I have to admit, I am on a winter kick. Cold, chill. And loneliness. I don’t tend to paint or photograph people or civilization, but as far as painting goes, I need to get into painting them. I’m doing okay with moving inland water. But buildings, people, and oceans leave me baffled for now.
So, the open spaces of the flatlands between mountain ranges. Harsh weather, blasted heaths, winter and wild weather. The hint of spring.
More work with water and light. Here I thought about some of the exercises I have followed from Rick Surowicz’s YouTube channel – lines, curves, and dots to capture branches, light, and leaves. I think this painting worked out quite nicely.
Besides considering what I wanted in advance (a way of thinking that has taken a very long time to get to) by applying frisket, I also was determined to paint from light to dark and use glazing and blending. Areas of color were also considered, and rather than trying to paint each leaf, I painted blobs of color to represent the foliage. As a result, I built up layers of color throughout the painting as I moved along, and can say this is possibly the first painting in which I have done this.
I also had to be very patient! Frisket is not happy when you blow dry it – it gets all sticky and you have let it set up again. As a result, this 6×9 painting probably took a couple of hours to do. However, the results, for me, were definitely worth the time it took. Perhaps my impatience is lessening . . .
I took this picture awhile back in the local botanical garden. It is an oak against the sky, with the Santa Monica range in the distance. In the photo, the tree is silhouetted against a yellow sky, and the foreground is mottled with dried grasses. The California oak is not deciduous, but shows leaves year round.
The process here is along the lines of yesterday’s post, and is more successful I think. It is very simple. The steps I took began with a wash on the entire paper (8×10) in raw sienna. The mountains on the left were done next using a bit of sap green with the raw sienna, followed by some cobalt blue for the darker range. After that, the lower half of the painting had a wash of a greenish color, later followed with a darker green of sap green and cobalt blue. The tree and brush in the center were of burnt sienna and cobalt, with perhaps a bit of ultramarine as well.
That’s it. Fairly successful in moving from light to dark, general to specific. The simplicity of the subject matter makes it an easy painting to do – yesterday’s fig tree through the window was more complex, and accordingly more difficult. I really wonder if I will ever successfully paint complex scenes, such as a forest and creek or a city street filled with cars, people, buildings, and whatever – rather daunting, actually.
Outside my studio window is a small California Redbud. It really needs more sunshine to show off its flowers – there is too much shade on the western side of my house, and so it does not bloom very often or very much. Still, it is a lovely tree. Slender branches, heart-shaped leaves that change color and drop in the autumn. Local birds like to hang out in its branches.
Today, I tried to express the beauty of several redbuds in bloom, with spring growth abounding in new leaves. I drew the trees first, then used frisket – a lot of it – in the forms of lines and dots. From there, the background was laid in, using varying colors to represent leaves, flowers, and other trees or branches. The frisket was then removed, and trunks painted using warm and cool greys. Afterward, magentas and yellow greens, warm and cool. It was all rather splattery! Finally, after everything dried, white dots applied to suggest spring insects and twinkling sunlight.
Not entirely pleased. As a realistic painting, it fails; however, as an abstract, it has potential.
Our backyard was filled with about 18 trees, far too many for the allotted size. We had 5 trees removed and the remaining pruned backed. Eventually all but 2 will be removed, roots dug out, stumps ground down. I don’t know what this guy was thinking when he put in all these trees – I had neighbors I didn’t even know I have stop to tell me how much nicer it looked and they had “told” him he was putting in far too many. We can actually see the sky at night!
That said, after the crepe myrtle, I moved onto the podocarpus, which are rather lovely or ugly trees, depending on my mood! For now, I’m just doing simple things – not that these leaves were simple. The leaves of the podocarpus in our yard have leaves that grow in clumps, rather like bamboo in shape, but totally not bamboo. Still, the leaves may be painted with the tip of the brush, a bit of downward pressure, and then a rise to complete the shape.
I tried to paint around highlit areas – making a leaf or leaf shapes with green, and then working toward the darker areas.
I keep forgetting what a challenge watercolor can be, but it makes me so happy to do it, whether or not I am especially successful!
I have always liked pen and ink combined with watercolor. The contrast between the two can be art in itself, or the two can work together, each enhancing the other. I came across this book by Claudia Nice, Creating Textures in Pen & Ink with Watercolor, quite some time ago. It’s detailed and it has some exercises with suggestions as to what to do and notes as to what she did to create the effects. Some are just ink and colors, others involve traditional “helpers” such as alcohol or salt to achieve results.
Yesterday afternoon I was in an antsy mood, but didn’t want to paint in my usual splashy style, but wanted some “containment” if that makes sense. I wanted something requiring a degree of precision. Ink is always the answer there. Realism, too, is not where I wander naturally, so Nice’s work and exercises always have a magic to them.
The first I chose was her “Old Broadleaf Maple” – detailed, subtle. And a tree. I love trees! This is my rendering of her example.
The second one I chose was a fly agaric mushroom. I have seen only one like it in my entire life – and even then I am not sure it was the same mushroom. I was hiking up in the Rockies in Colorado, up high, and came across some huge, red mushrooms, the kind you see in fairy tales. Wanting more colors than the tree, the red hues of the mushroom were perfect.
The beauty of Nice’s work is that while it appears easy, if you are doing the study, you focus on the small things as well as the overarching picture. By nature, I am not detailed oriented, and for me, it is a different way of seeing and doing something. I am always pleased with the results when I take my time. The biggest challenge is to take these studies to my own world, outside the pages of the book, and look for the details on a plant or whatever, decide what to keep, what to discard, and so on. It is hard work worth every minute!
By nature, I am quite impatient. Maybe just not patient enough? What I mean is that sometimes I work too fast, rather than thinking ahead. In watercolor, timing is important, as is speed, but with patience thrown in. If I look at what I am doing, some are tight-ass line drawings, and others are just messy and rather free form, without lines. Here, I used a basic tree shape with cutouts to remind me where to not have leaves, so as to have room for sky and branches. I also worked for shadows.
Altogether, I worked too fast. I wanted to make some nice washes of the leaves, to show the color shifts from green to the glows of autumn. I also need to test out colors on a piece of paper. This is painted in a notebook, so the back of the previous page is a good place to do this (I keep trying to remind myself). Accomplishment, though, is no mud.
Colors were fun to use, too. I mixed together an especially interesting mix of Payne’s Grey, Carbazole Violet, and Burnt Sienna. That is part of the pleasure of a sketch book – playtime and exploring.
I will be doing a lot of trees as I move along, but will need to do some stilllifes as well.