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This reference photo was taken a year ago when I was in Santa Fe.  Driving and with little time, I pulled over and quickly took this photo with my phone. During the past year, I would come across the photo and contemplate how it could be turned into a painting. It is a simple scene, very understated. Definitely not an impressive towering cathedral. But, still I was drawn to it. Loved the shape and complementary colors of the building. Loved the trees behind and to the side.  Not wild about the wall, the street, both in front and to the left of the building, nor the big pole in front to the right, but it was an urban scene.  That's what you get.

 

Since I like painting street scenes, I kept thinking the painting needed to include much of the street but what appealed to me most were the buildings.  So in Photoshop I cropped and reshaped the scene, creating a variety of vertical, horizontal and even square formats.

 

It got down to just needing to zoom in, leaving most of the street behind and concentrating on the buildings.  I kept some of the street and the sidewalk to add directional lines and turned the buildings slightly to create a better composition, then simplified the scene overall. It had much more impact that way, creating stronger and larger areas of light and focusing more on the complementary colors of orange and blue.  

 

The color study is very small (5x7").  I feel it works because of the simplicity of the scene and the use of strong light and shadows.  It also feels intimate, like being there, looking at the building and deciding whether to go in.  This was assisted by adding figures to the scene.  I may try this as a larger painting and see how it goes.  Possibly even go back and reshape it again and include more of the street to satisfy my desire for street scenes and see how that works in a color study.

 

When you have a subject that intrigues you but stumps you on how to begin, try zooming into the area that appeals to you most, then pull back, bit by bit, until you find a sweet spot that could work as a painting.  Also look at it not just as it is, but how it could be. If I were back at that location, and could photograph it again, I would take photos from many directions, zoom in, zoom out, to explore various compositions.  So, why not try that virtually in your drawing.  Tweak it a bit, turning it and zooming in to capture a better view of the subject.  That might be just the thing you need for your painting. 


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My next Saturday afternoon workshop is on July 13th at Preston Arts Center here in Louisville, KY.  We will be painting a variety of skies, as shown in the photo -smooth color sky washes, fluffy white clouds, moody stormy skies, and glorious sunsets.  Step-by-step, we will tackle these one at a time, learning techniques and brushwork along the way.  Then, students will choose one to create a final landscape painting.  It's going to be fun!  Contact Preston Arts Center to register and hold your spot at (502) 454-9954.  See more details on my workshop page.


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Just getting started, this is a color study, a possible subject for my next Saturday workshop in June.  I want the scene to be simple but have strong, dramatic light.  This view is actually a back alleyway.  Not a typical subject, but with the right lighting, a limited color palette, removal of some elements (trash cans, recycle bins, a green dumpster, a few poles), simplifying some areas while detailing others (center focal area) and adding a figure, you can actually have a pleasing scene that appeals in many ways.

 

One reason I love watercolor over other mediums is that watercolor, in and of itself, is beautiful.  It doesn't take much to create a lovely painting.  I sketched this study and had it painted in a couple of hours, including a few breaks in between sketching, under-glazing and finishing touches.  You can tell right away if a subject has possibilities for a larger painting.  This is about 6x9 inches, slightly larger and more finished than many of my color studies.  I'll have to see how it translates into a larger painting, but it looks like it could be one possibility for the June workshop. 

 

For July 22-25th, my 4-day workshop in Berea, KY, we will be going over how to create value and color studies prior to starting larger, more finished works.  We will be exploring a variety of atmospheres and applying them to various land and marine subjects, using these studies.  I know I still have openings for that workshop so I hope some of you sign up. It should be a lot of fun!


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Harrods Creek is a tributary off the Ohio River.  It is a popular area for locals and tourists in Louisville, KY and there are several restaurants and taverns along the creek.  Many restaurants have docks for boaters stopping to eat.  It is also a great location for plein air painters. Depending upon the time of year and time of day, the activity level can range from spirited partying to quiet serenity.  This scene is behind one of those restaurants one quiet early morning.


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You know an email is going to be good when the subject line is "Congratulations from Splash 21!"  So happy that my painting, Fog Advisory, has been selected for publication in the book, Splash 21: Capturing Mood.  As I have studied watercolor through the years, the Splash series of books have been a go-to reference source for the latest on who, what and how people are using water media.  The books are an enjoyable read for art enthusiasts and collectors.  Now I can proudly say a painting of mine will be included.  Congratulations to fellow winners and I look forward to seeing your beautiful paintings in the publication.  The book release date is not until Aug. 2020 so we will have to be patient!

