Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A small turkey painting of mine sold at the Fredericksburg Art Guild. 
I'm thrilled as always, but now I have to frame something to take its place. 
That is the one hard thing about a gallery, they want everything framed, and nicely framed at that!  Someday I will start a gallery that is lined with bulletin boards and we just pin up our new art as fast as we finish it, or maybe duct tape it directly to the walls!
Nan Henke
Texas Hill Country Art

Friday, October 26, 2012

Abstract #2 reminded me of the hecticness, yet strange beauty of my schedule, so that is its title: My Schedule. Acrylic on canvas 12x12x.75 inches. It goes up in the Fredericksburg Art Guild next week.
Nan Henke
Texas Hill Country Art

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Abstract is not my native painting language.... but I need to send one or more abstract paintings to the Fredericksburg Art Guild for their Nov/Dec show. Here is one attempt, called Mind Map of the Artist's Brain While Painting Wildflowers. Or should I shorten the title to Islands?
Nan Henke
Texas Hill Country Art

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Survey results: work on small pieces and show things that parents and kids could do at home.  Doing the demo at the Fredericksburg Art Guild last weekend turned out to be a lot of fun. No sales, unfortunately, but lots of interesting conversations. One small demo was a pen and ink over water color beer stein in honor of Octoberfest, which was also happening in Fredericksburg. I worked from a photo for the general shape but made up my own scene from a folk tale so that I would not be infringing on the copyright of the artist who created the original stein!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

What shall I paint?

What shall I demo at the Fredericksburg Art Guild Gallery on Fri Oct 5? What will the crowd in town for OctoberFest want to see?1. small, simple things they could try themselves at home?
2. a big complex painting that will take up the whole day?
3. whatever 3 or 4 paintings I find myself in the middle of, at the time?
4. pieces designed to demonstrate various materials or techniques?
5. HIll Country themes only?
6. OctoberFest themes?



Monday, August 27, 2012

Next time you are in Fredericksburg, stop by and see my paintings: 6 of them now hang in the gallery of the Fredericksburg Art Guild (308 E. Austin St.)
Wheeeeeee!  My first real gallery!
Nan Henke
Texas Hill Country Art

Monday, August 13, 2012

Wish me luck!
I am applying to the Fredericksburg Art Guild, a gallery and artist's organization. Choosing three pieces to represent my art was difficult. In the end I chose three sizes and had one represent my landscapes, one floral and one animal.
Nan Henke
Texas Hill Country Art

Monday, June 25, 2012

Which should I send?
My nephew Brian sent me a great photo of the Cherry Blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C., so I painted an ACEO (baseball card sized version) of it, then thought I had gone a little heavy on the pinks and painted another. Which one should I send to him as a thank-you?
Nan Henke
Texas Hill Country Art

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I did not paint this!

I did not paint this!   It is the first response to my bluebonnet challenge, by my niece, Meredith Henke, from her own photo.  Nice, hey?   Meredith's medium of choice is mod-podge, so this was quite a leap for her.  Thanks Meredith!

Nan Henke
Texas Hill Country Art

Saturday, May 12, 2012

How to paint a bluebonnet

No excuses. No "I failed art in 3rd grade." If you can see a bluebonnet, you can paint it. The question is, have you ever REALLY looked at one. Just one. For several minutes.
Grab your kid's watercolor set, maybe some colored pencils and a piece of thick, absorbant paper and we will walk through this creative endeavor together:

1. Stare at the photo of the bluebonnet.

2. Ask yourself questions about it and answer out loud. What shapes do I see? What do those shapes remind me of? What colors do I see? What variations in darkness and lightness of those colors? If you can wrap any words at all around what you see, you can wrap paint around it. If you don't see what I see in this photo, don't paint what I paint, OK? Paint the bluebonnet that is on its way from YOUR eyes to your tongue, your hand, and your brain.

3. Here's what I see: a pointy white tip, light green where new flowers are just barely pulling away from the main bud, blue and white half circles where they are pulling even farther away, then full pea flower shapes in a strong cobalt blue the rest of the way down the stem. They are crowded near the top, but get sparser as they go down. Each one is like a little chair with a back and a seat, but the seat is shaped more like an almond on its side.

