Tag: trees

Greens Against the Sky – 3

I am having a lot of fun, despite frustrations, with this repeated subject for a watercolor. Today was bit more thought out, and the focus was just planes of washes to create depth, dimension, or at least some attempt at it. I think I am seeing this more and more as an abstract as I work on it – planes of color to suggest the trees along the base of the headland. I dropped a blob of color on the hill that wasn’t in the previous two, and tried to do a bit of a save, but not really successfully. Ah, the joy of watercolor!

Color Planes and Disaster Recovery: Orchard, Road, Windbreak

Yesterday I posted a hill that was a color study. Today I am posting trees and a road as large planes of colors. Green is green, but there are variations. The trees on the left are different greens than on the right, and so is the brushwork. The center is a rather yellowish grey road. The shadows, too, are a bit different, with the ones on the left are more blue than on the right, which have more green.

The painting started out with my using my the Schmincke half-pans on a large painting for the pans. I struggled to get enough color to begin a wash and resulted in blooms and cauliflowers everywhere. The whole beginning was a major disaster and I was not happy. Then I pulled out my usual large palette with tube paints. Start the painting over on a new sheet, or try to rescue it? I decided to apply some life saving . . . .

The sky was a big cauliflower. The trees on both sides of the road were big cauliflowers. I began with using clear water to wash away as much of the cauliflower lines, blending the paint into the surrounding color. This ended up with some lifting of color and some stripey areas, but that was not a bad start.

The next step was repainting the sky. It started out a nice light color but with another layer of color it got darker. Then the trees. Each layer became darker although I did manage to save some lighter areas. This was annoying, but then I decided to re-watch Shari Blaukopf’s “Trees Across the Seasons” to see her tree painting technique. It really helped.

My crime in watercolor is a lack of patience. That is what happened with this painting – my frustration using the pan paints made me impatient. I just want to get in and paint – I don’t want to pre-plan, do value studies, etc. There is a place for spontaneity and a place for patience. Outdoors is for spontaneous painting with drawing and thought; in the studio I want to be more deliberate. I made the choice to use tube paints, and be more patient.

The end result is not too bad. The original is darker than this one, but that is the beauty of digitalization – I can fix things. I use it in my photos, and I use it when I post my paintings online. Is this wrong? I don’t really know, but as far as I am concerned there is nothing unethical about such manipulation. If I were selling prints, I would be working to make sure the prints were good – just as in a photo – removing spots, augmenting colors, etc. Having worked awhile in the printing industry, this is the norm to produce modified images. Digitalizing a painting lets me crop and frame and sign it, too.

Besides helping me make a painting look better, it also allows me to see it differently. A monitor makes everything more clear, and that includes mistakes like weird shapes and splatters that I don’t notice in the original. Seeing such things is a learning experience in and of itself.

So, color planes and shapes, getting rid of cauliflowers, learning that half-pans are not best for my way of painting large, and fixing a painting that could have just gone into the scrap paper pile. Altogether, a good experience.

Flooded Field

It’s been raining buckets out here, and water is just sitting on top of the ground and slowly sinking in. We have a small lake in our back yard, and it weren’t for a pump, we would really be in trouble. California has seen record-breaking rain, rain, rain, snow, and more rain; now mudslides and other disasters are happening.

While this painting is not of my area – despite the palm tree – I thought it was representative of what we are seeing here. To the west of us is the Oxnard Plain, a major growing area in my county. It is very flat, and water run-off is diverted to culverts and ditches alongside the fields, but areas still stay soggy a bit.

I have also been really disgusted by my last few landscapes, so I decided to make myself do value studies prior to painting. When I do, results are always better, and I am happier. Below is the reference photo from Pixabay.

Things of Value

I am kind of a cheapskate at times, especially when it comes to paying for educational experiences. Too many times I have been disappointed by the experience, especially when it comes to art classes. Cost vs. course value and content are a big issue for me, and more often than not I am very disappointed.

One person, though, from whom I have taken online courses, and who has never disappointed me, is Shari Blaukopf. She is a Canadian watercolorist with quite a following – her workshops are always sold out – who provides economical and informative online classes in various subjects. Subjects have included snowy urban scenes, wintery scenes, flowers. Her courses last from an hour or so to more, depending on how you do them, for very good prices of about $30 US. I ain’t complaining!

Let’s begin with her most recent course on trees throughout the seasons. I think this is one of my favorites. What did I learn? As a dabber – tiny brush strokes – this class was perfect for me. I got a better grip on painting foliage, not a leaf at a time, but as color masses. Most instructors will tell you “paint foliage as a mass of color.” Okay, clear enough, except it doesn’t really sink in well for me. Shari’s method of drawing an outline of the areas in question is brilliant, and a lightbulb-going-off-in-the-head experience for me. My samples from this enlightening experience gave me quite a bit of pleasure.

While she is painting her tree she says that midway through, when the tree is just a bunch of colors, she begins to wonder if it is going to get any better – and it does. My own thoughts were the same, but continuing on, the results were pleasing.

