166. Misty River

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.

165. The Palm Tree, Nassau – Study from a Painting by Winslow Homer

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:

The Palm Tree, Nassau (by Winslow Homer)

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.

164. Sky and Water

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.


163. Snowy Sunrise

More working with wet-in-wet, as well as white and shades of white.  Not sure if the idea that the part of the lower trees facing the viewer convey a sense of shadow – being darker – before moving into the shadows in the foreground.

With wet-in-wet, it is really important to understand how a paper responds to water.  This is Canson XL, a student grade paper, but one that I like to use when experimenting.  I’ve never really worked at using it really wet, but the results of focusing on it – having it sopping, having it damp – is beginning to yield some decent results, such as few blooms and hard edges.

157. North of Here

This morning we are experiencing rain – a rare event in Southern California.  Strange as it may sound, it made me think about painting something without lines, wetting the paper first, and working wet-in-wet, just to see what would happen.  As a kid, I lived in upstate New York, out where pine woods and lakes were more common than people.  I miss that solitude – walking in a snowy woods, flakes falling, listening to the silence, all alone in a cold, lonely, and intensely beautiful environment.

43.3 Two Color Studies: Snowfall

Another study in Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue.  Cold, wintry colors.  Here is a study done to practice laying down a gradated wash.  Using a strong blue wash, I started at the top, then went all the way to the bottom, lighter by adding more water.  Then, starting at the bottom, I used a dry brush to begin removing the wash, bottom up, until I reached the horizon.  From there, a mixture of blue and brown to create the blurred trees in the distance.  Then trees, shadows, and the shading under the trees.  The paper is not the best for heavy washes – there is a bit of puddling – but the exercise of wash and 2 colors worked.  Finally, I took some white gouache on a toothbrush and splattered it to create the effect of snow.  Maybe this is really a 3-color study?


18. Wet-in-Wet Pond in Mist

Another lesson in wet-in-wet technique with Peter Sheeler.  This one really worked well for me!  I like the results below.  My weeds in the foreground on the left were not as dry-brush as they should have been to get the crispy qualities – the right side was more successful.  I’ll be doing another of Peter’s exercises later today!