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.
This may be the last post for a few days as our house is torn apart and put together. The bathrooms, closets, laundry room, hallway, and bedrooms are getting new floors on Tuesday. The studio is bare. I have a small box filled with a few brushes, some paper, some paint, but who knows if I’ll be able to touch it for several days!
Because of this, I decided to end my weekend with a small ink and watercolor painting, derived from a photo I took last year of a barn in the hills nearby. I started by laying in pencil, then color, knowing I planned to deliberately finish with ink. I’m rather torn about the bright white of the roof – but it was in brilliant sunshine the day I took the photo. The windows are rather awful – looks like the barn has an eye infection!
Maybe I will tone the roof down later and fix the windows, but for now, it will remain as is. After I post this, it’s time to finish clearing out the studio, the closet, and put together little boxes so things like soap and toothpaste are available for kitchen use – we will have no bathroom sinks for a few weeks!