One of the totally fun things about studying a school of painting is exploring its members! Who is this person? Oh, I like that painting! And then, off on a trail of discovery. I am finding a lot of painters I like, many from the post-Impressionist schools of Pointillism. These same painters move not only into Pointillism, but other ways, or schools, of painting that appeal to me in their composition and their colors.
Still, sticking with Pointillism, today’s study is from a painting by Theo van Rysselberghe, a Belgian painter who does lovely work. Here, a study of a moonlit night of a harbor. Boats, sails, reflections, silhouettes, lights, and even a few human beings. Van Rysselberghe’s interpretation of the night, the light of the moon, and the colors used to express the night are so interesting. The lack of light, artificial light, and moonlight all create an atmosphere at once pleasing and rather mysterious. My own agenda has learning to paint the night effectively a high priority.
My own painting is nowhere as good as van Rysselberghe’s, but that is not the point. The focus is on the colors of the night, the blues, the darks – purple? black? phthalo blue? mixtures of all kinds? There is a luminescent quality to even the darkest colors, as well as a brilliance to the lightest that is not quite white, but a pale, pale yellow.
The dots are also more than dots. Brushwork is not only circular dabs of color, but also horizontal lines that are done perhaps with the side of a round brush (mine were!). When I copy a painting, I try to see the brushwork. Gouache does a decent job for copying paintings, but the paintings I have been copying are in oil and certainly oil paintings are much larger than my 9×12 studies, and consequently more subtle.
If you follow along here at all, you know two things about me. One is a lack of real depth perception. The next is my ongoing struggle with perspective. I have learned that my poor drawing – sloppy drawing, really – due to impatience – ruins a lot of my attempts at perspective in paintings.
I have decided to work on perspective, particularly architectural perspective. That means buildings! As a country girl at heart (no cowboy hats, though), I like the idea of buildings in a non-city setting. No skyscrapers for me. Instead, a boat house, a farm house, a barn perhaps. A building along the waterfront, even suburbia. Why? I want a few trees and some water.
This is the first in a bunch I intend to do to really work on perspective. Looking at things dead on is easy, but looking at something with angles is different. Also, looking down on something from above, or upward from a low vantage point.
Here, gouache. This took hours. About an hour drawing and probably three hours painting it. It works to a degree. All this for a 5×7 painting!!
The thing is more than anything is to just get out there and do it, no matter how icky it turns out!!
This was a rather fun painting to do just because it forced me to really rethink using white.
The ocean was the problem. I thought I had put it in so it would be fairly light, particularly toward the distant shore. Instead, when it dried, it was darker than I wanted. The trees on the hill in the midground were essentially the same value as the water! This was quite an eye-opener. In the end, I put plain white (zinc) onto the paper, and kept blending it in until I got it where it was acceptable.
From there, it was back to the background. It was also too bright. I toned that down, and greyed it up a bit. The background shore was too bright. More work. Then, back to the midground, foreground, buildings and boats. I painted – with oodles of white! – the buildings, making them abstract shapes and then adding slightly darker shades to make the buildings seem 3-D. More trees. Finally, reflections, boats, and their reflections.
While I don’t consider this to be one of my better paintings, it is certainly one filled with lessons, in particular the usage of white (lots!), perhaps in the future check the colors on a separate piece of paper to see how light or dark they will dry, and finally deliberately trying to create abstract color blobs for buildings and trees that are discernible as such, but still indistinct in the distance.
I am ordering more white today!
Every week I am trying to focus on a subject. I guess for the next week it will be boats. My drawing skills are not the best, and so focusing on how something is constructed will help. What made me think about this is a very simple way of drawing and painting boats by an excellent watercolor YouTuber named Shibasaki. Below is his demo on boats.
What makes this video so valuable is he shows you that a boat is a series of rectangles with a few curves. Don’t believe me? Check it out. I’ve learned a lot from Shibasaki-san!
My palette here was limited to zinc white, ultramarine blue, a touch of gamboge, burnt sienna, and some left over colors on the palette from the sunset coast I painted the other day – a bit of teal and some red.
One thing I have always loved are sail boats and tug boats. Those are on the agenda. Stay tuned . . .