Italian Heat is not my first attempt at that painting. It is the second. I made several mistakes with the first painting, most of them having to to with composition. I left too many people from my reference photos in the image, and that took away from the real subject, the biking couple at the end of the street. Having reached the conclusion that the painting was a failure, I played around with photos the spoiled painting before sketching out the second version which ended up in the blog entry below.
That left me with a poor complicated painting with great color but no real focus. So I set the failed painting aside for a while. Then a few weeks later, I got out the mat corners (“L” shaped pieces of mat board used for visual cropping) and singled out the two bicyclists. The result is Florence Bikers.
Florence Bikers (9 x 16 watercolor) SOLD
Having rescued one painting I looked at the remainder and found Three Italians.
Three Italians, (9 x 21 watercolor) $125
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Submerged I (9 x 12) SOLD
I’ve been experimenting with a couple of new methods. These two paintings are the result. Both are based on some photos of trees half drowned by the swollen Willamette River I took this weekend. I wanted to catch the cold grayness of of the scene and the mystery of the half hidden trees.
I blew the trees. I placed puddles of paint on the paper and blew them into trees with a straw. The line of paint running out from the puddle looks surprisingly like a tree limb. And the direction the paint goes in is quite controllable. But once the paint has started in one direction it’s hard to make it turn. The paint follows the wet path as if it were a stream bed. The solution is to drag a little paint in the direction you want to take it and thus start a new path. Where the trees over-lap it’s important to let the first tree dry completely before starting the next, otherwise the paint form the new tree will run up the first tree.
There are several ways to vary the color in the tree. Leaving the supply puddle partially unmixed is one. New colors can be blown into the wet tree from the base. Accents and be directly painted onto the dry trees. I used all three methods on these paintings.
The second method is painting grass and bracken with multiple layers of mask. Thin lines of mask establish the highlights. Then color is applied. Then more lines are applied. Then more mask for multiple layers. When the mask is removed a complex texture is revealed. I was less successful with this method. It’s hard to see what you are doing or to guess the result. More practice is needed.
I used layered mask in Submerged I. But I didn’t like the results immediately. The foreground was too busy and detracted from my trees, which then looked much like the trees in Submerged II. After some thought, I painted over the trees in dark tones to match the foreground. The result is an evening picture.
Submerged II (9 x 12) $75.00
For the second painting I added the foreground wet into wet. The result is simpler and gives the feeling of the gray afternoon on the river.
The palette for both paintings is: burnt sienna, phtholo blue and dioxion purple, plus a dab of hansa yellow.
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Three Waiters (9 x 7) $125
Since becoming a painter of people, I’ve developed some sneaky ways of photographing strangers in public. One of them is to sit in a restaurant or on a park bench and pretend to be reviewing my pictures when I am actually taking pictures instead. I took the photos I used for this painting in just that way.
I just had to take the photos because of the way kitchen lights in the otherwise dark pub threw these waiters into relief. They looked like they were on stage, yet the scene was intimate. It reminded me of an Edward Hooper painting. But I’m no Hooper, and I intended something much warmer than the world he painted.
It wasn’t easy. I tried a version of this painting almost a year ago and was unsatisfied with it. As usual, the main problem was composition. I included too much of the scene and destroyed much of both the intimacy and the light contrast I was trying to present.
The First Waiters Painting
I like this new smaller version much better than last year’s version.
Once again I used a limited palate: phthalo blue, cobalt blue, burnt sienna, and raw sienna. Because I was painting with limited supplies in Colorado, I only had one yellow. If I had been painting at home I would have substituted a brighter yellow for the raw sienna.
Her Own Little Fountain (12 x 15) $75.00
Yes, it’s yet another painting of the children playing in the water feature at Town Center Park, Wilsonville, Oregon. What can I say? I love hot sun on skin. And the children were cute. This little girl in particular was adorable. She was all over that stream and happily oblivious to the camera.
This is my second painting on hot-pressed paper. The last was a rocky seascape and I used hot-press to get more luminous darks. That worked well.
I wanted to test the wipe-out properties of hot-pressed paper. Wiping-out means to paint solid color and then to lift the high lights. Hot-pressed paper wipes easier than cold-pressed or rough paper. It thought it would be a good technique for skin on a hot summer’s day. What I discovered is that it works well except for highly staining colors. Quinacridone deep red rose is highly staining. Actually I haven’t found a red I like that isn’t highly staining. The closest I’ve found is burnt sienna which is really an orange. I think I’ll wait for a less sunburn scene where I can use the raw sienna before trying wipe-out with hot-pressed paper again.
The palette was burnt sienna, colbalt blue, quinarindone deep red rose and yellow ocher. I reclaimed some whites with titanium white.
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Memorial Day Waterworks (17 x 19) $275
Yes, this is yet another painting of the Town Center Park water feature. This one is rather more ambitious than the previous two. I backed up to take in the feel of the whole stream bed. And I included not one but seven figures.
As you can see from the reference photo, I took some liberties with the geometry of stream bed. I narrowed the center wall of concrete and removed a trash can among other less major changes. I also slide the boys around a little so that they wouldn’t be directly above each other. Finally I eliminated the blond boy half hidden on the left hand side.
