Early last summer, or late last spring, I visited a park with a friend. It is in Los Angeles, above the 118 freeway, so if you frequent the area you might recognize the photo (below) and the painting (above).
It is the kind of park I like – open, easily accessible, and then winding away from the city into the canyons beyond. Since my friend cannot get too far, we never have gone deep into the canyons, but perhaps one day I will go further than I have. It has some lovely tended areas and then wilder areas, but what I particularly enjoy are the oak trees.
This is the view from the pathway returning to the city, and this tree never ceases to find a soft spot (hopefully a sharp spot with good focus in a camera!) when I visit. I think we all have trees or buildings or places we enjoy revisiting.
More pointillism, more gouache.
I was going through some of my Instax photos taken earlier this summer. Here, a path nearby overgrown with mustard. Depending on how much water is available, mustard plants can be very short – or very tall.
I thought this could make a good study with a limited palette, and dryer brushes. Lots of things went through my head, actually. For example, plain batches of color. No pencil lines. Shadows using the underlying color of the ground or plants – i.e. burnt umber and ochre mixed with a bit of blue. Details in dry brush. Patience and wait to let things dry, or add blobs of color to enrich the damp paint. Dry brush over colors already laid in as a wash (like the tree and bush in midground and background).
Maybe I’ll take my Instax out for a walk today. And a dog.
Today is a watercolor day!
I am surprised by how much less I am worrying about how my painting is going to look and how much I am becoming more involved with its process.
Working with gouache has certainly helped me with my usage of light and dark. For awhile I wondered if working with gouache, from dark to light, would mess with my mind with watercolor, which is light to dark. Actually, it helped a lot as I am more aware of light and dark than before, and thus it is easier to think about how to make it happen.
This is from a photo I took in Pt. Lobos Nature Reserve, along a path. The light was dappled and flickering as the tree branches and leaves moved with the shifting wind. It was a warm day, pleasant, and very, very much a prize of a day altogether. I think this painting does a fair job catching it, though, as always, there are areas for improvement.
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?
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.
This morning I thought I would do another “one morning wonder” (like, I wonder why I did it, why! it looks wonderful!), but as I laid down the first washes I realized that I needed to paint the foliage with negative painting. Bingo! The lesson of the other day came to the forefront of my brain. Let’s see how it progresses. Here is the first scan.