Another two-color study, this time using Burnt Sienna instead of Burnt Umber, along with the Ultramarine Blue. As an aside, looking up lists of “warm” and “cool” colors, the umber and ultramarine are considered “warm” by some. Beats me, as they sure look icy together. Here, the Burnt Sienna alone or diluted is warm in cast, but moves to dark and cold (in my eye) when combined with the Ultramarine Blue.
Painting flowers well is a lot more difficult than it seems. Part of it is just getting the colors correct, and the shadows. A sense of depth and shape is not quickly achieved for me at present – I am still trying to get that. Still, doing a quick morning watercolor before work is a good exercise as I think about various things. This daffodil is from this morning – I spent about 20 minutes on it from beginning to end before getting ready for work.
Tonight, I plan to do another daffodil, preparing for it by making a value study in pencil. This morning’s painting, and yesterday’s, were done directly onto the paper, preceded by a pencil sketch on the paper. Let’s see if a value sketch proves to lead to a more successful sense of contrast and depth.
Another study in Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue. Cold, wintry colors. Here is a study done to practice laying down a gradated wash. Using a strong blue wash, I started at the top, then went all the way to the bottom, lighter by adding more water. Then, starting at the bottom, I used a dry brush to begin removing the wash, bottom up, until I reached the horizon. From there, a mixture of blue and brown to create the blurred trees in the distance. Then trees, shadows, and the shading under the trees. The paper is not the best for heavy washes – there is a bit of puddling – but the exercise of wash and 2 colors worked. Finally, I took some white gouache on a toothbrush and splattered it to create the effect of snow. Maybe this is really a 3-color study?
Last summer we drove through a lot of the wild west. The loneliness of Wyoming always gets me – vistas of open space, few cars, fewer people. Taking a picture during the summer is much different than what you see in winter, so I looked at some of the photos I took out of the window as we drove from Laramie to the Tetons. I tried to imagine how barren and cold it could be. Always the sky, always the distance, always the barbed wire fences. Again, in Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna.
Besides trying to imagine a scene, I also tried out a new brush. It is a Cosmotop flat, by DaVinci brushes of Germany; it’s about 3/4″ wide. I wanted to see how it would do on the Canson XL paper I use for practice, in particular to see if I could get a “sparkly” effect with a dry brush. The paper is too smooth for that to work successfully, which is why there are fine lines in the foreground. (Sigh.) It did a pretty good job for wet-in-wet sky, and along the horizon line.
One nice thing about working in only two colors, you don’t get mud. You get dark colors. You get light colors. You get medium colors. I find that this is actually harder to do, in some ways, and easier, too. Harder because I have to decide on value (light, dark) and which direction to push the color (blue, brown). It’s easier as the decisions of color are already made for you (me, the painter!). Here I have limited my palette to Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber, as in the earlier studies from Ted Kautzky I did last week.
After looking at the scan, I realize that some of my darker trees in the foreground sort of float in space! The lighting at present makes it hard to see, but I will probably go back and correct it later on.
After the disastrous lilies, I had a good think. I really am not a decorative painter at heart. What I love most are landscapes. The outdoors is to me the most exciting thing . . . mountains, water, trees. Thus, with this in mind, I pulled out the very first “how to” art book I ever bought, back when I was 16: Ways with Watercolor by Ted Kautzky. I still love this book and find his style and words soothing and thoughtful. To ease my frustration, I did two of his exercises. The first below is in 2 colors only, ultramarine blue and burnt umber.
The next one is in three colors: burnt umber, ultramarine blue, and Hooker’s Green.
Kautzky’s palette of colors is one with which I am comfortable and familiar, so it was very reaffirming to feel somewhat skilled after the lilies fiasco. That really upset my little apple cart!
Well – let’s just say that the lilies suck. The masking fluid tore up the surface of the paper, which is student grade to begin with, and the soap suds from straight dishwashing soap seemed to have remove the sizing – or a lot of it – from the paper. The paper itself is good for studies with less water, and I enjoy using it for play and experimentation.
The lilies are out of proportion. Rather a disappointing experience, to say the least.
Still, I am inclined to want to think about this painting. In reality, this style of painting is better suited, in my opinion, to a graphic presentation. It’s not “painterly” in the way I want to do watercolors. If nothing else, that is my take-away from this experience.
Besides being too graphic for my taste in watercolor, the masking fluid was a disaster. Straight dishwashing soap does not work on the paper, even though my brush didn’t suffer in the least. I’ve used a diluted soap solution with better results. I also would prefer to not use masking, simply because I want to keep the process as clean as possible, with few if any extras in the way of the process.
In the end, I think learning what you don’t like is fundamental to many things, whether it’s a job or a way of painting. This helps to focus your thoughts on your goals because you rid yourself of an unwanted item. I still plan to focus on negative painting, but want to find a different way to approach it.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I am an impatient person, particularly when it comes to painting watercolor. The look of spontaneous painting requires forethought and planning, even for the simplest of pictures. I keep falling for that lie! Therefore, in an effort to tame my monkey mind, I decided to work on negative painting, which is not an easy thing to do. Looking through YouTube, I found a lovely example of negative painting by Krzysztof Kowalski, which you can view below.
This painting study requires the usage of masking fluid in addition to working up layers of colors. My sketch came out fairly good, as you can see below, but the first layer of water over the masking fluid turned rather comical.
I didn’t dilute my dishwashing soap before dipping my brush in it, then the mask. The result, when I began to wet the paper, was soap suds! Okay, dilute it next time. I think the density of the dish soap also may not allow the masking fluid to adhere properly – I’ll find this out when I begin to remove it. I spent a few hours painting the layers; this is my afternoon’s work.