Stuff I’ve been doing lately…inky wash landscapes and other stuff

Hey Friends,

Normally I post information about stuff Corel Painter or Wacom Tablet related, as well as tutorials on how to do stuff.  Well, today, I thought you might be interested in seeing what leads up to a post about how to do stuff.  Confused?  Me too.

I am saying that before a post, I have to do a lot of paintings.  Some are successful and others not so successful; it is all part of the process.  During this preliminary painting, I am making brushes and tweaking the process.  If you have followed the blog, then you know I love Asian style paintings, especially Chinese brush work and Japanese Sumi-e.  I’ve never been trained in either, just read a few books, watched a lot of You Tube tutorials, and practiced myself.

I have to admit that I love the practice.  I find it relaxing.  But, I’m sure working digitally is vastly different in feeling from working traditionally.  And please, I don’t want to get into a discussion on the pros and cons of working traditionally versus digitally.  For me, they are two different media and really are not comparable.  Both are equally valid and creative.  I do find it interesting that I cannot find folks working in this style digitally.

Recently I discovered the work of Gao Xingjian, who according to Wikipedia “is a Chinese émigré novelist, playwright, and critic who in 2000 was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature “for an oeuvre of universal validity, bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity.”  I do not know anything about his writing; I discovered his traditional visual art.  Do take a look at Gao Xingjian on Artnet or google the images of Gao Xingjian.

I cannot describe his work, or at least, I cannot describe his work in a way that does it justice.  It is contemplative, and that is what I do when looking at his work.  I sit quietly with my thoughts and enjoy.

With the work of Gao Xingjian as my inspiration, I tried my hand at digital ink or watercolor washes.  The first image isn’t like his work at all; I was just trying out a few brushes and looking at the way the media flowed.  I was using some of my custom brushes.  I already knew how they behave when working in my normal manner, but now I am looking for a different look and feel from the same brushes.  I am not sure that makes sense.  In one case, I am looking at how the paint flows and blends together smoothly, but in another painting I am looking for the flow to crash into paint already applied and disrupt it, not blend with it.  The action is at first accidental, but with practice is controllable.

The first image isn’t complete…it is a simple sketch that was never meant to be seen, but I am going to show it.  I may regret this, but here goes.

Quick sketch testing brushes in Corel Painter 2015.  I called it the Stalk.

Quick sketch testing brushes in Corel Painter 2015. I called it the Stalk.

I liked the grainy quality of the variant and the way the paper affects its flow.  Stylistically, I was not showing much influence by Gao Xingjian.  I tried again, but I turned my paper horizontally.  I went wild.  I tried multiple brushes, I splashed, I scratched, I played, and I got this.

Abstract Horizontal Landscape, Corel Painter 2015

Abstract Horizontal Landscape, Corel Painter 2015

I loved areas of the image, but it disappointed overall.  It seemed scattered and too busy.  My next attempt was very different.  I changed my paper to one of my suminagashi papers that I used in the post Corel Painter X3 SP1, New Flower Brushes…Loads of Fun.  The landscape that unfolded surprised me, and I wish I had left it alone, but I didn’t.  I decided to add a tree and a bit of grass, which I do not think works.

Horizontal Landscape 2, Corel Painter 2015

Horizontal Landscape 2, Corel Painter 2015

Horizontal Landscape 3 started out nicely.  I liked the mountain landscape, which I made with 2 strokes, but alas…it seemed too simple and I had to add the bamboo, which did not help.  I added a signature chop and supposedly my name.  The chop I designed and for my name, I found a web site that would create the calligraphy.  At this point, I must tell you, that these paintings represent the paintings that I saved, there were many more deleted attempts.

Horizontal Landscape 3, Corel Painter 2015

Horizontal Landscape 3, Corel Painter 2015

In the next attempt, I did not add anything and left the first wash alone.  I allowed the paint to flow into different paper textures and I used wetter brushes to disrupt areas.  I thought Hanging Landscape represented my first success.

