More Malibu Creek State Park, but this time with a different twist. The water is there – in the form of misty air. In spring and summer the coastal fog rolls in, and the landscape softens as it recedes. It doesn’t bring rain, but the environment is adapted to live on the moisture. As well, the land is often green from the rains earlier in the year.
I tried to capture this with washes and glazes, working wet-in-wet as well as rewetting the paper and adding color. This type of painting takes a patient approach (at least for me) as you have to load the paper with a bit of water and/or color, and then test it for dampness if you want things to soften and blur. It is also a fun way to express very faint geological shapes in the mountains.
Finally, oak trees. I just love these trees! Here in California they are really twisty and spooky, unlike the more upright specimens in the midwest. This one in the middle of the plain is unusual, but it is there, alone and grand.
Scanning a painting is a bit of trick – here, you can see that the scan had some dark shades in the corners, not reflective of the smooth, bright white of the paper. Fixing that issue changes the actual colors, which in this scan are much closer to the actual painting. So, here is the imperfect scan with perfecter colors.
This was probably the most challenging of the 3 botanical paintings I have done so far. The highlight in the apple was a challenge, as were all the spots and stripes. The colors I used were all labeled as transparent on various websites, and they included yellow ochre, lemon yellow, Payne’s grey, permanent alizarin crimson, quinacridone burnt orange, lemon yellow, and nickel azo yellow. Manufacturers varied to include W&N, Daniel Smith, and M. Graham.
What I have found that seems to pull the final painting together is to place a large, light glaze over various areas of the painting. For instance, on the left I used a pale yellow-orange glaze to pull the warm tones of the painting together; on the right, I used a combination of alizarin and orange and grey to create a cooler contrast. In the high light, I used a very light yellowish-alizarin mix.
I did this first layer of colors in the gloom of the evening, after work. I was tired but had played out some of the painting earlier in the day in between whatever I was doing. I used a small brush and deliberately tried – and will continue to try – a delicate approach. Both the bee and the borage have a lot of fine hairs which I want to express and preserve. Looking at the scan shows a need for contrast in the center of the flower, along with on the bee’s back, behind the eyes. In these areas, I will be working on glazes to create better contrast, and I hope a better sense of depth. As it stands now, the whole painting is rather flat and nondimensional to my eye.
Here is yesterday’s first layer of watercolor pencil, now “watercolored”. I tried to follow the lines of the pencil.
Here is the second layer of watercolor pencil, with a little bit more detail. The sky was done with about 4 or 5 colors, layered down with a blue, some white, some grey. The roofs are an orange and a brown and a black.
As you can see, I also colored in the windows and am trying to add texture to the tiled roofs. Some green, too, for the foliage in front. After this, I then added water. Once more, I followed the lines, such in the roofs. The space on the lower right is a bit of a problem. I think it needs something, but have no idea at this point. Maybe a cafe awning so we can a shot of espresso?
As I have never used watercolor pencils for any complete picture, my cunningly brilliant plan is to simply layer color, then use water. As you can see, there is some bleeding. Most interesting to me is the sky – in the center the little bleeds are rather interesting. In the windows, I also did some lifting of color with a dry brush to lighten the glass, as a reflection or to enhance a shadow. The iron gall ink is beginning to blur into the colors.
I have no idea how many layers I will end up with, but I am going to try to do glazes / layers to represent shadow and form. No idea how successful this will be!
Now that I feel a bit more accomplished in some of my watercolor skills, I have taken the time to think about a few things. Specifically, what to do next. I think negative space, or negative painting, seems like the next best step. I am not sure why – it just feels right. That is how I painted my two moonlit sycamores. Now it is time to paint their leaves. Below is a photo I took the other day, which is my reference point.
I started out with three primary colors: Cobalt Blue, Cadmium Yellow, and Permanent Rose. First, I wet the paper and then made a few distinct areas for each color. Then I tipped the paper around (it’s mounted on a board) so the colors would blend and bleed. As it is probably only 90# paper, there was buckling and pooling, but decided to just let things happen. After it dried, I drew in the shapes of the leaves, and then worked around the leaves and twigs with a wash of varying strengths that combined Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna. The veins were a bit of Hookers, Sap, and Cobalt Green. Altogether, there are multiple layers of washes / glazes – some successful, some not. The final overlaying wash was a mixture of Carbazole Violet, Cobalt and Ultramarine Blues.
This painting has a lot of problems – too tight, too overdone – but the problems also present future solutions, which I hope to visit in the not-too-distant future. I feel like it is moving toward mud, too, which is something I always have to watch out for.
Given my frustration with painting grapes the other day, I decided to look at some YouTube watercolor videos on painting the highlights and shadows of spherical objects. I found two which I really liked, and the result is I did a number of studies, as can be seen below. Techniques include both wet-in-wet, glazing, and a few others.
The purple balls were done with glazing; the shadows were wet-in-wet. Here and there I went in with a damp brush to soften the edges of the shadows in the grapes, or to blur paint over areas which seemed weird. Not too bad, but I do not find glazing appealing; it may be I need to improve my glazing technique.
These orange goodies are preludes to a potential painting of oranges. The one on the right was done first, but as the ink was bleeding – it was ordinary fountain pen ink – I moved on to the one on the left, which is drawn with Sailor’s Carbon Ink. I like the on the left quite a bit – the bleed into the shadow, as well as the colors themselves, which are Hansa Yellow, Pyrrol Orange, and Organic Vermilion. The brush I used was a large one, a Cosmotop 14, and the paper was the Canson pad of watercolor paper (not the Montval).