Blog-Painting in Watercolor, Oil and Pastel

Water – Epiphanies, Revelation – Water

Water mediums abound. What does it mean to work in a water medium? There is of course, acrylics which are water based, but the water does not move the pigment. But then there are those mediums for which it is all about the movement of water. Water circling and swirling. Water carrying lighter color more quickly creating shifts of hues no human hand can  capture. Water is a treasure to the artist to paint its life and use its spirit.

As I paint in my various watery materials I never cease to be amazed at what happens because of my hand– though  often despite it. A subtle shift of a water loaded brush disperses color which twirls back and around. Dropping pigment into a pool creates ebbs and flows of a mini tide.Then of course there is all that can be done as the water dries for each stage brings forth another plethora of options.Learning these is the task of a watercolor artist.

And there  must be the exploration into surfaces and the myriad of options at our disposal affect the  learnings of the play in water and color. Hot press curtails the creeping flow making pigment seep to the surface of the paper more quickly. Large plopping rain drops create puddles for colors on cold press that may stay put but might slip into drips when the board is tilted. And gold leaf of course produces ranges of values in making back blooms.

Water- to be treasured as its life and properties reveal uncontrollable and uncountable realities. And of course we are blessed for our cold drinks and showers —-

Artists Handling ‘Avitar’ Conditions

For those of us who are so keyed to our environment that we are compelled to make it the root of our lives, we are at the mercy of those who need to dominate it. And in our culture work focused on words and left brain activity ( indoor work) tends to pay more giving those people great resources to alter their environment. It is a true conundrum. It is our right in this country to control our plot of land- no question. But that being said, we can not negate the truth that for those who are visually sensitive it can be terribly difficult to live with the choices of others especially the denuding of where we exist everyday. I have lived where I needed to jade my eye to negate the amount of material I am capable of absorbing- it greatly affected my work. I have learned to create moments of aesthetic wild so that my eyes can rest for I do not want to be jaded to the lighting, the values, the color, the ambiance that nature creates.

I urge my friends for whom the environment is so powerful to not diminish that sensitivity but find ways to build moments of truth amongst this ever growing need of others to control the environment. It is worth the struggle even if it causes physical pain. Pause before a spontaneous scenario and relish it.

 

Maine Landscape Paintings: Treasuring Lessons from Hiroshige

Gold Leaf Maine Panel
Hanging On

Hiroshige teaches me about Maine Landscape Paintings.

As I work on a new gold leaf screen, I become inspired by the swirls in the gold and the texture in the substructure. The piece is of the outbound road from Schoodic. For 7 short miles we preserve beauty even if it is slashed by a scar of pavement. Humans seem need to own nature. Driving anywhere there is a view is the human needing ownership or at least use of it preventing others from engaging with it.

I revisit Hiroshige’s scenes along the Tokaido highway. My lesson? Daily human life can happen entwined and complementing nature not dominating and owning it.

My new project is going to be doing a series of screens celebrating the life along Route 1 for which nature is a celebrated back drop.

fall Maine pastel
Silver and Red

I hope we as a collective group of people who seem to all be inspired and moved by the views left, think before we throw up another building to own a view or post a private no trespassing sign.

 

This picture is one of 5 done in pastel of scenes along our still lovely Route 1 here in Downeast Maine.

Pastel Process

Choosing colors
Choosing Colors

First step is choosing the key colors around which the painting will originate. This process might take as many as 2-3 days. I a testing colors for value, hue and temperature making sure that when layered on top of each other they create depth of field as well as textures I want. Because pastels are the only dry color medium this characteristic is one I maximize when using it. Each pastel stick has a distinct texture to it. How it is applied to the paper determines how many layers can be added and how much of under layers can be seen through top layers.

Pastel Painting Process
Step 3

Underlying a landscape is a good solid abstract value structure that transcends the literal objects. That is this stage creating- the abstract shapes and composing the positive and negative spaces. Sometime I use melodies for placement of key objects as a melody is varied in notes and rhythm. Think of what a melody looks like written on tabulator verses the bass.

Pastel Painting Process
Build shapes

Here is a close up of building the shapes. At this stage as well I am choosing what types of strokes I will use for different objects. Pastel strokes, just like brush strokes, are a critical tool to build visual effect and consequently I make sure each one says something.

Pastel Strokes
Pastel Strokes

Continuing to work the whole canvas as I block in the composition, I continue to pay very close attention to strokes and shapes.