4. Now you do it. Look at the photo and talk to yourself. Look some more. What did I forget to mention?

5. Start with a pencil, colored pencils or if you have them, or watercolor pencils (they melt into the paint later.) Lightly draw the shapes you see: maybe a diamond to create the tip, then ovals and half circles for the tight top of the flower. Don't forget the stem and branches. I chose to add one leaf from the background to give the flower some grounding. Note that the leaf has light edges so I drew it with yellow, even though I plan to paint it green.

6. Now put some water and paint on your brush and start painting: a little green in parts of the top shapes, a little blue in the half circles. You don't have to be too precise - it will actually add to the individuality and charm if you are not. Try not to paint next to something that you just painted. Give it time to dry first. Go empty the dishwasher. Then come back and paint the parts you skipped. I like to do the "bottoms of the chairs" first on the flowers. Then I come back later and do the tops, carefully leaving the white window in the middle of each. In the photo, only the higher flowers seem to have "windows" but if you look closely, the windows on the lower flowers just turned pinkish purple as they aged.

7. When the flowers are dry, the stem and branches can be painted: start with a reddish brown, then clean your brush, load it with lots of green and not much water. Touch it to the wet brown paint in several places and you will get a nice random blend.

8. Look carefully at the photo again and compare it to the painting so far. The leaf of a bluebonnet always has 5 leaflets on tiny stems coming out of the middle of the leaf. My drawing has 6! Shoot! The photograph really looks like there is a leaf with 6 leaflets, but that would be botanically inaccurate, so we will add a second leaf to the left and make #6 attach to that. OK we fixed that, what still looks wildly different from the photo? We should not be able to see through the top 1/3 of the bluebonnet - the flowers around the back side should obstruct our view of the white paper, so we will suggest them with some blobs of blue to fill in any large open spaces.

9. Now you are done. Photograph it and send it to me, post it on your face book page, put the original on your refrigerator, or use it as a bookmark, or send it to your mother, or frame it in a 16x20 ornate gold frame and put it where you see it first thing every morning!

Nan Henke
Texas Hill Country Art

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Most Important Step of All

The final step is the most important. After adding more color to the hill on the left and smoothing out some color on the mountains to the right, I did the most difficult thing in the entire painting process: I asked a trusted artist frien...d what she saw when she looked at the picture.

Her response suprised me. "Is it supposed to be raining?" she said. I looked at the painting again. Sure enough, my fog covered ocean had the verticals streaks of a rainstorm at sea. Using a top secret technique (it involves the kitchen sink and a big sturdy brush named "Mike" after Crocodile Dundee's knife) I gently scrubbed away the rain and left a smooth transition from sea to fog and clouds.

I don't always follow my trusted artist friend's recommendations, but that is why she is trusted. It is OK with both of us when we disagree.

I hope that you have a friend like that.

Stay tuned for my next painting. I have taken thousands of wildflower photos in the last month, so I suspect that the topic may lie there!
Nan Henke
Texas Hill Country Art

Making Fine Lines in Watercolor

When there are very dark lines in a photo, like the rock outcroppings on the hill to the left or in the half circles surrounding the tiny waterfalls, I will sometimes use a sharpie. But for this painting, I wanted to be 100% watercolor, so... I took the time to learn to use an old fashioned ink pen dipped in concentrated watercolor that comes in an ink bottle. As usual, I had trouble with the standard process and made up my own: using an eyedropper to put a drop of ink on hole in the pen nib before scratching it across the paper.
The pen gave me lots of nice dark squiggly rock lines and branches but it also made me wonder about the patience of the generations of folks who wrote with these cussed tools! They drag and skip and go dry and then dump all of their ink at once...
Nan Henke
Texas Hill Country Art

Friday, April 13, 2012


Glazing is a watercolor term that means adding a layer of paint over one that has already dried.  It is tricky, because if you have too much water and not enough pigment on your brush, you will wash away the first layer instead of adding to it.  I have done that a lot!  In this photo, you can see that darker greens have been added in many places to create shape and add depth.  Some browns were also added to draw your eye to the ridges in the valley, shadows and the branchy bits of brush. 
I use the black and white photographs that I showed you in the beginning of this process to decide where to do more glazing.  It is hard for me to see all of the variations in the color photo of this beautiful valley, but when I look at the enhanced black and white versions of the photo, I can easily see what are the lightest and darkest bits.  And of course, some places I glaze on more color just because my head tells me to!  Or maybe it is my artist's eye talking,  I am never sure!!!
Nan Henke
Texas Hill Country Art

