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.
Another series of three to emerge from this Land of Pandemica, where house arrest prevails and imagination runs wild!
I took this picture about a month ago, just as the shelter-in-mandate order came down from on high. I really like this picture because of its moodiness and the brightness of the leaves. It looks pretty mysterious, but in reality that is an effect of the editing. Still, I like it enough to give it an attempt for a number of reasons! There is a rhythm in the trees and their curves. The leaves on the ground lie fairly horizontally, while the green leaves are vertical. All these conspire to challenge me . . . So, without further ado, below is the first attempt, in pastels as today is dedicated to pastels!
As you can see, I moved the leaves from vertical to a bit more diagonal. I also added some “stuff” to the lower left corner as the original photo was pretty dark and lacking in detail. The floor of last year’s leaves are more orange than beige. I tried to pay attention to my marks – the stroke of the pastel stick – as well as to doing some negative painting to help the lighter areas stand out.
I am a fairly pleased with this painting. Pastels are more forgiving than either gouache or watercolor – especially watercolor! – and because of this, I can think about contrast and structure a bit as I go along. It may make the final one (watercolor) easier to do after the next one, which will be in gouache.
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 took this picture awhile back in the local botanical garden. It is an oak against the sky, with the Santa Monica range in the distance. In the photo, the tree is silhouetted against a yellow sky, and the foreground is mottled with dried grasses. The California oak is not deciduous, but shows leaves year round.
The process here is along the lines of yesterday’s post, and is more successful I think. It is very simple. The steps I took began with a wash on the entire paper (8×10) in raw sienna. The mountains on the left were done next using a bit of sap green with the raw sienna, followed by some cobalt blue for the darker range. After that, the lower half of the painting had a wash of a greenish color, later followed with a darker green of sap green and cobalt blue. The tree and brush in the center were of burnt sienna and cobalt, with perhaps a bit of ultramarine as well.
That’s it. Fairly successful in moving from light to dark, general to specific. The simplicity of the subject matter makes it an easy painting to do – yesterday’s fig tree through the window was more complex, and accordingly more difficult. I really wonder if I will ever successfully paint complex scenes, such as a forest and creek or a city street filled with cars, people, buildings, and whatever – rather daunting, actually.
I’ve been doing a bit of reading . . . the gist of which is work light to dark, then general to detailed, and the last is more important than the first. It is from Tom Hoffman’s excellent book on watercolor, should you wish to know.
Anyhoooo, following this advice, I made a foray into a rather abstract painting. The corner of my house has two windows, set perpendicular to one another, and are furnished with plantation shutters – wooden shutters with wide slats. This is from a photo I took. I tried to catch the graphic lines of the shutters in contrast to the curves of the fig tree and its autumnal leaves outside, next to the sidewalk and street.
In a number of circles, there is an “urban sketch” style done with ink and watercolor. Drawing and painting are combined. Some people are masters of it, in my opinion, having a good balance of ink and clear watercolor, with one or the other predominating, and the other not overwhelming its partner. (I hope that made sense!)
I am trying to find that balance. I’d say I am okay with ink, but heavy-handed with color.
Today I decided to try two things. The first is above – a simple “country” scene with trees (and green! remember yesterday?), a fence, and a building. The idea was for the sun – the light source – to be coming from the left, behind the barn. I’m not so sure what that big blue thing is to the right of the (obvious) three shadows of the trees, but it’s too late to do anything about that!
This one is an urban scene, one obviously not in downtown Los Angeles, but in some older part of the world. Here, the light is coming from the right, perhaps, but the alleys and buildings create their own logic. Shadows are broken up with bright spots. One can only imagine that to find the light, looking up will reveal a world much different than the one on the ground. I think this one was fairly successful; there are parts which seem to work, and others that make no sense at all – like, what is that thing? Scribble more ink on it and let the viewer guess!
I found a picture of a woodland path with a golden light suffusing the scene. This doesn’t do justice to the photo . . . but the warmth is there.