The Road into Town

Today I put together a new watercolor paint palette, adding some colors I normally don’t have on my main palette, as well as adding ones back that didn’t make it into the first one. This palette forces me to work harder to get greens as I don’t have phthalo green, sap green, or Hooker’s on it as “primary” greens; instead, I have viridian, which is not one I have been fond of in the past. However, it works nicely with cadmium lemon and aureolin to make those crazy spring greens I like. I also added manganese blue, verditer blue, and phthalo blue (green shade). I don’t have any yellow ochre or quinacridone colors, but do have Davy’s Grey and Peach Black. In the red arena I added transparent red oxide in place of light red, and cadmium orange as well. All of the earth tones – burnt and raw sienna and umber – are on this palette.

The result is looking to be a brighter series of colors to work with, at least that is my impression. I tried to use nearly every color in the palette on some level in this painting to see what would happen. As it was, I didn’t use every color! Too many!

The subject matter was also something that I wanted to work on – a small town with a few buildings at the base of a mountain range, and the goal was to have a road leading in to it, sloping down hill, and conveying a bit of depth. It’s a busy scene, one from my travels over the years that I caught on camera. Depth is not easy for me, so I used shadows across the road and landscape to catch a bit of it.

First watercolor of the New Year, and started with a New Year Palette!

Rain at Cattle Point

Hopefully this conveys a fickle weather day late in the year!

I think the dot-dot-dot and color isolation with Pointillism helped with this watercolor.  I was very aware of color placement and capable of containing colors to certain areas.  I managed, too, to have patience and let areas dry before going back in, or let them get slightly damp for dryer painting onto a damper area, preventing blooms.   Proportions are off – sigh.

As well, a limited palette of primarily blue (ultramarine and cobalt) with burnt umber and burnt sienna, yellow ochre, and a spot of orange and Hooker’s green.  140# CP Arches, 16×20.

Dreaming of Snow

Our cold winter thus far has hit a low of 64F or so in the past several weeks. No snow, certainly; sadly, no rain, either. Perfect for the next fire season, which is becoming a longer and longer annual event.

So, I dream of snow, and pull up memories of living in upstate New York, hiking for miles across woodlands and farms in the early morning or early evening. The light slants, the air mists, and a winter wonderland becomes a magical world filled with rivers and creeks, trees, and trails left behind by others.

Sea Stacks

Along the coasts of many countries, the upper northwest of the US, there are sea stacks. Some are barren rock, some are topped by trees. Wide beaches at low tide make these places a bit of wonder, and those further out to sea make you want to sail out, climb, explore. I always have a fantasy of a house built into one, hidden away from the rest of the world. I could make a trip to just find sea stacks.

Water Study

Another study with another excellent watercolorist, Eric Yi Lin, whose YouTube channel is called Cafe Watercolor, a very low-key but very informative channel about – what else?? – watercolors. His demonstrations are clear, and especially compelling, is his narrative. How, why, how come – so many answers to questions not answered in a lot of demonstrations. Truthfully, I think he has some of the best “explanations” or reasons why this, or how to consider that. An example is in the video below, from which the above painting is derived, is his statement that “water is a surface.” Have you ever considered that when painting? Suddenly it becomes more comprehensible.

The major point of this study is to look at water and observe how to paint it. In his video, Eric describes how water “works” in different settings. In fact, he demonstrates and explains different ways to look at water – smooth and glassy, foggy and still, and the ways in which the ocean is not at all like a lake or river. This is all in the first half of the video. Then, from a photo he took, he spends the last half showing how he painted the photo. Takeaways include that the first wash is the color of the light, simplicity in the distance, more complexity in the forefront. Order of working is light to dark, soft to detailed.

I’ll let you look at the video to see what I mean.

I expect I will be visiting his site a lot for now!

Either Side of the Wall

This painting is derived from some take-aways from yesterday’s study based on Charlie Evan’s video. I left white for the tree trunks, painting around them carefully. I also painted more slowly and less splashily than my usual mess. The result is more controlled and perhaps a bit more structured.  While the painting itself is not what I would consider a real hit, it does have a decent bit of light and dark, sun and shadow, which is what I was striving for.

A L’Anglaise

Watercolor is a tradition in which the English have excelled. So many excellent watercolorists have created a style, or school, or whatever you want to call it, that delights in the countryside. There are so many – too many – to name, both living and gone – who are such a pleasure to behold.

You don’t find such farmhouses and lanes in the US! Our old buildings are seldom stone, usually clapboard houses and red barns of a certain style. Stone walls exist, it seems, only in rural New England or in modern day housing tracts. Because things are old I love looking at pictures of the English countryside or coastal villages. And really, this is for the entire British Isles, not just England, though it seems most are in it.

That said, there is also a time to practice with a master. The above painting was done following a very nice lesson taught by Charles Evans, a painter I just came upon this morning.

I rather enjoyed myself this morning’s project! My painting is not his painting. While I use to weep and wail about not doing exactly what someone did as a demo, I’ve grown past that. It is a lot more fun to do it, follow the general lesson, compromise where necessary, focus on the important points, note what works and doesn’t, and just get on with it.

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.