Tag: Watercolor

A Slice of Paradise

This is a tribute to the African-American painters of Florida known as The Highwaymen. Some of their numbers include Sam Newton, Alfred Hair, and so many others that I cannot name them all. In a time of racial unrest in the U.S., these painters somehow managed to thrive despite the Jim Crow laws of the South, and unfortunately, their work was not appreciated as it should be. However, today we know more about them, and can enjoy their work – the internet is so helpful in that regard.

I love bright colors and cheerful landscapes, and the tropics beckon. Palm trees are alluring and the brilliant light of these areas make colors more alive and intense. The Caribbean is filled with islands and azure seas, trade winds, towering clouds. States such as Florida, on both the Atlantic and Gulf sides, throughout the Gulf of Mexico and down along the coasts of Central and South America have such beauty in common.

The Highwaymen were not untalented amateurs. Some were self-taught, others learned from A.E. Backus. Each painter in this group sought an income otherwise denied them, as well as perhaps a way in which to express the beauty around them. Read up on them – they are a fascinating slice of art history.

As with the painting I last did, “Swamp,” this one is done with watercolors mixed with gouache on 16×20 inch 140# CP Arches paper. I used more gouache this time than I did with the last painting, and it was quite a challenge. I started out with bright colors and a totally different idea of a painting, but as I started blending the gouache with the watercolor, the gouache became a driving force. However, all color represented is simply toned with white or black gouache.

These artists worked in oil on masonite. Oils lend to blending colors more so than does acrylic paint, and I found that the gouache and watercolor worked similarly. I may try to do something similar in acrylic, and expect it will be a serious challenge as acrylics dry so quickly. Often The Highwaymen sold paintings still wet!

This is perhaps the most fun I ever had with a painting. I referred to paintings by some of the artists to see how they used color, photos from the internet of palm trees and Floridian sunsets. The composition is similar to a number of seaside ones, and I attempted to emulate the colors used by the painters for sand, sea, sky, and palms. I hope I caught some of the liveliness and spirit of The Highwaymen. I know I will be back to visit them, and Florida, again soon.

Swamp

Swamps are amazing ecosystems. They are forested wetlands and often serve as a barrier between a large body of water – such as an ocean – and the land. Many of the Southern states are home to a number of swamps, such as the Everglades and the Atchafalaya Basin. Unfortunately, we have lost a lot of what they once covered through changing the land with drainage, building of levees, and such. The value of these wetlands has been seen with the massive flooding and storm surges during hurricanes when waves travel miles inland, across former swamps now denuded of trees and other plants. Heavy damage to the land occurs, with homes lost, pig slop and sheep dips overflowing into water sources. With the land clearing, wildlife diversity is also lost. The swamps provide a wall between the sea and the higher, drier land, as well as add to the overall health of the planet and wildlife diversity.

Here, an impression of a swamp in Louisiana, specifically the Atchafalaya. Once more, I worked wet-into-wet. And, I added gouache, which I am beginning to find is a nice mix with watercolor. The gouache works especially well over the transparent pigments, giving solidity and depth where needed. Arches 140# CP, 16×20 paper was used.

The Atchafalaya Basin, or swamp, is the largest swamp in the US. It is home to bald cypress. over 200 species of animals, marshland, grasses, and a resting place for migratory birds. In the 1700s, after le Grand Derangement, the French settlers of “Acadia were forcefully resettled elsewhere. Many landed in Louisiana, creating a cultural enclave of Cajuns, Creoles, assimilating English-speaking peoples who married them, and now, Cajun music is to be heard worldwide. Acadian became Cajun – and if you know your French, you’ll see the linguistic change.

So, in doing all this wet-into-wet, I am having a lot of fun, loosening up, and by bringing in gouache, I am adding a different element to my painting. Combining them is worthwhile as there are qualities in each that add much to a painting.

This painting pleases me enough perchance to be framed and hung up!

