The miracle of green always happens in the last of the year and the first of the next when the rains come and new growth begins to emerge in the hills of California. After months of dry weather and fading landscapes. color erupts almost overnight. Soon, wildflowers will begin to tinge the hills from green to orange and purple and yellow. Here, a view from the hills toward the Pacific, with the Channel Islands in view, lost in the coastal fog.
This was a rather fun painting to do just because it forced me to really rethink using white.
The ocean was the problem. I thought I had put it in so it would be fairly light, particularly toward the distant shore. Instead, when it dried, it was darker than I wanted. The trees on the hill in the midground were essentially the same value as the water! This was quite an eye-opener. In the end, I put plain white (zinc) onto the paper, and kept blending it in until I got it where it was acceptable.
From there, it was back to the background. It was also too bright. I toned that down, and greyed it up a bit. The background shore was too bright. More work. Then, back to the midground, foreground, buildings and boats. I painted – with oodles of white! – the buildings, making them abstract shapes and then adding slightly darker shades to make the buildings seem 3-D. More trees. Finally, reflections, boats, and their reflections.
While I don’t consider this to be one of my better paintings, it is certainly one filled with lessons, in particular the usage of white (lots!), perhaps in the future check the colors on a separate piece of paper to see how light or dark they will dry, and finally deliberately trying to create abstract color blobs for buildings and trees that are discernible as such, but still indistinct in the distance.
I am ordering more white today!
We spent a few days up on the Monterey Peninsula last week. I took lots of pictures, some with the camera, some with the phone. Digital is wonderful for catching so much – but it also keeps you from seeing things at times if you use the scatter gun approach that digital photography allows. I tried to frame my photos more thoughtfully than I sometimes do, taking time to consider composition and so on. All of this was with reference to the idea I would like to use material from my trip as potential painting subjects.
Above is one such example. Once more, my sense of depth is not the best. I tried to employ some of the techniques I know – atmospheric depth, less detail in the distance – but I really didn’t do a great job. In some ways, the painting sort of created itself. The path in the photo was curvier – way curvier – but it decided to become straighter as I painted. I just noticed that!
Anyway, I am planning to continue to paint every day. I do have some great subject matter. I plan to alternate watercolor and gouache, and become a bit more academic – find things I want to work on, and then study it, whether from a book or an online video.
I can say I have improved over time, but I am not where I would like to be. The question always at the back of my mind is, what do I do when I get where I want to be?
The Channel Islands off the coast of California are amazing to visit. Only recently (don’t remember when) they became a national park, to protect both the islands and their flora and fauna, as well as to protect the waters surrounding them. Anacapa is a very distinctive island. It has an arch on one end, and zig-zags, snakelike, as it emerges from the water. I have visited this island, both on the land, and in a boat sailing around. It’s a truly lovely place, one worth visiting, painting, exploring, and photographing.
Here, I finished up using the available paints on my muddy palette. The final painting with that mess! As with yesterday’s painting, I have added white to the palette for colors, but for the most part, these are colors salvaged from the mess on the palette.
Truth be told, I really did not expect this painting to turn out at all. My colors were just such a mess. I simplified everything as much as I could. I managed to get some sense of depth, which also surprised me!
I like the beach, in case you haven’t noticed. Grass, sand, cliffs, water, wind.
Of course, I did it on an accessible page in my sketchbook, but since I did the study before the painting, I knew where I wanted lights and darks. As I worked, I pulled dark areas together to contrast with lighter / brighter areas. I mixed my colors using zinc white, but this time used titanium white straight out of the tube to highlight the ocean waves.
I’ve been wondering why people say “zinc for mixing, titanium for highlights.” Zinc is a transparent white, so it blends with gouache and watercolors without distorting the values. Titanium is a more opaque white, and as a result good for highlights, but not recommended for color mixing.
I guess if I was a true plein aire painter, I would be outside at the beach recording “Beach Fun” for #WorldWatercolorMonth2019. Alas, it is not to be.
Sort of “meh” about this one. It was a lot harder to do than I thought it would be – what is more simple than a pail and shovel? Well, it was! It’s like there are 3 different styles here – none of which match or integrate well. I like the shadows on the sand the best.
This one, I will say, makes me feel pretty good. I like the surf board and the highlights on the leash. As well, the foggy sky with the sun breaking through is a far cry from my usual blue skies. Overall, the atmosphere is good for beach fun, I think.
I really cannot say how much I am enjoying painting in gouache! Like watercolor, there are times it makes me crazy, but as I do more and more painting, it is beginning to make sense. Some of the colors I have are not what I really like, and it is easy to get muddy, just as in watercolor. Letting things happen is also part of gouache, as in watercolor, but that is the beauty of any art form – it can go places you never expect and create some lovely, happy accidents.
Painting and relaxing at the beach are perfect expressions of this prompt for #WorldWatercolorMonth2019.
Relaxing – so what comes to mind? I thought of ways I like to relax – reading, going on a hike, baking, going to the beach. The beach won! No matter what the mood, the shore is always a place to relax. Soft wind, strong wind; soft cloudy skies or fierce rain; vast stretches of sand, rocky coasts that are difficult to walk upon.
I don’t do beach sand very well. I dug out a great book, “Take Three Colours: Watercolour Seascapes” by Geoff Kersey. It’s a nice book for beginners as it explains so many things and techniques, works with a limited palette, and a few brushes. His samples are illustrated number by number. I rather like them as they make me think differently – I am a magpie and I go for 50 different colors, not 3!
Thus, I warmed up with Kersey’s study called “Sand Dune” – perfect for the beach, I would say. Not my best, but it was a study in techniques, not a work of art. Techniques included mixing greens and terra cotta. I had to substitute Organic Vermilion for his WN Light Red, and play a bit, but I limited myself to the Ultramarine Blue and Cadmium Yellow along with the OV.
Warmed up, off to Pixabay! I wanted something simple and beachy. This sandy path to the foggy horizon got my attention. No, you cannot see the ocean, but you know it’s there! I tried to catch the subtlety of a the fog in the distance, aiming to soften the grasses as the painting moved into the distance. I also wanted to keep it warm – the foggy day with a bright sun trying to break through.
Another image from Pixabay. I may have painted it before. There is something so lovely about this beach – deserted, alive with plants and animals, the slap of water on the shore. I can smell the sea, too: salty, briney, a bit rank from marshlands. This painting is also more complex. I am not sure if I got the sense of distance correct (I have no depth perception), so I worked at making distant items simpler and paler / bluer. The grasses nearer the beach perhaps could have less detail. Hmmmm.
Finally, a painting from a photo I took several years ago when my friend Glenn and I hit the Central Coast of California, north of Santa Barbara. We visited Refugio Beach and El Capitan Beach. I cannot recall which one this was, but the mood was one of wind and cold, and a storm coming or going. The Pacific was dark, as was the sky; the wind was blustery. Altogether, it was an adventure! We were cold and shivery, but so pleased with just being out in the wind and weather.
Of all of the paintings, the last two are my favorites for different reasons. I painted for about 5 hours, too. Relaxing? You bet! I love the beach, and it was a delight to paint it today.