Friday, March 16, 2012

Two Small Landscapes: Season Change (Finished), & Tamalpais Meadow (WIP)

I've felt a bit experimental lately and ventured out to paint more wet-in-wet landscapes, some successful, others disastrous. To manage the drying time and achieve the soft, wet, flowing look that I love about watercolor landscapes, I've shrunk my paper size significantly for some trial-runs before to attack the larger sheets -- quarter sheet for me is large at my current skill level of managing wild wet washes, I'm not greedy in my expectations :-P. And I do fall in love with some of these small jewels from time to time -- sometimes a trial run has the kind of freedom and freshness that a well-planned, well-executed larger piece lacks. There is a delicate balance between spontaneity and careful planning that I am still struggling to grasp...

This is a card-sized "experiment" I did trying to figure out how to create those fluffy white clouds   I've so often seen when travelling in the high country of Colorado and Utah. I did it in two wet cycles in this piece -- first wetting the who image with clear water, and drop in Ultramarine and Cobalt Blues to indicate the sky behind the white clouds; while this is totally dry, I rewetted the white area and dropped in a very light mixture of grey made by Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna. The most important and difficult thing here is to try to not let this grey flow to the edge of the white space , so that you still have some white left between the blue of the sky and the grey of the cloud that's facing away from the sun. I played with calligraphic strokes while creating the spruce tress, paying attention to increase the value and saturation of color gradually from the background trees to the ones which are in the foreground. I liked the slight melancholy and sober mood of the resulted piece, and may do a slight larger piece of a different format of it in the future.

Season Change (High Country Snapshot I),  
Watercolor on Arches 140# Cold Press Paper , 5"h x 3"w, 2012 #25

This is another piece I've started in the same fashion, trying to find out how to find fog-covered coastal hills. It's a view I so often see and marvel at while hiking in the Mount Tamalpais State Park in winter and spring mornings -- while the entire view ahead is veiled by beautiful silver fog, there would sometimes be a patch of meadow cleared of fog because it is not covered by oak and redwood trees (the respiratory action of these trees actually create huge amount of vapor in the air, and therefore make the fog denser). I'm struggling to recreate the quiet, moist, fresh air in my memory on paper in this one, and so far I've only done one wet cycle on the paper, painting from background forward as the paper gradually dries, leaving more and more obvious brush marks on the paper, ending with the dry-brush mark of muted brown underneath the tree shape near the center of the picture. At this stage I am more concerned with color temperature relationship and the abstract aesthetics of  brush marks -- the variation of shape, size, edge quality among these marks. Glazing over dry paper and tidy up these marks can be done without much difficulty later, as they are all quite soft and diffused. I love this stage of watercolor painting -- it's both exciting and nerve-wrecking, demanding 120% of the painter's attention. I'm feeling like walking on a tight rope while doing these wet-in-wet piece, which is a good change of pace from the more carefully planned floral paintings. Time to go back to the studio. Ciao!...

Spring Meadow, Tamalpais,  
Watercolor on Winsor Newton 140# Cold Press Paper , 6"h x 10"w, WIP 1



  1. These are very different for you, and extremely beautiful. Great experiments, Arena!

  2. What a wonderful mood you set up with both of these. Truly lovely paintings

  3. We are about to move to Venice, Florida from Texas so was just looking over my blog and saw your nice comment. Thanks, your images are lovely. I was a nursing major but after raising four children took up watercolor and still can't get enough of it. Good luck on this wonderful journey.

  4. These are great Arena . . . I know what you mean about balancing the loose, fluid characteristic of watercolor that makes it so beautiful . . . with a tighter, more precise and measured approach. I constantly struggle. I think these exercises are great for experimenting with that looser approach. Do you use photographs, or do you just let the paint do what it wants then develop it as it goes? Just curious.


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