A Lonely Road (Watercolor)

I decided to give A Lonely Road (Gouache) a try in watercolor as that was my original intention with the painting.

It was quite interesting to do so as I used the same paper I used for my gouache, but the paper had less tooth than my usual CP watercolor paper, being more like hot press, which is very smooth.  This was American Journey paper, which is very nice, and is somewhere between HP and CP for texture.  This makes a difference when painting with watercolors.

Once more I feel like my DOF is not working in watercolor.  I am not quite sure why, but it seems to be I lay down a color and then lay down more, and more, and even more for the distant objects.  Unlike gouache, watercolor’s transparency makes each succeeding layer darker.  At times a glaze of very thin color can pull a watercolor together, but not here.  The dark distant hills on the right suggest a spot of cloud shadow, and the brighter one on the left a bit of sunshine.  The sky suggests otherwise.  And it looks like there is a sleeping or dead sheep in the field on the right!

There are bits and pieces of this painting I like, and the colors really do evoke a rather damp day when autumn is beginning to set in.  The fact is, I find watercolor inherently more difficult than gouache simply because more pre-planning and strategizing than with gouache.  This why I enjoy watercolor so much – it is so hard!  The colors are just wonderful at times, and that is one of the joys of watercolor.  Gouache, while beautiful, when done with less water and thicker paint, doesn’t have some of the same light as watercolor

So, for the sake of comparison, I am lining up the value study and gouache from yesterday with today’s watercolor.  Click on the value study below to click through the three if you want to do some comparing.

Maybe a pastel should come along tomorrow?


A Lonely Road (Gouache)

I started out trying to do a more delicate painting, but I think that would work better in watercolor. Instead of delicate and lighter, the colors became thicker and darker, and it turned from a misty, damp, rather gloomy day to one which seems filled with a foreboding storm.

I decided to just paint and not try for realism and delicacy. I went for emotion.  Instead of applying paint nicely, I began to just slap it on directly from the color onto the paper rather than mixing colors on the palette. It was gloriously fun!

I used a 1/2 inch flat brush – nothing else. I rather like this splashing and letting go of things as I tend to be something of a prima donna and perfectionist – and this was like rollicking through the mud and muck!!

If I were to call this any “school” of painting, I guess Expressionism would be the closest I would come. The more I painted, the more I wanted to express a fierce and gloomy day portending rain and hail, or rain and hell.

Another value study, too.  Impressed?

Look!  I put in some sheep!

Forest Road

I’d forgotten how much fun painting with gouache can be! Today, a painting of a forest road running through a lot of trees, but not so heavy with leaves that light doesn’t shine through. I began with a value study – again, more for shapes I think in light and dark.

The first layer of the painting had thin washes to set up the light green in the distance. Then, general dark shapes were added after the road was limned. The trees were then painted, dark to light, using long strokes with a round brush. After that, a flat was used for broad sweeps of the road. Finally, dabs of color to create a sense of dappled light on leaves. Final touches included some dashes of white and a blackish mix (purple, green, black) for lines and bits of contrast. What I really liked is the ivy climbing up the trees, creating bright splotches of color. Altogether, I think it worked quite well.

The value study is becoming valuable. Yeah, really. It helps me see where strong shapes against light shapes create visual interest and leading lines. Value studies are general but the painting becomes more specific.

Yellow Amanita Muscaria

Amanita Muscaria is quite poisonous. I’ve seen it in red, but in cruising the internet came across a yellow variant.   The yellow variant is also know as fly agaric. 

Fungi and mushrooms are neither plant nor animal – I think they are kind of creepy, but at the same time so fascinating. Where I live it is too dry most of the time for mushrooms to appear, but they can be found in damper areas along creeks and arroyos, as well as on my front lawn after the rain. Then, we get fairy rings!

As before, a quick pencil sketch, but this was more for planning the painting than values. Gouache, 5×7, CP 140# paper.

Cottonwood Creek

We are pushing 100F today, with east winds adding to the heat and potential fires. Thus, an autumnal desert scene seemed appropriate for today’s painting.  As I haven’t worked in gouache for quite some time, I thought it time to dig them out.  Variety is the spice of life, for sure.

Before painting, I did a value study before I even sat down to paint.

I used pencil, as you can see below. I like pencil a bit more as I have a good range of pencils of varying hardness and softness, and that helped out in the light and dark department.

I won’t say that the value study did not help. It really did. What it aided in was setting up light and dark areas, of course, but also helped me see shapes, such as the trees against the dark mountain, as well as shapes in the creek in the mid to foreground areas.

I left the sandy bank of the creek and the reflections deliberately vague – hard for me when I want to put in a lot of detail! The focus of the painting is the cottonwoods, so too much detail in the foreground would compete with the more detailed painting of the trees.

