Digging in For Better

“Big Boy”
Watercolor, 15 x 22 inches
Well, here is this morning’s effort. Yes, I have accomplished the need to create a greater feeling of enormity by setting up scale comparisons with the background suggestions, the palms and the little cars. It is much more difficult to suggest rather than delineate (at least for me). The urge to describe something like the little cars more fully is something I must constantly resist. After all, when seeing a car from the distance show in this painting, they would be nothing more than a mere shape. (Gotta give up what we think we know, right?)

As for the lighting . . .I sorta got it, but feel that I could have been less timid. I wanted a yellow / orange sky, but for the life of me, I couldn’t get the superstructure of the ship to read as white when I put the shadow. The actual image in the photo reveals that structure to be quite dark against a light sky. That’s no problem, but the colors proved difficult . . .so I resorted to warm light / cool shadows with warm reflected light in the shadows . . .what I know from landscape painting. I guess I have to dig some more. . . . this is the last of this ship for now. I have to work on my “Miroir d Eau” painting. I am planning to use that as a demo in some upcoming workshops. Wish me luck!

Back to The Drawing Board . . .Literally

This morning I couldn’t get to the studio quickly enough. Yesterday’s painting had so many things WRONG that I was chomping the bit to make some sense of this subject.

When I thought about it, I had to ask WHY was I painting this subject . . .(the big ship) ? It was the immensity of it that grabbed me, then the light and how that golden morning set colors into a different world. It sure as heck is NOT about the details or correctness of the ship.

So, back to the sketch book! . . . . and to play with some color ideas. The reason for the color investigations is that the superstructure of the bridge of the ship is white . . .but against the sky in that light it was actually quite dark. So, how do I put that rascal in the painting, make it dark, and still get it to read as white? Now there is a question for you!

To get this painting on the right track, for once I actually have had to resort to perspective and vanishing points. I need to exaggerate the perspective to make the blocky nature of the bridge of the ship more interesting. It’s a shape thing !

Then I MUST put scale to work. So, I have decided that rather than having a path in a park like I had yesterday, I should put in a road with cars travelling on it . . . .and the comparison of those . . .and a few palms . . .will send a clear message of enormity.

It has taken me several sketches to come to these conclusions. I can feel it now. I am getting closer. Now that I have this in mind, I must decide on technique to fit the mood. I still have more decisions to make and challenges to resolve. Does this EVER get easy???

Another Shot At It . . .

“Floating Horizon”
watercolor, 15 x 22 inches
After dreaming all night about yesterday’s painting, I still wasn’t satisfied. So I took another shot at it. Since I usually attack these paintings as an experiment, I went at it with multiple goals in mind.
I still haven’t captured the scale of the ship. I suppose I will have to put another boat in the piece for size comparison . . .or something that shows comparative measure. But I was able to reach a few of the goals I set out to accomplish.
This time I decided to reduce the size of the relective surface of the water (the white area) and to make it the center of interest, silhouette the bridge of the ship against the sky using value counterchange and to subdivide the large foreground shape using strong shadows from off the picture plane. And . . .I pushed the value contrasts to give the sense of distance to the ship and to enhance that reflection of light off the surface of the water.
I really worked at pushing the darks in this painting, also. As most watercolorists do, I have struggled with my darks over the years. It is imparative to make them full of color and to have them appear fresh. I think I may have a breakthrough in that area in this painting. It peculiar how we do the same things over and over and over again, then, one day, something clicks and we change. That happened this morning.
While I am also working hard at teaching value design to my classes, I figgered I had better put the lessons to work. I employed a very dark foreground shape to set up the contrast of light and medium values in the piece. (I wonder what the next one will look like.)

A Weekend Away . .

“San Pedro Morn”
watercolor, 15 x 22 inches
There are times when the easel just has to wait. This time, it has been too long.
As you may know, I have two classes for which I must prep . . .and some other workshops I am getting ready for . . . and now, a new assignment on a board of directors with an organization out of town. That assignment has me visiting southern California occasionally. This last weekend was one of those visits. A short flight to LA then on to my hotel near the Los Angeles Harbor.
Wow! What a place that is. I had the chance to go for a few walks in the early morning and a long one on Sunday. Huge ships, tug boats, beautiful golden light, and apparati for loading and unloading ships that would boggle anyone’s mind. They are absolutely enormous (tens of stories high!) and the horizon is littered with them. They are rather strange in appearance and remindful of the “Star Wars” movies.
Here is an image of one of the large tankers parked in the morning light in one of the harbor channels. The colors, the different values of the two shores and horizon and the golden light had me stopped in my tracks more than several times. After taking over 150 photos, I had to hurry to the easel to get something down in paint. A very interesting trip and painting project!

