How to Make A Plein Air Travel Watercolor Painting Kit

I love living in the country. Last night my daughters got out of bed to tell us to check out the northern lights (so I guess when they should be sleeping they are trying to escape out the window?). As soon as my foot hit the front porch the coyotes started howling less than a hundred yards away. We watched the dancing glow of aurora borealis and marveled. Even though we see the northern lights several times a year (and this winter has been especially vibrant), every time it’s a new show and always beautiful and mysterious.

Maybe I won’t be moving to any of the places we visited on our trip after all.

While I am still trying to get my bearings after getting home (so much to DO!), I was able to wrap up and post a new video to Youtube. This one shares how I put together a watercolor travel kit that fit in my suitcase for our vacation. While I never did try painting in the car, I was able to enjoy a couple of plein air painting sessions and lots of poolside painting after a day of sightseeing. Enjoy!

 

Painting On Vacation

I really enjoyed every opportunity I had to paint while on vacation. Most of the time, this took place beside a hotel pool after a day of sightseeing and activities, but I was able to paint on location in San Simeon, California, and at Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Today I thought I’d share a few of the sketches and paintings I completed while travelling.

oleander | Angela Fehr watercolours

First up is this 5″ x 7″ watercolour of the pretty flowers beside our favourite pool in Lake Havasu City. I didn’t know what kind of flowers they were until one of my watercolour students saw the painting on my Facebook page and said they looked like oleanders. I googled it, and they are. They sure don’t grow here in northern British Columbia! “Pink Oleander” is available for sale in my etsy shop.

palms | Angela Fehr watercolours

Same pool, different viewpoint. We lived near coconut palms in Papua New Guinea when I was growing up, and were well trained to never sit under a coconut tree for fear of getting hit by a falling coconut. I didn’t see any coconut palms on this trip, just these more decorative varieties.

san simeon sketch 5x7 | Angela Fehr watercolours

I had forgotten until my husband pointed it out that we had staying in San Simeon, California, before. We drove through California when we were first married, I think in 2001. It’s such a quiet little village and the beach is peaceful. I even surprised a little seal on my morning walk along the beach.

san simeon sketch large | Angela Fehr watercolours

We came back and walked along the beach at sunset, which inspired this painting. This is my favourite painting from the trip, even with that little drip along the edge, an artistic touch courtesy of the California wind.

san simeon sunset | Angela Fehr watercolours

Earlier in our trip (I’m not exactly sharing these in order), we drove through Sedona, Arizona. A sick child and tight schedule meant we didn’t have time to explore off the highway, but we stopped a couple of times so I could snap photos of what is arguably the most beautiful place in Arizona.

sedona cliffside | Angela Fehr watercolours

Even though these studies are flawed and awkward, they will help me interpret my reference photos when I am working in the studio and trying to remember the feeling and realities of visiting these beautiful places in the United States.

sedona viewpoint | Angela Fehr watercolours

Landscapes by my Online Watercolor Workshop Students

It’s been a while since I shared any student work on this page. I now have six online watercolor courses available and with every painting posted in the student gallery the information available in each course increases as my students and I discuss how to make our paintings stronger. 90% of painting is problem solving; figuring out how to translate what we see onto paper, and then how to correct when we make mistakes. I can promise you, not one of my paintings is completely free of error, and I’ve learned to see that problem solving as enjoyable, not fearful.

My landscape course launched in January, and it’s my best course to date. So much information on a huge topic. In the course I demonstrate a number of different types of scenes in watercolor, including this simple meadow landscape (which is also the view from the end of my driveway). Here’s a version painted by Joyce, who is a great student because she is willing to paint the same scene over and over again. Such a great way to learn as every time we paint a subject we gain confidence and learn to “see” it better.

