Well, I don’t live in an interesting old village, but I think I could quite happily. Suburbia just doesn’t make it when it comes to interesting lines, stones, and such. Macadam and stucco and neatly cropped lawns are my daily world, so I always have to run off someplace else! Not that suburbia doesn’t have its good points, like modern plumbing and electricity, but it’s not that visually exciting.
Okay, so I got our my Faber-Castell watercolor pencils. I have a tin of 60 that I have been meaning to try on a serious level. So, here is the first layer. I used iron gall ink on a dip pen for the lines, and then just a quick scribble of pencils to lay down the basic colors. Next, I will wet the pencils and let it dry. Then, off to work. Bye!
A while back I read an article that a 19th century artist – it may be John Singer Sargent – used wax as a resist in watercolor painting. That was a bit of a surprise as I never thought a “professional” painter would do that. We used crayons and watercolors together in elementary school, and it was a lot of fun. Not having any crayons, I got out a white candle and scribbled away in a palm tree sort of shape. Then I painted, beginning with the yellows and then moving into darker colors. I don’t recall many of the colors I used, but they do include Yellow Ochre, Hooker’s Green, May Green, Payne’s Grey, Ruby Red, Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine Blue. The wax served to keep white spaces white, obviously. And, I actually used negative painting ti create some of the shapes in the fronds and trunk of the tree.
Today has been a day of frustrations. Nothing seems to be going right. Everyone has those days, yeah, I know, but I rather other people have them, not me! But, they do serve a purpose in that they do make you realize … something.
That said, let’s get on to the negative painting scene. It is not easy. I think to create a painting like this, practice and experience play an important part. Practice is what I keep doing. And then I reach a point where I am just irritated beyond measure, and need to break loose. I’ll come back to practice, but by nature, I am a gaudy color lover, and having a monochrome study makes me feel trapped. I wonder if others feel the same way. So, pink daisies, a la the hydrangea, and I am ready to go nuts. Here they are – the first round.
And then the second one from this morning . . .
Some success. And then I did the third layer . . . and had to just mess with it as I was ready to scream. Part of it was just frustration in that I didn’t really like this process at all. Maybe it’s not for me. In the end, just playing with some colors on my palette, some which I just recently got. It was a total color mess – so lines were added. It’s sort of cheery, but it also reminds me of what I cannot do.
The good news, no mud. It’s kind of fun. But I also know what I want to accomplish, and doing this stuff is not going to get me there. The colors are fun, and good practice, but I also know that my impatience and scatterbrained-ness don’t help me, either. Ongoing practice will improve my skills, I hope. So, I keep playing.
A part of me wonders if / when I reach my desired “look” if I will become extremely boring to myself.
Okay, negative painting is not, not, not easy. At least for me. Back to YouTube. This video was a really big help.
The guy is really funny – and does a really good demonstration. This one was probably the most clear of all the ones I have watched. Simple in execution, but sophisticated enough to produce something useful at the end of the video. This is what I got.
Then I watched another video – far more accomplished than I am at the present in execution, and once more, mud is the result and abominable flowers. These are mutant flowers after some sort of environmental disaster!
Ugh. So, back to monochrome – this time, pink daisies from some picture on the internet. This is the first layer of many, but maybe I can just work on very simple things and follow the 1-2-3-4 steps and then get a bit more advanced in execution.
Practice is not always a pleasant experience – but you do learn!
Now that I feel a bit more accomplished in some of my watercolor skills, I have taken the time to think about a few things. Specifically, what to do next. I think negative space, or negative painting, seems like the next best step. I am not sure why – it just feels right. That is how I painted my two moonlit sycamores. Now it is time to paint their leaves. Below is a photo I took the other day, which is my reference point.
I started out with three primary colors: Cobalt Blue, Cadmium Yellow, and Permanent Rose. First, I wet the paper and then made a few distinct areas for each color. Then I tipped the paper around (it’s mounted on a board) so the colors would blend and bleed. As it is probably only 90# paper, there was buckling and pooling, but decided to just let things happen. After it dried, I drew in the shapes of the leaves, and then worked around the leaves and twigs with a wash of varying strengths that combined Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna. The veins were a bit of Hookers, Sap, and Cobalt Green. Altogether, there are multiple layers of washes / glazes – some successful, some not. The final overlaying wash was a mixture of Carbazole Violet, Cobalt and Ultramarine Blues.
This painting has a lot of problems – too tight, too overdone – but the problems also present future solutions, which I hope to visit in the not-too-distant future. I feel like it is moving toward mud, too, which is something I always have to watch out for.
My original “Moonlit Sycamore” is below. I like it a lot – except for the squiggly black lines I put into it. They ruined the painting for me.
So, a second attempt, this time on 12×15 paper rather than 9×12. No squiggles in front of the main trunk. Instead, this new version is much darker, and the squiggly lines don’t exist, but dark lines, to suggest other trees and branches, exist, but not across the main trunk. Here is the new version below.
The scan doesn’t really do it justice – the burnt sienna is a bit less intense in the original.
Both painting were designed to work on negative painting. This is not easy and I expect it takes a lot of practice to do it well. Years ago, I did take a workshop and saw negative painting and masking fluid for the first time. It was quite impressive and looked deceptively easy. I am finding it is not – but it will improve with time! Funny how a scan makes you see a painting so differently . . . flaws are more apparent, as are areas of success.
Today I ventured out on my own, influenced by practice sketches by Peter Sheeler and his videos. This is from a photo I took in 2016 up at Bodie, California, when it was moving toward noon on a hot, hot day in August.
I rather like the composition, particularly the lines of poles marching over the hill in the distance. If you ever have been to Bodie, you know it’s a long drive down a long and bumpy washboard road. The telephone poles and lines emphasize the town’s isolation. As far as painting the subject matter, I started out with a line drawing, painted, and then came in again with the ink pen. It was so, so, so hard to not try to draw and paint every line and rock. Simplification was a big challenge for me.
As I painted, I worked hard to recall what I have learned doing the practice studies. Keeping things simple also meant keeping the palette simple, and the brush choice as well. I started out with sky in Cobalt Blue after wetting it down with a big round brush. Then I kept myself isolated to a dagger brush – first time to use one, too. The remainder of the palette included Quin Gold, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue, Sap and Hooker’s Green, and by accident, a tad of Indrathene Blue. The paper is 5×7 Arches Hot Press and taped down with a 3M painter’s tape with specialized edge-sealing qualities, which really worked to keep the tape from pulling up as it got wet.
Overall, I like the lack of mud and the contrasts I developed between light and dark. Pen and ink come to save the day again!