Fog Monster #1

The California coast depends on the fog that rolls in from the Pacific during the late spring and summer – and other times of the year, probably – for its ecology.  Plants collect the damp of the fog as a primary water source, and at times it makes the coastal areas, and inland valleys, rather damp and dreary.

Here, we call it “May Grey” and “June Gloom” and “The Fog Monster” – and believe me, when you live in a coastal city in July, and the sky is cold and damp, you cannot help but agree with Mark Twain when he said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

You see the coastal fog rolling over the foothills toward the inland valleys.  I tried to simplify my palette and fields of color to suggest distance.  The sun is coming from the viewer’s right, so I also worked to make it evident on the distant hills.  I used a lot of dry brush in the foreground, and basically worked from top to bottom so that the distant layers would be overlaid by the middle and foreground.  The only thing that wasn’t quite in that sequence were the fence posts.  Once they were established, dry brush to represent grasses was employed.


Years ago I did Japanese ink painting, along with Chinese painting.  Chrysanthemums are a traditional study.  Here, I tried to work with the gouache in the same fashion – following the same formula – as in Oriental painting.  Because the paper and pigment are different, it doesn’t work out the same, although the brushwork is applied similarly.

Using what I learned from the first painting, while I held to the constructs I had learned in Asian painting, I applied the principles of gouache here.  I built on layers and worked over areas I wasn’t too thrilled with.

Being familiar with how different painting techniques are applied is very handy.  This knowledge can be applied to another area (here, painting) and modified to fit the needs of the medium.  Painting is like opening up a brand new world!  It is quite an adventure.

Rain Country

This time a sky and land study from a Pixabay image.  I did this on the reverse side of another painting, so the paper, 140# Arches cold press, was warped.  I thought about ironing it, but decided to just tape it to the board, and use the warps to my advantage with the sky.  Overall, it worked pretty well, but where there were dribbles, I snagged them with a tissue.  It was rather fun.

Altogether, I like the way this painting turned out.  I was rather stumped about the foreground, so I just made some leafy, grassy strokes.  The water along the roadway came out fairly good, as did the road itself.  Perspective on a flat land is a challenge but it seems to have worked out, too.

Some days a painting works, and you are in the moment with paint, brush, and paper.   A lot of the painting was like that.  Then, at the end, I stepped back and thought about contrast, and added a bit here and there as blobs or lines or dots.  And finally it was done.

Sycamore Tree

Another painting from a photo I took.  Here, I am looking up into a tall, stately sycamore tree during its summer season.

I did a few things here.  First, I tried to use complementary colors for shadows and dark spots on the tree trunk and branches.  I used zinc white and a bit of ochre for the trunk, and for the dark spots threw in some violet and white and dark blue, eventually touching up dark areas with black and brighter areas with titanium white.  The thin branches are straight black.

Right now my palette is pretty muddy, so I sort of wash the colors left behind with a brush to find the remains of the pure color.  I decided to do this as I want to try a stay-wet type of palette to see if that helps me keep my colors cleaner, but I want to use up these colors as I practice.

I am also rinsing my brush out between colors, and drying it, too.  Little details like this are not something I think about, and so I am trying to create better habits for keeping my paints clean, whether gouache or watercolor, as it really does make a big difference.  For practice, though, my muddy palette will do as I practice techniques.

On the Edge

I think it was in 2017 our family did a long road trip through some of the incredibly beautiful parts of the American West.  We visited Mesa Verde, the Grand Canyon, Fort Laramie, Teton National Forest, and Yellowstone.  We were on the road about 3 weeks and in that time, driving on lonesome roads, the beauty of the country opened up around each corner.  Coming from suburbia, such emptiness gets a bit frightening – and enticing.  I used to live in the boonies, but as a kid – as an adult, I see the advantages and disadvantages, dangers and pleasures.

This painting is done from a photograph I took on the edge of the Grand Canyon.  Our B&B host gave us exact directions to a dirt service road, complete with mile marker.  There was a little turnout for parking and an easy mile walk through the pines.  At the end, the edge of the world!  Before us spread out the incredible vistas of the Grand Canyon.  The edge, though, before we met that vast expanse, had a wonderful scene of its own – trees, flowers, bushes, rocks – through which a hint of the Grand Canyon could be seen.

If you have never been to the Grand Canyon, take a trip.  Even a short stop will leave you in awe.

Beach Study

I like the beach, in case you haven’t noticed.  Grass, sand, cliffs, water, wind.

I broke down and did a value study for this scene.

Of course, I did it on an accessible page in my sketchbook, but since I did the study before the painting, I knew where I wanted lights and darks.  As I worked, I pulled dark areas together to contrast with lighter / brighter areas.  I mixed my colors using zinc white, but this time used titanium white straight out of the tube to highlight the ocean waves.

I’ve been wondering why people say “zinc for mixing, titanium for highlights.”  Zinc is a transparent white, so it blends with gouache and watercolors without distorting the values.  Titanium is a more opaque white, and as a result good for highlights, but not recommended for color mixing.


Coffee Cups

Coffee cups are simple, right?  Hmm.  Circles.  Ellipses.  Straight lines.  Shadows.  Reflections.

This one is tipping over!

Even with a straight-on viewpoint, the cup is lopsided.

Parts of things are easier to paint because they lack the reference points of a complete coffee cup.

In all of these, I tried to use complementary colors, either as shadows and / or background color.

    • The first one is a green-blue, so the complement is red-orange.  Adding reds and oranges to cobalt turquoise produced some interesting greys for the shadows of the first coffee cup.
    • The second coffee cup is red (with some orange) so I used greens, but thought shadows looked better with some violet and deep blue added, with a smidge of black.
    • The third cup is mostly a yellow color, with some medium blue for shadows.  Additionally, I added purples, blues, and greens to the coffee beans in the coffee cup.

I really need to learn to draw better!