Category: Watercolor

Greens Against the Sky – 3

I am having a lot of fun, despite frustrations, with this repeated subject for a watercolor. Today was bit more thought out, and the focus was just planes of washes to create depth, dimension, or at least some attempt at it. I think I am seeing this more and more as an abstract as I work on it – planes of color to suggest the trees along the base of the headland. I dropped a blob of color on the hill that wasn’t in the previous two, and tried to do a bit of a save, but not really successfully. Ah, the joy of watercolor!

Greens & Blues – 2

I was not especially pleased with yesterday’s painting. After leaving it alone, looking at it again, it seemed to have all the same values for the most part. Today I decided to look at shapes and values a bit more in depth.

One thing I did was to change the elements of the picture a bit. I cropped off a lot of the left side and then made a composition out of that. Left side, middle value sky against light land and dark trees. Right side, darker land against lighter sky. In the middle, land and sky of similar value, mainly middle.

Obviously, the right becomes darker, and what I attempted to do was to create a shape of dark values with connections throughout the painting, connecting with right side to bottom and then to the left. Darks were connected throughout with the stone walls and into the trees. The dark trees in the upper left shift into a darker middle value with the sky.

I also tried to work with shapes – dark shapes with the middle ground tree being the focal point. The lighter shape is the land and the slope down the hill from the same tree. I have been reading a bit about how to work values to create focus – such as light and middle values as focal points surrounded by dark. The same can be light and dark to focus, and then surround that by middle values. Maybe that is what I was doing with the tree and shadow on the hilltop.

Anyway, my head is spinning. I know what I was trying to accomplish – shapes, values, warm and cool colors. Words are not easy to find to describe, so I will leave you for now with my mental and painterly chaos!

Greens & Blues – 1

Over the past two or three weeks – really, since the last posting – I have not had time to lift up a paint brush or pencil. It makes for a good break up to a point but when I look back, some of the stuff keeping away from watercolor and paint have been the less attractive necessities of life! Today I have finally settled a bit, enough to take the time out of the day to see if I could even focus on paint without creating mud.

Apparently I can!

Whenever I have not painted for a bit, I like to dive into something which is comfortable – landscapes – and makes me happy – brilliant greens against an intense sky. The American Southwest can provide it, as can spring in California, but today I went to Pixabay to look at pictures of Great Britain. I love their landscapes, especially the Dales and the South Downs, and anything along the coast. Here, living in dry California, such lushness always appeals to me.

This is certainly not my best work, but it is not my worst. The usual lack of depth dogs me except perhaps for the hilltop in the upper left below the sky. I do like the simplicity of my colors, though; it is too easy to do detail after detail after detail.

Anyway, I spent a few hours somewhere in England, and it feels pretty good.

Fishing Shack

Rockport, Massachusetts, and Cape Ann, has been a destination for artists and tourists for many years, but it is also a place rich in history. Very picturesque, it is fun to comb through old and new photos to see what has changed – and in some places very little. This building – a fishing shack – is an iconic building which be seen in photos past and present. It sits on a rock jetty that has ladders running down its sides so boats can be accessed when the tide is in or out.

The drawing is not really well done here, but I worked my way through it despite my frustration. The left slanting roof is very different than the right side. The stony foundation upon which the shack sits, though, is actually as depicted – it slopes inward and so looks as if it bulges out at the water level. I expect this is the way it was constructed originally. I also had a problem with contrast – as always – and values. I think I will paint it again, this time gridding it out and doing a value study as the subject matter is really interesting to me.

I kinda like my seagulls!!

Fabriano 100% cotton 140# CP; 9×12.

Class: Boats on Land

A bit over a year ago I spent far too much money on a class I didn’t like. I liked the artist’s work, and some of the teaching methodology, but in the end felt it was like a big rip off. Most classes lack good content and good teaching as far as I am concerned, and being cheap, I am not inclined to spend the amount I did last year. The course was a gamble, and I lost.

On the other hand, I have been really happy with Shari Blaukopf’s short courses and demos, which are content rich and reasonably priced. I have been working to incorporate the simplicity and directness with which she paints to keep from overworking my own watercolors – and believe me, overworking a watercolor is awfully easy! Ian Roberts’ course and follow-up group for his Mastering Composition has also been a great group to belong to and participate in.

I have also decided to enroll in Matthew White’s course on a monthly basis – Learn to Paint Watercolor. He has monthly demos, and critiques. There is a nice group of watercolorists of different levels of experience and skill, and so far it is worthwhile. The fact I can stop my monthly subscription beats a year paid up front for not too much I couldn’t learn on my own. I’ve watched his critiques and they are valid, and he works to make sure that as many people get a brief but informative bit of feedback.