Altogether, this was a pleasant diversion, and the value study was worthwhile (not that they take a lot of time – I am just lazy). The creaminess of gouache is fun and a completely different experience than watercolor or pastels. I used Holbein gouache for the most part, CP 140# paper. The painting is about 6×8 inches – the nature of gouache often means smaller paintings than watercolor or pastels.

Here’s to autumn!

Value Studies

Value studies are like knitting swatches: a good habit, but not one I do. However, I did some the other day!


Above is, I think, the first one I did. It’s from a photo of Haworth, the home of the Bronte sisters. Cobbled streets and old houses, especially on a hillside, are not common around here, so always a pleasure to paint. I tried to simplify everything, looking only for value – light and dark – in the monochromatic painting. In the colored version, I used light and dark coupled with warm and cool colors.

Text books say more intense and warmer colors to the front! Cooler and lighter colors to the rear!

I used Hansa Yellow and Cobalt Violet to create the greys.

Imaginary Lake

This is an imaginary landscape. Payne’s Grey used for the value study. I tried to fade, or lighten, colors the further away they got. Less detail, too, is used to indicate distance. Of course, the use of leading lines and contrast helps things out.

The color version was, again, an effort to use warmer colors to the front, as well as more intense colors; the distance used greyed colors. To achieve the greyed colors, I used complementary colors, such as adding a red to green, or making the colors lighter by diluting with water, or else adding a tinge of blue to all or the preceding. (Sounds complicated, bu it’s not!)

A Wintry Scene to Escape 96F!

Finally, another Payne’s Grey value study for a wintry scene in the mountains using a limited palette. For the colors I used mostly Hooker’s Green and French Ultramarine Blue.

Thoughts on the Value of Value Studies

I am still not sure about value studies! For one thing, the value studies are very different from the color studies in my eyes.  Values in color never equate values expressed in monochrome. Perhaps I am expecting more than I should from a value study.

Many people use pencil for their value studies. Darker values are more easily achieved. These watercolor value studies were hard to get dark enough.

Ultimately, I think I am going to focus on doing a bunch of them, rather than just a few. This way I can determine if pencils or watercolors are best for doing value studies at all. Which one will give me a better sense of light and dark?  As well, the more I do value studies, the more their subtleties should become  apparent.  Perhaps my color studies will begin to reflect better values to display distance in a painting.

All of these studies were done on 9×12 CP 140# Arches, with two sections drawn out on the page. One was used for the value study, and the other for the color study.


The other day I did some value studies out on the patio (in 90+F). I also did some quick sketches without any pencil outlines.

This is the last of a bunch of plantlings I have – no idea what they are – but they were worth painting! The thing I like so much about these seed boxes is that they are made of coconut fiber, and once the seedlings are ready, you just cut apart the containers, trim them, and put them directly into the ground or larger pot without any need to disturb the young roots.

Autumn in the Fen

A fen is not a bog, and a bog is not a fen! Fens are marshlands with free-flowing water, such as a creek, which creates the marshland in shallow areas. A bog is created by still standing water, left behind after the rain. Bogs can dry out more readily than a fen, I guess.

autumn is here. This week we will enjoy 90+F – oh, aren’t we lucky?!

I have ongoing frustrations with depth of field . . . a camera makes it for you when you choose the aperture, but you have to make it yourself when you paint.

10, 20, 30

I’ve been busy. Creative endeavors have been primarily sewing nightgowns for the coming cooler season, but also because I need some. TMI? I don’t know. But, it has kept me from painting for the past week. Sewing and other things have been taking up my time, but my craving for pigment is gnawing at me.

To play and loosen up, I decided to paint with time limits of 10, 20, and 30 minutes. I ate lunch and took a nap in between it all.


Above is a 10-minute study. October is here, and the colors of an eastern (anywhere from where I live is east!), hardwood woodland is alive with color before the pale and monochrome winter landscape.

Into the Hills

20 minutes and a bit more complex. The only brush I used was a hake brush, which is about 2 inches wide. A lot of dry brush on top of damp paper.

Edge of the Island

30 minutes here. Again, a lot of work done with the hake brush. I also used a rigger for the trunks and branches and some grasses, but the hake, with dryish paint, makes wonderful grasses.

I’m finding myself neglecting things that need to be done so I can play around. My little Puritan soul is not happy about this!! And really, I do like to get tasks done as their being done makes life a lot less guilt ridden with nagging thoughts. Also, it is important to continue to learn, I think, and there are a number of really good online courses and instructors in video format that are worth watching, and practicing from. I want to schedule my time a bit more wisely . . . and then I can play, guilt free!