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A Butterfly for Bubba

October 10th, 2012

A Butterfly for Bubba

It’s at the framers now, so I can’t fret over details anymore. But, for my first attempt at a butterfly, I am pretty well satisfied.

Most years I try to do a little watercolor for Ann on her birthday. This is her 2012 birthday card.

Last spring I purchased a new palette from CJAS. Then the palette arrived the package included a package of wildflower seeds. I gave the seeds to Ann and didn’t give the wildflowers another thought until they began to bloom and bloom and bloom! There was a terrific variety of wildflowers that bloomed thru the spring and summer. In fact, in mid-October, there are still yellow and orange wildflowers blooming along the south side of our house.

Then one day in early spring Ann came into the studio and said, “you ought to see the butterflies on the wildflowers!” There must have been a dozen or more. If I was a lepidopterist I suppose I could tell you the names of the several varieties of butterflies that were feasting on our free wildflowers. I can only tell you that they were all beautiful in different ways. But the shining blue highlights o the lower wings (that’s right, butterflies have four wings!) caught my eye and my imagination.

I’ve since learned that butterflies began to evolve about 200 million years ago. The first flying insects began to appear in the fossil record about 400 million years ago. You’ve got to admit that butterflies are flying insects that it’s easy to love and appreciate. I very much love and appreciate my wife, who I refer to affectionately as “Miss Bubba”, so painting a little butterfly for her birthday was a “no-brainer”.

Biography of an OBHF

June 2nd, 2012

Biography of an OBHF

'Fine Artist' sounds awfully fancy. I'm much more comfortable with 'OBHF'. But I like to think of myself as a watercolorist who travels, sketches, takes way too many photographs, and spends a lot of time writing and paints compulsively. I started painting when I was a kid in Cleveland, OH. My parents would drop my sister and me off at the Cleveland Museum of Art to sketch in the galleries. I started painting oils in the late 1960s but the messiness would wear me out. In 1992 I got serious about watercolors. It wasn't an intentional thing, I simply experienced a 'wetness epiphany' and, ever since, I even paint in my dreams.

To be a watercolorist is to develop an emotional involvement with a piece of paper. Each composition begins in the glorious moment when there is a picture in my mind and a blank sheet of watercolor paper in front of me in my studio or on a large rock or campsite picnic table on the road. Then there follows glorious moment after moment when pigments are insinuated in the fabric of the watercolor paper while impressions are confirmed, rejected or rearranged and finally, or at least for that moment, settled in my mind. In the end, my physical relationship with the paper is no longer necessary -- at least for the painting. At that point I sign off. The painting doesn't need me any more. Joy and sadness. But, in my head there is an ever-growing list of images that I hope to capture...

Paper is eighty percent water, our bodies are over sixty percent water. And, how fluid are our thoughts? It’s all about managing wetness. I love my watercolors! They've taught me much about seeing, thinking, and when to stop thinking and just pick up a brush. I hope you will like them too.

My wife and I are both retirees and we travel as much and as far as we can. We’ve just returned from a four and a half month camping trip that included a month in Death Valley, following spring up the west coast and thru British Columbia, more camping in Alaska and the Yukon and the best Fourth of July ever at Great Basin National Park. I want to meander across North America until the EPA makes pleasure driving a criminal offense! So, who knows how much time I'll have? You’ll know if you’ve gotten behind me, we’re into quality travel, not fast miles. I’m busy adding to my list of things to paint. But, I digress...

I hope you enjoy my watercolors and photographs and sketches. I may throw up some postcards from the road. If we don’t see you out there, thanks for coming here.

Joel Deutsch

All images are copyright © 2008-2012 All Rights Reserved.

Sunset on the Chena

September 22nd, 2011

Sunset on the Chena

Anyhow, this is the photo of the Chena River that I started to paint a week or so ago. One really should avoid doing too much thinking about the progress of a painting, but, when you seem to be going backwards… maybe just a bit of analysis is in order.

I started with a quick watercolor sketch in my old sketchbook which was delightful and fresh. The only line I drew with a pencil was the horizon. I’ll probably have to run over to Office Max and make a scan of it to have a decent rendering for notes or to upload to the website, (I am thinking of doing a new gallery named: My Sketchbook) but, for now, this photo will have to suffice.

So, from there I went to a quarter sheet sketch. I now feel that the quarter sheet sketch was a stupid thing to get involved with. This is supposed to be a simple statement about an emotionally charged mid-summer Alaskan sunset – a lot of detail is not necessary. Just be close on the colors and shapes and the story tells itself. This was my original sketch.

In fact, the first sketch was void of any sky or cloud indications – the longer you look at a scene or a thing, the more you see. The question for the artist is, “what did you see when you knew that you wanted to paint the subject?”

