I was going through some of my Instax photos taken earlier this summer. Here, a path nearby overgrown with mustard. Depending on how much water is available, mustard plants can be very short – or very tall.
I thought this could make a good study with a limited palette, and dryer brushes. Lots of things went through my head, actually. For example, plain batches of color. No pencil lines. Shadows using the underlying color of the ground or plants – i.e. burnt umber and ochre mixed with a bit of blue. Details in dry brush. Patience and wait to let things dry, or add blobs of color to enrich the damp paint. Dry brush over colors already laid in as a wash (like the tree and bush in midground and background).
Maybe I’ll take my Instax out for a walk today. And a dog.
I opened up a pad of 9×12 CP Arches and have been having fun all morning. Yesterday was a step back into the world of watercolor, and today was simply a play day to try out a few techniques. In particular, working with less water on the brush than I normally do. This is an effort to have a bit more control of the pigment on paper. Let’s take a look!
The above painting was the first one. Really a disaster! But it served as a warm-up project. In and of itself it is not awful insofar as I worked with less water from the beginning. This let me make bolder strokes as well as glazes and some wet-in-wet. The sky was my first attempt to work a rather loose sky with a much dryer brush than my norm. I worked more color into varying areas of the sky, blotting my brush on a towel before picking up the pigment.
Again, the sky was a focal point in this painting. I chose to use a yellow tinged with alizarin, diluting the pigments extensively. From there, I dried off my brush and applied the colors. The same technique with the blues. Some blending, but the result is quite what I hoped to achieve. This same dryer-brush approach was used for the foreground and middle ground, as well as for the trees. Rather pleased with this one all around.
More dryer brush work but with the addition of glazes. This lagoon was a bit more challenging as the low tide leaves behind rivulets between the miniature sand bars. My feeling about this one is rather mixed, but I think it is more because it is outside my comfort zone.
Dryer brush, glazes. These dry California hills are really monochromatic. Browns and variations thereof. Yawn! The mountains I redid after the painting was done – too pale. Sadly, I messed them up a bit.
This morning’s work was well worth doing. I spent about 3 hours altogether and took the time to think after the first painting. Warming up is a good exercise as it reconnects me to what I want to do. Practice is never perfect but it is essential to any skill.
Not sure what is on tomorrow’s agenda.
Hard to believe it’s been two weeks or so since I was last online.
Life has been busy, but in reality, the weather has been awful! We have had a heat wave that knackers you – 100+ F, and even worse further inland. Temps have ranged from 95-111 in the vicinity where I live (35-43C). Ugh. As a result, blobdom has reigned as the primary mode of existence and, sadly, some binge watching on the TV in the air-conditioned house. I guess we all have to do it.
Despite that, I have met with a pencil portrait group in a local park and have enjoyed those mornings. I have also done some sewing. And mice chasing, but no catching. Today I cleaned up the mess I call a studio.
And finally, I have sat down to paint. I wanted scudding clouds and changing light – movement from bright to dark across the hills and the sky. Wind, too. Anything to cool off.
Seemed appropriate that a 15-minute study should be of a place called Rush Creek up in the Eastern Sierras!
Aspens, calm water, reflections, and done. I also used this as an opportunity to check out a new spray fixative (for me). This is an acrylic semi-gloss.
The problem with pastels is they smear if touched, so storing them and framing them can be a bit tricky. Smearing was attenuated well here, but it did take about 8 applications, some of which were a single coat, and the last about 4 or 5, back and forth, out of impatience.
Fixatives often dull colors or darken them, and whites can be especially vulnerable. This one seems to have done okay, perhaps turning the white of the aspen trunks to a creamy color, but the white trunks on the middle right seem to be doing okay.
Interesting thoughts arise . . .
You could spend your life exploring and drawing and painting Pt. Lobos in the Monterey area. Here is a quick study in pastels. This was a particularly difficult one to do because of the nature of the medium – messy and full of fine dust!
The distant cliffs across the waters are seen through the trees. Unlike gouache, you cannot paint over layers as successfully in pastels. More layers mean less success, even when you use a workable fixative. In watercolor masking can help as well as the fact you work from light to dark, so darker watercolor can obscure lighter washes.
In the end, the sky was a messy mush up weirdness – the white scribbles were my solution to the problem, but oddly, it did help out in the end. The sky was a flat grey, and here it gives the same flatness of color that morning.
Cottonwood trees are tall and stately, living in harsh conditions throughout the midwest and plains and desert areas of the US. To say they are lovely is an understatement.
Pastels, Mi-Teintes 12×16.
Another timed painting. This time the requirement was 37 minutes. I set my phone alarm and was shocked to hear it go off! I was checking it off and on, but suddenly it just rang, and here is the result.
This time I used Uart 600 grit paper, which is like a fine sand paper. It pulls the color of the pastels really easily so a lighter touch is required when painting than with the unsanded Mi-Teintes paper. I used a combination of photos for this one as I needed a creek, but I wanted some oaks and hills from around here. Not especially successful as far as I am concerned; the exercise was the point. I did get into the zone of painting even through I knew that timer would go off at some point.
Following along with a pastels instructor, the by-word of the month is “fast and furious”. Well, for me, this means in less than 30 minutes. The instructor suggests 15 minutes. I decided to give myself “under 30” for a “fast and furious.” Here is the result.
The point of the fast-and-furious approach is to keep the artist from over thinking and overworking a painting. This exercise is invaluable as decisions have to made quickly and decisively. Pondering doesn’t happen! Instead it is like, hmm, let’s see; I think this could work. Grab, paint, run on to the next section. Top to bottom with swaths of color here and there to carry out a sense of continuity.
It worked out.
I won’t show you the first attempt.
I have had a perfectly lovely day today! Went out on a short road trip, did some photography, ate a Croque Madame for lunch, and drove through beautiful back country here where I live. Josh came along, and we had a nice day out. Once home, a nap, some coffee, and then, at long last, the pastels came out from hibernation! The result is more rain (we get none, I want some!) as subject matter. As pastels lend themselves to blurring and blending, I decided to use a long stroke of a finger tip, moving at an angle from top to bottom, to suggest that fierce rain one sees in the high desert. Dark background and a sunlit foreground. So fun to do!