Thursday, July 31, 2014

Still kicking!!

Hip Hop Bebop in Splash 15

I was more than a little shocked to realize that it has been nearly five months since I last posted here. Life just has a way of getting in the way sometimes. But I'm still here and things are going great!!  I just received my complimentary copy of Splash 15, Creative Solutions -- where my froggy band appears in company with a lot of wonderful art. Copies of this beautiful book are available through the North Light Online Shop.

Mr. Burbank's Cactus (detail)
transparent watercolor

You already know that Mr. Burbank's Cactus is in Belgium for Eau en Couleurs, the 2014 International Watercolour Biennial. I just got word today that the painting also qualified as a finalist in The Artist's Magazine annual competition. I'm thrilled to be chosen -- many talented artists enter this competition every year and making the cut is a high honor.

Unfortunately, my summer didn't start out on such a high note.  After months of unhappy decline, my mother passed away on June 1. She was 94 and had been slowly failing over the past couple of years, but it was losing mobility last October that made her life most difficult. I went home to visit her just before she took a turn for the worse -- it was a rough visit, but I'm glad I had the chance to say goodbye.

While we were back in Wisconsin for her funeral, we also managed to squeak in a visit to the reception and dinner that the Transparent Watercolor Society of America holds for its annual exhibition. A thoroughly enjoyable side trip -- filled with fabulous art and lots of laughter with the wonderful friends I've made over the years.

My time since I returned home has been spent making travel arrangements to go to Belgium for Eau en Couleurs.  A rather last-minute decision, so lots of scurrying about getting everything in place. I'm really looking forward to meeting artists I've only known online and I'll try to take photos to share when I can.

Hope you're having a good summer!! I'll see you here again sometime in August!!

Monday, March 10, 2014

International Watercolour Biennial...

Mr. Burbank's Cactus (detail)
transparent watercolor
Chris Beck

Back in January, I received an invitation from Eau en Couleurs – Belgian Watercolour Centre and the National Watercolor Society here in the U.S. to exhibit a painting this summer in the 2014 International Watercolour Biennial in Estaimbourg, Belgium.  I've just completed a fairly large (for me) painting -- 20" x 20" -- based on an enormous old cactus that I saw in the Luther Burbank Gardens in Santa Rosa, California.  Because I want to keep it a surprise for the show, I'm only going to share this tiny detail of the painting until after the exhibition opens in mid-August.

I want to give a shout-out to Katherine Taylor and John Cogley of Daniel Smith Inc. I met Katherine at a watercolor sampling event at a local art supply store and, a few months later, met John when I went to his fascinating talk on Primatek pigments at an artists' materials expo here in northern California. John is the owner of Daniel Smith Inc., the force behind the company's expansion into new product lines and the worldwide market, and someone who cares about and supports our artistic endeavors with quality materials. Katherine, the sales manager for the wholesale branch of the company, generously gave me watercolor dot cards and other materials so I could try out some new colors.

Cobalt Violet Dark turned out to be indispensable in this painting, along with Quinacridone Deep Gold. Quinacridone Sienna has been my go-to color for mixing darks since I first discovered it ten or twelve years ago, but the star of this particular show is undoubtedly my old favorite -- Green Gold. Thanks, John and Katherine!!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Dippy Duck #6...

Dippy Duck #6
watercolor & gouache, 8" x 8"
Chris Beck

Dippy Duck has been a favorite demo subject -- no surprise there as he is brightly colored and quite distinctive. The title reflects the construction of the set -- the top part is a pepper shaker and the bottom half is a salt dish from which you would dip the salt with a small spoon. Oddly enough, this is the one salt shaker I don't actually own. I discovered this little fellow near the close of an eBay auction and the price was stratospheric -- somewhere around $400 -- quite beyond my budget.

