a Sharpie marker. When working in acrylic I have pretty much unlimited freedom to move things around and experiment because I can go over things. If this was a watercolor this would be a pretty detailed pencil sketch. Watercolor is not very forgiving, you pretty much have the one go to get it right. With acrylics I really enjoy "drawing" with the paint.

Next image I have layed down mostly medium values. The main idea being to cover the white of the canvas. There is nothing worse than I white canvas staring you down. *shiver* This is the stage now where I get to make decisions on where I am going with this.

This piece is tightening up pretty quickly. I put a long night into this and needed to wait for the glazes to dry. I defined the musculature and found most of my darks here. I am thinking the markings on the horse's face are competing with some of the elements of the composition.  You can see in the next image how I have changed some things around. The joy of acrylics!

The glare is awful here but you can get a good idea. I created a blaze instead of the star and snip that Henry had. I think it works better.  I will be mixing my whites to warm up his face as right now the blaze appears to stark to my eye. The rider is pretty much completed. I need to loosen up the color on the lapel. I left things very painterly with energetic brush strokes to convey the motion.

Writing about my art while I am creating it is an odd process for me because I don't really think when I paint. I tend to just throw color here and there and then all of a sudden the painting is just done! I should have this completed this evening and will post the final.

Til next time,

Deborah O'Sullivan Art

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Good Tutors and Good Students -Guest Blogger Charles Sluga

Fetch,-5x7 acrylic on cradled panel- SOLD

I am delighted to be able to present guest blogger Australian artist Charles Sluga. Charles is a wonderfully accomplished watercolorist and teacher. So without further ado....

Good Tutors and Good Students

I have been prompted to give my opinion because I conduct a lot of workshops both in Australia and overseas and have been teaching watercolour painting for many years. I have a number of pupils that have attended many of my workshops and continue to do so. Recently these people have been criticised or mocked because they choose to continue to come to my workshops. Mocked by students that seem to change their tutors as often as the wind changes.

So the question is - Should a student go to many different tutors to learn or should they stick to one? I think I have already indicated what I think, but let me expand on this.

Well from my experience and observation over twenty years of teaching I strongly recommend choosing one, but it is conditional. The student must try different classes until they find a tutor that they are happy with. A tutor than has the pupils best interest in mind and will push the student and point them in the right direction for them to discover their own way of expression...kind of like a guiding hand. A tutor that does not let his or her ego get in the way!

I think as a student if you find that your work merely looks like a second rate copy of the tutors work then I would suggest you find another tutor. It is not the tutors job to produce 'parrots" that mimic what they do. It is all about pushing, questioning and getting the students to explore possibilities until they start to discover themselves. If you can find a tutor that can do that then stick with them.

For those of you out there who criticise these students and call them
groupies, fans or try to convince them that they should go to someone
else, then I would say to you..."continue to go to your dozen tutors in
a dozen workshops and continue to produce inferior copies with no self have missed the whole point of being an artist and
the journey that it involves".

Having said that, if that is what you want to do...go ahead obviously satisfies some need, but be aware that others may wish to go further and demand more of themselves.

So in summary:
A good tutor:
  1. Someone who pushes you to question everything!
  2. Someone who does not paint by formula.
  3. Someone who will not spoon feed you.
  4. Someone who recognises your contribution.
  5. Someone who is not there to boost there own ego.
  6. Someone who takes there work seriously.
  7. Someone who plans lessons well.
  8. Someone who will give you time.
  9. Someone who believes they are still learning.
  10. Someone who doesn't want you to merely be a "parrot"
A good pupil:
  1. Someone who will work hard.
  2. Someone who will take risks.
  3. Someone who will work in between workshops
  4. Someone who will ask questions.
  5. Someone who will not only be interested in the final result.
  6. Someone who is persistent.
  7. Someone who is open minded.
  8. Someone who is not there to boost their own ego!
  9. Someone with a sense of humour.
  10. Someone who has a love of Art.
So these are just 10 points I consider important for both tutor and student (there are more!)

In closing I would like to congratulate of these so called "groupies" of mine who entered her first exhibition recently and won the award for best watercolour. The wonderful thing about that is that I had not input or influence over that painting. She did the whole thing on her own and it was her own expression in paint! Well done!
I also congratulate these group of students that do continue to come to my workshops and tours...I am looking forward to continuing the journey with have become not just students but friends! So let us all ignore the comments from others and continue to do what we do together and move forward!

By the way, just to make it clear - I don't mind who people go to! I am not saying it has to be me (because even though I am good :), my style of teaching may not suit everyone ). It is not about is about you...the student!
See you at the next workshop :)

This article is reproduced with permission.
Copyright 2010 - Charles Sluga

For more on Charles and to view or purchase artwork visit.....
Charles Sluga Website
Charles Sluga Blog

Deborah O'Sullivan Art


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