Yesterday was a meeting of the Pencil Portraits in the Park group, but drawing people held little appeal for me. So, I decided to try something I had briefly seen somewhere and thought interesting: during their travels in the 19th century, many people sketched in pencil (graphite) and then colored the drawings with watercolor. These days most people sketch with waterproof ink and then color things in, but I rather liked this idea. A sycamore tree in our park, dressed out in autumn finery made a nice portrait, methinks.
9×12, hot press 140# Arches. Graphite and watercolor.
Well, this one sure had me going for a while! The idea was to avoid angles, and look squarely into the building, and so I did . . . and then came along the Esposo who said, “Nay! This does not work!” And, damn, if he wasn’t right! So, I had to pull out some gouache to overlay a roof on the tree in the background, and make the roof look rather beat up and weathered, with beams and such visible. Sort of a success.
And, I wanted to paint falling snow. Falling snow in a photograph varies from white, sharp dots to elongated shapes. Time to experiment. I used some gouache, diluted, and applied some streaks – I wanted a sense of wind blowing from upper left to lower right, with snow pushed by the wind. It was okay. So, I got a fan brush and made a wet mess of the white paint and splattered and splattered and splattered. I even got it my coffee. Luckily the paint isn’t poisonous, so I shall return.
Overall, this is not a great success as a painting, but it was fun. I rather like the composition with the tree in the very front of the painting. The barn is w-a-a-y off as far as believable perspective, but such is life. But, I have been sticking to my snow themes, and perhaps it is time to do one more and then move to a different season different subject, or put it away for a few days and get back to sewing or doing photography. I can now hobble forth on my partly healed broken toe.
Arches rough, 140#, 10×14. Watercolor with a splash (well, several splashes) of gouache.
Negative painting is painting around a shape. Positive painting is painting an actual shape. The first is hard to do. The second less so, but the skill of negative painting is necessary and can produce some pretty dramatic results. It is also a skill if you don’t want to use liquid frisket to block off areas to keep white. Positive painting sounds easy, but it ain’t. (My flower paintings are evidence of this!)
A common exercise to show the learner how to do negative space is to paint a tree, paint around it in a light wash, draw another tree on the colored wash, and then paint around this, until you have a lot of trees ranging from white to the varying values of the wash. Sterling Edwards has a lengthy but very good video about this method:
While I know about negative painting, and have stated it as one of my goals, along with flowers (which benefit from the skill of negative painting), I thought this was a good one of the many I watched. What I liked was how he blends his paint inward.
Anyway, I did trees. Rick Surowicz is also a master at negative painting, and if you look at Edwards’ paintings, and those of Surowwicz, you will see both apply the same techniques. In my painting, I used Arches 140# CP, 9×12. I outlined the tree, and then painted around it. At some point I was frustrated and decided to do some painting with white gouache, on both the primary tree and then adding others.
Overall, I rather like the effect, particularly after adding the gouache. I think it enhanced the painting rather than making it just another annoying experience! I used to be quite rigid about not using gouache, much less gel pens or diluted acrylics in my watercolors, but rules exist to be broken, and I expect purists would call this “mixed media” – but that no longer bothers me as much as it used to. Watercolors they are (water soluble), so watercolors these remain.
Anyway, as I mentioned yesterday, more blue in the lower front, some other touches, and then let it sit overnight.
This morning I took another look at it, and the only way I can describe what I did was to refine it. I increased contrast in some areas to create harder edges. Other things were designed to lead the eye toward the center of the painting, toward the whitish rock at the top of the water. I also looked for areas that just didn’t look right, somehow too symmetrical or distracting. In the end, little bits here and there made it better to my eye. But – that was during morning coffee when I was trying to wake up!
I have never worked on a painting – a watercolor – for this long a time period. Total time is probably 8-10 hours. Time was spent laying down frisket, colors, letting things dry. Then frisket was rubbed off. Water was sprayed at different times and salt sprinkled. Rubbing alcohol was also sprayed on. I think the last round of frisket took about 30 minutes to rub off, along with salt. The result, though, are transparent layers of color which I could not have accomplished otherwise.
While the perspective seems a bit off – or maybe we are looking down into the water from above? – I like this painting. It’s a new adventure for me in watercolor, and while bright, I don’t think it is overly so. I deliberately did not use any orange!! New ideas are coming to mind for painting in a transparent medium. Mood and impression work here for me – not realism, but suggestion. So, spring thaw, melting ice, new leaves.
In this final version, I cropped it and changed the perspective a bit in Lightroom. Post-processing artwork is much like post-processing a photo, an din the printing industry it is done all the time. You can see the uncropped version in the gallery below.
I added more frisket, colors, salt. I also began adding acrylic paint thinned down quite a bit. Now, another night of letting it stew, but I already think I know what I want to do with it. For instance, I want to add more blue in the lower left foreground in that rather large white blob. Perhaps some sense of geometric texturing by adding tape and then painting over it. White streaks for snow on trees? It’s hard to tell.
There are days which are blustery and cold, the wind whipping through your hair, and a walk on the beach, slogging through sand, and enjoying the wild freshness of the sea is not a bad way to begin a new year!