Wetlands

Another wet-into-wet painting, but this time with more challenges and a longer painting period. As before, 140# Arches CP paper.

The goal of this painting was to get away from trees and aim for seeing how using a very wet piece of paper could be worked for skies and water along with plant life, from rushes and grasses to distant trees. The style itself lends itself more to softness in general, but with judicious brushwork and glazes, more defined areas were achieved. I also used white gouache to represent a tasseled top to the tall reeds (or whatever) in the middle right of the painting; I realized I might have achieved an airier effect by splattering some frisket in the areas I wanted white.

I painted the majority of the picture last night, working glazes over areas more defined to blend them in more harmoniously. Dry brush was used for the the foreground and in areas where a rough edge was needed to show plants.

I don’t think this painting is as good as the one I did previously. The contrast is not good enough to convey distance – too strong of colors were used to paint the reeds and trees in the horizon. I do like the colors and softness, though. Another point of focus was to create a point of focus! I tried to use birds, warm colors in the center of the painting, a bit of a vignette around the edges, and other visual tricks to lead the eye somewhere. Again, I don’t think I had much success. As well, the sky and land do not seem to match.

I did accomplish a few things I set out to do – wet-into-wet with some control for sky and plants and water. Doing it is a lesson in itself, and each painting teaches something. I worked on the painting last night and then refined it this morning. I had more patience than I usually demonstrate when painting in watercolor. Why is that? Is it because watercolor is wet and watery and seems to demand a bit of speed?

Anyway, more to come, more to learn.

Early Morning

Another wet, wet painting in watercolor.

Here, I wet the paper, and then began putting in areas of color, beginning with the sky in the central part of the painting, and then blobbing down the foliage in the foreground and the distance. The line of the slope was separated from the horizon beyond. As things dried, I blobbed on more colors, and continued to work wet-into-wet as the paper dried. In the end, I was able to draw the trunks of the distant trees without their blurring using diluted colors of the darker tree trunks.

It’s really hard to describe how to do a painting like this. In doing these kinds of paintings I am finding it is necessary to have a sense of the composition itself – lights, darks, soft shapes, hard edges. It is also necessary to think about negative and positive space while painting, as well as the overall effect desired. I worked light to dark, and strove to keep the earliest colors as separate as possible from others. In the end, I used glazes to unify areas with color as well as worked with thick paint and a very dry brush for some detail.

140# CP Arches, 16×20. It took about 3 hours to work on, using time in between to dry the paper with a blow dryer or let the water get absorbed into the paper so softer edges could be achieved.

Of the 3 “splish splash” paintings I have done, this one is my favorite. This technique works very well for areas with a lot of foliage, but what about ocean scenes, skies, and so on? That is next on my agenda for this method.

This was a lot of fun – I hope you like it!

Autumn Explosion

More of the splish-splash effect this morning, and I will say it is fun. This time around I added some zinc and titanium white gouache to some of the colors – something I have never done with watercolors at all. It feels rather sacrireligious.

Fraggy, this painting title is dedicated to you! I loved your comment yesterday, and it really says it all about some days in autumn. 😉

Splish Splash

There are just times when it seems leisure doesn’t exist. That is how I have felt for nearly 6 weeks now – too many things needing attention. Little time in any day to be creative, to play, to get out and do something different. Yes, there have been breaks and time to paint, but nothing really for playtime!

For me, playtime means letting go of everything and just splashing around in the glorious mud of whatever I want to do. Today, I made that time. Watercolor was my mud.

After several days of cold and damp here in SoCal, the best kind of day arrived this morning. Cool skies, warm sun, bright light. I decided to take a piece of 16×20 CP 140# Arches watercolor paper, my spray bottle, big brushes and one of my watercolor palettes. No idea in mind, but sort of an inspiration.

