The Red Barn: A Matter of Perspective

Of course, we all want our fans to tell us how talented we are and what perfect paintings we do!  Sadly, that is not reality.  In and of itself, The Red Barn is not a bad painting – I am rather pleased with it.  However, my husband is my nearest critic, and as he knows my issues of late with perspective, he pointed out, “The barn looks warped, like one side is buckling in.”

“Of course!” came my snarky reply.  “It’s old.  See?  There are holes in the barn.”  I pointed out the ones on the right, in shadow, under the eaves.

Well, I knew there was something wrong, but couldn’t pinpoint it.  This morning, I took it out for another look, and just with casual measurement between my fingertips, I found the problem.  The right front edge of the roof is shorter than the left edge.  The same applies to the right and left sides of the front of the barn.  Given the perspective of the painting, it is totally illogical!

This was truly a breakthrough moment.  I thought I had done the perspective correctly – in many ways I have, as with the road, and such, but the building itself was the problem.  I plan to re-do this painting today, working specifically on the barn roof and walls.  Hopefully success will follow!

Stay tooned (as my friend Fraggy likes to say!).

The Last Day of Winter

Or, maybe, The First Day of Spring?

I have been breaking out of my safety zone and moving on to using more expensive paper and larger sized sheets for painting.  Also, another is to use a somewhat limited palette, working to create colors by mixing in different strengths and blends.  Ultramarine and cobalt blues, burnt sienna and burnt umber, a dash of sap green.  Other colors include a mix of cadmium yellow and red, and some of Daniel Smith’s Primatek Sodalite (a black) for the road.

As always, there seems to be a lack of depth in my painting, despite my efforts . . . or maybe the road is not properly proportioned for its curve?

There is nothing like knowing Spring is nearly here, and see hints of emerging from the snow.

Dirty Snow

Well, it is winter, so snow shows up for some reason.  New snow is so nice – but old snow is dreary, especially as winter begins to lose the charm it had at Christmas!  Slushy, mushy, grey, dirty, muddy.

I decided to make up a scene – with buildings both wooden and brick, with telephone poles, and the grey mist of a city beyond.  As a painting by itself, it’s a failure, but adding a few lines helped it out a bit.  People will appear when the weather clears . . .

Disastrous Fun

I promised to paint more buildings.  So I did.  I painted a house in the middle of a cold, cold climate in the dead of winter.  I made better house drawings when I was 10.

I have really lost touch with real cold, real snow, and a real winter.  I do have memories, though, of the intense gloom of the woods in northern New York state.  There was something so magical about them – the silence of the woods, the snow falling, the sense of being alone in the world.  I liked the idea of capturing that with a building, on water, in the dead of winter.

Buildings mean people, even in the middle of nowhere, on a river.  People usually mean unnecessary noise, and in the woods or hiking, the last thing I want is noise.  Silence is something to be savored in our noisy age.

So, let’s get back to the “disastrous fun” of this posting.  “Disastrous” as this is such an amateurish painting, and “fun” because the more I got into, and the more I realized how awful it was, the more fun I had.  Making a “good” painting no longer had any meaning – it was the experience.  And the snow.

The final touch was the snowflakes.  White gouache to spatter.  I spattered on the painting.  It flew onto my glasses.  I spattered some more.  It flew onto my glasses.  I changed how I was spattering, and there were streaks.

Snowflakes don’t streak in the real world.  Spattering paint is an art form in and of itself.

Mists and Blurs

Wetness in watercolor varies.  There are times when a very dry brush on dry paper is necessary to give sharp, clear edges to an object.  Then there is wet-on-dry wherein washes are applied to dry paper with a lot of water.  And finally, wet-in-wet, where wet color is applied to wet paper.  As the paper dries, the color behaves differently.  There is so much to learn in watercolor!

Of late, I have been painting with a lot of water and a lot of color.  It’s a challenge, but daily painting is yielding better results overall.  Not every day, but overall!  Yesterday, I watched a number of videos, and did two studies based on videos by Rick Surowicz and Edo Hannema.

This one is from an early video by Surowicz.  He used some frisket, but my bottle was not working, so I painted without it.  I really needed it as his style is not just wet, but sopping wet!  He uses a fine mist sprayer to scoot paint around.  The result can be quite nice as you build layers of colors on layers of color.  I did this painting on Strathmore 400 paper, a paper I don’t especially like, so I was quite pleased with how it handled all the water.  The palette consisted of three colors – sap green, indanthrene blue, and a bit of Indian red.

Edo Hannema is a master of the wash.  I enjoy using his videos as study guides.  The above painting is my favorite of the two I did yesterday.  The palette was limited to raw sienna, burnt sienna, cobalt blue, ultramarine blue.  The green was a mixture of cobalt and raw sienna.  One thing I really like about Hannema’s videos is he tells you when he thinks he makes a mistake, or needs to fix something in his painting, as well as tips on using colors.  It’s rather like eavesdropping on the artist.

I decided to look at mists and soft edges because the other day Rick Surowicz posted a video about mist rising below a mountain ridge – Overlook:

This was a good video to watch on how to create a mist or fog.  He also has another one called Misty Lake which was the one I used in my above studies:

Edo Hannema is a master at wet-in-wet techniques, which are great for fogs and soft effects.  The horizon of this painting video demonstrates this quite well.  The thing that is especially fun about the video below is the fact he took a painting he did of this scene in the summer and converted it to winter:

I find using practice videos helpful in learning techniques.  They are also helpful in thinking about how I paint versus how I want to paint.  Like many beginners, I put in far too much detail, and my own impatience impairs final results far too often.  Letting the paper dry is important, and I am learning to do that – my hair dryer is hanging within easy reach!  Leaving white paper is getting more “natural” in feeling, so I am thinking ahead as well.

Nowadays, I find I am plotting out paintings in my head.  Daily painting is another big step forward as I now have the time to spend on it without a million other things demanding my time weighing me down with guilt – chores and duties or the pleasures of a hobby.

Snowy Sunrise

More working with wet-in-wet, as well as white and shades of white.  Not sure if the idea that the part of the lower trees facing the viewer convey a sense of shadow – being darker – before moving into the shadows in the foreground.

With wet-in-wet, it is really important to understand how a paper responds to water.  This is Canson XL, a student grade paper, but one that I like to use when experimenting.  I’ve never really worked at using it really wet, but the results of focusing on it – having it sopping, having it damp – is beginning to yield some decent results, such as few blooms and hard edges.