Hanging Landscape, Corel Painter 2015

Hanging Landscape, Corel Painter 2015

I took another look at Gao Xingjian’s work and compared it to mine.  That was a laugh.  I had none of the power, emotions, or strength showing in his work.  But, I had to let that go.  I just needed to plug along…after all, his work was my inspiration, I wasn’t trying to copy him.  I hoped I would develop something of my own from this exercise.  I decided to go back to the vertical format and work with the concept of a tree from the beginning.  I had added trees as an after thought instead of making them part of the original idea of the painting.  I did two quick attempts with trees as the original idea.

Tall Dark Tree, Corel Painter 2015

Tall Dark Tree, Corel Painter 2015

I liked the background of Tall Dark Tree, but the tree, itself, seemed too much.  I tried again, but I kept the tree small.

Tall Pine with Mountain Hint, Corel Painter 2015

Tall Pine with Mountain Hint, Corel Painter 2015

I wasn’t pleased with the overall composition of Tall Pine with Mountain Hint, but I was getting stoked by the watercolor effects.  I especially liked the area at the base of the trees that is running.  That is pretty cool and an amazing testament of the power of Painter’s watercolor.  I also loved the distant mountains.  I decided to go back to a horizontal format and play a bit with the watercolor functions and a cityscape emerged.

The City, Corel Painter 2015

The City, Corel Painter 2015

I do like the watercolor effects, but overall I thought this painting was a step backward.  Going backward isn’t always a bad thing.  I’m not sure what I was thinking, if anything, when I did the next piece, Landscape House. I wasn’t thinking about a house.  I liked the landscape, but the few lines indicating a house or structure were an afterthought.  I don’t know, but the afterthought seemed to work better this time.  Karen Bonaker had sent me some paper textures, and I place one on Landscape House.  I do like the way the paper looks.

Landscape House, Corel Painter 2015

Landscape House, Corel Painter 2015

For me, something seemed to click with this Landscape House.  But…then I had another step backward.  In the next image, I tried to repeat some of the bold brush work, but again, I added a lonely tree and bush, which didn’t work.  Will I ever learn?

Horizontal Landscape 4, Corel Painter 2015

Horizontal Landscape 4, Corel Painter 2015

OK…so I am thinking I need  simple, bold brush work and very little added details.  I actually liked the next attempt.

Mountain Trees, Corel Painter 2015

Mountain Trees, Corel Painter 2015

I am beginning to think I am heading in the right direction.  I had a lot of help getting there.  I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that I am taking Tim Shelbourne’s Winter School, which is fabulous BTW.  Anyway, I decided to post some of this work at the school, which was very hard for me to do.  I am always nervous to post…even here on my blog.  But, the students at the school were so encouraging and helpful.  They told me what they saw in the work and pushed me forward.  I started feeling more confident, which is always a plus.   Unfortunately, the next image seemed a little forced to me…not very spontaneous.

Mountain Trees 2, Corel Painter 2015

Mountain Trees 2, Corel Painter 2015

Mountain Trees 2 has some nice parts, but I think I was trying to hard with the main trees.  So next, I just splashed paint and didn’t try to make a landscape at all.  For fun, I threw in a splash of color.  I do not know why I like this image, but I do.  I intended to do more with it…but for some reason I just stopped…probably because I didn’t know what else to do with the image, which is always a good indicator that it is time to stop.

Abstract Landscape, Corel Painter 2015

Abstract Landscape, Corel Painter 2015

When I introduced color to Abstract Landscape, it was like a breath of fresh air.  I decided I needed a color break…and did a digital wet watercolor I call The Wet Arrangement.

The Wet Arrangement, Corel Painter 2015

The Wet Arrangement, Corel Painter 2015

It is definitely a riot of color and I do like the painting very much.  It is funny, but my favorite parts are the three places where the image leaves the picture frame.  The two flowers and leaf were fairly representational, but I thought they needed to be less so.  Using a very wet brush, just like adding water to a traditional watercolor painting, I brushed the flowers and leaf causing them to disperse.  I love watching that happen in Corel Painter 2015.

I think I needed the color break because the next two landscapes pleased me.  I saw a direction; I saw me influenced by Gao Xingjian, but remaining me.

The Lonely Hill, Corel Painter 2015

The Lonely Hill, Corel Painter 2015

The color break brought the touch of a warm color to The Lonely Hill.  I liked that very much.  I continued with the same concept in the next vertical piece.

