Another two-color study, this time using Burnt Sienna instead of Burnt Umber, along with the Ultramarine Blue. As an aside, looking up lists of “warm” and “cool” colors, the umber and ultramarine are considered “warm” by some. Beats me, as they sure look icy together. Here, the Burnt Sienna alone or diluted is warm in cast, but moves to dark and cold (in my eye) when combined with the Ultramarine Blue.
Last summer we drove through a lot of the wild west. The loneliness of Wyoming always gets me – vistas of open space, few cars, fewer people. Taking a picture during the summer is much different than what you see in winter, so I looked at some of the photos I took out of the window as we drove from Laramie to the Tetons. I tried to imagine how barren and cold it could be. Always the sky, always the distance, always the barbed wire fences. Again, in Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna.
Besides trying to imagine a scene, I also tried out a new brush. It is a Cosmotop flat, by DaVinci brushes of Germany; it’s about 3/4″ wide. I wanted to see how it would do on the Canson XL paper I use for practice, in particular to see if I could get a “sparkly” effect with a dry brush. The paper is too smooth for that to work successfully, which is why there are fine lines in the foreground. (Sigh.) It did a pretty good job for wet-in-wet sky, and along the horizon line.
One nice thing about working in only two colors, you don’t get mud. You get dark colors. You get light colors. You get medium colors. I find that this is actually harder to do, in some ways, and easier, too. Harder because I have to decide on value (light, dark) and which direction to push the color (blue, brown). It’s easier as the decisions of color are already made for you (me, the painter!). Here I have limited my palette to Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber, as in the earlier studies from Ted Kautzky I did last week.
After looking at the scan, I realize that some of my darker trees in the foreground sort of float in space! The lighting at present makes it hard to see, but I will probably go back and correct it later on.
After the disastrous lilies, I had a good think. I really am not a decorative painter at heart. What I love most are landscapes. The outdoors is to me the most exciting thing . . . mountains, water, trees. Thus, with this in mind, I pulled out the very first “how to” art book I ever bought, back when I was 16: Ways with Watercolor by Ted Kautzky. I still love this book and find his style and words soothing and thoughtful. To ease my frustration, I did two of his exercises. The first below is in 2 colors only, ultramarine blue and burnt umber.
The next one is in three colors: burnt umber, ultramarine blue, and Hooker’s Green.
Kautzky’s palette of colors is one with which I am comfortable and familiar, so it was very reaffirming to feel somewhat skilled after the lilies fiasco. That really upset my little apple cart!
If you have been reading along, you know: I make mud, I need lines, and I cannot get white space at all. Well, in a moment of mad inspiration, I realized snow is white. Let’s paint snow! In my part of the world (California), we are in the midst of a hideous wildfire, which fortunately bypassed our neighborhood, but which could be visited by a fire any time. Crazy winds and no rain make for dry and dangerous conditions, and certainly the last place where you will expect to find snow.
Thus, snow. I went to my favorite place (YouTube) and searched for “watercolor snow” and there we were! Lot of them. In particular, I found Peter Sheeler, whose videos are simple to follow, and quite lovely. He uses a minimal palette, and just paints. Subtitles let you know the colors and the technique. Pleasant music moves you along. Here is my version of his painting.
Peter Sheeler has another video that I used as well. It was a bit more complex, but not only was it great for shadows on snow, he has very strong light – dark colors, another problem I struggle with.
And here is my version of it. I was really intimidated by the dark trees and the rocks. Besides using only Ultramarine, Yellow Ochre, and Burnt Sienna (even though Sap Green is in his video’s palette), Peter uses a 1/2 inch flat brush. I have some flat brushes, and they scare the hell out of me. I think people who love flat brushes are nuts. No more: I bit the bullet and pulled out my flats and did the entire painting in a flat brush, varying sizes as necessary. And I used micron pens, too, as did Peter.
I am feeling a lot more confident now about colors, white space, limited palettes, and flat paint brushes. I think I will continue to follow along with Peter Sheeler’s videos – he is a really good painter, I like his style, and am confident I will get a lot out of his videos. And Peter, if you should come across this, let me tell you, “Thanks!”