I am trying to lighten up my handling of watercolor. Very often my colors are far more intense than I really want. I think part of this is the result of impatience and perhaps pre-cataract surgery days. Watercolor itself lends itself to a delicacy other media lack, I think, and to not play into the wetness and what it can do perhaps defeats watercolor’s beauty.
There is something about fog and early morning that always fascinates me. The idea that a cloud is on the ground (my father’s description of fog when I was about 5) still intrigues me. After all, clouds are UP!
So, a morning along the coast. Wet, soft, blurry, and giving way to a sunny, summer day.
Since I had all the pastels out from Tuesday’s class, before I straightened up the mess in the studio, I decided on another study. This time, the oak-covered hills of California. In spring, the hills are brilliantly green, often covered with wildflowers, such as poppies and lupines. As spring gives way to summer, the heat comes, and the grasses dry out. Perfect conditions for all these dreadful wildfires of late . . . Anyway, the coast can be socked in with the summer fog, but inland, the hills are under the brilliant sun. As you look toward the Pacific, you can see the “fog monster” lurking on the other side of the range.
Another study of an Oregon coastline. Morning fog with a bit of sun breaking through.
I must admit, I am really pleased with how this painting turned out. It seems that returning to the scene (of the crime?) is helpful, as well as working in different media. I did this same scene in watercolor a bit ago, and I plan to do it in pastels as well.
Done on Arches 7×10 inch hot press 140# watercolor paper. Hot pressed paper seems to be the best choice for gouache. Time to order some more!
If you think that the SoCal coast can be foggy, Oregon is by far more foggy at times! It’s an incredibly beautiful coastline with wide, nearly empty beaches. Out to sea are the sea stacks, some large, some small. In clear weather they are stunning, in the fog, spooky and eerie.
Today, a limited palette and paying particular attention to laying down water and thin colors. Washes are the dominant technique used here. My little picky brush strokes had to give way to broad ones for the beach and damp sand. It actually worked fairly well. Water, water, everywhere!
I have been busy sewing masks for friends and family, and it’s been a slow process, taking a lot of time. However, I am back to my determination to paint or draw something every day, either in the morning or in the afternoon. As I had an appointment this morning, I used this rainy, rainy afternoon to paint the Goleta Slough. Or part of it. Generally speaking, I rather like it – all those little dabs of white, grey, and black are seagulls and other critters. The sand jutting out needs to be fixed – seems like it is riding upward or something, but …. ?
I cannot believe I haven’t posted anything since the last few days of August! Life has been filled with family activities, horrible heat, and other things that take up time like sewing and reading and cooking and a photo safari. However, I could not stay away! Surprising how much I miss my daily forays into paint and color, and especially gouache! (I really need to get back into watercolor – more in a tad about that.)
Trees again. Cypress trees have their own character – they invite sweeping brush strokes with a flat brush, or a tapered one. Movements of the brush match the movement of the wind it seems. Where cypress trees live along the California coast is usually windy, foggy, and often cold, and these trees rise like ghosts out of the mist. They are quite eerie.
We are heading out to Monterey for a few days. I havene’t packed any gouache, but a small watercolor palette and a sketchbook for out-of-the-house experiences. I hope I take the time to paint or draw, and catch some flavor of where we will be. Along with my sketchbook I am bringing a camera (or two, or three, or . . . ? Anyway, the idea is to enjoy some time off while the other half is on vacation – our road trip was sidetracked by a water leak a couple of months ago.
Farms in California are a bit different than what I remember as a kid in the Midwest and out on the plains. The land along the coast is gentle and low lying. The ocean brings in mist and fog, creating at times a dreamy, otherworldly quality that is soft and ethereal. Fog comes and goes, scenery appears and vanishes. Colors can be pale or deeply rich depending on light and cloud.
Evidence of overworking is present in the white highlights . . . they just don’t seem to go with the rest of the painting insofar they are too bright. I was thinking in terms of photography and histograms – white point, black point. I wonder if I am criss-crossing two different art formats. Besides that, the rocks are perhaps too orange for the distant sky, although sandstone can take on an incredibly orangish color under the right light.
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.
Another landscape, another limited palette. For this painting I used ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, burnt umber, sap and cobalt greens, a splash of raw sienna. 9×12 Fabirano Artistico.
I wanted to see if I could convey a good sense of depth, moving from the foreground with warmer colors to the distance with more neutral and greyish colors. Contrast, too, was considered for eye appeal, leading lines, depth.
If you look at the grasses in the foreground, you can see grass blades. I used a very dry flat brush to accomplish this, sometimes using a lighter green and brushing upward, or darker green to brush into the lighter green. Negative painting!