 

 

Maine Watercolors Color

Watercolor Color - Blowin
Watercolor Color – Blowin

Maine Watercolors Color

How to use water when painting in watercolor is what I must study again everytime I have taken a break from this medium. Water — how much water and how much pigment, when to add some water, when to take out water, when to add more pigment to watered pigment on the paper, when to use gravity when to use a brush.

A big benefit of water is th edges it creates or miimalizes. As the water dries, edges can be minimalized so that no hard ones remain. This look of softness engendered works for clouds, rain waves .. for edges are so varied around water.

April Showers
April Showers

The edges in this painting needed to be as varied as possible the harder ones of rain and tops of waves the softer at puddles and of course, the water laden clouds.

 

 

Gold Leaf of Maine Cherry Blossom

Gold Leaf Process
Gold Leaf Process

Creating a Gold Leaf screen for a Cherry Blossom celebration in Ellsworth Maine.

Gold Leaf requires very careful planning especially the negative spaces. I worked 15 + sketches looking especially at how the branches and trunks move across the picture plane.

Gold Leaf Process-3
Gold Leaf Process-3

Next I set up the panels looking at how the gold has matured.

Gold Leaf 2
Gold Leaf 2

Then blocking in the branches and trunks. I have a tendency to make things parallel so must watch this as i block in the tree. Parallel lines create dead space.

Gold Leaf Process-4
Gold Leaf Process-4

Next is choosing the colors I will use. Colors are ground rocks so I am choosing not only color but also texture. Japanese pigments are made from rocks and colored glass ground to 16 different grinds.

 

 

 

 

After choosint the colors, they are mixed with a water soluable glue.

I have chosen for the boat a large grind so that I can float the particles onto the gold spacing the pigment by floating the particles into different areas of the boat surface.

Gold Leaf 6

Gold Leaf 6

 

 

 

 

 

Gold Leaf 7
Gold Leaf 7

 

Gold Leaf 8
Gold Leaf 8
Gold Leaf 9
Gold Leaf 9

It is hard to see in the photo as gold leaf is very difficult to captuer, but the grind is a 5 (1 largest 16 finest).

Last picture is placing the cherry blossoms making sure that again, their placement breaks up the negative space in distinct non geometric patterns.

After working on the blossoms, next is placing the rocks in the foreground. Again, placement is critical. But also, since I am using variegated gold, this process will take 5-8 steps in order to build layers in front of each other creating depth and volume to the rocks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watercolor Process

Watercolor Palette
Watercolor Palette

I am returning to watercolor and so must refocus on watercolor process.

Watercolor seems to drip spring. The colors, the water the immediacy the newness. Why do I turn to this medium every spring? I wonder.

Here is my palette. I have duplicate colors for mixing in order to keep my pigments pure. As soon as a touch of blue twinges the yellow it can not make a beautiful orange.

Watercolor Purity
Watercolor Purity

Along with extra splotches of colors for mixing I use multiple pots of water. Here I have made the big mistake of my green brush in the yellow water ending up with two bowls of cleansing liquide for green and none for yellow. This will really screw up yellow for the daffodils!

Watercolor Purity
Watercolor  1
Watercolor 2
Watercolor 2

 

First  is blocking in colors keeping it liquid and very pure hues.

The daffodils must be a warm yellow. The greens of hte leaves more olive while the bottle and orb are human made greens

My palette is kept very clean and I change the pots of water every few minutes. Purity of color is critical.

 

Next step is with some moisture begin adding more intense colors keeping the  edges soft. I do not want any hard edges at this stage in the painting. I messed up with the daff stems as I drew them linerally which creates hard edges on both sides.

Watercolor - 3
Watercolor – 3

More building of colors and depth. Again the purer the color the more depth can be gained. As soon as lots of pigments are mixed together, a dullness will set in to a watercolor that cant be undone.

So often it is the development of the darks in relation to the color devlepment which deadens watercolor paintings.

Pigments in watercolor do not mix the same as any other medium and so they go dead very fast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastel- Fine Tuning

Pastel- Fine Tuning
Pastel- Fine Tuning

Pastel Fine Tuning

Day 4 hours 45-55– . In Pastel, this can be very tricky. Too much under painting or complementary colors creates shadows and can ruin the impact of the piece.

