For some reason, winter is just in my head and in my paint brush these days. Probably I like it so much because I don’t have to deal with its less lovely elements, such as shoveling snow to commute on icy roads. Rather, I would be walking through the countryside for hours as I did when I was a kid back east, enjoying the cold air and the silence and the gentle falling of flakes.
As the Midwest and other parts of the world endure and enjoy subzero weather and snow and ice, it is summer somewhere in the southern hemisphere!
Where I am, it is neither; just a crisp and lovely day, with the winter light canted lower in the sky. I really enjoy painting landscapes, imagining myself in the middle of it all. I think I need to get into town, though – my hiking boots need replacing. 😉
Red rock formations are stunning. Utah is filled with them, with Bryce and Zion National Parks presenting stunning examples of not only the rocks, but arches and canyons.
Driving through Utah is a trip into a wonderful land, brimming with natural beauty besides the red rocks – the Great Salt Lake, mountains, ranch land, forests, and so much that it is hard to even begin to describe. Add to that, it holds a special place in American history as it is where the persecuted Mormons (Church of Latter Day Saints) found sanctuary.
Back in the 80s, I drove through St. George, Utah, when I returned to California to live. Just a few years back, we visited on a family road trip – it was far bigger than I remember, but just as beautiful.
I spent the most part of today slogging along in the Dog Free Zone. Emptying out old pots, refilling them, pruning, sweeping, sweeping, sweeping, planting bulbs, cutting back overgrown critters, toiling away in a sweltering 67F for 3 hours. Poor me, eh? But just imagine what I will see in a few months!! And I still have seeds to plant as well.
So, I was honestly too tired to focus on anything requiring logic. I needed to just paint. Flowers seem appropriate given all the gardening. And I also have a couple of dozen of dazzling orangy red tulips. Trust me, the real ones look far better than this painting!
And then there are those wonderful flowers – bulbs – which grow and bloom in winter, when all is drab and drear. Crocus anyone? Here, a bit of snow is all that is left.
Each of these paintings was done with a time limit of 30 minutes. You can make a lot of mistakes in 30 minutes and paint some truly awful stuff – that is why quick studies can be so educational. And you can paint some great stuff, and wonder, how the hell did you do that!?
Bridges are something we take for granted until you have to wade across the creek, or hop stone to stone, praying you don’t fall in! Way back when, the arch bridge was discovered, and it takes its form in many ways, from giant aqueducts to small stone bridges built in lonely country.
Slater’s Bridge is found in the English Lake District. It’s shape seems to have grown out of the countryside and keeps catching my eye. I don’t think my painting is especially accurate, either; hence “impression”.
With winds blowing at 40mph, the fear of fires was intense. Electrical lines spark, grasses and brush catch fire, and before you know it, the world is lit, not with electricity, but with flames. As a result of this – PSPS (Public Safety Power Shut-off) – we had no electricity for about 36 hours. What do you do when the sun goes down, there is no phone, no TV, no electricity? You read, you chat, you play games by candle, and paint by flashlight.
Rather than try to be creative, I got out a couple of art instruction books, one by Geoff Kersey, and one by Ted Kautzky. All of these paintings were done with limited palettes and by following some instruction to create a painting from the book.
The one above is from Geoff Kersey’s book, using only red, blue, and yellow. No more. It was the first one I did, and there was still some daylight, but very little, in my darkish studio. It was evening, and the studio window faces east. I used manganese blue, cadmium lemon, and cadmium red.
This one is from a Ted Kautzky study. Less light and more moving my little flashlight from book, to watercolor paper and drawing, to palette. Colors were verditer blue, cadmium red, Hooker’s green, and raw sienna. Verditer blue doesn’t seem to mix well with other colors, but is a lovely blue by itself. Four colors!
Now we are moving into big time! Here, five colors. Payne’s grey, ultramarine blue, aureolin yellow, Hooker’s Green, and burnt umber. Another study from Ted Kautzky.
I enjoy doing studies from books – it helps focus a bit. I also realized that daylight is a better way to paint, or using diffused electrical lighting. Flashlights are good to see with, but their light is not diffuse, but sharp and focused. I think I would have had better lighting with a few candles. Anyway, it was a good way to pass some time when the sun set and the vampires weren’t yet out.
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!
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.
Our cold winter thus far has hit a low of 64F or so in the past several weeks. No snow, certainly; sadly, no rain, either. Perfect for the next fire season, which is becoming a longer and longer annual event.
So, I dream of snow, and pull up memories of living in upstate New York, hiking for miles across woodlands and farms in the early morning or early evening. The light slants, the air mists, and a winter wonderland becomes a magical world filled with rivers and creeks, trees, and trails left behind by others.