The Road into Town

Today I put together a new watercolor paint palette, adding some colors I normally don’t have on my main palette, as well as adding ones back that didn’t make it into the first one. This palette forces me to work harder to get greens as I don’t have phthalo green, sap green, or Hooker’s on it as “primary” greens; instead, I have viridian, which is not one I have been fond of in the past. However, it works nicely with cadmium lemon and aureolin to make those crazy spring greens I like. I also added manganese blue, verditer blue, and phthalo blue (green shade). I don’t have any yellow ochre or quinacridone colors, but do have Davy’s Grey and Peach Black. In the red arena I added transparent red oxide in place of light red, and cadmium orange as well. All of the earth tones – burnt and raw sienna and umber – are on this palette.

The result is looking to be a brighter series of colors to work with, at least that is my impression. I tried to use nearly every color in the palette on some level in this painting to see what would happen. As it was, I didn’t use every color! Too many!

The subject matter was also something that I wanted to work on – a small town with a few buildings at the base of a mountain range, and the goal was to have a road leading in to it, sloping down hill, and conveying a bit of depth. It’s a busy scene, one from my travels over the years that I caught on camera. Depth is not easy for me, so I used shadows across the road and landscape to catch a bit of it.

First watercolor of the New Year, and started with a New Year Palette!

From the Roadside

How many times I have driven through the wild country of the US, stopped on the roadside just to gaze at the land around me? When I lived in Colorado, I did this whenever I could. I do it here, too, in California, and whenever we take a driving trip through wild and lonesome country. Life here can be harsh and isolated, but can you imagine yourself on horseback (I do!) and slowly traversing these wild and open places?

More winter, more gouache. A limited palette of white, phthalo blue and green, ultramarine blue, a bit of red, and black and purple.

It’s Winter

It’s a pleasantly warm day today – bare feet and a nap on the patio kind of pleasant day. Still, I long for cold and gloomy weather, real winter weather. I know, I know – if I was living in the middle of it, I would think differently.

That said, a gouache in a more painterly manner than pointillism, up in the mountains somewhere, looking on to the distant dusting of snow. Gloom. Snow. Cold. Yeah! Don’t go wading in the river, either! Just enjoy it, and then return home to hot cider and a fire.

Rain at Cattle Point

Hopefully this conveys a fickle weather day late in the year!

I think the dot-dot-dot and color isolation with Pointillism helped with this watercolor.  I was very aware of color placement and capable of containing colors to certain areas.  I managed, too, to have patience and let areas dry before going back in, or let them get slightly damp for dryer painting onto a damper area, preventing blooms.   Proportions are off – sigh.

As well, a limited palette of primarily blue (ultramarine and cobalt) with burnt umber and burnt sienna, yellow ochre, and a spot of orange and Hooker’s green.  140# CP Arches, 16×20.

Moonlight Night in Boulogne – Gouache Study After Theo van Rysselberghe

One of the totally fun things about studying a school of painting is exploring its members! Who is this person? Oh, I like that painting! And then, off on a trail of discovery. I am finding a lot of painters I like, many from the post-Impressionist schools of Pointillism. These same painters move not only into Pointillism, but other ways, or schools, of painting that appeal to me in their composition and their colors.

Still, sticking with Pointillism, today’s study is from a painting by Theo van Rysselberghe, a Belgian painter who does lovely work. Here, a study of a moonlit night of a harbor. Boats, sails, reflections, silhouettes, lights, and even a few human beings. Van Rysselberghe’s interpretation of the night, the light of the moon, and the colors used to express the night are so interesting. The lack of light, artificial light, and moonlight all create an atmosphere at once pleasing and rather mysterious. My own agenda has learning to paint the night effectively a high priority.

My own painting is nowhere as good as van Rysselberghe’s, but that is not the point. The focus is on the colors of the night, the blues, the darks – purple? black? phthalo blue? mixtures of all kinds? There is a luminescent quality to even the darkest colors, as well as a brilliance to the lightest that is not quite white, but a pale, pale yellow.

The dots are also more than dots. Brushwork is not only circular dabs of color, but also horizontal lines that are done perhaps with the side of a round brush (mine were!). When I copy a painting, I try to see the brushwork. Gouache does a decent job for copying paintings, but the paintings I have been copying are in oil and certainly oil paintings are much larger than my 9×12 studies, and consequently more subtle.

