Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Winter Light, & Slow Progress in Sun Dance

Oh boy -- I was itching to paint a landscape this week, although I know I already have way too many projects started, and I really shouldn't attempt a new one. But finally, the ADD in me wins -- yet again! I remembered Kara K. Bigda's exercises of one hour painting, and did this little one in one wetting of the paper! It was intense, nerve-wrecking and so much fun!

I began by wetting the little sheet of 5" x 7" piece of Arches Rough paper front and back using my squirrel quill cat's tongue brush, thoroughly -- I mean dripping wet thoroughly. After the water had totally soaked in, I laid the paper flat onto a piece of plexiglass -- a non-absorbent surface that would keep the paper wet longer (you can also add wet paper towels between the watercolor paper and the plexiglass to extend the drying time even longer). I used 1" flat sable brush from Jack Richeson to paint in the sky using French Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna, varying the pigment strength as I go, and forcing myself not going back and try to rectify the bits of unevenness of painted areas. The granulation effect of French Ultramarine created interesting color separations on the rough surface of the paper. As the paper dried a little, I used fast, upward strokes of the flat brush to drop in a strong mixture of the same two colors, letting the blue dominate, to created the distant woods. This instantaneously created some interesting effects -- some of the warm sienna color was pushed to the upper edge of the trees by the heavier blue pigment (French Ultramarine is a heavily sedimentary color with large pigment particle size, and often pushes the more transparent colors away when applied in mixture or dropped in wet-in-wet), creating a warm glow hinting the setting sun. I really liked this effect, and stopped for a second to appreciate it, before to lift the distant, snow-covered roof in the woods. When the paper is just a tad damp, I applied even heavier pigments with brown dominance to create the foreground dried grasses -- in the end, it's almost dry-brushing in some area. I switched to a rigger brush to paint in the calligraphic branches of the small foreground tree (bush?), and felt totally invigorated by the fast-paced action of painting, in contrast of my usual meticulous, extremely time-consuming way of doing it... 

Winter Light,  Watercolor on Arches 140# Rough Paper , 5"h x 7"w, 2012 #19 


I did go back to the slow motion eventually later into the day, working on the underpainting of the rose painting "Sun Dance" that I started in January (so long ago... :-P). At one point, I felt there is nothing to pin down the values to gauge how dark each passage needs to be, so I selected the lower right corners to do some overpainting using saturated dark pigments (mostly the Thalo colors), carefully letting bits and pieces of the colorful underpainting to shine though to hint undergrowth and dappling sunlight. I am not entirely sure whether I have done that successfully, but decide to move on and paint the lower left side rose leaf stems now that I have something to judge against for how dark they need to be. At this stage, I have the first pass of underpainting on the upper right corner, second and third passes of underpainting on the lower left side, half-finished overpainting in middle bottom, and totally finished overpainting on the lower right corner -- just all over the place! I have the greatest difficulty with this stage since the entire painting just looks piece-meal and incoherent. I guess I just have to put faith in it and believe it would eventually sail-through this ugly stage and emerge as something beautiful (or not)... I am suspicious either Carrie Waller's strategy of finishing one section at a time, or Crystal Cook's way of developing the whole painting to the same stage of finish each time before moving to the next stage is better that what I am usually doing... Time to reflect...

Sun Dance,  Watercolor on Arches 140# Cold Press Paper , 8"h x 8"w, WIP 3 



  1. I absolutely love your quick landscape study! It is full of that effortless look that watercolors have in the hands of someone who knows the medium thoroughly. Very well done. And your flower painting is coming along nicely as well. :) And for my way of working, progressing the painting along at the same level is one thing that really helps me to have a gauge of my values. You'll find what works for you. And thank you for the link too!

  2. I really love your landscape study! -- the colors are delicious :) I think all of us us have to come to our own way of painting ! And for me each painting seems to manage to want its own approach :)

  3. Your winter scene is fabulous! I'm glad you took a slight detour to create it. And of course, the Sun Dance is exquisite, even at this stage.


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