North of Gilroy

Farms in California are a bit different than what I remember as a kid in the Midwest and out on the plains.  The land along the coast is gentle and low lying.  The ocean brings in mist and fog, creating at times a dreamy, otherworldly quality that is soft and ethereal.  Fog comes and goes, scenery appears and vanishes.  Colors can be pale or deeply rich depending on light and cloud.

Beach Study

I like the beach, in case you haven’t noticed.  Grass, sand, cliffs, water, wind.

I broke down and did a value study for this scene.

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.

 

An Afternoon’s Study

After spending the last month working small – on 7×10 paper – and using both gouache and regular watercolor, I felt the need for something big and expansive!  This means broad strokes, rapid washes, focusing and thinking ahead at the same time.  That is what I find when I work with really wet watercolors, and much of this study was done with washes bleeding into another.

Not feeling especially original, and totally delighted that Edo Hannema uploaded another tutorial after a few months absence from YouTube, I decided to follow along with his video.

If you are not familiar with Edo Hannema, he is a watercolorist located in Holland. As Holland is a very flat country, he is much influenced by skies and extensive landscape. Water is also a strong element in many of his landscapes.

For me, it is a real pleasure to follow his practice videos, in part because I live in such a dry part of the world! Additionally, he is candid about what he is doing. For instance, if he doesn’t like a bit of his painting, he says it right out loud. As someone who struggles to paint and make my watercolor look good, it is so reassuring to find other painters get as frustrated or annoyed as I do when something doesn’t go the way I want it to. At one point in his video he talks about the tall tree in the left center of the painting. “I hate this!” I can understand that frustration. When the houses nearby don’t go as planned, he tells the viewer to make the best of the situation. That is what you have to do in watercolor.

As you can see, my sky is quite violent compared to his gentle one – I kept getting blooms for some reason, and struggled to get rid of them.  Another element of my own painting was my determination to keep my brushes clean!  World Watercolor Month 2019 really brought that point home to me.  I managed to do it pretty well.

Daily practice takes work.  Tomorrow, I hope to work on gouache color swatches, using whites to create variations in tonality of a given color, as well as working with complementary colors to achieve greys.  That should prove to be an interesting adventure.

WWM #20: Buildings

Where I live, a building is a house surrounded by the rest of suburbia.  I don’t live in a city.  I don’t live in the country.  Sometimes I wish I could transport myself to someplace so very different than where I live now.  That said, one can travel in one’s imagination, and that is what I have chosen to do here – a street in the early evening somewhere in a gracious part of an old city.

While this is not a perfect painting, I did have some goals in mind while painting “buildings” for the #WorldWatercolorMonth2019 prompt.  One was to really work on perspective.  It’s pretty well nailed here.  Another was negative painting – keep some paper white.  Here, the chimneys up in the sun.  I wanted details to show perspective – the closer to the viewer, the more details, as can be seen the closer to the right the buildings become.  A lack of detail to show there is distance.  Finally, I wanted to use light glazes to designate where the sun is on the upper buildings, and not on the lower part.  Here, light quinacridone gold on top, light cobalt on the bottom.  I rather like the way the street is striped in shades from dark to light, but as to whether it is realistic is not a question I care to answer.  In general, I think the sketchy elements of the watercolor work well with the colors and lines to convey feeling and mood.

For “buildings” I knew I wanted a loose, light painting.  This one is on a small sheet of paper, and I expect the final image is about 6×8 inches (could measure, don’t feel like it!).  I used both small and large brushes, a bit of imagination, a bi of memory of previous reads on perspective.  I found the most interesting thing I did was to do the sky last!  I really think it works well with most o the painting.

Later!

WWM #13: Glassy

I am drawn to water – maybe because when I was young, there was always a lake or river nearby.  As an adult, I live in a rather dry land where creeks are rare, but the vast Pacific is not far, with wetlands and marshes.  Fresh water lakes, though, are what I really love – the ones where the sky passes by beneath your feet on the glassy calm of the water.

This is from a photograph of a lake somewhere in the world – from Pixabay – and the clouds in the foreground were crystal clear and smooth.  I sort of messed that glassiness up, but came fairly close to what I was trying to express.  Obviously, this is a rather lonely view, but what better place than to sit, enjoy the breeze , and perhaps listen to the babbling of water fowl and the hum of insects on a warm summer day?

Coastal Grassland

Another landscape, another limited palette.  For this painting I used ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, burnt umber, sap and cobalt greens, a splash of raw sienna.  9×12 Fabirano Artistico.

I wanted to see if I could convey a good sense of depth, moving from the foreground with warmer colors to the distance with more neutral and greyish colors.  Contrast, too, was considered for eye appeal, leading lines, depth.

If you look at the grasses in the foreground, you can see grass blades.  I used a very dry flat brush to accomplish this, sometimes using a lighter green and brushing upward, or darker green to brush into the lighter green.  Negative painting!