I saw some climbing roses against a bright white wall, dancing with the wind. The play of light and dark, flickering shadows, and the swaying of the roses in the wind – tried to catch it in this morning’s sketch. No lines, direct watercolor.
Another focus on direct watercolor – no lines, no pencil. Here, my main focus was to draw straight lines with a brush, as well as consider how not to get everything bleeding into each section. I tried to do one area at a time – say, one building part – and then move on to one adjacent to it, working carefully to make each area separate but connected. Sounds like a lot of hooey when I read it, but that’s best description I can give right now! I’m running late to work.
Direct watercolor, paint what’s in front of me, no lines. Those were my morning thoughts. What is always in front of me in the morning is my messy desk, full of different debris, depending on the day and whether or not I’ve done any tidying. As I pondered, oh so profoundly, I looked at the cell phone on my desk and really liked the reflections from my monitors . . . and here is today’s subject.
I worked to think more consciously and conscientiously about what I was doing. First, the outline of the phone, on my rather ochre-colored desk, then the darks of the phone itself, followed by reflections and shadows. I tried to be selective of where to touch different colors for bleeds. Finally, I went back in and did some shadows and contrasts to make a bit stronger image. In between, I worked carefully to avoid blooms and hard edges from backwash.
Instead of just sketching in the morning, like a flower or something, I thought about just painting things. The most prominent and important thing on my desk at 6 a.m. is my coffee cup! This is one of my favorites, too, even though it is quite chipped and so on. I’ll keep it until it dies. Now it is immortalized in a “direct watercolor” – no lines – and in a rather disproportionate manner, but here you go.
Besides doing the orchid yesterday, I sat down and did what is being called”direct watercolor.” As in sumi-e, the artist thinks about things before committing brush to paper. No lines. No value studies. Look, see, think, paint. It is a bit of a challenge and rather daunting, but I think this is such an enlightening way to learn the art of brushwork, value, contrast, and so on. I did some glazes here and there, to create contrast as well as to carry various colors throughout the painting. I also worked with vignetting, considering the shapes of the four corners of the vignette as well.
The other day, I came into possession of a copy of Marc Taro Holmes’ newest book, Direct Watercolor. In spirit, I am much of the same philosophy – little prep, direct painting, thinking ahead, seizing the moment, using colors directly, relying on imagination and happenstance and experience to create a painting. All this requires is just doing it! The “doing it” is the training – you do it, you think, you do again. Like anything, practicing it enhances your skills and brings the mind-muscle memory together in ways that, if you were to consciously thing about, you could never achieve.
Marc mentioned some things I found particularly useful. One is to create a silhouette of what you are working on – create the outer edges and then move inward. Decide if edges are going to meet so that colors can bleed into one another. Keep your edges dry if you don’t want things to bleed from one thing into another. Let the painting dry, but don’t go over it extensively. Other points he made is to work light to dark, large to small, but if you are working on something, do it directly – don’t dance all over the paper.
The silhouette appealed to me immensely, as well as the brushwork. Here are some examples of brushwork and silhouette working together. Once the edges of whatever I was painting were done, I then came in with varied colors to shade or define. The colors really please me in many of these little sketches – the blending, the bleeding, the hard edge against the paper’s white.
Flowers make sense for the silhouette and then move in to blend colors. Above, wet-on-dry. Also, working directly while everything is still wet – as in the tulip on the far right.
Below, some examples of trees to create the illusion of a building (left) and another silhouette then molded to create a shape with shadow (top right). Marc also mentions brushwork to show direction – and the importance to suggest. The grassy strokes on the top left. Finally, a bigger silhouette – here, Morro Rock – created and worked on first (bottom right) before moving into other areas, specifically the dunes and plants in the foreground.
Quick sketches with valuable lessons. While Marc’s book is not a “how to” book, it is a valuable resource for specific techniques. The fact he is such a talented painter makes it look easy, but the truth is, he went from precise lines, to lines and colors, to direct watercolor with a great deal of effort and an entire change of mindset.
Tired of being indoors, I pulled a bunch of stuff out to the side patio – paints, brushes, water, chrome book, water, palette, head phones, ink, pencil, pen. I played a bit and mixed up some greens using yellows and blues, and phthalo green. I don’t like having only phthalo green on my palette, but that is what I had. I like sap green and Hooker’s. I also like Payne’s Grey.
Being outdoors means being cramped on a really small table, so everything was jumbled up. The goal was to just be outdoors and do something. So, I used some photos of trees I have taken over the years.
The first tree was one I took the other morning when out on a shoot with my friend Tom. Here is the photo:
And here is my rendering in line and colors:
And then a photo from April 2015:
And the results – no lines, only the intention to paint light and dark, contrast, whatever:
I’ll tell ya, this last painting was painful! I noticed that most of my colors tend to be pastel – a lot of water, not a lot of paint. I felt like I was beating up my poor brushes trying to get deep colors with more pigment than water. Wetting the colors a bit before might help.
In my opinion, neither painting is especially sophisticated or elegant. I will say that despite its primitive quality, I am pleased with the lineless painting as I did accomplish something.
Does your head feel totally stirred up when you try something alien to your normal ways of doing things? Mine always does and it takes awhile to return to orbit.
Night is always mysterious and exciting. The moon overhead – clouds – wind- the creaking of branches – the rustles in the undergrowth. This is what I decided to try, using an old sycamore tree as the subject, and a bit of my imagination.
First step was to decide on colors, and approach. I decided warm undertones for the tree and the sky. I used a bit of Quinacridone gold and Yellow Ochre for a thin wash. From there, successive glazes in Ultramarine Blue, Indrathene Blue, and Carbazole Violet. As things progressed, some Burnt Sienna. You can see the different layers below.
At times I used a hair dryer to dry the layers . . . other times I painted as I held the hair dryer. I used rounds, flats, and finally a rigger brush (for the very first time!) It was okay to use the rigger in the background, but crossing it along the bottom of the tree – I don’t know – I think it detracts from the rest of the tree – hard to say at the moment.
Today was a day of wrath! I was soooo frustrated!
And a day of learning. I did four watercolors without lines. The first two were sketched in with pencil; the last two were done freehand, relying on imagination and the precepts of sumi-e, where lines are not drawn.
In each painting, something works, and in each painting there are places of failure. What I failed at was separating various areas from the neighboring shape or shadow. Some areas appear rather painterly. I still have a long way to go – but at least, at last, there are no lines.
Paper is Canson’s watercolor paper, and colors include quinacridone yellow, cobalt teal, carbazole violet, ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, Hooker’s green, alizarin crimson, Payne’s grey, and a few others.