This is another of the pieces I finished during a demo last fall. Like the duck painting I posted last week, the background is spattered with gouache to add sparkle and texture.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Ruddy Duck Revisited...

watercolor & gouache, 9" x 9"
Chris Beck

Back in October, I was asked to present the program for one of the local art clubs and decided to take a slightly different approach than I usually do.  Instead of working on a series showing the progression from start to finish on one image, I took several unfinished demo pieces that had accumulated in my studio and played around with them a bit.  I had hoped to share things sooner, but I left early the next morning to visit my mother and help downsize her living situation yet again. By the time I got home a week later, other tasks required my attention and this unfortunately slipped out of mind.

You may remember our old friend Ruddy Duck. Ruddy has starred in a number of demos over the past few years.  This was how he looked at the start of the demo:

I added the word "quack" up the side of the painting, using gouache with some oversize alphabet stamps that I found by chance at Rileystreet Art Supply in Santa Rosa, CA when I went to a product expo event there.

Because it looked pretty stark after I stamped the letters onto the painting, I decided to soften the image with spattered gouache.  I cut a mask for the duck out of low-tack Contact paper (you could also use frisket paper) and pressed it lightly against the image with my fingers.  Then I mixed up various colors of gouache on a spare palette tray and used a flat-bristle toothbrush to spritz it over the background and letters.

I used ultramarine blue, spectrum yellow, flame red, and burnt sienna, along with white to brighten up some of the colors. As you can see, I've customized the toothbrush I use to spatter paint. I used a heat gun to soften the handle just enough to bend it so it has a better angle for mixing paint on the palette.

I have a few other examples that I'll be sharing as soon as possible.  Right now I'm working on a large painting for an invitational watercolor biennial in Belgium this summer, so that takes precedence.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Featured artist in the NWWS Newsletter...

Hip Hop Bebop
watercolor, 12" x 12"
Chris Beck

It's always a delight to hear that someone loves your work, so I was very pleased to get a note from Charlene Collins Freeman this past summer, inviting me to be a featured artist in the Northwest Watercolor Society Newsletter.  Charlene created an excellent online interview, covering everything from my early art experience to my creative process and my thoughts on success, and she has included many of my favorite paintings in her presentation. The feature has just been published in the latest Northwest Watercolor Society Newsletter (Jan/Feb 2014). My thanks to Charlene for the invitation and resulting feature article and also to the newsletter editor, Jeff Waters, for sharing my work.

If you're not familiar with it, NWWS is a fantastic organization with enormous energy and I'm very honored to be recognized in this way. Check out the NWWS website.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My guest column in The Artist's Magazine...

watercolor, 9" x 10.5"
Chris Beck

Now that the January/February 2014 issue of The Artist's Magazine has reached subscribers and is in bookstores, I can share the paintings I created for my guest column on masking fluid. 

The article features expanded steps in the creation of both Arabesque and Pelican Dreams as well as several other illustrations to help you make the most of masking fluid, regardless of your choice of subject matter.  If you aren't a subscriber or don't have easy access to a shop that carries the magazine, you can order a paper or digital copy by clicking here or going to the link in the sidebar.

The addition of gouache (pronounced "gwash" -- opaque watercolor -- for more info, check out this page on the Daniel Smith website) to your watercolorist's bag of tricks opens up possibilities for surface embellishment and the use of lighter colors on top of a dark base of transparent watercolor. In Pelican Dreams, I spattered gouache on the background both to tone it down and add visual complexity. Gouache would be off-limits in certain national exhibitions that require transparency, but there is a long history of using gouache, sometimes referred to as bodycolor, to add highlights and depth to a painting.

 Pelican Dreams
watercolor and gouache, 8" x 6"
Chris Beck

Schnozz made his debut here about a month ago, and is just back for an encore visit. He's painted strictly with transparent watercolor.

watercolor, 6" x 6"
Chris Beck

In other news -- I'm sorry to report that I have closed my Zazzle shop.  I discovered quite by accident that they had disabled the design controls I put on my mugs and stamps and allowed buyers to apply the images to different products in the same category. That meant the images were being distorted to fit shapes they were never intended to be displayed on. After going around and around with customer service, I learned there was no option except to re-post every item and reset the controls. And since Zazzle has periodically made other changes that required me to repost some of my products, I have no guarantee that they wouldn't disable my controls again. I cannot constantly monitor something that was supposed to be a fun, no-hassle way to share my work.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

And more sketches...