Student Watercolor work | Angela Fehr watercolours

Kelly shared two versions of a coastal landscape. I live in a landlocked region of Canada, so painting the ocean was a bit of a stretch for me, but really every scene is a matter of learning to see value and as you can see by Kelly’s paintings, the more contrast we have in our paintings, the more impact our paintings will have, as in her painting on the right.

kelly

My students come from all over the world, and this is reflected in their choice of scenery. Birgitte is from Denmark, and I love being able to “travel” every time I see her paintings.

birgitte

Penny painted this reservoir in Wyoming and the red rocks remind me of my recent vacation in the southwest. I love the reflections in the water. My favourite part of watercolor is the blending of fluid colour, so I love seeing my students let color do its thing in their paintings, rather than trying to control it too much.

penny landscape

Viviane has a similar soft effect in her misty lake scene. Doesn’t it make you feel relaxed?

vivianne

Julianne shared this meadow painting that’s both peaceful and colorful. Her dark values make the lighter colors pop.

julieanna

My original painting course on Skillshare is at 1900 students. When I launched that class in 2013, I had no idea that I was moving into a new phase of my art business and that teaching online would become a big part of what I do. While I am now teaching in my own online school, the Skillshare course does continue, though it seems that the students in my other courses are more engaged in sharing their work and completing the courses. If you’re a member my Skillshare course I encourage you to check out my new school at http://learn.angelafehr.com and start by enrolling in my free course “The Joy of Watercolor”. I also have a Facebook group created just for my watercolour students to talk watercolor, called Angela Fehr Watercolor Workshop and you are welcome to join!

Waterton Viewpoints & a Fundraiser Update

There’s a fresh smell in the air, and a lightness in my step. Spring has a way of lifting the burden of winter that you didn’t even realize was there. It’s like a skiff of new snow, beautiful and crystal-shimmered, successive snows thickening the drifts until the land groans under the weight. On Friday night we attended Stuart McLean’s “Vinyl Cafe” performance (he’s a Canadian storyteller and a family favourite) and he commented, “It must be beautiful here in Dawson Creek at Christmas.” The entire auditorium burst out laughing. We are so accustomed to people shuddering at the length of our winters, the deep cold and dreariness of dark winter days that the beauty of our winters is not something we expect people to equate with the north. I mean, it is beautiful; we just like to keep that part a secret!

We’re so close to spring, we can smell it, and I’m recalling last spring’s trip to Waterton National Park. What a stunning park, and so peaceful! We were there in mid May and the snow was almost completely gone and hints of green just starting to appear. I’ve been enjoying painting it in miniature, 5 x 7 inch landscapes that will be sent to my charity fundraiser donors. Can I just thank you all for giving?Together we raised $1,410 for Gospel for Asia and suffering women in Asia. Thank you!

"Red Rock Pathway" watercolor by Angela Fehr

“Along the Red Rock” watercolor on paper 5″ x 7″ 

These little 5″ x 7″ paintings are so fun to paint. I can make one in an hour, if you don’t count the drying time between the different elements. There is little risk in painting such a small painting and maybe that’s why they almost always turn out. Fresh & fun.

 "Waterton's Wake" watercolor on paper 5x7 inches by Angela Fehr

“Waterton’s Wake” watercolor on paper 5″ x 7″

Rockface at Waterton watercolor by Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

“Rockface at Waterton” watercolor on paper 5″ x 7″

"Waterton Viewpoint" watercolor by Angela Fehr

“Waterton Overlook” watercolor on paper 5″ x 7″

Red Hot Colour: Playing with Fluid Watercolor

I have been having so much fun playing with colour lately. With a small painting (this one is 5″ x 7″), I can be adventurous with color and let daring combinations happen, like red & turquoise and a new fun colour in my palette, Phthalo Yellow Green from Daniel Smith.

Carnivale, original watercolor painting by Angela Fehr

Painting from my imagination is so liberating. It almost feels like cheating to just drop in colours that please me, play with shapes and lines and dots. This 5″ x 7″ is available on my new “Watercolour Sketchbook” etsy shop. The Etsy shop will be where I list studies, sketches or colour exercises that are smaller or more affordably priced than the larger pieces on my gallery page. I’m happy to be able to present options for art collectors of all budgets. (Note: I will be closing the Etsy shop while we are on vacation for three weeks this month, so if you wish to make a purchase, please do so by March 9th).

