Cottonwood Creek

We are pushing 100F today, with east winds adding to the heat and potential fires. Thus, an autumnal desert scene seemed appropriate for today’s painting.  As I haven’t worked in gouache for quite some time, I thought it time to dig them out.  Variety is the spice of life, for sure.

Before painting, I did a value study before I even sat down to paint.

I used pencil, as you can see below. I like pencil a bit more as I have a good range of pencils of varying hardness and softness, and that helped out in the light and dark department.

I won’t say that the value study did not help. It really did. What it aided in was setting up light and dark areas, of course, but also helped me see shapes, such as the trees against the dark mountain, as well as shapes in the creek in the mid to foreground areas.

I left the sandy bank of the creek and the reflections deliberately vague – hard for me when I want to put in a lot of detail! The focus of the painting is the cottonwoods, so too much detail in the foreground would compete with the more detailed painting of the trees.

Altogether, this was a pleasant diversion, and the value study was worthwhile (not that they take a lot of time – I am just lazy). The creaminess of gouache is fun and a completely different experience than watercolor or pastels. I used Holbein gouache for the most part, CP 140# paper. The painting is about 6×8 inches – the nature of gouache often means smaller paintings than watercolor or pastels.

Here’s to autumn!

Coastal Hills in Late Summer

Since I had all the pastels out from Tuesday’s class, before I straightened up the mess in the studio, I decided on another study. This time, the oak-covered hills of California. In spring, the hills are brilliantly green, often covered with wildflowers, such as poppies and lupines. As spring gives way to summer, the heat comes, and the grasses dry out. Perfect conditions for all these dreadful wildfires of late . . . Anyway, the coast can be socked in with the summer fog, but inland, the hills are under the brilliant sun. As you look toward the Pacific, you can see the “fog monster” lurking on the other side of the range.

Summer on Mt. Diablo

The end of summer and the brilliant greens of summer fade to brown and beige . . .

Here, I just wanted to make a light painting with simple washes. Usually I go for really intense colors, and it took a bit of work to get the sky light, as well as keep the colors of the distant mountains and grasses paler than my normal approach. The sky was easiest as I just blotted up my colors with tissue and used a lightly damp brush.

I’m rather pleased with the results, I must say.

37 Minute Painting

Another timed painting. This time the requirement was 37 minutes. I set my phone alarm and was shocked to hear it go off! I was checking it off and on, but suddenly it just rang, and here is the result.

This time I used Uart 600 grit paper, which is like a fine sand paper. It pulls the color of the pastels really easily so a lighter touch is required when painting than with the unsanded Mi-Teintes paper. I used a combination of photos for this one as I needed a creek, but I wanted some oaks and hills from around here. Not especially successful as far as I am concerned; the exercise was the point. I did get into the zone of painting even through I knew that timer would go off at some point.

Incoming Storm

Another watercolor, mostly wet-in-wet, but I ended up doing a lot more details in dry brush as the painting progressed. Finally, I applied some glazes in an attempt to unify different sections as I had overworked the painting quite a bit. The even spacing of the brush / trees in the lower middle ground are rather amusing, too – didn’t I look? I didn’t really notice them until I scanned the painting!

Misty Lake

I tried to capture the sense of mist rising from a lake in the early morning. Dry brush seemed to be the best solution, but I think I sort of missed it (hahahaha). I used a square, flat brush, moving up and down and sideways. The thing is, it wasn’t really foggy and blurred, but rather defined in the image.

Feels good to be painting again!

A Study from Vernon Nye

I decided to use a study by the watercolorist Vernon Nye.  He caught the back country of California perfectly – the hills and trees in particular.  It was a fun study and I liked it because it pointed out to me how deceptively simple the hills can seem, but they really are not.  The road, too, was another eye-catcher.  I have driven along a number of back-road highways throughout the state, and you feel like you are the only person in the world.  The perspective was a great challenge, too.  Altogether, a good study of something in my own back yard, and I can take what I learned into future paintings.

Nowhere Barn

Addendum!

This is the second scan from the final one below.  I changed a bit of the elements after doing a preview scan – don’t know why the one on the bottom of this post is so, er, intense!

Now, let us continue . . . 

More perspective studies!  Today I did a single point study.

This time I created a single vanishing point.  This one is below the building, and above the road.  The idea for this is that the road ends up going over a hill or slope before the horizon, at eye level, is met.  I did a pencil sketch and erased it a billion times.  Finally, when I liked what I did, I erased most of the lines after inking it in.

Sort of a value study combined with a color study to see what I might like for color mixes in watercolor.  This paper is mixed media paper, so it is not the heavy Arches 140# cold press I like for most work.  I think the perspective works pretty well.

Well!  Aren’t these colors intense!  The scan for some reason just came out like this – the original is a bit more subtle – but I rather like it as I think it expresses the intensity of color that sometimes comes with lowering clouds and a storm.  Makes me think of my time as a kid on the plains of the midwest.

So, the final study does have decent architectural perspective, and perhaps even some atmospheric (lots of atmosphere, but more like pressure type!) insofar as I tried to simplify things.

I will continue my focus on perspective, and using it in different media.  Watching videos, referring to books, and just doing it is helping.

Tanglewood (Watercolor)

Here is the third painting in the series of three different media, this in watercolor.

For this painting, I used a piece of 16×20 Arches cold-pressed paper.  I laid down some frisket to keep the paper white for sunspots of leaves and the edges of the trees.  From there, multiple initial light washes to establish areas of color (ie sky, leaves, leaf mould, trunks) and from there just sort of let it happen until I was ready to remove the fisket.  Once that was done, greens and darks, and finally the rigger brush for tree branches.

Each painting has it good points and bad points.  Watercolor is the least forgiving of the three, but here I think I did a pretty good job as I do get a sense of the flickering light through the new leaves, and that really was the main point.  This painting and the gouache are my favorites of the three.

It will be interesting to perhaps try the pastel again as I ordered a set of 25 greens and just took possession of a Terry Ludwig Darks 2 set the other day.  The greens are Mount Vision and will arrive Friday.  The pastel was the first in the series, and now that I am comfortable with the values of the painting(s) more, a 4th try and a 2nd pastel may prove to be a good exercise!