These southern live oaks (above) were also done with masses of color, but a bit more detail. The maple tree was a great segue into the oak trees.

The standard or classical “way” to do watercolor is light to dark. I have followed this “rule” with mixed success, and as a little automaton, I do what is “expected” far too often. However, Shari often does the sky, then darker areas, or outlining certain areas with color.

Above was the very first tree study – a vast area of pine forest against a mountain and sky. Sky and mountain were both worked around a lot of the treetops. From there, the very dark pines were painted with the lower edge of lighter vegetation done last.

What?! That is the “wrong” sequence!

Working around the trees leaves areas of white paper, and this this gives a sparkle to the end painting as well as keeping colors more pure and fresh. Painting around the bright green tree was also a challenge – and to remember it was there. Shari had to remind herself, and did so as we moved along. I didn’t quite succeed, but caught myself in time.

This snow-laden maple – the brightly colored one from earlier, now in winter – was the last study. No frisket was involved to leave the snow fresh on the tree. Instead, hints on how to leave snow areas apparent in the drawing – put a dot on the snowy areas to remind you – worked very well. I’ve done such things myself, but it is a good reminder of little tricks.

In many ways, this winter tree was perhaps the most challenging of the studies because so much advanced thinking was involved in the journey to the final result. Snow on so many tree branches was sort of a logistical nightmare, but oddly enough easier for me than masses of colored leaves. Titanium white covers up a few mistakes, too, where the snow was painted over. Blue, too, was added very lightly to make shadows on the snowy branches, giving more dimensionality than without that subtle touch.

Shari even returns to her trees to add a bit more here and there to improve them. I like these little forays into imperfection or dissatisfaction – so many workshops don’t show these little bits of humanity.

If you like watercolor, need some good instruction, and are on a budget, Shari’s classes might be the answer. She doesn’t teach you the basics but assumes you know how to do washes and use colors and what a paint brush is. Her classes range from pretty straightforward to more sophisticated and complex subjects. No matter what, she leads you through the process quite nicely. For example – buildings terrify me. Perspective is not my forte and suburbia throws it at you from all directions. But, I did this, and learned that even I, who has no depth perception to speak of, can actually produce a painting with buildings!

I managed to produce the above – albeit with some glitches – by following her along with her “Urban Winter” class – which you can find here. Check out her work and courses – I don’t think you can find better value and better education almost anywhere. And as a final plug, here is my painting from her course “Winter Woods and Stream”.

And, for my own frugal heart, Shari offers course bundles that discount her already fabulous prices a bit more. Check her courses out and sign up if you are interested. Some courses allow you to upload your work – the later ones in particular. She always leaves feedback, too, even a bit late as she travels a lot. The personal touch is so nice, and being able to see what other students produce is good, too.

Thanks, Shari!

Skating Pond

I was never any good at skating, but I did try it out a lot when I was a kid. We moved from a really cold place in the midwest to a warmer climate on the east coast, leaving rural farmland with ponds and lakes for a bit of suburbia in New Jersey. Every year the neighbors would get together and scrape the snow off the nearby lake, test the ice, and create a skating pond. We were never allowed to go by ourselves because of the chance of falling through the ice, but it seems there was always a dad or mom to supervise a dozen kids in snow suits, wipe away our tears, keep us generally under control.

Watercolor, 9×12, 140# CP ArtBeek paper.

The Hill

I’ve spent the last two afternoons following along with an online class in gouache. It’s been fun. The main focus has been skies and their moods as shown by clouds and color and time of day and weather. For some reason the dark and stormy sky stayed in my mind’s eye, and visual memories of days of yore came back.

I don’t know about where you live, but here in California where I am, the clouds are seldom domineering and frightening like they can be in the tropics or midwest. I remember one day when I was about 9 coming home from school and the sky was nearly black with clouds. It was still daylight, but it was in the fall of the year and cold. It was eerie and scary and beautiful. All the colors in the surrounding fields and meadows and trees were brighter than usual, almost to the point of being unreal.

That is what I have tried to catch here – intense light, strange light and colors, a wildness waiting to happen.

Gouache, 9×12, CP cotton 140# paper.

Tracks Across the Fields

I do love the bleak look of winter. With watercolor, a limited palette of 3 or 4 colors can express so much. Admittedly I used more, but I usually like alizarin, ultramarine, burnt sienna, and Hooker’s green for the colder time of the year.

Following through on points for some of the classes I have been taking, I am working to simplify subject matter, colors, and lead the eye. I think I managed to do this here, leading through the fields to the houses on the hilly horizon. I tried to contrast warm and cool colors, with a bit of warm on the buildings with the hope it will draw the viewer in. I also used wet in wet and dry brush, working from general shapes to more specifics; light to dark in general.

In addition to the painting, I am trying to make myself do a preliminary drawing before I touch brush to paint to paper. I did this one today. Lesson – it is actually worth the time, and I have been a silly bunt not to take on this fine habit sooner!

Watercolor, 9×12 CP Extra White Fabriano Artistico 100% cotton paper.