There is a watercolor artist on YouTube, Sumiyo Toribe, who has a heck of a lot of fun with colors, water, and paper. Sometimes she paints big, sometimes small, sometimes on one sheet, sometimes across three sheets of 20×30 paper. There is a randomness to her work, but also a sense of composition. As well, the handling of ink and sumi-e can be seen in her work as she uses her brush in some very non-western ways. She looks like she has a lot of fun, and that is what I was looking for today.

I went outdoors onto the patio. My paper thoroughly wetted, front and back, I just began dropping yellow paint, then mixtures of yellow and orange, yellow and red, red and green, purple, blue, black, and then who knows what else. I painted wet into wet. I painted drops and blobs of color. I let the paper dry and then created glazes. Splatters, too. One glorious mess, and here you are.

No, this is not a work of art. It is a work of play and exploration. Fortunately, no muddy colors. Messy composition or lack thereof. But, to a degree, when I “thought” of a picture, I wanted summer into autumn, green into gold, shadow and light, and trees and underbrush. Everything that my SoCal suburban life lacks!

Thus, the Edge of the Seasons for your amusement. Hopefully some pleasure, too.

Owens Valley

I have been going absolutely crazy since Monday when I found out I had a serious computer problem. It took 10 hours or more to fix it. Add to that, I have to choose a new Medicare supplement plan. That means research, reading, deciding. And stress. All this has been making me crazy, cranky, and not a happy camper.

So, today things are winding down, and tomorrow dawns with all decisions made and the world will be a far more pleasant place. To de-stress, out came the watercolors, and a photo from our covid-cancelled trip. There is nothing like painting to relax and zone out. Here, a painting from a photo shot from the window of the car as we drove along Hwy. 395 and the world swished by.

It’s a harsh landscape, but one of subtle beauty. Vast open spaces, too, add to its grandeur. And, it makes me happy.

Sky Above the Owens Valley

Sky Above the Owens Valley – Watercolor and Ink

Another sketch from a photo I took, this one snapped out of the rear car window! Having a camera can get some great stuff when you don’t have time to stop every 5 minutes.

Sky Above the Owens Valley – Quill Pen and Iron Gall Ink

This was my initial sketch, done with a quill cut with a finer nib as well as done with more attention to detail. After the sketch dried for a few hours, I laid in the watercolor. Some ink was still damp even after a couple of hours drying outdoors and blotting. Below is the original photo.

Dry Wash

Dry Wash at Independence, CA, Botanical / Native Plant Garden

One of the nicest things about spending 2-3 nights at a place is that you get to explore. Independence, CA, is along Hwy 395 and is a town you would zip right by if your weren’t staying there. However, you really can miss a few things!

We stayed at the Winnedumah Hotel, in a room at the back. Out the door and down the road a few blocks is the local museum, and although it was closed the days we were there, we plan to go back. Outside the museum is a rather wonderful native plant garden. It faces west, so it is in the shadow of the Eastern Sierras. There is a creek running through it, complete with trickling water. Winter rains swell it and it obviously flows over its banks.

The sandy shore and rocky bottom depicted here create a dry wash. In canyon country these smooth areas are tempting for campers because the smooth soil makes pitching a tent and sleeping bag comfortable and easy, but if a rain happens upstream, a flash flood creates a swirling death trap. Even locally – where I live – people are drawn to these washes in the rainy season (if there still is one . . . ) and get washed away in the event. I had a wonderful friend who died in such a flash flood because the ground he was standing on probably got abruptly eroded from underneath. Even peaceful streams need to be treated with respect.

Near Olancha

Near Olancha, CA

Even though our trip was stopped by Covid-19, I did get a number of photos along the way. Olancha, CA, is one of those little towns without a lot of amenities, but big in different ways. Here are some – and were some – nice little restaurants that provide comfort to the hungry and a much-needed break from the car. Little dirt roads catch the eye, and trees and houses break up the flat land leading to the grandeur of the Eastern Sierra Nevadas. So, even though my trip was canceled, I d intend to create sketches of what I saw along the way . . .