Fun, Fresh Florals in Watercolour: A Few Sketches

  "Lilac Sisters" 5x7 watercolor by Angela Fehr

I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying painting these little 5″ x 7″ watercolor paintings for my charity fundraiser. As you may remember, every $50 donor gets a thank you painting, and I ask them to specify floral or landscape. So far, florals have the lead!

freesia sketch 5x7 watercolor by Angela Fehr

It does take time, even to create a small painting, and I might well be painting into May as the donations continue to trickle in (campaign ends March 8, 2015), but it’s worth it to know that we are making a difference in the world. Also, these small paintings are a great way to explore and experiment and the subjects might well turn up in larger paintings that I can use in gallery shows later this year.

daisies 5x7 watercolor by Angela Fehr

If you’ve donated to my “Hope for Women” fundraiser, you might well see one of these paintings in your mailbox in a few weeks’ time! And even if you can’t donate, you can still enter to win by visiting this post and filling out the rafflecopter entry form at the bottom of the page.

Trees in Watercolor: “Birch Portrait”

One of my favourite local trees would have to be the birch. Our acreage in northern British Columbia is home to many birches, though they don’t all survive to adulthood as woodpeckers tend to drill them full of holes after they reach a certain age. I love the young birches for their coppery bark and the mature trees for the curls of bark peeling from the trunk and their feathery branches.

This winter I couldn’t get past the beauty of the sunset reflected on tree trunks and this painting was the result:

"Birch Portrait" watercolour by Angela Fehr | http://angelafehr.com

“Birch Portrait”
11.5″ x 11.5″ (29 x 29cm)
available for purchase

I only wish my camera did the colours in this painting justice. The subtleties of watercolor are lost in photos. As with most of my paintings, it takes a little time before I know for sure a painting is “done”; a fellow watercolorist tells me he has been known to unframe paintings that are years-old to make changes and corrections, but I haven’t had that happen…yet. I think every painting deserves closure at some point!

A Poem as Lovely as a Tree

I’m starting to add paintings to my 2015 folder and it’s fun to see the direction I’m taking in my work. I was looking through my paintings from 2014 and was inspired by the trees I painted over the year. I have a little crush on birch trees, especially the young birches with their coppery bark slashed with black, dark branches tracing spiderwebs in the sky. So while I’m not excluding any subject matter that inspires me, I am thinking that trees are going to be my focus this year. I don’t think it will be boring!

Here are a few of my favourite tree paintings & sketches from 2014:

"Golden Afternoon" watercolour painting by Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com "Slope in Shadow" watercolour on paper Overlooking Waterton Lake 600w Dunvegan Patriarch 600w  huckleberry hill large 600w Sun Shadows - watercolor painting in progress by Angela Fehr

And here are two studies from 2015. The first is the reason I love cross country skiing; every Saturday in winter we are on the trails and they are so beautiful!

 On the Trail watercolour study | Angela Fehr

And this is a view from the end of our driveway, looking west toward town.

"Looking West" landscape sketch | Angela Fehr watercolours

Here’s to trees in 2015!

Dainties: All the Best Aspects of Watercolour in One!

I’ve started teaching a series of watercolour classes in my home studio. I look forward to every class as it is so energizing to share watercolour with other lovers of the medium. This class is a departure for me; previous classes were centred on learning technique by creating paintings step by step together, which was great for a realistic style. However, I don’t paint with the goal of realism anymore, so why would I teach that way? We’ve been working instead on learning watercolour by painting loosely, and it’s been great fun.

Last week we started a landscape painting and then spent the rest of class working on a floral. When I’m demonstrating to a class, I find the best way to show them my work as it happens is to hold the painting board propped against the table, and paint from behind – essentially painting upside down. Because I do a lot of talking and explaining the process, I find that most of the time, these paintings don’t turn out to be anything but good examples for demonstration. But every now and then, one of them turns out to be something I love and believe to be worthy of framing.

"Dainties" watercolour painting by Angela Fehr | http://angelafehr.com

“Dainties” is a delight. I love the freshness of the colour and the brushmarks. It’s a tribute to the power of suggestion in painting – that objects don’t need to have every detail defined to be beautiful and make evident what they are. And I always believe that loose paintings like this reveal the beauty of watercolour – the fluidity, transparency and movement that can only be found in watercolour and that I love so much.

“Dainties” measures 8 1/2″ x 11 1/2″ and is available for purchase.

You can take my online class on painting florals loosely here.