Anyhow, this is the first of the demos I did of Matt’s. He has a lot of things I don’t paint – like boats, buildings, cows, nights, hay bales. The challenge is there, and I am looking forward to them. His demos are clear and sequential, and even though I doubt I will follow them step by step, there is something definitely to be learned.

The title of this painting – from Matt’s demo – is “Boats on Land” – definitely a boat yard and storage facility. I liked doing this, and was really happy to see Matt paint around the light boat sections with darker paint. I need to see that and do that. I think my painting turned out okay!


California is losing its farmland – development of tract homes played a big part in the loss of arable land. Now it’s floods and drought. But in a more perfect world, eucalyptus trees were planted between fields to keep the damage from wind – erosion – down, especially when the east winds blew.

Here, more working with broad swaths of similar colors laid out in a wash. I did this one in a few layers. The first thing I did was the sky and the tree trunks. From there, a pale layer of varying color for the tree foliage, and second and third layers of the same, increasing in darkness. At the end, the field and track and a bit of stuff in the distance. Branches in both dark paint and in gouache.

I have been using Strathmore “Vision” 140# paper for this and other studies, and it is not too bad! Reasonably priced, and it seems to be holding up quite well to wetness and working. I haven’t tried larger sheets, but this may make me interested for practice.

Paper & Hyacinths (or Gladioli?!)

These paintings serve two purposes. First is to check out two different 100% cotton papers and decide which has a better feel to it when it comes to handling copious amounts of water. Second is to take a color on a long journey down a sheet of paper, adding similar colors for variety as I go along. I did it in both.

This is done on ArtBeek paper. I consider it to be a student grade paper even though it is 100% cotton. I like it as it has a nice absorbency but it is not up to snuff to my preferences. It is good for studies, though, and a very affordable and nice paper. I prefer it to Strathmore or Canson watercolor papers – they don’t come close as far as I am concerned. This paper has a texture imprinted on the front, but the reverse side is smooth. This actually makes it a good paper for gouache as well as value studies with pencil. No complaints in general.

I mixed together alizarin crimson and some other red to try to get a pink – big failure there, so I ordered some Opera, which is a rose pink of a definitely pink leaning. I worked a bead of color down for leaves and flowers, adding different colors to vary the major color. From there, once the flowers were dry, I added darker values with thicker paint.

These hyacinths are not as appealing to me as the pink-red ones (which could be gladioli, too!), but the paper is. The paper is extra white Fabriano 100% cotton 140# CP paper. It connects with the paint more readily and there is a sense of contact and control that I don’t feel with the ArtBeek. This same feeling comes with Arches and Kilimanjaro (from Cheap Joe) watercolor papers.

As with the pink flowers and leaves, I worked beads of color down and added various colors as I moved. I started out with a blue that I think is too dark now, but that is part of experience. The same techniques as the pink also applied – dry the painting, add darker colors, creating some sense of depth and detail.

I tried to keep each painting pretty direct as far as colors, not adding too much in the way of glazes. I also worked on negative painting, painting the background around the flowers and leaves.

The past two days’ studies of flowers in sketchbooks were rather precious. Fussy, annoying. That, though, is the purpose of sketchbooks in many ways, as well as memories of places visited or developments of ideas.

Both paintings are 9×12.

Mas Flores

Today’s post is batch of flowers done in a Hahnemuhle Watercolor Book instead of the sketchbook for yesterday’s post. Today I am using a “real” watercolor sketchbook that has watercolor paper in it. I could work with a lot more water without getting blooms or having the paper buckle as in the other book.

I also used tube paints that were on my palette, but found that the paint, having been there for awhile, was very dry. It was difficult to pick up paint in large quantities – just like on the pan paints. To fix this, I put several drops of water on each color and let it sit for awhile – maybe 10 minutes. Misting water on doesn’t suffice – I needed a small flood!

One thing I have done here is to focus on negative painting as well as carrying a plane of color with varying colors along the page. I tried to work light to dark, but other times I worked around the light areas to give them shape. All this is play, experimentation, just doing and then observing, thinking about what I did and what I want to do.

Outcome? Thoughts? A few of my own:

  • quit dabbing!
  • use really wet, saturated paint
  • use paint more directly without glazing
  • values

None of these are any good. They show my painting faults to a glaring degree. However, as practice, it will do very well.

Well, gotta run!