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.
For some time I have considered the possibility of doing two studies for each painting, one in watercolor and the other in gouache. Today’s painting is exactly that. I took the same study in gouache (yesterday) and painted it in watercolor. It was a really interesting experience!
First, I am doing all these studies in a 7×10 sketchbook. The paper is not really good for really wet watercolors, but is very nice for gouache. Knowing this, I kept my paper as unsaturated as possible, but also worked to use wet-in-wet where I thought necessary, such as in the sky and fog bank, but being very careful about the amount of water I used. In other areas I did small, quick forays into wet work, but kept it to a minimum while allowing for bleeds, or coming back to work a bit more, such as on the right side where the grasses are in contrast to the road (lower right side).
Problems continue with depth. The middle ground hills and the ones against the fog are muddled into each other. While I made things simpler in the distance, the colors remain the same in intensity. Atmospheric perspective needs a bit of boost in this one.
Look forward to more of these studies.
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.