Forest Peaks, Corel Painter 2015

Forest Peaks, Corel Painter 2015

The green might be a little much especially in the signature.  I still like this piece very much.  Yesterday, I went back to a more traditional style.  I do love working with quick brush strokes creating objects.

Tulips Maybe?, Corel Painter 2015

Tulips Maybe?, Corel Painter 2015

There you have it, dear Reader.  You know what I am doing.  I will continue working this way for a little while longer, and then I will produce some “how to” videos and provide some brushes, too.  I may even have a paper or two to share.

I hope you enjoyed the show,








Eastern Water Brushes; What’s the Big Deal

I love watching You Tube videos of sumi-e paintings.  There is something intriguing about the process.  When I found out that Open Studio at Digital Art Academy was going to focus on sumi-e, I was delighted.  I began to practice.

No matter how hard I practiced, the process felt muddled.  Did I just need more practice? Of course, but who has time for practice.  Good brush painters hone their skills for decades; I had a matter of weeks.  Surely (tongue in cheek) with the right brush I could be a Master in less than a few days.  I knew it was impossible, but what else is a hardhead good for, if not for banging it against an impossible goal.

Bang one.  What is necessary for a good sumi-e brush? “Kevin?” (Dear reader, I know you do not know Kevin, but if you will bear with me, I’ll make a page explaining all about my computer Kevin, but right now, let’s just chat about the brushes.)

“Many things,” he replied rather too simply.

“Well, duh.  You champion the obvious.  I’m asking for one essential behavior.” Sometimes Kevin can be so obtuse.

“The ability to load the brush tip with one value of a color and the base with a lighter or darker value. But you will never remedy that conundrum.”

“Exactly, a perfect function of the brush.  What? Never remedy? Don’t be rude or I’ll run the CCleaner you hate?

“What we need is the ability to sample multiple colors with one brush, and Painter has that exact function.  It is located in the Mixer Pad.

Sample Multiple=

  1. This is the dropper tool, which will sample a single pixel of color
  2. This is the sample multiple colors dropper.  It will sample a range of colors from a single pixel to 50 pixels.
  3. The slider determines the range of colors.  Currently it is set to sample 24 pixels; slide it all the way to the right and it will sample 50 pixels.”

“Aha…you jest.  Are you telling me that you can eyeball 50 pixels on the screen?  I think not,” he chuckled; well it was more like a giggle.

“No, of course not.  I do a little trial and error to get the right range, but most of the time, I leave it at 50 pixels and change when needed.  Check this out.

Sample Strokes

Sample Brushstrokes with 50 Pixel Range

“The slider is set for 50 pixels and I sampled color from just beyond the tips of each arrow.  You can see the resulting strokes.  Obviously, 50 pixels is not very big; plus, there is a bigger problem.  Not all brushes can use the sample multiple function.

“Artist’s Oils Category variants can use the function, but many, for example, in the Acrylic Category cannot.  The determining factor is the Brush Dab Type, which can be found in the General Palette.”

Kevin coughed, hacked, cleared his throat; he made a noise, “Sputter. Is this the first time you have mentioned this palette?  Will the readers understand what it is?”

“Some, yes; others, no.  But I get your point.  Explain the General Palette.

“Under Window > Brush Control you will find a palette group consisting of a number of palettes relating to brush controls.  The General Palette is first in the list.

Brush controls Group Palette

Brush Controls Group Palette with Emphasis on General Palette

“If one of the following four words is listed in the first drop down menu, then the brush can sample multiple colors from the Mixer Pad: camel, flat, and bristle spray.  The illustration identifies all dab types that can use this function.

“Bang one resolved.  And you said it couldn’t be done.  All I have to do is use Camel, Flat, and Bristle Spray Brush Dab Types.”

“You got lucky.  There are many more obstacles ahead,” he said with a certain amount of glee.  He delights in my struggles.  I wonder if all computers are like that, or if I got the only one.

I promised to give you the Eastern Brushes.  Download them here.

The Eastern Brushes conversation will continue.  In the meantime, you may want to download a free webinar that Karen Bonaker and I did about how to use the Eastern Brushes.  The webinar lasted for an hour and 20 minutes, so the zipped file is around 170 MB.  You can download it at Painter Talk, but you will need to register.  It is a free forum; lots of Painter enthusiasts are members.

