Winter in California usually brings rain. So far, nothing. The grassy hills die down to beige and brown, the oak trees are dark spots against the pale grasses. It’s a beauty of its own. Here, the beginning of a sunset casting its warmth on the peaks as the day ends.
It was quite interesting to do so as I used the same paper I used for my gouache, but the paper had less tooth than my usual CP watercolor paper, being more like hot press, which is very smooth. This was American Journey paper, which is very nice, and is somewhere between HP and CP for texture. This makes a difference when painting with watercolors.
Once more I feel like my DOF is not working in watercolor. I am not quite sure why, but it seems to be I lay down a color and then lay down more, and more, and even more for the distant objects. Unlike gouache, watercolor’s transparency makes each succeeding layer darker. At times a glaze of very thin color can pull a watercolor together, but not here. The dark distant hills on the right suggest a spot of cloud shadow, and the brighter one on the left a bit of sunshine. The sky suggests otherwise. And it looks like there is a sleeping or dead sheep in the field on the right!
There are bits and pieces of this painting I like, and the colors really do evoke a rather damp day when autumn is beginning to set in. The fact is, I find watercolor inherently more difficult than gouache simply because more pre-planning and strategizing than with gouache. This why I enjoy watercolor so much – it is so hard! The colors are just wonderful at times, and that is one of the joys of watercolor. Gouache, while beautiful, when done with less water and thicker paint, doesn’t have some of the same light as watercolor
So, for the sake of comparison, I am lining up the value study and gouache from yesterday with today’s watercolor. Click on the value study below to click through the three if you want to do some comparing.
Maybe a pastel should come along tomorrow?
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.
Hard to believe it’s been two weeks or so since I was last online.
Life has been busy, but in reality, the weather has been awful! We have had a heat wave that knackers you – 100+ F, and even worse further inland. Temps have ranged from 95-111 in the vicinity where I live (35-43C). Ugh. As a result, blobdom has reigned as the primary mode of existence and, sadly, some binge watching on the TV in the air-conditioned house. I guess we all have to do it.
Despite that, I have met with a pencil portrait group in a local park and have enjoyed those mornings. I have also done some sewing. And mice chasing, but no catching. Today I cleaned up the mess I call a studio.
And finally, I have sat down to paint. I wanted scudding clouds and changing light – movement from bright to dark across the hills and the sky. Wind, too. Anything to cool off.
Malibu State Park is a vast area that spreads out across bits of Ventura and Los Angeles Counties. You can feel like you are lost in the wild west. What is so enchanting about it is the land itself – hilly, flat, study with oak trees, a creek or two. It’s a great place to hike, to explore, to do photography, and to paint. In spring it is stunning, and after a rainy season you can walk through fields of butterflies. In fall, the sycamores change color, the grass is brown, but the hills can remain green. Definitely a land of contrasts.
I decided to use a study by the watercolorist Vernon Nye. He caught the back country of California perfectly – the hills and trees in particular. It was a fun study and I liked it because it pointed out to me how deceptively simple the hills can seem, but they really are not. The road, too, was another eye-catcher. I have driven along a number of back-road highways throughout the state, and you feel like you are the only person in the world. The perspective was a great challenge, too. Altogether, a good study of something in my own back yard, and I can take what I learned into future paintings.
Yesterday I started an 8 week course in pastels. Already I am in love with the medium! Add to this, the teacher is a real teacher – she is a professional who teaches full time in an elementary classroom. She is organized, states what she expects, interacts, demonstrates, and all the things that are so important in learning something new. Some teachers just say “have at it” and you stumble along, not knowing what you are doing. Yes, experience is a good teacher, but explanations and clarity really help one understand what is going on. I am looking forward to more classes!
Here is a picture from the Malibu Creek State Park near where I live. We all had a copy of a photograph to use, and then she explained the Rule of Thirds, the Golden Mean, and explained how she changed the composition of the photo to meet the needs of the Rule of Thirds. Value studies, too, were done before even picking up a color.
We used Nupastels, made by Prismacolor. Inexpensive but very nice. I have some Rembrandt soft pastels that I will use later on, or in conjunction with the ones we have in the classroom. As I love colors and drawing, this is a perfect combination of “things” – and these pictures are not “drawings” but “paintings” in the lexicon of the teacher. I never considered a pastel a painting.
I have not been this excited about a class in a very, very long time.
The miracle of green always happens in the last of the year and the first of the next when the rains come and new growth begins to emerge in the hills of California. After months of dry weather and fading landscapes. color erupts almost overnight. Soon, wildflowers will begin to tinge the hills from green to orange and purple and yellow. Here, a view from the hills toward the Pacific, with the Channel Islands in view, lost in the coastal fog.
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.