Friday, January 30, 2009

Italian Splendor

A few months I had the opportunity to be in Italy on business and found myself in the town of Salo which is located in a long narrow bay under Monte San Bartolomeo on Lake Garda in the north. The picturesque town takes its name from Gasparo de Salo (1542-1609), the inventor of the violin. The town is a favorite vacation spot in the summer, though there is a permanent resident population also.

Salo Promenade was inspired by the beauty of colorful architecture set against the hills with the waterfront filled with pleasure boats of all description. I worked from some digital pictures I took when I was there, but this is the sort of place that makes me want to work en plein aire. Perhaps something to look forward to in the future.

Salo Promenade, Watercolor on 140lb paper, 6”x9”, $30 (unframed)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tribute to Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), An American Classic

Andrew Wyeth, a beacon of the American art scene, passed away last week. Without a doubt, Wyeth was (and always will be) an American treasure. His poignant images of the American landscape (e.g. Christina's World) are readily recognizable by even those with no particular interest in fine art.

Wyeth's paintings, most in watercolor or tempera, are deceptive in their simplicity. Cleverly composed and meticulously executed, the images appear shorn of all color yet remain powerful in their depiction of images of daily life. In looking at Wyeth's paintings, I find it easy to get drawn in and then experience a lingering compulsion to wonder about the story these pictures tell. Surely, the stories that Wyeth's pictures tell are worth more than a thousand words.

Wyeth was 91 when he died in his sleep, as private in his death as he was in life. Today's post is my modest attempt to remember this giant of the art world.

Untitled, Watercolor on 140lb paper, 9"x12", Not for sale

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Abandoned Forever

contemporary acrylic painting by atul pande
Some windows are no longer windows. For myriad reasons, the ability of the window to provide light and sight has been abandoned. The window, now boarded up, is no longer a desired feature of the building but rather an inconvenience.

Abandoned Forever is on the side of a decrepit shed. The shed itself in disrepair, the window too is covered over with plywood to keep out the elements. Yet the contrasting color and texture of the window against the shed provides some interesting elements. I am not sure this painting is quite done yet, but wanted to post it anyway.

Abandoned Forever, Acrylic on 140lb paper, 4"x6", Not for sale

Monday, January 19, 2009

Variation on Barn Window

contemporary watercolor painting of a barn window by atul pande
Combining media in art is nothing new, nor particularly notable in itself. Ultimately, as Randall Tipton has pointed out, what artists do aims to produce a good painting rather than worry about rules. Indeed, if artists followed rules there would be no progress in art.

Rough-Hewn Barn Window is just another ordinary window, perhaps on a hay barn, consisting of rough-hewn planks nailed together, less a piece of marvelous carpentry than an example of ultimate American pragmatism. Therein though lies the character of the workmanship, however elementary, done by a human hand.

This piece is done with ink and watercolor which lend it both definite form and some texture. Prolonged study might even suggest directionality to the light falling upon this window that, even in the most fantastic of imagination, could only conceal the basics elements of farm life.

Rough-Hewn Barn Window, Watercolor over pen and ink on 140lb paper, 4"x6", $30 (unframed)

Moonlit Window

Gothic church windows can range from the simple to the ornate. While their shape is common, the glass inserts can go from the totally unadorned lead glass to the most ornate stained glass. Examples of the latter can range from the artisanal (Duke Chapel in Durham, North Carolina) to the artistic (Fraum√ľnster in Zurich, Switzerland).

Moonlit Window is nothing grand in itself. Just a gothic church window with plain lead glass made dramatic by the moonlight streaming in and highlighting the texture of the bricks framing the window-well. In my opinion, the sharp value contrast gives this simple painting a dramatic feel despite its mundane subject.

Moonlit Window, Watercolor on 140lb paper, 4"x6", $30 (unframed)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Barn Window

The window theme has interested me for a while and today's post is the third in the series of watercolors. It's hard to know when inspiration will run out but for now I continue to find interesting shapes, colors and textures in windows on which to try out different techniques.

