Either Side of the Wall

This painting is derived from some take-aways from yesterday’s study based on Charlie Evan’s video. I left white for the tree trunks, painting around them carefully. I also painted more slowly and less splashily than my usual mess. The result is more controlled and perhaps a bit more structured.  While the painting itself is not what I would consider a real hit, it does have a decent bit of light and dark, sun and shadow, which is what I was striving for.

A L’Anglaise

Watercolor is a tradition in which the English have excelled. So many excellent watercolorists have created a style, or school, or whatever you want to call it, that delights in the countryside. There are so many – too many – to name, both living and gone – who are such a pleasure to behold.

You don’t find such farmhouses and lanes in the US! Our old buildings are seldom stone, usually clapboard houses and red barns of a certain style. Stone walls exist, it seems, only in rural New England or in modern day housing tracts. Because things are old I love looking at pictures of the English countryside or coastal villages. And really, this is for the entire British Isles, not just England, though it seems most are in it.

That said, there is also a time to practice with a master. The above painting was done following a very nice lesson taught by Charles Evans, a painter I just came upon this morning.

I rather enjoyed myself this morning’s project! My painting is not his painting. While I use to weep and wail about not doing exactly what someone did as a demo, I’ve grown past that. It is a lot more fun to do it, follow the general lesson, compromise where necessary, focus on the important points, note what works and doesn’t, and just get on with it.

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?


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.

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!

Flower Pot (from a Rick Surowicz Video)

Lacking in the lovely simplicity of Rick Surowicz’s painting “Flower Pot” from his YouTube video of the same name, this is my attempt to work with negative space in painting. He is a master – I am not.

Flowers are ridiculously difficult to paint because of their bright colors and unique shapes, not to say their varying leaves as well. And, it is truly difficult to convey a bouquet suggestively. I overwork flowers all the time. Follow below to see Rick at work.

Under the Summer Sky

As summer fades away, the fires are burning along the west coast, and the clarity of the air has gone murky. This is when I dream of being somewhere along a river, with sun, blue skies, flowers and birds. I’m a country girl at heart, stuck in suburbia! (But there are advantages of the ‘burbs, too.)

I used Arches Rough 12×16 140# paper. The texture is not as smooth as what CP or HP provide. There is a lot more “tooth” which is great for dry brush and texture, such as in the foreground grasses and middle ground trees. I used one of my hake brushes for the general grass shapes, and a larger, harder brush for the sky. Before I painted any large area, I used the hake brush with clear water, letting it soak in a bit to help the paint to spread more easily on this rough paper.

In general, I am pleased with this painting. DOF works fairly well. I put in a building, too! For me, the most flawed area is the squared-off top of a tree to the left of the building – maybe I will go in later to correct it, but for now, I’ll let it be, cuz it’s time for a nap!

Sea Oats

Vegetation that thrives in sand dunes help protect inland areas. Sadly, a lot of our native coastal areas have been destroyed by development of one kind or another. During the hurricane season, the loss of these dunes and plants allows the seas to surge across the low lying areas they once protected. Sea oats are found in the southeastern parts of the US and throughout the Caribbean. Beautiful and useful in many ways, sea oats, mangroves, and other coastal vegetation play a bigger role in our world than is often acknowledged.

Summer Path

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.

A Morning’s Work

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.