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.
I should have gone to my Pencil Portraits class . . . but it was raining and cold and it’s outdoors. I’m a wuss, enjoying snow and ice from a distance. Thus, biting cold, frost, and snow fog. Wander along the road, beneath the trees, and remain in my snug house with a cup of cocoa and blues a-playing in the background. Not a rough life.
A bad reference to Virginia Woolf’s novel, which is an interesting read.
This painting is a dedication to lighthouses worldwide. They have saved so many lives by letting sailors know of treacherous waters. Add to that, lighthouses are often found in spare and rugged places, all of which make for dramatic and wonderful photos and paintings.
I have often thought I would like to live in such a place, hearing the waves crash, watching the light circling through the night, and, of course, the sound of fog horns. Throw in some seal barks and sea gulls, and I would be pretty happy. Sleep could be a challenge though.
I made up this painting, amalgamating lighthouses and buildings from various images. My goal was to practice shading, such as moving from a sunlit side to the shadow side, using pointillism techniques. You can see this on the conical shape of the lighthouse as well as on the buildings. I have tried to give a sense of cliffs and housing sunk down a bit behind the green of the grass. Morning or evening light for the sky, or an intimation of fog and filtered sunshine is also attempted.
As I work more in pointillism, I realize that this helps me tremendously in sorting out colors. As far back as I can remember, mud has been my most famous by-product in painting. It could be that this is something I really need to use as a primary technique, though I am thinking of doing a pointillistic painting in gouache, and then re-wetting it to blend the colors applied in dots.
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.
Summer, fog, early morning rising mist. One color blends into another, overlapping, blurring together. How to express this?
Gouache does not readily lend itself to the color movement as does watercolor. In watercolor, you can discharge one color into another, and the wicking action of water and paper do the work for you. Here, I thought a lot about how to blend and merge colors to create that soft effect of fog. In the end, for this painting, I decided to use a narrow, flat brush with stiff bristles and scumble all the colors together.
Rather a brighter painting than I anticipated, but I think it does express the rising fog and early morning sky fairly well.
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!
Continuing my water and fog series, and my simplification attempts as well. Here, another deserted coastline, with a few birds.
What is it about a lonely beach? It’s spooky, it’s sad, it’s exciting, and quiet. If the sun is trying to break through, the warmth begins to disperse the fog. Hopeful. Sun. If it is heavy weather, the sky lowers and threatens. Cold. Damp. Dangerous.
Fluid paper, limited palette of ultramarine, sap and Hooker’s greens, burnt umber and raw sienna, and a bit of alizarin. Probably other colors, too – hard to remember where the brush wandered.
California is not all joyful sunshine and playing on the beaches. Fog is a large part of the coastal environment. It is known as “May grey” and “June gloom.” This morning I woke up to it . . . . inspiration for a foggy lake in the frozen (or not so frozen) north.
I’m still focused on water. Today I wanted fog and water and hoped to use very wet paint thinned to mostly water. I also wanted to work with wet-in-wet in the attempt to catch the softening of edges, increasingly more blurred and colorless, to denote distance. A dull, muted foreground with intense color to add to depth of field. I think it all worked out pretty good.
This photo is moody and mysterious, and you can certainly imagine how spooky it could be to come upon suddenly, lost in a whirl of fog on a lonely moorland. I tried to capture it in my own watercolor.
This painting is significantly different than some of my other paintings. I used the wet-in-wet technique throughout the painting, creating several layers of glazes before adding the details of grasses. These I did using negative painting over the washes. Then, more solid brushwork for the tree, branches, and scrub in the lower corners.
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.