I was discussing this with Bubba at lunch when I did a little value sketch on an old GAB note pad. Even in pencil, it said exactly what I wanted to say. This is cropped out of a larger photo, but it is enough.

So I went back into my studio and dashed off a watercolor post card.

As far as I’m concerned, this pretty much “nailed” the picture that I wanted to paint. Leading us to the question, “why didn’t you paint this on a quarter sheet in the first place?” Don’t think I haven’t asked myself that one more than a few times over the last twenty years.

Too much thought right now. I’ll write more about this later.

Today I’ve been painting pale pomegranate clouds in the reflection of a light cobalt blue sky in the river. I need to spend more time playing with skies and reflections.

Back in 2008, when I was doing the St. Mary’s watercolors, I felt I had really gotten the knack of skies and water and reflections. Now I seem to be stumbling around without a clue of how to do this painting. Too much thinking.

Still, I did a couple of things that I was pleased with yesterday.

Today I’ve been working on a more fluid post card. So far I’ve dropped in the sky, the river and the shore. When these are dry I’ll go for the trees and their reflections. So far it’s pretty clean.

I continue to be disgruntled with my progress on the quarter sheet – I have two of them underway each with serious color and composition flaws.

There is nothing like a few nights in the woods to make you feel better about a painting. I spent most of the afternoon aimlessly splattering the stones on the left bank of the Chena on my “throw-away” quarter sheet and I may not throw it away. It’s moving in a good direction.

So, here’s the sad history of my quarter sheet efforts.

I felt that the first quarter sheet I attempted was too light in color on the sky and the water. It also had a “blossom” across the sky that I could have repaired but instead I opted to use it to work on the colors I wanted to use for the trees. I was also unhappy with the permanent marker tree line that I had sketched above the waterline. In fact, I think this was my second quarter sheet, not the first. Now that I am further along in my thought process on this subject, I really don’t think that the light sky was that much of a problem.

In any event, I flipped this one over, artist taped the edges with and tried to lay down a cleaner, simpler sketch. (The kiss of death for this draft was my work on the left hand trees – just awful!!)

This is how the third quarter sheet looked after my first washes of sky and water.

I still have to write something about the second quarter sheet, which I thought was going to be my “throw-away” piece. But, it turns out that I don’t have any photos of that quarter sheet. I will make one and insert it here.

I also want to mention my more detailed pencil sketch. I’m very pleased with that draft. Here it is…

And, barring the usual distractions, I will write a little more tomorrow.

- Distant sandbar needs work
- Mask random leaves and bugs on tree reflections in the river
- Tree trunks and grass reflections
- Water needed some rocks and leaves
- Setting sun in tree line!!
But, it’s looking pretty good. I will probably finish both “throw-away” quarter sheets. They are each interesting in their own way. Here is how they look this morning.

Sunset on the Chena – quarter sheet II
Remember this was the “throw-away” piece. I really like where it is right now, emotionally and composition wise, even with all of its flaws.

Sunset on the Chena – quarter sheet became the flip side of Sunset on the Chena – quarter sheet – III.

I probably got too intense on the violet in this one, but I think it will still make an interesting practice piece.

Enough talk! Time for painting and football.

7:38, p. m.
It was a good day painting! I’ll take a photo of my progress in the morning.


In the serious draft of this subject the sand bar needs a good splattering – small brush only.

I painted the reflection of the trees in the water this evening. At first I was pretty happy with how they looked but then I realized they were too short.

They need to be taller at the near end of the river and lower at the distant bend in the river. I reworked the reflections. I’ll have to see how I feel about them in the morning.

There is something so satisfying about getting to this point in the creation of a watercolor. I reworked the tree line on the far side of the river last night and this is how This is how Sunset on the Chena – quarter sheet – II looked this morning.

In addition to extending the tree line I defined the edged with a small black permanent marker. After looking at the watercolor I decided that the reflections needed to be darker and more even in tone. I used a mix of Indigo, burnt sienna and Poppy to create a rich dark gray and attacked the trees. Then I toned down the distant shore line and re-worked the sandbar where the river curves to the left. I also darkened the grass on the far shore where the river bends. And this is where I am just before noon today.

I have a few other tricks to do before I will be finished with this, but, barring any major screw-ups, I do not think another draft of this subject will be necessary.

There is something so satisfying about getting to this point in the creation of a watercolor.

I removed the mask from the tree reflections and did a very light gray wash across that area. It looks great! Now I have splattered “stones” on the dark water in the foreground and am getting ready to do a midnight blue and indigo wash in that area. Then I am playing with the idea of splattering some diluted vermillion on the bank and at the water’s edge to finish the watercolor. I’m also thinking that I need to further tone down the distant bank with neutral tint.