 


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As I said in the previous post, I so enjoy receiving notes from happy students and collectors.  It makes my day to learn just how much my workshops mean to students.  I've had the pleasure of having Robin Edmundson in several.   She has written a blog post on her painting experience during my recent workshop in Bloomington, IN.  You can read that here on her website, Rurification.  While you are there, take a look around.  Not only is Robin talented in watercolor but she is also a whiz at hand-dyed yarn.  There is a color chart with an array of amazing colored yarns.  I especially love her "Standard Colorways" selection.  One is shown here:

 

 

They inspire me to pull out some of those colors in watercolor and start a painting!  For those of you that knit or crochet, Robin has an Etsy store where you can purchase the beautifully dyed yarns.  So a big thank you to Robin for her review of my workshop.  Hope we cross paths again!


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I love receiving notes and thank you cards from workshop students and collectors of my work.  In case you were wondering if they make an impact, they do!  I keep them to inspire me to forge ahead with new works and new workshops.  So, thank you!  Your thoughtful words are greatly appreciated.  You all are the best!


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Couldn't resist posting this photo of me and the @bloomingtonwatercolorsociety gang.  Andrew Preston (Preston Arts Center, Louisville, KY) took the photo.  He was nice enough to bring art supplies to the workshop.  Nothing like having the store come to you!  We had a great time painting!  Thanks for the invite to teach.  Would love to do it again any time!


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Such a great group this weekend at the Bloomington Watercolor Society workshop! I love teaching, especially when you have such enthusiastic people. This is the demo I painted. I chose the scene particularly because of its simplicity. NOT that this group is incapable of tackling something more difficult but because I wanted to show that you don’t have to go to Italy or some other exotic place to find subjects to make beautiful paintings in watercolor. Watercolor can be lovely in and of itself.
A typical urban scene, this can be found on many street corners in most small towns and cities. The reference photo had an overcast sky at about midday. With very little strong light or direction, it looked a bit flat. We worked on value studies, pushing and moving the light to create more drama on the street with shadows. With a plan in place, we were ready to begin our paintings.
The demo began with a wash of the lightest colors starting with the sky and working down and all around the painting, leaving bits of white, especially in the middle-ground area where the focus would be placed. The colors used in the sky were neutral tint, cerulean and raw sienna. Moving quickly into the building, I used raw sienna and burnt sienna, then quickly switched to quinacridone gold and ultramarine blue when starting into the trees. When I mix my colors, I often use what I have left on my palette and add the new colors to it. This gives an overall cohesiveness to the painting.
The tree wash was much thicker and darker, knowing it would lighten and I would need to go even darker with the next layer for the trees to get the dark value needed to create the "light." Adding a very light, warm-gray wash over the street, I moved quickly over to the other side of the street, laying in the many homes in one shadow color, adding bits of color into the shadow color while it was still wet. Once I was satisfied with the first wash, I laid the painting flat to let it dry.
The second layer of paint was to intensify the values. A darker wash was placed on the building, not covering everything, but leaving some bits to show through from the first wash. There are only 2 or 3 layers of paint on the entire painting, however, each layer is painted “less” leaving under layers to show through. Once the layers dried, before I could add the final darkest darks (poles, lights, wires and bits in windows), I used a soft brush to glaze the shadow shapes, making sure to use a light and quick touch to not disturb the under layers. The final dark bits were added and I called it finished. Signed my name, front and back, and done.
I certainly enjoyed myself in Bloomington with their very active watercolor society. It is so rewarding to be with fellow enthusiatic artists!  We could have easily used another day or two just to paint together.  Bloomington and the surrounding area is lovely, even with a rain shower or two.  They have everything you could want as an artist.   Numerous buildings and street scenes that would make great urban paintings, farmland, an arts community (Nashville, IN) and Brown County State Park--all minutes from downtown Bloomington.  I will definitely be painting some scenes I captured while there and hope to see some from the BWS members, too!  Thanks everyone!


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Hey, I'm heading back to Berea this year!  I'm looking forward to being back in the area.  Art and craft shops, beautiful foothills, historic arts town--what could be better!  I'll be teaching a 4-day Atmospheric Landscapes watercolor workshop this year.  We will cover everything from cityscapes, landscapes and even marine paintings in this workshop.  We will work on watercolor techniques to create atmoshere but also discuss artistic vision, expressive brush work, and more.  Should be a whole lot of fun!

 

Registration is open now.  You can head directly to the Berea site and register online here.

 

Looking forward to a great workshop! 


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