April edition of Digital Paint Magazine is available. It is a free subscription.

A few paintings I did in the first week of Open Studio:

Dragon Fly

Dragon Fly and Japanese Magnolia

Orchid in a Tree

Orchid in a Tree

The next image is referred to as a Haiga, a combination of Haiku and ga.

My Haiku:

Parrot tulips bright

Bring spring inside the dwelling

Winter returns grey

A Haiga...Parrot Tulip

Enjoy and see you next post,


Open Studio Assignment, Cherry Blossoms

Today was the first day of Open Studio at the Digital Art Academy.  Time to give my shiny new brushes a try.  I dubbed them Eastern Water in deference to sumi-e style paintings.  I wish I could tell you that I successfully culled them, but strangely the numbers increased to a colossal number, 42, which has cult status and is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.

Armed with the answer to everything, I began to paint the assignment, cherry blossoms.  My first attempt was rather stiff, as was my second, third, fourth and fifth.  Then I had an “aha” moment.  I noticed the weeping cherry in full bloom outside my window.  Duh, it is much easier to paint when you have the real thing as your reference.  I cut a branch and brought it inside.

Have you ever tried to put weeping cherry in a vase.  I’m sure florist know how to do it, but my little weepy branch kept falling out.  I finally propped it and vase in a vertical position, which meant the flowers were upside down.  I found a workaround.  I painted a little; extracted the branch from the vase and observed the flowers in their normal position, and then returned them to the vertical.  Hey, the answer to everything is pretty handy. 

Alpha channels are pretty handy in Painter, too.  Alpha channels are defined as a storage device for selections, but I think of them as super selectors.  To start this painting, I first created an alpha channel.  My intent is not to make a tutorial about this painting, but simply show the workflow through a series of screen shots.  This is the alpha channel after painting it with short vertical strokes.  When a selection is created the black areas will be protected and the lighter areas are available for paint, which is just the opposite of a layer mask.

Texture applied to alpha channel

Alpha channel prepared with texture

I added a watercolor layer.  Using my Textured Fill Wet variant I lightly and softly identified the areas where the blossoms would be.

Placement of flowers

Determining the placement of the flowers

Added an additional watercolor layer; I work with a lot of layers.  I used my Chrysanthemum Sharp variant to give some form to the flowers.  I inadvertently continued painting on this layer with Iris Blade, but I wanted to be on another layer.  I deleted what I could.

Giving form to the flowers

Giving some form to the flowers.

On the third watercolor layer I used Iris Blade to give a soft overlay that looks like a petal.

Adding soft petals

Adding soft petals

The center of the flowers and the branch was painted on layers 4, 5, and 6.  I used several brushes, Chrysanthemum Sharp, Bamboo Texture Sharp, Thistle, and Plum Anther.

Flower details and the branch

Added flower details and the branch in the next three layers.

Layers 7 to 10 finished the details of the painting, buds and the first early leaves just barely showing.  At this point I did an Iterative Save and then dropped all layers.

Added buds and the beginning of leaves opening.

Added green buds and leaves just beginning to open.

I didn’t like the composition and added some canvas to the left and bottom of the image.  Also added my name in Chinese characters, at least I think that is what it is.  I got it from one of those sites that claims to write your name in Chinese; it could be profanity for all I know.

Improved composition

Improved composition by adding area to the left and bottom of the canvas, and added my signature in Chinese characters.

When I increased the size of the canvas, the alpha channel did not have any texture in the extra area.  I created a new alpha channel that was the correct size and with the same style texture.  I loaded the selection from this channel and in two layers painted the background.  I reduced the opacity of the layers for the finished piece, but in this screen shot I left the background at 100% opacity so you can see the texture.

Texture layer

Added texture from alpha channel selection. In the final piece, the texture will be reduced in opacity greatly.

I added a frame to finish the work.  I hope you enjoyed this quick look at the workflow of this painting.

Finished with frame

Added a frame for the final image

Here is the zip file of the Eastern Water Brushes.  They are compatible with Painter IX, X, and 11, thanks to Brush Master David Gell, who has created a script to automatically adjust the brushes for backward compatibility.  The brushes can be installed using the Studio Chris Brush Manager.

Zip file will be added later; I can’t figure out how to add it now.