I reworked the leading edge of the clouds to allow more poppy and soften up the edges of clouds in other parts of the sky. I think the work was worthwhile. I removed the mask splatter from the water. I didn’t get a lot of bang for the buck from that effort. I also re=splattered the beach. That produced a very good result.

I tried to tone the green on the other side of the river down, but I’m still not happy with the distant shore line. I may try a Cobalt Turquoise glaze. If that doesn’t work I think it’s time to sign this watercolor and move on. The question is whether to continue with Sunset on the Chena – quarter sheet – III or start something new.

In any event, this worked out well for a “throw-away” piece.

“The perfect is the enemy of the good.”

I did the Cobalt Blue glaze and then a second glaze with neutral tint. It’s very close. Then I started to look at the right hand corner of the sky. I meant to put a pale wash of Naples Yellow there from the beginning, but I had not done so. So I left a thin strip of dry paper around the pink clouds and and laid in a super pale wash of Naples Yellow. Bingo! A wash of Payne’s Gray on the far bank and I’m done.


Shot of the Day

February 21st, 2010

Shot of the Day

My sketchbooks, watercolors and brushes are in the road box. What's really essential? I'm just about to put away my computer. 'Herbie', our trusty CR-V,was serviced last Wednesday and waits to be packed. It's sparkling clean. Who knows when it will sparkle again? As I like to tell people when we travel, "I'm collecting soil samples." We're also collecting great memories! And, every time I get a chance I'll upload a photo from the road. Hope you enjoy the ride.

Kalaloch Sunset scans

February 10th, 2010

Kalaloch Sunset scans

This is the second draft of Kalaloch Sunset, completed 02/2010. I painted the first draft on 300# watercolor board that had been sitting in a plastic wrapper in my studio for over a decade. Unfortunately, when I did the first wash I discovered that the paper had a flaw in one corner. It looked horrible when the paper was wet, and I start most pieces really wet. But, when it dried, the flaw was nearly imperceptible. While the first wash was still wet on Kalaloch I pulled out a quarter sheet of 140# Arches cold pressed paper and started to work on Kalaloch II. I suspect I’ll always be an Arches guy, but, given my choice I would always paint on 300# rough board. Sorry, I digress… The small defect in the 300# board turned out to be a “happy accident”. Now I have two good studies of the subject.

These paintings are based on a number of photos taken at the end of a wonderful day while we were camping at the Kalaloch Campground in the Olympic National Park. I don’t think that a photo can ever match the magic of a watercolor, but there are a lot of wonderful things that you can do with digital photography and someday, I would like to learn how to do them. For me, most of photography is about composition, light and opportunity.

Because watercolors are mostly about light, it is really difficult to capture one in a photo. That’s why I opt for high quality flatbed digital scans of the artwork that I upload. Right now I’m waiting for the local 60-inch flatbed color scanner to be repaired so I can upload some half sheet and full sheet pieces. But, yester day I took eight quarter sheets and one 10 x 6 sketch to my local printer and had all of them scanned. On a whim I had a single print of Kalaloch II made before we headed back to the country. It knocked my socks off!

My favorite scan was the one of the Kalaloch Sunset Sketch. I will replace the photo of that on the website when slow upload times permit. I hope someone will be watching out for it.

Thank you very much.

Kalaloch Sunset II

February 7th, 2010

Kalaloch Sunset II

I woke up at 6:11, am wondering how Kalaloch Sunset – II would look in daylight. Of course, at that hour daylight is only a promise at the low edge of the eastern horizon so I set about doing my morning stretching routine. Time disappeared and dawn worked it’s magic tricks outside of my windows.

After breakfast and some shouting at the talking heads on the Sunday news shows I took a hard look at the watercolor – “Oh my!” I then went back to the photo to look for a pelican that I thought I had spotted a couple of days ago. Apparently it has flown away. The only other possible explanation is that it was never there. So I disabused myself of the notion to add the pelican to the composition. (Perhaps I saw him in Sunset at Kalaloch, but, I digress…)

But, while I was looking for the pelican I noticed a lot of wonderful detail in the distant water that I thought I should suggest more dramatically in my composition. So I used a number five brush which is kind of my ‘I’m finishing the minor details’ brush, and worked in some wave caps using neutral tint and left over mixes of grays and browns from the mini pallets scattered around the studio. Voila! So, it was time to become a footnote in the existence of a finished watercolor. I signed my name and 02/2010 in the shallow water at the lower right corner of Kalaloch Sunset - II and let it go.

Next week I need to run into town and make scans of my recent stuff and some older pieces that are on half and full sheets that require a large flatbed scanner. Kalaloch Sunset – I and Kalaloch Sunset – II will be among them. Until then,
I hope you like the thumbnail.

