228. Under the Oaks

This past spring in California has been one of the most stunning I can recall.  A long period of rain, extending deep into May, produced a situation in which flowers bloomed, and bloomed, and bloomed.  There are still traces of colors – golds and yellows mostly – on the hills when normally the color is beige and dead.  The richness of the wildflowers made the landscape, whether on the hills or under the trees, in the meadows or alongside the freeway, a wonderland of color.  I am still sorting out photos and memories as sources for paintings.

This is an underpainting for the gouache painting I did today.  Wildflowers under the oak trees along a local trial – lupines, wild cucumber, white and yellow flowers of known and unknown species.  Here, a la James Gurney, I decided to do an underpainting using casein paints.  He suggests casein as the underpainting as it cannot be picked up, as can an underpainting of gouache, once it dries.  It primes the paper, too.  While the smell is rather gross, the substrate it creates is stable and I rather liked using it, not just for what it did for the paper, but to lay in some values as well.

From there, I moved into remembering – thin layers to thick in gouache, building to lighter colors and thicker layers as you move along.  I’ve watched a number of videos on YouTube to get a sense of the process.  In particular, I have enjoyed the videos on gouache by Sarah Burns.  It’s rather strange to me, but it worked out.  Below is a painting of blue-eyed grass and white flowers under the oak trees in this stunning California spring.

206. The Orchard

This is by far the painting which took the most time to produce.  There was – gasp! – actual forethought and planning done.  Can you believe it?  Does that mean I’m progressing or something?!?

Anyway, what I did was consider what I wanted to see.  I also thought about some things I have observed other watercolorists do, namely underpainting.  I also have been reading and seeing many painters lay out light colors, in a general way, move into medium washes with perhaps more detail, darker areas, and finally the details.  This is what I did, but, before painting, I put down a lot of frisket in the shape of dots.  Then, the first pale layer of wash.  Between the third and fourth photos, I did more frisket.  Dots again, but I also used a toothbrush for splatter, and drew lines over the green washes, to retain colors.  Then the fourth layer.  At that point I stopped for the night.

This morning, I rather knew what I wanted to do.  I laid down a pale wash over the grassy areas of quinacridone gold and sap green.  It was necessary to pull the grasses together.  Finally, I removed the frisket and did a bunch of details complete the painting.  Total time – about 5 hours!  All of it was fun, and not a lot of frustration.  I think because I took time, and because I am less “serious” about my stuff (knowing it won’t be what I envision) really helps.

Below, a gallery of the steps I took in the painting, if you are interested in the process.