Saguaro

This is my third pastel, and second subject from the class on Monday.

There are some things I learned in doing this pastel.  First, the large cactus has to be put in after the sky because it is just too big – the sky and the cactus – to work around.  The mountains and smaller cacti are fine.  I had to redo the sky a bit, and if you look, you can see halos of the cacti in the sky.  Live and learn!

I also had to totally redo the foreground – it was all the same tonality!  Midtoned.  So, I went in and worked in a lot, a lot, a lot of lighter colors.  It worked.  Before there was nothing leading the eye to the big cactus- now there is to some degree.

The foreground plants in the corner are also at issue here.  While they are lighter than the middle ground’s plants, they are not quite right.  I need to increase the contrast within them, I think, to help them become individualized from the sandy dirt around them.

Finally, it is interesting to realize the importance of fixatives in the process of doing a pastel painting.  Harder pastels don’t create as much dust (Nupastel) as do softer ones (Rembrandt).  A “workable fixative” is necessary as the layers go down.  A “final fixative” is applied when the painting is done.  I have both, but the final fixative still allows the pastel to be rubbed off to some degree.

So, third painting, and I am getting the hang of it.  Still very amateurish – my lack of depth perception always seems to get me.  “Look at the light!” is my constant reminder, as well as the tricks of creating distance in a 2-dimensional painting.  Gouache painting has proven to be very helpful here.

Succulent

I started out with an attempt at doing a realistic succulent in gouache. It just wasn’t there. Then my pastels class came between it and me. And this ode to Audrey (from “Little Shop of Horrors” fame) moved into a sort of abstraction of its own. Normally my gouache tends to be done with thick paint and a stiff brush; here, softer paint and a softer brush. Quite a different experience and one I will need to revisit.

Winter Aspens

I am really rather pleased with this gouache – haven’t done any since last year!  When I am painting in gouache, each one begins okay, with clear ideas in my head.  And then it gets really and truly hideous.  And then, it changes, almost by itself, and comes together in a way that watercolor doesn’t.  I don’t know how to describe it, but the process is quite magical – just like snowy woods in the late afternoon.

The Edge of the Wood

More work with wet-in-wet, this time accompanied by using frisket to keep the areas of the birch trees white, and to keep a few other bits white, too.  First step was to paint the sky across the trees, then the orange bracken and other foliage.  From there – just a few details, some negative painting, and so on.  I think there could be more contrast on the birch trees, but stopped to keep myself from overworking it.

Late Afternoon

I’ve been really into doing wet-in-wet watercolors this month, and think it may become a theme for the month of January.  So many areas of watercolor benefit from it.  Skies seem to lend themselves to it, but so do fog and reflections.

Here, a winter landscape, partly from memories of those lovely, cold afternoons in upstate New York or rural Illinois, when the clouds were low and dark, snow was on the ground, but somehow, the sun made it through, casting shadows and a bit of color on the vast swaths of white.

Timed Studies

As I am planning on running out to meet up with a friend in a short bit, I decided to do some quick studies in watercolor.

The one below was done in 15 minutes, some pencil lines to give it some direction.

The colors were really fun and I made them really strong compared to what I was inclined to do.  The results were pleasing (colors) and interesting.  Even when you do a quick study, you have to think about what is wet when you paint over it.

The next one, below, I allotted 30 minutes for with the lessons of painting onto too-wet paper too soon.

I think the second one was more successful.  I also did not use any pencil lines but used the white of the snow as a shape to paint around.  That was a challenge in itself!

Quick studies are quite satisfying – no masterpieces expected!

View from the Hills

The miracle of green always happens in the last of the year and the first of the next when the rains come and new growth begins to emerge in the hills of California.  After months of dry weather and fading landscapes. color erupts almost overnight.  Soon, wildflowers will begin to tinge the hills from green to orange and purple and yellow.  Here, a view from the hills toward the Pacific, with the Channel Islands in view, lost in the coastal fog.