Immo. Time does not stand still, but here is a rendering of a moment frozen in time.

Now, I’m starting to paint Sunset at Kalaloch in my mind.

To be an artist is to open yourself up to everything you see as an embodiment of the truth. Real freedom is to see things in their suchness.

Kalaloch - II

February 5th, 2010

Kalaloch - II

Kalaloch - II, watercolor, 11 x 15 on 140# Arches watercolor paper.

I had not intended to send out any photos of Kalaloch - II until I was finished with the watercolor. But, after struggling with the water yesterday and having an 'ah-ha!' moment with it after breakfast today, I was finally ready to remove the masking fluid to see what else I need to do to finish the piece. When the mask came off, I did a 'WOW!' The next time I post, this will be done. No problems with this paper.

I have a few things to tweak and I'll be able to stick a fork in this one. I think I'll have time for one more painting before we hit the road. And, I have a huge 'Future Paintings' list to work from. The list grows like meiosis!

Hope you're all enjoying the weather. Back to work!

Winter at Daughton Park.

January 18th, 2010

Winter at Daughton Park.

The other day I was thinking about the old cherry tree on the grassy bald that dominates Daughton Park. I rambled on with a description of the harsh winters it has seen, thrived in, and now survives. Lo and behold, in section B of the Sunday Charlotte Observer there was an article about ice climbers at Daughton Park. Here's the link: The article includes a great photo of the ice on the road cut well below the Daughton Park Haiku tree. It's not Uray, CO, but, burrr!

We've often driven past this cut long after the ice climbing season is over. There is plenty of ice there for most of the winter.

Trying to figure out the web site...

January 18th, 2010

Trying to figure out the web site...

I tried to write a description for my Watercolors Gallery. I did so and was pretty happy with it. However, it doesn't seem to show up in the gallery after you click "submit". But, these are thoughts that I have been working on for some time and I will probably continue to do so. So here goes...

To be a watercolorists is to develop an emotional involvement with a piece of paper. Each composition begins in the glorious moment when there is a picture in my mind and a blank sheet of watercolor paper in front of me in my studio or on the road. Then there follows glorious moment after moment when pigments are insinuated in the fabric of the watercolor paper while impressions are confirmed, rejected or rearranged and finally, or at least for that moment settled in my mind. In the end, my physical relationship with the paper is no longer necessary -- at least for the painting. At that point I sign off. The painting doesn't need me any more. Joy and sadness. But, in my head there is an ever growing list of images that I hope to capture...

Paper is eighty percent water. Humans are even more. It’s all about managing wetness. I love my watercolors! They've taught me much about seeing, thinking, and when to stop thinking and just pick up a brush. I hope you will like them, too.

Always the last place you look....

January 18th, 2010

Always the last place you look....

January 12, 2010
Yesterday we drove up the mountain to Boone to buy a few things at CJAS and enjoy a delicious lunch at the Thai restaurant -- Sesame Tofu. On the way out of Hickory I made a detour to Carolina Office Supply to see if they had a refill for my Pentel Kerry mechanical pencil. They did not. BUT, while I was trying to recount my mystification that there was no eraser under the barrel cap on the end of the body of my pencil I inadvertently pulled the silver “clicker” off of the pencil’s “cap” and, voila!! I was looking at the working end of an eraser!!! Oh, what JOY! Awash with happy adrenaline I whirled right and with a smile abeam across my face told the clerk who was still patiently trying to assist me, “my wife married an idiot!”

“So did I,” she said. “We all did.”

But no sniping could take the glorious glow off of this great moment in the history of the pencil. I have been looking for that PNZ35 eraser refill since my birthday when I got the pencil. (Do I give myself great gifts, or what?! I also got a beaver bristle shaving brush, but don’t get me started…) It was always there.

The answer is always there. It is up to us to have the intelligence and the courage to formulate and ask the right questions. We can only fail if we stop trying.

End of Journal Entry
(January 18, 2010
One further thought, at least as it applies to "getting stuck" when you're doing a watercolor. I find that the best answers are located somewhere between my brush and my hand. Sometimes that right question is action uncluttered by thought.)

Meanwhile, in the world of watercolors, I still doodling around with a sketchbook draft of Kalaloch Sunset. Yesterday, when we got back from Boone, (by the way, the mountains really got whacked by the ice storm before Christmas. We’ll have to be careful when we hike in the high country for years to come. Thousands of limbs are dangling high in naked branches…) I made a little mask to surround the sketch. When I put it on the paper, I was very pleased with how well it has come along.

I plan to try and finish this one as a quarter sheet and also get OBX pre-Firm done before we hit the road.