I've been playing more with Paper 53 on my iPad.  This is just a quick Christmasy scene that I made up -- mostly so I could make snowflake dots!!  I'm learning a lot about getting deep color, using the tools with white or light colors to lift out areas (the glow around the stars and candles, for example), and generally having way too much fun!!

Earlier in the week, I did a favorite little critter from my past. There's a long story behind my interest in frogs and someday when I'm feeling nostalgic, I'll share it here.  I used the frog drawing to try out the felt pen tool and also to work on my smooth washes.  I'm pretty happy with the results!!

I also got another stylus after reading reviews online.  My new stylus is a TruGlide -- with a fun red case and a microfiber tip -- and, happily, it was quite inexpensive. It zooms around on the screen like an Olympic figure skater and is great with the drawing/painting app. Between the Sensu brush and the new stylus, I should be able to create a wide range of effects.

Onward!! Have a great weekend!!

Friday, November 15, 2013

More fun with the iPad...

Almost every year, my fascination with Chinese Lanterns leads me to buy a bunch at the local supermarket floral department with the intention of sketching them or including them in a painting. And every year, I eventually tire of them sometime in December and discard them -- mission unaccomplished.  Not this year!! I am so intrigued with the Paper 53 app on my iPad that I sat down after dinner the other night and came up with this little drawing.  I'm learning as I go.  The short video tutorials included with the app cover a few basic operations and the rest is just a matter of experimenting.  I discovered I really like the pencil tool in the expanded tool kit: although it doesn't give quite the same control as a real pencil, the line appeals to me.

In the last drawing, I used the "loup" feature which allows you to create a magnified area so you can add text or fine details to a drawing. In this one, I discovered that I could reverse the areas that got a bit too dark by selecting the pencil tool and a cream color from the palette and cross-hatching the areas that I wanted to de-emphasize. Overlaying them with lighter color washes mellowed out the line work.  I'm still not happy with my handling of background washes -- they're a bit too splotchy and clumsy looking for my tastes. That's my next challenge.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

My first iPad sketch...

This is a pretty simple little sketch -- my first try at Paper 53.  I just got my first iPad for my birthday, after dithering about getting one for at least a year. I downloaded Paper 53 (free) yesterday, then shelled out a grand total of $9 for the add-on tools and palette and started playing.

I also bought a neat stylus/brush that I'd seen in an art supply catalog recently. I got mine through Amazon and couldn't be more pleased.  It's a Sensu, made by Princeton Brush Co.  The brush isn't essential, but it does give a reasonably good feel of actually painting. The only thing I'd like would be a way to control the size of the stroke, but you just get a single weight line -- good for filling in some color, but not quite as sensitive as a real brush.  This is what the Sensu looks like -- it's like a travel brush, with the brush stored inside the handle.

Although there is a built-in palette with about 15-20 fixed colors, the Color Mixer add-on is a worthwhile addition. It was only a couple of dollars and it works much like the color controls in Photoshop -- slider bars let you control the hue, the saturation, and the value, so you have almost unlimited choices.

All in all, a fun app and the iPad is fantastic. Can't believe it took me so long to take this step!!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My "secret project"...

watercolor, 6" x 6"
Chris Beck

I spent most of the month of August on a project that I couldn't discuss until it was finalized. Just got word that it's a go, so....

Sometime last spring, I was invited to be the guest columnist for one of the features in The Artist's Magazine. The Brushing Up column is devoted to technical matters of painting and my article covers one of my favorite art products -- masking fluid.  There are tips on purchasing and handling it, as well as ways of using this versatile product.  Schnozz is one of the paintings I did specifically for the article and there are stepped out examples of how I painted each one.

My article will appear in the January/February 2014 issue of The Artist's Magazine -- due out in early December.  I'll be sure to let you know when it's available.