I have hundreds of reference photos, from years of collecting images that “I might paint one day.” I used one such image for a watercolor painting I just completed, entitled Magnolia. This painting is based on photos I took of the Magnolia trees in Washington DC about 6 years ago, when we took the kids there for spring break.
Magnolia is a small square painting, measuring eight inches long. It took a few rough starts before I figured out how I wanted to do the background. I loved the complicated branches in the photos, but I wanted the background to be a little fuzzy and blurry, so that the forefront flowers stood out. It was a lot of trial and error to get the effect I wanted. The pink of the Magnolia petals were also a challenge, since I don’t use white paint. I used a combination of Rose Madder, Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue, and Phthalo Blue to create about 7 different pink variations. Then I painted many transparent layers to build up to the desired color.
My painting Winter Woods was juried into the 2019 Adirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolors. This show features 100 watercolor artists from around the United States. The opening for this amazing watercolor show is tonight from 5-7 pm at The View, in Old Forge, NY. The show will be on display from today until September 30th. Hours at the View are Monday – Saturday, 10 am – 4 pm, and Sunday 12 pm – 4 pm.
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.
Fast forward – the trees, shrubs and rocks are all painted and all that remains is the water.
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.
Next, I added lots of other smaller rocks and dots to give the impression of pebbles.
More rocks, pebbles, and darkening of the shadow areas in the water, where rocks are not visible, and reflections were added to the painting.
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.
Now that the shrubbery was completed, I returned to the rocks, adding more details and color variations.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
Layer 1 & 2
To be continued…
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.”