New Watercolor Painting

Not much painting gets done during the summer vacation months, but I found myself with a couple free hours with the house to myself today and was able to paint! I finished up a watercolor that I started back in May. I created this painting as a companion piece to go along with my last painting Emerald Oasis. Both paintings were based on photos from Kings Canyon National Park and I matted and framed them to match.

My latest painting is called Veiled Cascade. What drew me to the scene was the sharp contrast of sunlight and the shadows in the woods. The light and dark areas lead your eyes around the painting in a circle, centering finally on the trickling waterfall.

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Veiled Cascade

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The End

Part 3:

Fast forward – the trees, shrubs and rocks are all painted and all that remains is the water.

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The water is the trickiest part of this painting. It is transparent enough to see the colorful rocks below the surface, yet I wanted it to look underwater and smooth as well. The first thing I did was to block in the colorful rock shapes. I then made the larger underwater rocks look 3-dimensional, keeping the colors bright.

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Next, I added lots of other smaller rocks and dots to give the impression of pebbles.

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More rocks, pebbles, and darkening of the shadow areas in the water, where rocks are not visible, and reflections were added to the painting.

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Now for the scary part… I carefully painted thin washes over the underwater areas, using mostly greens and oranges. I paid attention to the water lines on each rock, as some were half submerged. I was cautious not to over paint. Too much painting in one area while still wet will mix the colors to a muddy brown and blur the rocks. Each wash layer was dried completely before adding another wash. A few layers of these thin washes and I was finished. Here is the final painting, entitled Emerald Oasis.

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Emerald Oasis

 

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The Middle

Part 2:

Now that the shrubbery was completed, I returned to the rocks, adding more details and color variations.

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In order to create the rough texture of the rocks, I used an old beat-up brush. I dry brushed the rocks with various colors, scraping and smearing the paint. (Dry brush means using paint with very little water and a dry brush. It makes the marks rough and the paint catches on the texture of the watercolor paper. I use 140 lb. cold press paper, which has a little roughness to it.) Here’s the brush that I used and a sample of the finished rocks.

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Next, I began painting the trees. I negative painted with dark green and gray colors, to create leaf like shapes. I then started painting in various green colors, keeping the greens light. With watercolor paint, you can always go darker.

I painted another few layers of greens to build up the depth of the leaves. Finally, I added in the branches.

To be continued…

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The Beginning

Part 1:

I’ve just completed another new watercolor painting. Unlike my last painting, this one took me only about a month to complete. As before, I took photos as I went along to track my progress. It was based on the photograph below, taken in Kings Canyon, CA.

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Original Photograph

I began with blocking in the water with a yellow underpainting, as I felt the water was the most interesting and important part of the image. The water is transparent and ranges from muted green to orange, so I knew that yellow would be a good base coat. I actually use cadmium yellow a lot for my initial layers of paint when painting images of nature. Blocking in the yellow first also helps me separate the confusing pattern of rocks above and below the surface of the water. I then used resist to paint in the trees. The leaves of the trees would be significantly lighter than the rocks, so using resist was an easy way to preserve the whites. I then painted in the rocks and vegetation surrounding the trees and removed the resist. I needed to work quickly as leaving resist on watercolor paper for more than 1-2 days may damage the paper when you remove it.

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Next, I painted in large shapes of color for the rocks, again as a first layer. I varied the rock colors from blue gray, to browns, to even purples. Many more layers will follow.

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At this point, I took a break from the rocks to paint in my shrubbery. I again started with a base of cadmium yellow, then added many more layers with small brush strokes until the shrubbery started to look 3-dimensional. Each layer of paint got darker and darker, but I always made sure some of the initial color was still showing. The next several images show the progression. I ended up doing 8 layers of paint to complete the shrubs.

To be continued…

 

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Upcoming Shows

Beginning today, I have 12 watercolor paintings on display at Saratoga Arts. The show will run through May 28th. Saratoga Arts, located at 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY, is open Monday through Friday, 9 am – 5 pm and Saturday 11 am – 5 pm.

In other exciting news, my painting Winter Woods was juried into the 2019 Adirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolors. This exhibition takes place at The View, in Old Forge, NY, over the summer months. This is a highly competitive watercolor show that I have been trying to get into for a few years. I guess it’s true – third time’s a charm!

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Watercolor workshop

On Friday, May 17th, I will be teaching a watercolor workshop at the Vischer Ferry General Store, from 7-9 pm. During the workshop, we will be covering the techniques I use to paint a landscape in watercolors. Every participant will bring home their own watercolor painting suitable for framing. For more information and to register, please view their website, under the “Events” heading at vischerferrygeneralstore.com.

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2019 Pruyn House Art Show

Yesterday was the art opening for the 2019 Pruyn House Art Show. 56 local artists are represented in the exhibit. My watercolor painting, End of the Road, was awarded Honorable Mention. The show will be on display through May 1st. The historic Pruyn House is located at 207 Old Niskayuna Road, Latham, NY and open Monday through Friday, 9 am – 4:30 pm for the duration of the show.

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Patience (continued) – Part 3

One thing that I avoided for several weeks was the purple “Canton Bazaar” banners. They required reverse painting and the symbols and lettering needed to match from one to another as closely as possible. Finally I came up with a solution. First, I applied a wash of light pink. Then, as you can see in this close up of my first layer, I started the Chinese symbols in the shape of a circle, and the English letters in a rectangle. Using my 00 brush, I carefully blocked in the reverse of the letters and symbols. A couple more coats of paint and I was finished with the banners. I am a traditionalist when it comes to watercolors and I never use white paint in any of my paintings. That means “saving the whites” and frequently doing reverse painting. Like most artists, I also never use black paint because it creates dull, flat areas. If I need a black, I mix my own. For this painting I used a combination of Prussian Blue and Sepia to create my blacks.

