Sunday, March 6, 2022

Sunning Alligator, Watercolor Materials, Technique and more.

 After working on underwater images over the past couple of weeks, I decided to dig further into other images from our trip, including many taken at a number of nature preserves we visited. I came across some good reference of alligators sunning at the edge of a pond in the Audubon Corkscrew Sanctuary in Naples FL. It is a unique environment with a boardwalk that spans four different ecosystems, providing an abundance of birds, plants, insects and in this case, reptiles. Due to development, areas such as this are becoming rare, so it is worth visiting and supporting if you are planning a trip to that area. 

Alligator Sunning, Watercolor, 5.5" x 8.5"

Technique and Materials

Here are the materials I've been using for all the sketches I've posted over the past couple of weeks. 

I am using a mix of Daniel Smith, Windsor Newton, Cottman, Aquarelle tube watercolors in a plastic folding palette. Colors are arranged by hue, which I've labelled in the tray but are as follows:

  • Ivory Black, White, Payne's Gray, Davey's Gray
  • Van Dyke Brown, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber
  • Yellow Ochre, Cad Orange, Cad Yellow, Cad Yellow Light, Naples Yellow
  • Windsor Violet, Rose Madder, Alizarin Crimson, Windsor Red, Scarlet Lake
  • Hookers Green Dark, Windsor Green, Sap Green, Terre Verte, Serpentine Green (in one of the mixing areas)
  • Indigo, Prussian Blue, Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine Blue
I use a number of different brushes, including Windsor Newton Kolinsky Sables (Size 1, 2 and 7), Blick Master Sables (4,6) and an Isabey No. 3 petit gris, one of my favorite brushes as it works equally well covering a lot of surface as well as details. 
The paper I used for the sketches from the past couple of weeks is a Strathmore sketchbook, with perforated pages for easy removal. Even though the paper is thin and has a tendency to bend (but not buckle!) as it is drying, I like the surface as it is easy to remove color if I paint a heavy coat of black and remove it to add color. I will often start a piece by sketching quickly with lighter tones and then applying layers of darker colors, which once dry, allow me to pull details out with a wet brush. 

If I want a higher quality paper that won't warp as it dries, I also carry a block of Arches Hot Press Watercolor paper, sized 7 x 10 to fit into a backpack along with other painting supplies. It is a great size to toss into checked luggage when traveling. 

In a future post, I'll list the photographic equipment I've been using. 

Monday, February 28, 2022

Painting Studies

Over the past week, I've been sorting through the hundreds of photos taken on our trip, selecting images and topics that I'd like to explore further. As part of that process, I've been creating small pencil thumbnails and oil sketches, to develop some of the themes prior to completing larger versions. 

Today's post includes a few of these explorations, all of which were inspired by real-life experiences. 

Master and Commander, Oil on panel, 6 x 12"

Threat from Above, Oil on panel, 6" x 12"

Smooth Trunk Fish, Oil panel, 9" x 10"

Monday, February 21, 2022

One Last Visit to the Reef and Postscript

The winds died down a bit on Friday, so we decided to jump in for a final photo session before leaving to return home the following day. The water was a balmy 81 degrees so no need for a wet suit. We took a variety of photos, to capture the feeling of the reef as well as the different types of fish we’ve come to know over the past two weeks. 

We bid a fond farewell to the beautiful waters that surround this island and will remember our experiences here always. 

Can you find the trunk fish?

Postscript: This post is being published a couple of days after returning home so I am including two experiments that were created on the iPad while on the plane, both there and back. The first was drawn from memory using images taken last fall while snorkeling in a freshwater lake and is in prep for a larger painting. The other references photos taken this past week and is still in process. It is an experiment with a different technique to build coral and reef texture, so it feels very different from the watercolor sketches. Now that I am at home, I’ll be posting additional photos as I process them on my computer. Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Wrapping Up in Grand Cayman

Yesterday, we ventured to the leeward side of the island for respite from the wind, snorkeling at Smith’s Barcadere, otherwise known by the family as Karen’s Cove. It was one of the locations we snorkeled in 2014 which served as inspiration for a number of paintings. The reef was in better shape than when we visited earlier, due I suspect to lack of tourist activity from Covid and the island not allowing cruise ships. There were some nice examples of elkhorn coral and decent sized schools of blue tangs. We also happened upon a scorpion fish, pictured below, which was a nice surprise. We also noted places where coral frags were attached in hopes of rehabbing the damaged coral heads.

Today, I got up to see the sunrise, with spectacular cloud formations as adornment as the sun broke over the horizon. Later in the morning, though the surf was rough, I snorkeled for a bit to see who was around and active. Visibility wasn’t good for photography, so I enjoyed floating with the surge of the waves, swimming between coral formations as the denizens of the reef scurried about. Knowing this was likely to be my last snorkel, I left the reef and headed towards shore and as I did so, a spotted trunk fish came by to bid me adieu. It is sad to say goodbye to the inhabitants of the reefs we’ve visited and gotten to know but look forward to our next briny adventure, destination unknown.

Surging surf, watercolor 

Sunrise, North Point beach

Clouds at sunrise, North Point beach

Moray eel, trapped in tide pool
waiting for high tide

Smith’s Barcadere, Grand Cayman

Blue tangs, Smith’s Barcadere

Scorpionfish, Smith’s Barcadere

Sargassum weed, washed ashore during a storm

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Catch of the Day

Winds kept up today, so no beach or underwater time. The break however gave us the opportunity to visit the Queen Elizabeth Botanic Park which featured an amazing garden with plants grouped by flower color per the images below. The day out of the sun also provided an opportunity to review photos and create studies for potential future paintings. 

Reef Study-watercolor

Monday, February 14, 2022

Valentine’s Day in the Cayman Islands

We awoke this morning to 25 mph winds directly onto the beach. Seven to eight foot waves were breaking on the far reef, with smaller waves cresting the beach. These conditions are expected to persist for the next day or so, with bigger waves expected tomorrow. I can’t imagine being here during a tropical storm or hurricane. It makes you appreciate the power of nature.

Below is a quick watercolor sketch to capture the color of the waves, water and sky.

The following photos were taken the previous two days during very calm weather, on the reef just off the beach.