However, the area on the right was so muddy I had to take off some of the pastel to rebuild the composition. The leaf structure was hap hazard did not draw the eye nor set off the water. So I scraped off the leaves and re selected colors. Part of the problem was not just the pattern but even more so the color I chose. It was a yellow/green – the correct value but not warm enough to set it off.

Pastel Process Day 4
Pastel Process Day 4
Pastel paintng Process
Pastel paintng Process
Pastel Painting Process
Pastel Painting Process

The following series of pictures show the tweaking of color, composition and patterns. These types of pictures in which there is no focal point and the key object is being seen through something else is difficult to keep cohesive. But if successful, can engender a real rooted view. So it take choosing colors based on value, hue and temperature very specifically.

Checking the values.

 

 

Building the warm cool shifts in the water preparing it for the whites of the falls last. Have to envision this… because I can not put the lights in until the darks are done.. not because darks wont adhere to the lights but because the darks will contaminate the lights.

At this stage in the painting I often hold the top out so that dust does not drift down onto the rest of the picture. Keeping the integrity of the colors chosen is really important if  the picture is to not get muddy and have a 3d depth feeling..

Tomorrow will be defining the yellow leaves making sure none are wishy washy and fixing the cloud reflections so that the shapes are more interesting and the negative space the lights form are dynamic. I also do not like how the falls cut the pic in 1/2 so will adjust the way the water runs. Know the dynamics of running water will help with this.

Last will be redefining the trunks and branches the vertical trunks help pull all the horizontals together.

Snow in Pastels

Pastel Winter Harbor
Winter Harbor

How to make Snow in Pastels?  Well.. living in Maine in the winter teaches this! Everyday it snows or there is snow on the ground is a lesson in white… the full range of white like Gandolf’s cloak. Here on the Schoodic Peninsula we have our own weather system.. I must ask the local fisherman if we have our own vocabulary for all the kinds of snow, sleetly, poofy flaked, dry pelting ,wet slushy and wet packing snows.

In pastels I have two large trays of whites- I have them sorted by warm and cool colors. I pick from these trays the whites that are right for the scene I am observing and for the feeling I want to create. This is our dusk the sky is a deep purple blue but down by the horizon are pinks and warm yellows – NOT COOL yellows I have to be very careful not to mix these two.

Snow is essentially a rounded geometric form so once i have identified from which direction the sun is coming I form the snow accordingly. The sun’s light was warm so began with warmth then as the mound moves into shadow it is cool then there is reflected warm light thend darker shadow. Then of course there is the snow in deep shadow which I build up with middle values blue greys. The last step is I find the pattern of light I want dancing through the trees and go in with my lightest warm white and layer it on. In life, this makes the whole piece pop and gives the patterns conhesiveness.

Recreating a Scene-Pastel

Capturing a Maine Moment
Capturing a Maine Moment

Recreating a scene seen on the fly… I am trying to recreate something I saw last fall when I could not stop to sketch or even take color notes.

Day 2 is spent building layers of depth in the sky, choosing specific colors to help leaves pop, testing colors for the ocean and checking composition.

Building the layers of depth in the sky means seeing the volumes of the clouds making sure how they are lit to help create that depth. Also what helps is putting one volume in front of another. Therefore, I worked to put one cloud in front of another. This is not so obvious in the picture. Pastels are hard to photograph!

To help make the leaves pop – where I wanted them to pop- I used subtle shifts from blue around the orange yellow leaves and purple around the yellow ones.

Capturing a Maine Scene-2
Capturing a Maine Scene-2

So what is wrong this this compositionally????

Critical is checking the compositional decisions at this stage while it is still possible to make changes without getting ghost images under the pastel. While pastel is in some ways opaque it is really transluscent and under colors come

Capturing Maine Scene-2
Capturing Maine Scene-2

through.

Beneath the sea is green — then there is a dark Cobalt blue. Next a purple gray to tie to the sky. The bottom grasses are not right — time to work on those.

Capturing Maine Scene
Capturing Maine Scene

 

 

 

 

Its time to fill the page with color to check values. Now that I have definitely determined the under laying structure and color/values I believe will articulate the feel of the scene as I remember it I can begin to bring the picture up to nuance — now it will be making sure the integrity of the initial strokes of the pastel sticks are used ( first swipe with a stick is like painting with an Asian brush it is used to delinate the desired movement in the object).  11 hours today.