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Adding the greens

I'm still painting!  I just have not had much internet access lately...  
Here I have added the greens: different ones for the distant ridge, the ravines running down to the tiny waterfalls, the hill on the left and the bushes that drop away behind the ones in the foreground.   Then the dabbled green leaves on the bushes are all sorts of different greens because they look different depending on how much light or shade each one gets.   A little green grass and red-ochre (classic Kauai!) dirt in the foreground and it is time to let it dry a bit! 
Some people think that, since the paper now has paint all over it, I must be close to done.  Not true!  The next steps are the difficult ones, adding depth and detail without overdoing it.
Nan Henke
Texas Hill Country Art

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Start with the lightest colors

In watercolor, you can always darken things that don't turn out right the first time,  but it is next to impossible to make them lighter.  That is why I am starting with the whites and yellows. 
First I applied a tiny bit of masque (like rubber cement) to protect the white of the paper in the tiny bits of surf and two waterfalls.  Next a lemon yellow on the ridges coming down from the right edge of the painting, then a more golden yellow on the tips of the bushes in the foreground.  But right now they just look like dots, floating in space!
The next step is a misty cobalt blue sea that drifts into a cerulean blue sky.  It was painted with a lot of water and a lot of dabbing away where there was either too much blue or too much water. 
Finally, some browns and greens in the valley and the foreground and it is time to let this stage thoroughly dry.
Nan Henke
Texas Hill Country Art

Friday, March 16, 2012

Na Pali Coast from the Kalalau Valley: a start

I start by making a sketch with watercolor pencils.  That way the pencil marks will be washed away by the watercolor as I paint.  I used to be terrible at drawing.  I had to draw a light grid on my paper and a matching grid on my photograph, then try to sketch what was within each square on the grid.  Erasing the grid was always difficult, but critical to fooling people into thinking that I could draw!  I also used a projector and many other drawing aids. 
The good news is that, even with aids, the more you draw, the better you get.  So now I use a variation on the grid method: I fold the photo into 16 squares and I put dots on the drawing paper where the corners of the squares would be.   Then I draw the main lines of what I see in each square and VOILA! a rough outline of the scene appears.
A photo like this has a million details and I need to choose only the few that will make it to the final painting.  The lines of the mountains, the two waterfalls, the tiny bit of surf, the places where Kauai's famous red-brown dirt shows, and of course a suggestion of the foliage.  Some on the right above the waterfalls is almost a lemon yellow.  The tips of the bushes in the foreground are a slightly golder yellow.  The bushes are represended on the drawing merely with little circles showing where the yellow tips fall.
The background is unusual in that the sea has fog in the distance and no horizon shows.  I put in some dotted blue lines to give me a clue as to where the blue and the white meet, but I think I will need to erase 90% of those lines or they will show thru the painting.
Nan Henke
Texas Hill Country Art

I'm ready for a vacation

I'm ready for a vacation, how about you? But nothing is on the calendar right now, so I am living off the vacation photos that other folks post on facebook. Here is a favorite from Kauai, and the couple who posted it just gave me permission to paint it! So my first step is to look at it in black and white, with the contrast high and the brightness all the way to light, then dark. This is reall...y helpful in teaching my eye to see the details and the variations, the pattern within those jungle covered hills. Can you see two small waterfalls on the right?
I also posterized the photo to see what details that might reveal. All of this will help me to decide how much detail to put into the painting. Stay tuned for more steps!
Nan Henke
Texas Hill Country Art

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Take a deep breath and say AAAAAAHHHHH!

I finished the Birthday Rose and I am very pleased with it and with myself.  That does not happen often enough in life, so we will pause a moment and soak it up!
Nan Henke
Texas Hill Country Art

Monday, January 23, 2012

I always imagine that if I make it to January, I will have lots of free time and peace and creativity for painting.  And every year, I find out that I have been lying to myself.... putting off tasks till after Christmas that suddenly emerge as due (or overdue) in early January. 
But I got smart and started scheduling a mid to late January day away for painting with a friend who will be mad if I don't show up.  As a result, I am making some progress!  In this photo, I am using the computer to help me to zoom in and really see the details of each rose petal.
I paint every other petal for two reasons: first, so that they dry completely and don't bleed into their neighbors, second, so that I just look at that limited area and try to really understand both its natural coloring and how the light and shadow give it shape.
Later I go back and paint the in between petals.

Nan Henke
Texas Hill Country Art