Terrasse de Meudon – Gouache Study After Paul Signac

I must say, Signac does make a lot of cheery, colorful paintings! Not only are his colors great, but his compositions are often so interesting. Here, another study, mine perhaps more colorful than the original.  It is always hard to tell when you look at something on a monitor.  Even my scans are often off, needing some color adjustments before a final jpg is created.  Age can often cause colors to deteriorate in oils, too, as the varnish yellows and dims the original.

What really attracted me in Signac’s work below were the lavenders, greens, and blues.  So many shades!  Additionally, I really tried to look into how he juxtaposed colors, such as the oranges mixed in the blues and lavenders of the paved surfaces of the foreground.  The warmth of the scene in the middle ground plays a pleasant contrast to the cool, shady canopy of the trees at the top of the painting.

I am learning a bit each time I copy a painting in the Pointillistic school.  Colors are distinct from one another.  Even when a work is not a “dot” painting, I am beginning to get a better sense of color and shapes, contrast, and so on.  Much of this is just sitting around in my subconcious, and sometimes, with an original painting, it manages to escape.

A Winter Morning

The last time it snowed where I live was like never. Up in the mountains it does snow – it did a year ago – but of late is relentless blue skies. Today and yesterday we have had clouds and chilly winds, so it feels like Christmas and winter, and even tomorrow, more of the same.

I rather like it!

Still, I think of those magical winter days when sun and snow and sky and trees all play together, your breath rises, and you keep walking to see all the miraculous beauty of the land.

And here is a tribute to those memories. Gouache, sort of pointillstic, sort of not. I did the underpainting with casein and acrylic gouache, to lay down a foundation which would not dissolve when re-wet. I think it worked out pretty well. Overall, I think this is my best original painting to date. It feels “like me” if that makes any sense at all.

Merry Christmas and a No Covid New Year!

Old One

Early last summer, or late last spring, I visited a park with a friend. It is in Los Angeles, above the 118 freeway, so if you frequent the area you might recognize the photo (below) and the painting (above).

It is the kind of park I like – open, easily accessible, and then winding away from the city into the canyons beyond. Since my friend cannot get too far, we never have gone deep into the canyons, but perhaps one day I will go further than I have. It has some lovely tended areas and then wilder areas, but what I particularly enjoy are the oak trees.

This is the view from the pathway returning to the city, and this tree never ceases to find a soft spot (hopefully a sharp spot with good focus in a camera!) when I visit. I think we all have trees or buildings or places we enjoy revisiting.

More pointillism, more gouache.

To the Lighthouse

A bad reference to Virginia Woolf’s novel, which is an interesting read.

This painting is a dedication to lighthouses worldwide. They have saved so many lives by letting sailors know of treacherous waters. Add to that, lighthouses are often found in spare and rugged places, all of which make for dramatic and wonderful photos and paintings.

I have often thought I would like to live in such a place, hearing the waves crash, watching the light circling through the night, and, of course, the sound of fog horns. Throw in some seal barks and sea gulls, and I would be pretty happy. Sleep could be a challenge though.

I made up this painting, amalgamating lighthouses and buildings from various images. My goal was to practice shading, such as moving from a sunlit side to the shadow side, using pointillism techniques. You can see this on the conical shape of the lighthouse as well as on the buildings. I have tried to give a sense of cliffs and housing sunk down a bit behind the green of the grass. Morning or evening light for the sky, or an intimation of fog and filtered sunshine is also attempted.

As I work more in pointillism, I realize that this helps me tremendously in sorting out colors. As far back as I can remember, mud has been my most famous by-product in painting. It could be that this is something I really need to use as a primary technique, though I am thinking of doing a pointillistic painting in gouache, and then re-wetting it to blend the colors applied in dots.

Now, on to other adventures!

A Winter Morning

Still dreaming of snow and winter, but honestly glad not to be in the northeast! More snow dumped in 24 hours than was dumped all of last year. That is a lot of snow! Nothing like snow up to the roof, no electricity, and wondering how you are going to stay warm. When I was a kid, we burned oil for fuel, so heating the house wasn’t an issue as far as I can remember, but I do remember a few times when my youngest brother was in diapers, and there was no electricity to heat water. Frozen pipes, too, but that is usually easily solved by letting the water run gently through open taps.

I am continuing using gouache and Pointillism. Something in me just loves this, and I have started looking beyond Paul Signac and into contemporary artists. The graphic quality of Pointillism and the colors keep drawing my eye. Also, I am getting more “aware” (for want of a better word) of color interplay by using dots and mushing colors together.

Meanwhile, today in California it was a chilly 68F and I had to wear socks in the house.