A Fourth Mood

“Fourth Mood”

watercolor, 15 x 22 inches

Working from a class demo, I Re-worked the problems and finished this piece in a nocturnal mood idea. I had messed up some of the light values in the back and had intended to silhouette the rear boats and buildings against a lighter sky. Having messed that up, I took a reversed track and dropped the surrounding values (sky) way downward to bring the boats and buildings into an altogether different lighting situation.

While doing this I am also running a second class where discussions are afoot about clear separtations of values between light and shadow. I’ll be posting early next week about that here, also. Meanwhile, I am still messin’ round with the reflective piece of Miroir d’ Eau.

Manipulation of Technique, Design


Three Different Moods
watercolor all are 15 x 22 inches
I am still working on the “Miroir d’ Eau” painting of people on a grand reflecting surface (Last few posts). Progress is slow, but it is mostly about practice.

Meanwhile . . . my classes have begun and I am in that space of dreaming up different ways to show painters ‘how to’ and to help them capture new paths of thought in their work.

I am spending more time emphasizing the interrelationships of Content (subject), Technique and Design and how those relationships affect the mood outcome of a painting. Of course, I have been demonstrating different techniques to some of the classes . . . .recently, painting into wet or damp paper . . .to achieve different edges and textures of the paint. That technique, with variation, and the manipulation of value arrangements, color and edges can express many different moods.

In the paintings above, the drawing has not changed (except just a little bit, unintentionally), but dominances of intensity, hue and temperature have definitely changed. See how the emphasis has shifted from the top of the painting to the bottom? See how the process of moving from painting ‘things’ to constructing an overall atmosphere can completely shift an idea? See how limiting contrasts can affect the mood? And how the increase of contrast can move the mood, too?

Isn’t it interesting how such different feelings can be generated without changing the actual drawing?

Sans Drawing

“Sistahs”
watercolor, 15″ x 22″
Since I have very little time to paint while prepping for open studio, I am taking a little time in the mornings for some recreation and challenge at the easel.

Today, working with only a value sketch (2” x 3”) and not doing any drawing on the paper, I painted negative shapes and shadow shapes (good ole “light and shadow” again!) and left the whites. I have to admit that there was some hesitance to do this . . .in fact, “fear” might be a better word. And I struggled. The shapes are a little rough in places, but that is why I did it without a drawing; to get shapes I could never deliberately make (my corrective instinct is too strong!)

As I saw in the value sketch, it is the way all the whites interact together to make a simple composition and the dazzling contrast which makes this genre of paintings a total blast to do.

In the end, the whole thing comes to life with the addition of simple line work (calligraphy).

Under the Gun

“Balls!”
Watercolor, 15″ x 22″
I am deep into preparations for my annual Open Studio show. This is my 19th year holding it and it seems the work beforehand is overwhelming.

It must be an escape mechanism in my personality that rears its head at this time of year. When I need most to focus on completing these daunting tasks, my mind is racing about possible paintings. I awaken from sound sleep dreaming about it. It seems the more I am around the framing and puttering in the studio to clean up and get ready, the more I want to paint!! It literally becomes a feeling of imprisonment! Eventually, I must cave in and dance with my easel.

Today, I awoke at 5 AM thinking about a certain sketch I had done last week . . .what color here? What value there? How should I handle the backdrop? Dry into wet or wet into dry? Calligraphy? Where? How shall I combine the light valued shapes? And what about making stimulating shapes? And on and on and on. Finally, I threw off the blankets and headed directly to the studio at 5:20AM. I was painting by 5:45 AM and finished around 7:30 AM.

After my playful easel shenanigans last week, I couldn’t get the method out of my head. So, I went after it again: dry into wet paper and building layers wet into wet. The painting always lacks something till the very end when the calligraphy is put in (line work). The trick with line is not to let it become to tight. Just lay it down with one stroke. If it is a little off, so be it. It really adds excitement to the piece . . . .oh! I forgot the birds!! That’ll bring more life to it also. I’ll have to put those in after I post.

As a last comment . . .my sense of humor carried me away this morning. I just couldn’t help making the title a little bit tongue in cheek.