In the three pieces I have done so far, texture appears to be key to an interesting picture. For Barn Window, I used a technique demonstrated by
Tom Jones in one of his free videos on Jerry's Artarama website. Bold strokes of color are laid down over the pencil sketch, allowed to dry and then the shapes are pulled out by layering on darker colors and hardening or softening the edges to define the shapes.
Though I have a long ways to go in mastering this approach, I was pleased with how this painting turned out. Feel free to tell me what you think.

Barn Window, Watercolor on 140lb paper, 9"x12", $50 (unframed)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Red Shuttered Mystery

contemporary watercolor painting of a red shuttered window by atul pande
Closed shutters on windows instantly evoke the sense of a warm sunny climate. At the same time (sort of like a wrapped package), a curiosity springs to mind about what tableaux of daily life might be going on behind the shutters. What joyous, ordinary or painful experience might the shutters conceal?

Red Shutterred Mystery is a simple piece of work, though it did take a bit of time especially in creating the sketch and masking off the highlights. Putting in the color was the easier step!

Red Shuttered Mystery, Watercolor on 140lb paper, 4"x6", $30 (unframed)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Lead Glass Window

Windows set into the stone and brick facades of old churches and cathedrals provide a wealth of color and texture to make for interesting pictures. For Lead Glass Window, I masked out the white in the window more precisely than in the brickwork. It was then a straightforward matter of laying in the warm and cool colors to make up the brick and stone sections, respectively.

After peeling the masking fluid, I touched up the painting overall to reduce the stark separation betwen the warm and cool areas. Voila! Another ancient window that has been around for a few centuries and will probably still be there for another few.

Lead Glass Window, Watercolor on 140lb paper, 4"x6", $30 (unframed)
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Old Town Window

contemporary watercolor painting by atul pande

My work often takes me overseas allowing an opportunity to capture interesting ideas for later use when I am back in my studio. Sometimes I am lucky to have a camera with me while at other times a sketchbook. Very often there is just the memory of a sight, seen perhaps in passing, that inspires a painting.

Old Town Window is a sight that is so frequently found in the old cities of Europe that this picture could almost be from anywhere. Once majestic buildings of vintage that often predates the New World continue to be in regular use. Unlike the urban decay common to some large American cities, the European brick and plaster or stone buildings show unique character rather than looking aged and decrepit. Even though time has taken its toll, there is an enduring solidity and sense of continuity that I hope is apparent in this picture. Almost certainly, this window will still be there well after many of us.

Old Town Window, Watercolor on 140lb paper, 4"x6", $30 (unframed)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fog and mist

What you get with watercolors is often somewhat of a surprise. The medium performs in infinite ways depending on a variety of factors.In Fog and Mist I was aiming to create the impression of recession just by varying the proportion of water and paint without actually changing the color.

With the paper barely moistened, I started with the background trees and gradually worked up to stronger color for the foreground trees. Once the paper was dry, the bare tree trunks were put in to suggest a fall or spring feel. A bit of color added to the foreground and the piece was done! The picture is not quite what I imagined but it is close enough.

Fog and Mist, Watercolor on 140lb paper, 4"x6", $10 (unframed)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Old Fence

contemporary mixed media painting by atul pande
WARNING: Painting in watercolor can be addicting!

I have recently come back to watercolor after a break of almost a year. The speed with which paintings can be completed in watercolor and the fresh color that results are highly rewarding. Of course, mistakes are difficult (if not impossible) to correct. So not only must the artist be bold and confident but strive to be right with each stroke of color.

As I came close to finishing Old Fence, it seemed to me that the flowers were not bright enough so I used a bit of red and yellow gouache to give them more form. Otherwise the hardest part was sketching the fence and negative painting around it. I like the cheery end result. Tell me what you think.

Old Fence, Watercolor and gouache on 140lb paper, 9"x12', $30 (unframed)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sea Drama

contemporary American seascape acrylic painting by atul pande
Sea Drama was inspired by a collection of photos from a vacation in Nova Scotia some years ago. The rugged but beautiful topography of Nova Scotia has endless scenes like this. Brawny headlands frame the water as the daily drama goes on from sunrise to sundown.

