Saturday, September 7, 2013

Summer Glow -- 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge (Round Two), Day 6 (Not Quite Finished -- Again?!...)

Summer Glow, Watercolor on Arches #140 Cold Press paper, 5"h x 7"w, WIP 2

OK... I wouldn't exactly call this one "finished" -- but it is not because I am slacking off! I have struggled over this little piece more than anything I have ever painted... You know that "ugly stage" that every painting seems to have to go through, when you tell yourself that you don't exactly know where this is going? For this painting, that awkward stage has lasted almost from its beginning to this point. 

The reference photo of this painting shows a lovely white water lily glowing against several large, mid-dark valued leaves, with no obvious value variations within each leaf shape, or between different leaves. In other words, it's an image of very contrasting small light shapes of the flower petal, and large, uniformly-dark shapes of leaves, with no actual mid-value shapes in between. It seems I have found this problem not challenging enough, and decided that I don't want to just paint the white flower "as is", with mostly neutral grey shadows. Instead, I have decided to try out the multi-color blending and glazing method from Jeannie Vodden, and make the white petals and shadow areas on them "more colorful".

The problem is, when I had the best intentions starting out, I did not exactly have a clear vision of how the finished painting would look like. "Colorful" itself is a very guideline to say the best... As a result, I ran into different problems almost right from the start with colors, and struggled with it for several months. After putting it away and taking it out, staring at it and thinking really hard, I have realized that my first mistake with this painting: I did not decide a dominant hue (or family of hues) for the white petals from the starting point. Since white flowers do not have an apparent hue to their shadows in most lighting conditions, my water lily almost had the entire rainbow of colors evenly spread in its shadow areas. No dominance leads to a cacophony of colors, not a symphony, and it never looked right.

The second problem is the value of the shadow areas on the flower -- I have initially made them almost as dark as the reference photo (which had no mid-value shapes to start with), and they just looked wrong, as if somebody poked a black hole in the center of the flowers. After squinting a lot and again thinking really hard, I have realized this (which an initial value sketch could easily point out, but, alas, I wanted to "get down to the fun of painting" too fast when starting... :-P). After some scrubbing and lifting out, glazing back, lifting again -- finally I have ended up with the value of the flower center in a mid value range, between the lightest petal area and the really dark leaves behind the flower. Now there seems to be a bit depth and the flower center seems to recede a bit back in space, and everything just looks more "right"... Well, the color of the center petals became a bit dull and less saturated because of the repeated lifting and glazing back, but the correct value relationship is more important than all the other aspects of painting, and made this version just looks more believable. 

I am quite proud that I have stuck with the suffering and figured out what the problem is, and what I need to do to make it work. Due to the limitation of the paper -- you just cannot keep on putting on colors and taking them off, even when working on the tough Arches -- I may not be able to totally realize my vision for this one from its current stage, but next time, when facing with a similar problem -- white flower with very dark backgrounds, without much intermediate value shapes in the reference image, and when I want to again try to make the white "colorful" and not just straightly paint the grey shadows I see in the reference material, I will have a more clear vision of what to achieve, what to avoid, what has to be tackled first, from the starting point. Now for this one, I just have to finish a few darkest shadows and crevice darks on the flower, and the reflections of the petals. There is a bit of work, but not anything conceptually hard, so with a couple more hours here and there, it should fall into place... 

In the mean time, I have again spent five hours sitting in the art fair, which gave me ample time to some other watercolor sketches and studies. This time I want to just use texture - brushed on, spattered, imprinted with various textured materials, sprayed by clear water... you name it -- to create a sense of ground and growth (i.e., grass and bushes) without actually outlining any tree shapes with pencil. Again, it was great fun, and very different from what I usually do.... I am seriously thinking that I need to do this more in the future.

Wild GrowthWatercolor on Arches #140 Cold Press paper, 6"h x 10"w, 2013 #57

Bid at My DPW Auction (Starting Bid $20) 

OK, I think I've had quite a few days with flowers... (Ok, I did not quite finish the flower pieces I was working on for the past few days, but I will in the coming days! And I did spend a solid day on each of them, trying very hard to finish... But sometimes paintings have a will of their own! :-P) Starting tomorrow I will begin a new theme for the challenge -- landscape with the element "water" in it. I think it will be quite exciting... Stay tuned!

You can now buy high quality Giclee prints of many of my sold paintings, both on paper and canvas, as well as some note cards with my paintings here:


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Thank you so much for taking time visiting and commenting on my blog! Your feedback and encouragements are things that keep me going with I am feeling down or frustrated... I will try my best to reply to every comment ASAP but sometimes life gets in the way and I am a bit slow in my response. I would like to apologize if that happens...

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