A Lonely Road (Watercolor)

I decided to give A Lonely Road (Gouache) a try in watercolor as that was my original intention with the painting.

It was quite interesting to do so as I used the same paper I used for my gouache, but the paper had less tooth than my usual CP watercolor paper, being more like hot press, which is very smooth.  This was American Journey paper, which is very nice, and is somewhere between HP and CP for texture.  This makes a difference when painting with watercolors.

Once more I feel like my DOF is not working in watercolor.  I am not quite sure why, but it seems to be I lay down a color and then lay down more, and more, and even more for the distant objects.  Unlike gouache, watercolor’s transparency makes each succeeding layer darker.  At times a glaze of very thin color can pull a watercolor together, but not here.  The dark distant hills on the right suggest a spot of cloud shadow, and the brighter one on the left a bit of sunshine.  The sky suggests otherwise.  And it looks like there is a sleeping or dead sheep in the field on the right!

There are bits and pieces of this painting I like, and the colors really do evoke a rather damp day when autumn is beginning to set in.  The fact is, I find watercolor inherently more difficult than gouache simply because more pre-planning and strategizing than with gouache.  This why I enjoy watercolor so much – it is so hard!  The colors are just wonderful at times, and that is one of the joys of watercolor.  Gouache, while beautiful, when done with less water and thicker paint, doesn’t have some of the same light as watercolor

So, for the sake of comparison, I am lining up the value study and gouache from yesterday with today’s watercolor.  Click on the value study below to click through the three if you want to do some comparing.

Maybe a pastel should come along tomorrow?


Value Studies

Value studies are like knitting swatches: a good habit, but not one I do. However, I did some the other day!


Above is, I think, the first one I did. It’s from a photo of Haworth, the home of the Bronte sisters. Cobbled streets and old houses, especially on a hillside, are not common around here, so always a pleasure to paint. I tried to simplify everything, looking only for value – light and dark – in the monochromatic painting. In the colored version, I used light and dark coupled with warm and cool colors.

Text books say more intense and warmer colors to the front! Cooler and lighter colors to the rear!

I used Hansa Yellow and Cobalt Violet to create the greys.

Imaginary Lake

This is an imaginary landscape. Payne’s Grey used for the value study. I tried to fade, or lighten, colors the further away they got. Less detail, too, is used to indicate distance. Of course, the use of leading lines and contrast helps things out.

The color version was, again, an effort to use warmer colors to the front, as well as more intense colors; the distance used greyed colors. To achieve the greyed colors, I used complementary colors, such as adding a red to green, or making the colors lighter by diluting with water, or else adding a tinge of blue to all or the preceding. (Sounds complicated, bu it’s not!)

A Wintry Scene to Escape 96F!

Finally, another Payne’s Grey value study for a wintry scene in the mountains using a limited palette. For the colors I used mostly Hooker’s Green and French Ultramarine Blue.

Thoughts on the Value of Value Studies

I am still not sure about value studies! For one thing, the value studies are very different from the color studies in my eyes.  Values in color never equate values expressed in monochrome. Perhaps I am expecting more than I should from a value study.

Many people use pencil for their value studies. Darker values are more easily achieved. These watercolor value studies were hard to get dark enough.

Ultimately, I think I am going to focus on doing a bunch of them, rather than just a few. This way I can determine if pencils or watercolors are best for doing value studies at all. Which one will give me a better sense of light and dark?  As well, the more I do value studies, the more their subtleties should become  apparent.  Perhaps my color studies will begin to reflect better values to display distance in a painting.

All of these studies were done on 9×12 CP 140# Arches, with two sections drawn out on the page. One was used for the value study, and the other for the color study.


The other day I did some value studies out on the patio (in 90+F). I also did some quick sketches without any pencil outlines.

This is the last of a bunch of plantlings I have – no idea what they are – but they were worth painting! The thing I like so much about these seed boxes is that they are made of coconut fiber, and once the seedlings are ready, you just cut apart the containers, trim them, and put them directly into the ground or larger pot without any need to disturb the young roots.

