Where I live there isn’t a very big likelihood of snow. At higher elevations, yes, but here in coastal California, 800 feet isn’t gonna get it.
So, I dream.
I’ve lived in some places with stunning countryside, such as rural Illinois, upstate New York, in the Rockies of Colorado. Snow was beautiful and thrilling. As a kid, it’s a wonderland, but I remember my mother would always kvetch about all the little mittens, the snowsuits, the boots, the scarves, the this and that to get a herd of kids dressed to play – and then ten minutes later, they are all back in the house.
For some reason the winter and snow scenes of Maurice Utrillo were wandering through my mind when I was painting this. Yes, he painted urban winter scenes, but I don’t think that really matters. What I saw here was the brushwork, a scumbling to blend colors, which I think of when I see his paintings.
Initially my idea was to attempt a pointillistic painting, but the subject matter really doesn’t lend itself to dots. What I did was to lay down dots, as in pointillism, and then work them into each other for color gradation, textures, and mood.
If I am to be honest, I am really pleased with this painting! I hope you enjoy it, too.
I love aspens – the way their leaves quiver, the fact that a grove could be one ginormous plant, the colors they add to the mountains as the seasons change.
What caught my eye here are the shadows across the roadway. I just recently read that shadows are essentially the color of whatever is beneath them. Thus, shadows on green grass are darker green; shadows on a sandy path are darker shades of sand. The blue sky also impacts shadows, as does the sun, such as filtering through the leaves. Distance is demonstrated (as always!) by less detail and lighter, perhaps bluer, things in the distance. Here, I was interested in the cast shadows along with trying to catch the flickering sunshine through the leaves.
I’ve been playing with gouache of late, but really have missed watercolor and its transparency. Yesterday I thought I would sit down to do some painting, but it never happened. Today, out on the patio reading a book, I looked around at all the plants, and realized, duh! There is a lot to play with out here!
I’d moved all my orchids outside to water and air out a bit. This is the last of the blooming phalenopsis, so I painted it – no pencil or preliminary value studies – just direct watercolor and let it happen. I can tell by the awkward handling of the paint I am out of practice; as well, the paper is not the best, but that is what sketch books are for.
About 6 weeks ago I took all my old and new flower seeds and planted them helter-skelter. These are zinnias, plants which are notorious for wilting with not enough water – like in a couple of hours they can look like they will just fall over – but come back miraculously with a bit of help. Totally crack me up – such simple flowers to be so demanding. Kind of nervy. Anyway, what I like about them is that they have beautifully shaped leaves, lovely stems, and smallish bright flowers that burst out of all the green surrounding them. Here, a bit better handling, with a use of negative painting to create the leaves and perhaps a bit of dimension.
Finally, my favorite of the bunch. Brush control and forethought. Here I was perched on a rather tall chair, looking down onto the pot of scaveola, a sort of creeper from what I can observe. It has a variety of leaf shapes, and the purple flowers sort of send out petals from behind the leaves in a peek-a-boo fashion. I took a photo of this for Instagram, but you can also see the photo below of plant and sketch, taken with my phone.
Our backyard was filled with about 18 trees, far too many for the allotted size. We had 5 trees removed and the remaining pruned backed. Eventually all but 2 will be removed, roots dug out, stumps ground down. I don’t know what this guy was thinking when he put in all these trees – I had neighbors I didn’t even know I have stop to tell me how much nicer it looked and they had “told” him he was putting in far too many. We can actually see the sky at night!
That said, after the crepe myrtle, I moved onto the podocarpus, which are rather lovely or ugly trees, depending on my mood! For now, I’m just doing simple things – not that these leaves were simple. The leaves of the podocarpus in our yard have leaves that grow in clumps, rather like bamboo in shape, but totally not bamboo. Still, the leaves may be painted with the tip of the brush, a bit of downward pressure, and then a rise to complete the shape.
I tried to paint around highlit areas – making a leaf or leaf shapes with green, and then working toward the darker areas.
I keep forgetting what a challenge watercolor can be, but it makes me so happy to do it, whether or not I am especially successful!
For the first time in weeks, I have had the wherewithal to paint. These past few months have been rather nuts, and the mental space to focus on the simple pleasure of painting has not been mine to enjoy.
This morning, I sat down under the big umbrella in the back yard, pulled out my iPad, and took a few pictures of some low-growing crepe myrtle branches and flowers. A water brush, a sketch book, and no expectations.
Parts are good – parts not so good – contrast is lacking – but I am feeling pleasantly surprised about this small sketch.
After “getting” negative space yesterday, I decided to make a complicated drawing and “work” at negative space. I have orange lilies blooming in pots on the patio every year, and they are brilliantly orange with piles of leaves in all directions. What better source of light and dark, overlaps, medium shades? And in the afternoon sun. So, here you go.
Much more pleased with the second rendering of this painting, based on Rick Surowicz’s video. The black branches don’t work, but the negative space does. This time, rather than using painter’s tape, I used Pebeo masking fluid for white areas, and then later to create branches on already-painted areas.
Meanwhile, the counters on the vanities are in – but it may be the plumber will be in later.
I started a weekly Friday afternoon watercolor class yesterday. The assignment was based on a negative painting by Rick Surowicz, who does amazing work. You can find him on YouTube and on Facebook. This is the video from which this painting is a derivative.
A few things . . . first, I didn’t have any frisket / masking fluid in class. I had barely anything! All my stuff – most of my stuff – is still packed up from the house repairs. I ransacked a bit and found some things. Like tape – so I used tape to mask off some areas inside the painting. Second, I used student-grade paper, and some of the paper’s surface came off when I removed the tape. I think you can see the areas if you look closely.
The way I see it, the whole point of this exercise is to work on negative painting. Exact replication of Surowicz’s painting is not the point – the point is to learn from it. I struggle with negative painting, but learning to just let go of things when I paint and let things happen, while hard, is something I am finally beginning to do. To quote the Beatles, “let it be, let it be”!
The painting was, to a point, successful. I did some negative painting. I wanted to work with complementary colors and washes, but try to control a bit, such as the leaf shapes, here and there.
Now that it is done, the real question is which end is up? Click on the first image to move through all four versions.
I think I like this one the best (fourth in the series). It’s below. Maybe it expresses the wind and whirling leaves and branches and twigs.