I decided to attempt a more high key painting today – one with a lot of white! I always look for contrast, but here I tried to lessen the usual contrast. Maybe it’s because I rather like contrasty photos as opposed to subtle one with a long scale of color or black and white. Even here, I kept adding contrast! It’s a fixation . . . but contrast is how we differentiate shapes and depth, so it’s necessary, but I am trying to minimalize it. Not sure if it worked or not!
The Caribbean is a magical area – palms, sunny, sandy, windy, brilliant light, azure waters – and a place of terror, such as the fury of hurricanes, and in the olden days, pirates! Here is California we also have such brilliance, but our hells are fires and earthquakes. It seems there is always a counterpoint for something.
This was a rather fun painting to do just because it forced me to really rethink using white.
The ocean was the problem. I thought I had put it in so it would be fairly light, particularly toward the distant shore. Instead, when it dried, it was darker than I wanted. The trees on the hill in the midground were essentially the same value as the water! This was quite an eye-opener. In the end, I put plain white (zinc) onto the paper, and kept blending it in until I got it where it was acceptable.
From there, it was back to the background. It was also too bright. I toned that down, and greyed it up a bit. The background shore was too bright. More work. Then, back to the midground, foreground, buildings and boats. I painted – with oodles of white! – the buildings, making them abstract shapes and then adding slightly darker shades to make the buildings seem 3-D. More trees. Finally, reflections, boats, and their reflections.
While I don’t consider this to be one of my better paintings, it is certainly one filled with lessons, in particular the usage of white (lots!), perhaps in the future check the colors on a separate piece of paper to see how light or dark they will dry, and finally deliberately trying to create abstract color blobs for buildings and trees that are discernible as such, but still indistinct in the distance.
I am ordering more white today!
I took a lot of photos – digital, film – while on vacation in Monterey, California. Trees, flowers, streets, room. This is what I saw along the trail at Whalers Cove in Pt. Lobos, California. The cliffs are sandy and crumbly, but there are bits of very dark dirt, from black to grey. I wonder if this area had volcanic activity at some point. The color contrast of the soil and cliffs, along with the tenacious hold of the flowers, made for some rather lovely bits of bright color in late summer.
We stopped by the roadside to get some gas on our way home from Monterey a few weeks ago. Rather than taking the main highway, the 101, we ran parallel to it, west, close to the mountains that lie next to the Pacific range. I’m glad we did. From the freeway, you can see the fields, the houses, the ranches, but being on a 2-lane bumpy road brings it up close. The area is vast and flat, a valley between two ranges. Here, all sorts of crops are grown, and it is really beautiful countryside.
This is from a photo I took with my phone, all with the intention of using it as painting material. I think it worked out rather well.
We all have those days – everything you think you are going to accomplish turns to some sort of monster or horror or nightmare as you do it. I sure had different ideas for what I was going to do out on my patio this afternoon. Ugh! Ugh! to the point I have to laugh. I really don’t know what to do with either of these except to chalk them up to experience.
This first one (above) is supposed to be some really brilliant orange geraniums on my patio table. I don’t think so. I get so – what? Impatient may not be the right word. What I feel is a need to work quickly, and perhaps therein lies the problem. I drew them in with a pencil and set up all my paints and water and other supplies on a table outdoors. In 85F or more weather, it was hot. But the heat is not the driving force for haste – it happens to me all the time, particularly with watercolor. It’s something to really think about.
After shuddering at that first painting, I decided to just paint – no lines, nothing, just move along. Sometimes in watercolor it has proven to be a great exercise. Here, not so sure. These are tabasco chilis that are ripening, and will soon be picked and dried, to later be ground into chili powder (we make our own every year, with different peppers.) Like the first painting, everything went head over heels, and in the end, I just decided to make it more decorative than painterly.
I can always tell when I haven’t picked up a pen or brush for even a couple of days. I felt all clumsy and disconnected. Maybe being outside – something I have never done with gouache – added to it. I really tried to paint from real life, plein aire, and I am not so sure that was for the best.
Oh, well. I had fun. Maybe there is something in that.
We spent a few days up on the Monterey Peninsula last week. I took lots of pictures, some with the camera, some with the phone. Digital is wonderful for catching so much – but it also keeps you from seeing things at times if you use the scatter gun approach that digital photography allows. I tried to frame my photos more thoughtfully than I sometimes do, taking time to consider composition and so on. All of this was with reference to the idea I would like to use material from my trip as potential painting subjects.
Above is one such example. Once more, my sense of depth is not the best. I tried to employ some of the techniques I know – atmospheric depth, less detail in the distance – but I really didn’t do a great job. In some ways, the painting sort of created itself. The path in the photo was curvier – way curvier – but it decided to become straighter as I painted. I just noticed that!
Anyway, I am planning to continue to paint every day. I do have some great subject matter. I plan to alternate watercolor and gouache, and become a bit more academic – find things I want to work on, and then study it, whether from a book or an online video.
I can say I have improved over time, but I am not where I would like to be. The question always at the back of my mind is, what do I do when I get where I want to be?