Autumn in the Fen

A fen is not a bog, and a bog is not a fen! Fens are marshlands with free-flowing water, such as a creek, which creates the marshland in shallow areas. A bog is created by still standing water, left behind after the rain. Bogs can dry out more readily than a fen, I guess.

autumn is here. This week we will enjoy 90+F – oh, aren’t we lucky?!

I have ongoing frustrations with depth of field . . . a camera makes it for you when you choose the aperture, but you have to make it yourself when you paint.

10, 20, 30

I’ve been busy. Creative endeavors have been primarily sewing nightgowns for the coming cooler season, but also because I need some. TMI? I don’t know. But, it has kept me from painting for the past week. Sewing and other things have been taking up my time, but my craving for pigment is gnawing at me.

To play and loosen up, I decided to paint with time limits of 10, 20, and 30 minutes. I ate lunch and took a nap in between it all.


Above is a 10-minute study. October is here, and the colors of an eastern (anywhere from where I live is east!), hardwood woodland is alive with color before the pale and monochrome winter landscape.

Into the Hills

20 minutes and a bit more complex. The only brush I used was a hake brush, which is about 2 inches wide. A lot of dry brush on top of damp paper.

Edge of the Island

30 minutes here. Again, a lot of work done with the hake brush. I also used a rigger for the trunks and branches and some grasses, but the hake, with dryish paint, makes wonderful grasses.

I’m finding myself neglecting things that need to be done so I can play around. My little Puritan soul is not happy about this!! And really, I do like to get tasks done as their being done makes life a lot less guilt ridden with nagging thoughts. Also, it is important to continue to learn, I think, and there are a number of really good online courses and instructors in video format that are worth watching, and practicing from. I want to schedule my time a bit more wisely . . . and then I can play, guilt free!

Flower Pot (from a Rick Surowicz Video)

Lacking in the lovely simplicity of Rick Surowicz’s painting “Flower Pot” from his YouTube video of the same name, this is my attempt to work with negative space in painting. He is a master – I am not.

Flowers are ridiculously difficult to paint because of their bright colors and unique shapes, not to say their varying leaves as well. And, it is truly difficult to convey a bouquet suggestively. I overwork flowers all the time. Follow below to see Rick at work.

Under the Summer Sky

As summer fades away, the fires are burning along the west coast, and the clarity of the air has gone murky. This is when I dream of being somewhere along a river, with sun, blue skies, flowers and birds. I’m a country girl at heart, stuck in suburbia! (But there are advantages of the ‘burbs, too.)

I used Arches Rough 12×16 140# paper. The texture is not as smooth as what CP or HP provide. There is a lot more “tooth” which is great for dry brush and texture, such as in the foreground grasses and middle ground trees. I used one of my hake brushes for the general grass shapes, and a larger, harder brush for the sky. Before I painted any large area, I used the hake brush with clear water, letting it soak in a bit to help the paint to spread more easily on this rough paper.

In general, I am pleased with this painting. DOF works fairly well. I put in a building, too! For me, the most flawed area is the squared-off top of a tree to the left of the building – maybe I will go in later to correct it, but for now, I’ll let it be, cuz it’s time for a nap!

Sea Oats

Vegetation that thrives in sand dunes help protect inland areas. Sadly, a lot of our native coastal areas have been destroyed by development of one kind or another. During the hurricane season, the loss of these dunes and plants allows the seas to surge across the low lying areas they once protected. Sea oats are found in the southeastern parts of the US and throughout the Caribbean. Beautiful and useful in many ways, sea oats, mangroves, and other coastal vegetation play a bigger role in our world than is often acknowledged.

Hurricane Weather

Another beach scene, and a building! Am I on a roll or what? Here, something very simple, but when you think about how the painting was made, perhaps not so simple.

The lone, cylindrical shape heeds shadow and sun, and standing against the sky, It needs to be obviously separate. I could have used masking fluid to create the hard edges, but I didn’t. Instead, I painted around the lighthouse, starting at an edge and then puling the colors out. I did okay on the left side, but the right side was more problematic. Oh, well. Still, I rather like the end result given the challenge of the multi-colored sky.

Fires, hurricanes, and now snow in the middle of the country. What’s going on!?