I promised to paint more buildings. So I did. I painted a house in the middle of a cold, cold climate in the dead of winter. I made better house drawings when I was 10.
I have really lost touch with real cold, real snow, and a real winter. I do have memories, though, of the intense gloom of the woods in northern New York state. There was something so magical about them – the silence of the woods, the snow falling, the sense of being alone in the world. I liked the idea of capturing that with a building, on water, in the dead of winter.
Buildings mean people, even in the middle of nowhere, on a river. People usually mean unnecessary noise, and in the woods or hiking, the last thing I want is noise. Silence is something to be savored in our noisy age.
So, let’s get back to the “disastrous fun” of this posting. “Disastrous” as this is such an amateurish painting, and “fun” because the more I got into, and the more I realized how awful it was, the more fun I had. Making a “good” painting no longer had any meaning – it was the experience. And the snow.
The final touch was the snowflakes. White gouache to spatter. I spattered on the painting. It flew onto my glasses. I spattered some more. It flew onto my glasses. I changed how I was spattering, and there were streaks.
Snowflakes don’t streak in the real world. Spattering paint is an art form in and of itself.
Outside my studio window is a small California Redbud. It really needs more sunshine to show off its flowers – there is too much shade on the western side of my house, and so it does not bloom very often or very much. Still, it is a lovely tree. Slender branches, heart-shaped leaves that change color and drop in the autumn. Local birds like to hang out in its branches.
Today, I tried to express the beauty of several redbuds in bloom, with spring growth abounding in new leaves. I drew the trees first, then used frisket – a lot of it – in the forms of lines and dots. From there, the background was laid in, using varying colors to represent leaves, flowers, and other trees or branches. The frisket was then removed, and trunks painted using warm and cool greys. Afterward, magentas and yellow greens, warm and cool. It was all rather splattery! Finally, after everything dried, white dots applied to suggest spring insects and twinkling sunlight.
Not entirely pleased. As a realistic painting, it fails; however, as an abstract, it has potential.
I painted this using multiple layers of frisket on the paper. On the first round, I blocked off the right side of the aspens. Once I was fairly content with the overall image, I added frisket over various areas, such as the greens and browns of the foliage. I made lines to represent trees, and dots to suggest a glint of sunshine on a leaf. I did this three or four times on dried paint. In the end, I removed the frisket, left some areas white, and painted over other white areas with transparent glazes, hoping to pull together different areas of the painting. Finally, I made small dots of colored paint in the foliage, to suggest leaves.
This study was to utilize what I have been learning from the experience of following Rick Surowicz’s YouTube videos, as well as what I learned just painting. This is the first time I conscientiously laid out a plan or method on how to approach the painting. First, drawing. Then frisket. Next, washes of green, gold, brown, and oranges broad across the paper and blurred using a spray bottle and blotting. From there, details, contrast, and so on. Overall, I think my painting has taken a turn for the better.
Today was another practice session using a study by Rick Surowicz on his YouTube channel. This one is titled “Snowy Creek’s Edge.” As with the one I did the other day, there is a lot of use of frisket, and this particular study with filled with it! Keeping areas white is important, and many watercolorists eschew using it – I know I sure did – but judiciously applied, it really does make painting easier. What I really liked is that it is an excellent way to express narrow bands of snow lying along slender branches and twigs. It also allows for creating negative space without painting tediously around things – a good skill to have, but at times not necessary.
Coming away from this, I am getting less caught up in copying Rick’s painting and using it as a point of study in watercolor technique, blending colors, and usage of tools and brushes. Tomorrow (unless the family Thanksgiving becomes a bit much during the morning) I plan to find a snowy scene, either from a photo I have taken or from a public domain image, and work more with snow in the landscape.
Last summer we ran away from home, up the coast, to La Purisima Mission in the area of Lompoc, California. It’s a small town with a wonderful secularized California Mission, La Purisima, restored by the state during the Depression. It has gardens, outbuildings, a wonderful historical center, and is a lovely place to walk around on a sunny day. I took my camera with me, and today’s painting is based upon the photograph below.
This little patch of weeds is located on the backside of the mission, and I found it so charming. The weeds are typical California plants – hardy, drought resistant, resinous. Grasses and flowers. Furry leaves. All these help keep the plants from drying out in the relentless sun and low humidity.
I am not really sure if I caught what I wanted to do with this photograph, but I am pleased enough to put my name on the scan I used a lot of the techniques I learned from Rick Surowicz’s Fall Lake video.
Putting on the frisket was scary. I was so unsure about it, but knowing the only way to learn was to do, I did! Blobs, lines, sprinkles and splatters of frisket. Paint. Paint some more. Finally I arrived at a point where I just didn’t think I could go any further, and it is at this point I stopped. And then removed the frisket. More paint added here and there, lines, whatever. The final result is below.
Another practice study from Peter Sheeler. Here he uses masking tape – painters tape – to create a frisket. He tore pieces of tape and pressed them into the paper, as a resist to the dry brush technique he used to create the sense of a very windy laundry day. As a kid, I remember those days, pegging the clothes and sheets. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, but always worth the smell of fresh air on your sheets when you went to bed.
First, here is the picture with the “laundry” masked with randomly torn bits of painter’s tape.
And here is the final picture. To frame the picture, I used more tape around the edges of the picture. If you watch the video, you’ll see why!