154. Dreaming of Tulips

It’s the dead of winter in sunny old California, but tulips are not to be found even here until the spring.  The beauty of tulips, especially the pale ones, is the vast and subtle array of colors found within a single blossom.  As a kid in Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, I loved the arrival of the tulips through the snow.

 

153. More of the Same Tomatoes

The same tomatoes from yesterday.  This morning, I decided to go with the “direct watercolor” approach – paint directly and do not do any preliminary drawings or use lines.  I think these are more successful than yesterday’s tomatoes – a bit looser and more to my liking.  They do seem to float in space a bit, especially the small one on the right.

151. Aspen Grove

I painted this using multiple layers of frisket on the paper.  On the first round, I blocked off the right side of the aspens.  Once I was fairly content with the overall image, I added frisket over various areas, such as the greens and browns of the foliage.  I made lines to represent trees, and dots to suggest a glint of sunshine on a leaf.  I did this three or four times on dried paint.  In the end, I removed the frisket, left some areas white, and painted over other white areas with transparent glazes, hoping to pull together different areas of the painting.  Finally, I made small dots of colored paint in the foliage, to suggest leaves.

This study was to utilize what I have been learning from the experience of following Rick Surowicz’s YouTube videos, as well as what I learned just painting.  This is the first time I conscientiously laid out a plan or method on how to approach the painting.  First, drawing.  Then frisket.  Next, washes of green, gold, brown, and oranges broad across the paper and blurred using a spray bottle and blotting.  From there, details, contrast, and so on.  Overall, I think my painting has taken a turn for the better.

151. Study: Rick Surowicz’s “Snow Creek’s Edge”

Today was another practice session using a study by Rick Surowicz on his YouTube channel.  This one is titled “Snowy Creek’s Edge.”  As with the one I did the other day, there is a lot of use of frisket, and this particular study with filled with it!  Keeping areas white is important, and many watercolorists eschew using it – I know I sure did – but judiciously applied, it really does make painting easier.  What I really liked is that it is an excellent way to express narrow bands of snow lying along slender branches and twigs.  It also allows for creating negative space without painting tediously around things – a good skill to have, but at times not necessary.

Coming away from this, I am getting less caught up in copying Rick’s painting and using it as a point of study in watercolor technique, blending colors, and usage of tools and brushes.  Tomorrow (unless the family Thanksgiving becomes a bit much during the morning) I plan to find a snowy scene, either from a photo I have taken or from a public domain image, and work more with snow in the landscape.

150. Weeds Behind La Purisima Mission

Last summer we ran away from home, up the coast, to La Purisima Mission in the area of Lompoc, California.  It’s a small town with a wonderful secularized California Mission, La Purisima, restored by the state during the Depression.  It has gardens, outbuildings, a wonderful historical center, and is a lovely place to walk around on a sunny day.  I took my camera with me, and today’s painting is based upon the photograph below.

This little patch of weeds is located on the backside of the mission, and I found it so charming.  The weeds are typical California plants – hardy, drought resistant, resinous.  Grasses and flowers.  Furry leaves.  All these help keep the plants from drying out in the relentless sun and low humidity.

I am not really sure if I caught what I wanted to do with this photograph, but I am pleased enough to put my name on the scan  I used a lot of the techniques I learned from Rick Surowicz’s Fall Lake video.

Putting on the frisket was scary.  I was so unsure about it, but knowing the only way to learn was to do, I did!  Blobs, lines, sprinkles and splatters of frisket.  Paint.  Paint some more.  Finally I arrived at a point where I just didn’t think I could go any further, and it is at this point I stopped.  And then removed the frisket.  More paint added here and there, lines, whatever.  The final result is below.

 

149: Study: Fall Lake by Rick Surowicz

Rick Surowicz has taken YouTube by storm, gaining a strong following of over 25K subscribers.  Pretty sweet deal considering he put his first video out in late May 2017.  This shows you Rick’s appeal.  His first videos were really good, but his later ones have continued to improve.  Frequently he does two videos – one is a very teacherly, with clear explanations of why he does this or that, what his thought process is, and the colors and brushes he chooses.  A second one is speeded up 2 or 3 times.  This allows the viewer to preview his longer version, seeing what is up ahead before diving into the longer, detailed video.

This is my 4th or 5th follow-along with Rick.  Given my more recent issues with representation of detail, not each busy detail, I thought I would do one of his studies today.  (I also am tired of sewing!)  Rick’s video is about 45 minutes long; this took me about 2.5 hours with stopping and starting the show.  It’s a great way to practice different techniques.

There are a lot of really great instructional videos on YouTube – you can – and I have – learn so much.  Right now, though, I have what I consider to be a serious problem:  what is my style?  Copying a masterful painter gives one skills, but the interpretation has to be personal.  I figure I am on the way there – it will sort of happen – but one thing I do know, I do not want to create chaotic paintings without good contrast, clean color, and strong composition.  Rick’s paintings have all three and make for good lessons.  They are very different than the detailed fruits and flowers of Anna Mason, but those very detailed paintings also teach things such as texture, detail, light and dark.  I have learned from those as well.

 

148. Simplified Details

Anyone who does watercolor or painting or drawing is well aware of the need to simplify details, especially in masses of color.  Every leaf does not need to be painted.  When we look, we see these details, and the effort to simplify them into areas of light and dark and midtones can be – and often is – very challenging.  Good artists make it look so easy!

The other day I was napping on the patio (I live in a warm part of the world).  When I woke up, I looked at the podocarpus trees along the back wall, and suddenly got the idea.  I saw the details of the leaves – each leaf – but I also saw the light and the dark areas.  That is when I realized I could do it – but it had never been in the front of my mind before.

I went to work.  No outlines by pencil, just some reference photos labeled “foliage” in a search.  Varied pictures showed up, and here are my studies of simplified details.

These first three are thumbnails, about 3×4 inches in the order I painted them.

I did the above paintings yesterday.  This morning, applying the same tactic of no lines drawn, I used a 9×12 inch sheet of paper and painted out to the edges.  Again, the focus is on simplification of details into masses of color.

Success?  I don’t think any of the paintings are particularly good, but I do think I am getting that element of simplification I find so elusive in my own painting.