One evening my wife and I watched a scene very much like this from a restaurant window except that we could see Minke whales playing in the distant water. My indication of gulls near the horizon is a weak attempt to reflect the possibility that whales might be down below.

Sea Drama, Acrylic on canvas board, 5"x7", $25 (Unframed)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Yet another snow scene

It has been a dismal couple of weeks in the southeast with day after day of rain and grey skies. This is quite a contrast from the usual daily doses of sunshine I am now used to after having left Michigan over three years ago.

Looking out the window and seeing mist and grey seems to have been my inspiration for the snow scenes once I got started. Birch in Snow is likely to be the last one for now, though. The rich, brilliant colors I normally use in my acrylic pieces are beckoning once again.....

Birch in Snow, Watercolor on 140lb paper, 4'x6', $20 (unframed)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Snow-laden Trio

original contemporary watercolor painting by atul pande
In response to Snowy Meadow, Carol Schiff rightly pointed out the challenge of switching betweeen painting oils and acrylics, where one goes from dark to light, and painting watercolor, where the process is reversed. In watercolor, the lights must be preserved right from the beginning since there is no good way to add them afterwards.

I started Snow-laden Trio by making a loose pencil sketch. Then I used masking fluid to block out the snow both on the trees and the ground, as well as the tall leafless tree trunks. The next step was to apply the sky using a graded wash of pthalo blue. Towards the ground burnt sienna was added to the blue along with lots of water to get a weak grey wash for the foreground.

Once the wash was dry, the evergreens were laid in using a strong blue-green mix. After the trees were dry the masking fluid was peeled off, then the grasses and shading were added to the foreground. On stepping back, the hard edge between the bottom of the trees and the foreground did not seem quite right, so I softened it out with a wet brush.

Snow-laden Trio, Watercolor on 140lb paper, 9"x12", $35 (unframed)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dreaming of Spring

Spring may not be quite around the corner but at least the days are starting to get longer. Soon the unremitting grey will start to give way to bits of color signaling a new growing season. I have tried to represent in this piece that early spot of color that can be seen in an otherwise dismal landscape. Among all the greys and browns, there are little bits of yellows and reds that begin to enliven the scenery once again before full-blown spring arrives.

Early Spring is very much a northern landscape with its steely grey sky and brown dormant foliage in the background. The streaks of white indicate retreating snow that will melt and freeze many times before it leaves. As yet the only sign of growth is the brightening grasses sticking out through the dark ice in the foreground and the distant middle ground.

Early Spring, Acrylic on canvas board, 5'x7', $25 (unframed)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Snowy Meadow in Watercolor

While I am not especially fond of snowy scenes, a reader of this blog made a special request to which I am responding in this post. Since the requester is a native of Canada with plenty of access to scenes like this, I am a bit puzzled at the request.......Anyway, here goes.

I don't often paint in watercolor so this one took some preparation and thought. The whitest streaks of snow were covered with masking fluid which was removed after the initial graded wash of pthalo and ultramarine blue. The rest was just a matter of serially laying in the trees and embellishing the foreground with some stray grasses poking through the snow. The white patches look reddish but only in the photograph -- must have been the light while I was taking the picture. In the actual painting they are a brilliant white which, mixed with the pale bluish foreground, gives the painting a "cold" look.

Snowy Meadow, Watercolor on 140lb paper, 9"x12", SOLD

Friday, January 2, 2009


contemporary hibiscus flower painting by atul pande
This piece was done as much as an exercise as it was to capture the beauty of one of my favorite flowers. Just a few minutes into the painting, I found myself vacillating between styles. Abstract or impressionist? Knife or brush? Light background to make the color pop or a dark background to make the center of interest more dramatic? Such are the choices one must make!

Going through the process of choosing made me start thinking about another piece on which I have worked for nearly 2 years. I have started and stopped, then gessoed over and started all over again three times. In painting Hibiscus, it clicked for me that perhaps the challenge with the bigger piece has just been insufficient forethought about the choices that make a painting work. Stay tuned to find out if I do better this time around.......

Happy New Year!

Hibiscus, Acrylic on canvas board, 11"x14", $50