More Malibu Creek State Park, but this time with a different twist. The water is there – in the form of misty air. In spring and summer the coastal fog rolls in, and the landscape softens as it recedes. It doesn’t bring rain, but the environment is adapted to live on the moisture. As well, the land is often green from the rains earlier in the year.
I tried to capture this with washes and glazes, working wet-in-wet as well as rewetting the paper and adding color. This type of painting takes a patient approach (at least for me) as you have to load the paper with a bit of water and/or color, and then test it for dampness if you want things to soften and blur. It is also a fun way to express very faint geological shapes in the mountains.
Finally, oak trees. I just love these trees! Here in California they are really twisty and spooky, unlike the more upright specimens in the midwest. This one in the middle of the plain is unusual, but it is there, alone and grand.
This photo is moody and mysterious, and you can certainly imagine how spooky it could be to come upon suddenly, lost in a whirl of fog on a lonely moorland. I tried to capture it in my own watercolor.
This painting is significantly different than some of my other paintings. I used the wet-in-wet technique throughout the painting, creating several layers of glazes before adding the details of grasses. These I did using negative painting over the washes. Then, more solid brushwork for the tree, branches, and scrub in the lower corners.
More work with wet-in-wet, this time accompanied by using frisket to keep the areas of the birch trees white, and to keep a few other bits white, too. First step was to paint the sky across the trees, then the orange bracken and other foliage. From there – just a few details, some negative painting, and so on. I think there could be more contrast on the birch trees, but stopped to keep myself from overworking it.
I’ve been really into doing wet-in-wet watercolors this month, and think it may become a theme for the month of January. So many areas of watercolor benefit from it. Skies seem to lend themselves to it, but so do fog and reflections.
Here, a winter landscape, partly from memories of those lovely, cold afternoons in upstate New York or rural Illinois, when the clouds were low and dark, snow was on the ground, but somehow, the sun made it through, casting shadows and a bit of color on the vast swaths of white.
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.