Anyone who does watercolor or painting or drawing is well aware of the need to simplify details, especially in masses of color. Every leaf does not need to be painted. When we look, we see these details, and the effort to simplify them into areas of light and dark and midtones can be – and often is – very challenging. Good artists make it look so easy!
The other day I was napping on the patio (I live in a warm part of the world). When I woke up, I looked at the podocarpus trees along the back wall, and suddenly got the idea. I saw the details of the leaves – each leaf – but I also saw the light and the dark areas. That is when I realized I could do it – but it had never been in the front of my mind before.
I went to work. No outlines by pencil, just some reference photos labeled “foliage” in a search. Varied pictures showed up, and here are my studies of simplified details.
These first three are thumbnails, about 3×4 inches in the order I painted them.
I did the above paintings yesterday. This morning, applying the same tactic of no lines drawn, I used a 9×12 inch sheet of paper and painted out to the edges. Again, the focus is on simplification of details into masses of color.
Success? I don’t think any of the paintings are particularly good, but I do think I am getting that element of simplification I find so elusive in my own painting.
As we move into winter, I think of the places I lived when I was a kid, where 6 feet of snow was a “mild” winter. Today, the low was about 56 F, and the high about 78 F. Very different – and as an adult, I admit to preferring a lack of snow to an abundance! Nonetheless, the seasonal changes are apparent here, just more subtle – the shift in light, the change in the blue. Even the air smells different.
Working with Inktober, I can feel a shift in how I am approaching drawing, and painting. I am simplifying but being more specific about the brush or pen size I choose and how to deploy a line or a brush stroke. While there is a lot to be desired here – such as a sense of architectural reality and non-topsy-turvey houses – I had a lot of fun looking at areas of color as a suggestion, not a reality, as a plane rather than the detail I normally hone in on.
Maybe there is some hope after all!
Living in a “Mediterranean” climate means living in a dry, temperate climate. Locally, we have a number of olive orchards which produce local oils that are tasty and delicious. Here is a tribute to them.
Besides commercial uses, olive trees are often used as decorative trees in one’s yard as they do require a lot of upkeep in terms of water – but the downside is a messy yard as the olives drop. Most people never consider using the olive fruit for anything at all.
I tried to simplify everything in this painting – trunks, field, crown of trees. At the same time, I tried to work on contrast and failed overall. It’s really a talent to get something dark enough on the first take! The trees on the left look like one in the foreground in overlapped by the leaves of the one further distant. And so on. However, getting out the paints every day is the goal, and practice, not making a “completed” painting is the whole point.
Islands form chains, perhaps peninsulas. Off the coast where I live is an island that reaches out into the sea. It is more like a series of islands connected by narrow bits of land – I expect these will disappear over the next century as waters rise, and then one island may become three or four.
In the pursuit of simplicity, I used a large brush and chose the major colors. I put in verticals to suggest cliffs. Parts of this painting work – and others do not – in particular with a sense of dimensionality and depth of field. I tried to create greys using opposite colors, such as cobalt blue and pyrrol orange. Despite that, I did learn a few things. One, wait and think. Two, use colors far darker than you think are necessary. Three, keep it simpler than you think it should be.