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With the banners and lanterns finished, it was time to complete the foreground. I laid in a bottom layer of yellow on the road, to keep it warm. Then painted several layers of greys and purples for the pavement. If you look back to the original image, you can see that this photo was taken early morning. The sun is just rising to the right of the scene. This caused a great contrast of tones where the sun was hitting the buildings on the left side, and even more noticeably on the pavement, where the sun shone through the side roads.

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The cars were another thing I was a bit worried about painting. I have never painted or even drawn cars to my recollection. But in reality, it’s no different than anything else you paint. Like I tell my students when they say they can’t draw a horse, or a person, or whatever, you can’t think of the object as a thing. Just think of it in terms of colors, shapes and lines. So I took my own advice and conquered the cars. The reflections on the cars were a puzzle until I identified what they were. That helped a lot in making color choices, so the reflections looked more realistic. The cars were also objects that I changed up from the photo. Four silver cars lined up can be pretty boring, so I played around with the colors of all the cars to create variety. This painting is all about color!

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Last few tweaks here and there; checking shadows; repainting the red lanterns more vibrant… and I was done! Here is the final painting. I’m calling it “Canton Bazaar.”

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Patience (continued) – Part 2

I started working on the right hand side of the paper next. I stayed aware of what objects go “on top” of other objects. Meaning that I painted background details in layers, then covered edges of them with objects in the foreground. Gradually I built up the color, patterns and textures on the right side of the painting. I reserved some objects, such as the light poles and trees for example, for later… so they go “on top” of the buildings.

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The color reflections in the Canton Bazaar sign didn’t make much sense to me, but I stuck to the photo and I’m glad I did. It looks much more realistic with the reflection being green, red and black squiggles. This is an example of where it’s important to pay close attention to the details.

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At this point I was a nervous wreck over my painting. I had spent so many hours on it already, making a mistake was always in the back of my mind. Watercolor is not the most forgiving medium. In fact it’s very difficult to change things once the paint is down. About this time, I managed to flick a big spray of green paint into the middle of my sky. These things happen despite your best efforts to control your paint! Over the span of a couple of days, I was able to slowly and carefully remove the paint and touch up my sky. My success gave me confidence that I could fix any other “boo-boos” that occurred. (And yes, there were a few!)

Next, I began to paint the intricate light posts. The sunlight varied the colors a little, but for the most part I was able to use the same greens and reds for all 12 light posts. I also started tying all the areas together by painting in the sidewalks, trees and other miscellaneous objects and people throughout the painting.

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To be continued…

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Patience – Part 1

Over the past three months, I have been working on just one painting. My daughter took a great photograph of Chinatown, in San Francisco, last summer. The image shows the intersection of California Street and Sacramento Street, looking down many blocks to the ocean. Tons of color and details create this cool image. She challenged me to paint it in watercolors. It was quite a daunting task and I was well out of my comfort zone. But I always like a challenge and I think during the past 3 months I have learned quite a lot. The creation of this painting has improved my technique. With all the tiny details I had to paint, I completely destroyed my 00 brush and had to go buy a new one mid-way through the painting. With a project like this one, patience was my biggest hurtle. I knew this would take me a long time to paint. I decided to take photos of the painting while in progress. Over the next few blogs, I will post my painting’s progression.

Here is the photo that I was working from:

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First part of any painting is the sketch. Working from my daughter’s photo, I drew an outline drawing of the scene. Already I had to make decisions on what to include. As you know, I love details and constraining myself is always a challenge when my instinct is to include everything I see. My sketch shows the basic outline of shapes and how I want the composition to lay out. The image has a natural X right through the center of it. In a complicated image such as this one, I wanted my center of interest to literally be the center of the painting. The sky and the road lead you right to the heart of the painting. Once I had my sketch, I carefully transferred it to tracing paper, then to watercolor paper. This process alone took me 4 hours of drawing to complete the transfer.

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I almost always work on my paintings, top to bottom, left to right. There is nothing worse when painting, then having your hand or arm brush through the wet paint, smearing it along your painting. I began by painting a gradated wash for the sky. The sky has 4 washes on it, moving from an intense bright blue to a soft, pale, almost white horizon. I then painted all the lanterns. They seemed one of the most important parts of the painting and I wanted to make sure they claimed their space, especially in the far background.

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Next, I laid down broad light washes of color. I always work from light to dark, gradually building up color. As you can see, I worked on one section at a time, building up color and adding more and more detail. I continued to move from left to right across the paper. First with washes, then details. A few objects I reserved for later, such as the green light posts. I knew I wanted to match the greens, so I saved them until I got to the large light post on the right side many weeks later.

The colors in this scene are very intense. The yellows, reds and greens on the buildings are very vibrant and I tried to mimic the colors as best as I could to convene the startling contrast.

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As I reached the far distance of the painting, I had to make more and more decisions about what to include, what to ignore, and what to blur. I wanted the far distance to be hazy and out of focus. The signage in this painting was truly one of the biggest challenges. Some of the signs, such as the “Far East” sign were hand painted, so it was easier to replicate them. Others, such as the “Bank of America” sign and later the “Canton Bazaar” signage, were not, making them much more difficult to reproduce.

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To be continued…

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