More wet-in-wet work. This time, I paid a bit more attention to the details along with the wet paper and paint. I laid down washes, waited for them to dry, and then laid down wash upon wash. At times I lifted color out while still wet, too. It’s hard to describe what I did, but overall I was more deliberate in my approach to this painting, taking time rather than letting my impatient personality dominate. The result is a more successful painting.
Colors include burnt sienna, Hooker’s green, ultramarine blue, quinacridone gold, and perhaps a touch of sap green and cobalt blue. Limited palettes really help pull a painting together, as well as help you learn what colors, when mixed, produce what new color.
Brushes included a huge round for the main washes, and then a medium / small round, and a rigger brush for the grasses. I got the rigger as a Christmas present, and this is the first time I used it. I practiced on scrap paper, and can see why a lot of people like them! This one is a bit stiff and has a lot of snap to it.
A couple of things here. First, I think that Winslow Homer is an amazing painter, especially in watercolor. Second, I think that copying the work of a master forces one to study what is in front of you – how was this done? what technique?
As Homer is a master of skies and atmosphere, I spent some time the other morning looking at different paintings he did. Especially delightful are his paintings done while in the Caribbean, spending time in the Bahamas and other islands. Homer’s skies are vast and expressive, subtle and strong. I decided that his painting, The Palm Tree, Nassau, would be a perfect study. What was most interesting was seeing how differently the same picture looks on different sites – some make it very murky, others make it very colorful. Below is Homer’s painting:
I printed out a copy of this painting on my not-too-high-end color printer. In the end, I referred to it more for composition rather than colors or detail. This image shows the sky with blues in it, but other images on the web gave the sky reddish and yellowish undertones. In the end, I just did what I wanted.
The water could have been more turquoise, as is the water in the Caribbean; the foreground in Homer’s painting is some weird vegetation that I couldn’t figure out, but think it is typical for the scrub of the islands. If you look at Homer’s painting, there is a reddish blob by the lighthouse – what is it? Looking closely, you can see it is a flag. For me, it was a big distraction, so I left it out. Also, Homer’s rendition of the lighthouse is very simple – I decided to give it a bit more detail.
Copying this painting was a lot of fun. The sea was rather meh, but Homer’s is not especially spectacular. His palm trees, though, are divine. Since I live where there are palms, I really liked the idea of actually attempting to paint a tree – or trees – that are rather intimidating. Homer’s painting catches them snapping in the trade winds – you can just hear them clacking their fronds against each other. I hope that my fronds convey the same sense of sound and movement.
Techniques used in this painting were wet-in-wet for the sky, light washes moving into darker ones for the foreground, and layers of colors for the palm fronds and coconuts. I took some long looks at what was in the painting before me and felt confident enough to figure out what I think Homer did. For the white of the waves and lighthouse, I cheated and used frisket. Then, after it was dried, I laid in the sky, and then moved to other areas, working lighter to dark, some detail to final details, depending on what was going on. Altogether, I spent about 3 hours doing this study.
More practice using wet-in-wet in varying degrees of paper dampness. Again, this is Canson XL watercolor paper. In my opinion, as a student paper, it is one of the better ones, having a pleasant texture as well as a responsiveness to water and color that other student papers lack. Here, the final picture is not the point, but the laying in of washes, lifting colors, and other techniques – the practice, not the product.
As I said yesterday, I have not really taken time to learn about the paper. This is important when you paint in watercolor – each paper has its own personality. Once you are familiar with it, it becomes intuitive. In my crazy life, I finally have the time to get acquainted with my paper.
I always have loved vistas of wildflowers, and the red poppies seen in so many French paintings always seem wonderful to me. Red like that is hard to find (I think) in the natural world. Painting it is even harder. I ended up using mostly Cadmium Red Orange.
This is another direct watercolor from this morning, but because of the multiple layers of washes, I had to let it dry in between. I went about getting ready for work between layers. At first, I just did a sky and put in colors of grasses and poppies – but they all bled together, so the second attempt – the one above – is the final version. If you look at the pictures below – click on them to see them in sequence – you can see what I did. I scanned each wash layer before doing the next.
Now that I feel a bit more accomplished in some of my watercolor skills, I have taken the time to think about a few things. Specifically, what to do next. I think negative space, or negative painting, seems like the next best step. I am not sure why – it just feels right. That is how I painted my two moonlit sycamores. Now it is time to paint their leaves. Below is a photo I took the other day, which is my reference point.
I started out with three primary colors: Cobalt Blue, Cadmium Yellow, and Permanent Rose. First, I wet the paper and then made a few distinct areas for each color. Then I tipped the paper around (it’s mounted on a board) so the colors would blend and bleed. As it is probably only 90# paper, there was buckling and pooling, but decided to just let things happen. After it dried, I drew in the shapes of the leaves, and then worked around the leaves and twigs with a wash of varying strengths that combined Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna. The veins were a bit of Hookers, Sap, and Cobalt Green. Altogether, there are multiple layers of washes / glazes – some successful, some not. The final overlaying wash was a mixture of Carbazole Violet, Cobalt and Ultramarine Blues.
This painting has a lot of problems – too tight, too overdone – but the problems also present future solutions, which I hope to visit in the not-too-distant future. I feel like it is moving toward mud, too, which is something I always have to watch out for.
Ahhh. Frustration. Nothing like it to make you feel like crap! Or to push you past your comfort zone.
Comfort zone: Ink, watercolor washes.
Sort of comfort zone: pencil drawing.
Disaster! Warning! Alarm zone: Watercolors! We won’t even consider these at present.
There are times when a good book helps you out a lot. These are studies copied from a book by Claudia Nice. What is good about these kinds of studies is that there is detail, but not a desire to be so realistic you are going to scream, if super realism is not your thing. (It’s not mine.) Here, you will fine stippling and hatching, and cross-hatching. Each of these brings dimension and texture. Add some watercolor washes, and it can really make things pop out.
Sort of Comfort Zone
I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I have never really done any formal consideration of pencil drawing. To me it seems counter-intuitive to think about pencil drawings beyond pencil drawings of a casual quality, like the scribbles and doodles students turn in with their work. Rather, I looked at a drawing book from the library and had a deeper appreciation for the textures pencils can make. As with pen and ink, stippling and hatching are at work – but so are circles and lines in varying directions, along with lines which depict texture, such as the little hook-shaped lines at the very bottom.
Today, I filled up a palette with watercolor pigments. Now, I am slowly studying washes and wet-into-wet. I am also using a whole slough of pigments I have never used and dropping some of my old standbys. I am feeling like crap. But, perseverance. Onward.