After the Mask Came Off
Once I was satisfied with the sketch I masked the boys and concentrated on the water feature itself. Masking an object against water or sky makes it easier to get the water to flow evenly to the edge of the foreground object.
Masking the boys also served as a final composition check as it made them stand out as the centers of interest. People always attract the eye and I expected the boys to so doubly because their skin provides the only warm tones in an otherwise cool picture and because their clothing and toys are the brightest colors in the painting. I liked the way the placement of the boys echoes the “S” curve of the concrete wall. Now that the painting is finished, I still like it.
But I’m probably still not done with this water feature. I like this subject and I’m learning the value of working in a series.
Pigment notes: The background is all burn sienna, phthalo blue and cobalt blue. To do the boys I added yellow ocher, cadmium yellow, and quinacridone deep red rose.
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I don’t know why I am obsessed with the old drawbridge counterweight, but I am. I’d like to say my obsession was producing great paintings, but it isn’t. I’d like to say that there was some symbolism in the counterweight, that justifies all this futile painting, but there isn’t. I don’t see it as a symbol of impending doom hanging over the bridge or man’s ability to lift great burdens or anything else. I just like it.
But I can’t paint it. Here are the efforts of yesterday and the day before. Neither is necessarily finished. Neither is without potential. But I think it’s time to do something else for a while.
This is almost entirely wet into wet. Only the details are wet on dry. I used Hansa yellow, rose madder quinacridone, cobalt blue, and Prussian blue for the bridge. All of the colors layered or dropped in. I didn’t do any mixing on the palette. The sky is cobalt blue and burnt sienna partly mixed on the palette and applied wet on wet.
The movement in the sky seems to distract from the bridge and there isn’t enough contrast between the bridge and the sky.
This time I masked the bridge first and poured the sky in a single pour cobalt blue and cerulean blue. I used the same pigments as Sunday for the bridge itself and the same application method.
This one seems garish to me. The counterweight to too bright. Again there isn’t enough contrast between the bridge tower and the sky.
Of the two, I think Sunday’s effort has the most potential and I may get back to it later. Darker sky perhaps?
I went back to the old West Salem drawbridge (newly converted to a pedestrian bridge) to take some more photos of the towers and the counter-weights. It a very different bridge on a midweek afternoon than it is on the weekend. Saturday afternoon it was crowded. Today there was hardly anyone there and I could stand in the middle as fuss with the camera to my heart’s content without being in anyone’s way.
I came right home to play with the photos and began yet another poured version of one of the counter-weight towers by noon.
I used masking tape to mask the edges of as much of the bridge as I could because I cannot bush as straight a line as I’d like with liquid mask. For some reason, perhaps because it is hard to see, mask is harder to brush straight than paint. I burnished all the inside edges of the tape with my fingernail and sealed all the of the outside edges with masking fluid. The result was seepage along the inside edge of the tape.
I’ll try direct painting the bridge tonight.
There were a number of problems with my first attempt at the “Counter Weight” painting. All most all of them had to do with composition. Three major compositional problems. First the support panel half way up the draw bridge tower brings the eye to a full stop. Second, the girders connecting to the tower lead the eye out the the picture. Third, the dark girder on the left hand side want to be the center of interest.
In addition to the my composition problems, I used French Ultramarine in my final pour. It covered everything underneath causing dead patches in the painting.
Playing with the values did not help. I went from bad to worse. Where I attempted to removed the French Ultramarine I got mud. Darkening the background only made it look dirty.
So, I began again at the very beginning, with a value sketch. This time I moved in above the support panel, centering interest on the counter-weight. I eliminated the girders from my drawing. I’m sure the bridge would fall down without them, but my painting won’t. And I won’t lose the feeling of looking up into that great big counter-weight hanging over your head.
Then I began again. In a few minutes I will post Counter-Weight IA: A Pouring Demonstration. Since I have finished the painting to my satisfaction, I know there will be Counter Weight II: A Pouring Demonstration.
A couple days ago I began pouring demonstration. It was cheeky of me to post the first half of the demonstration before for the painting was finished. I got bit too. I thought about deleting this demonstration entry, but there is too much to learn from mistakes to do that. Instead I will rename it and recast it a hair:
The problem began with the composition itself. Here is the photograph I began with:
I began by making a line drawing of the bridge and transferring it to watercolor paper. What I should have done first was made a preliminary value sketch.
Cartoon For Painting
Then I became beguiled by the lovely colors produced by pouring it.
After the First Pour
After the Second Pour
After the Mask Came Off
There were beautiful colors there after the pouring was done, but the darks were much to heavy. Lightening the darkes only muddied them. And the compositional flaws became more apparent as I worked. In the end I gave up in disgust.
Hat and Shoulders (9 x 12) $100
For this watercolor I worked from a candid snapshot of my niece taken a couple summers ago. She wore the hat everywhere we went. I don’t have many pictures of her in it though, because that was the summer she was camera shy.
I had fits getting this painting right. I tried it and failed twice on Tuesday.
Two problems. First, I love the effect of the strong light on her hat and shoulder, but the light on her face is very low contrast and the color temperature varies enormously. Getting the subtle value changes and temperature changes in her face was difficult. Second she doesn’t have much pink in her face under neutral light, but her blouse bounced purple pink light up into her face.
Both of my Tuesday paintings contained too much pink and exaggerated the temperature and value changes in an unflattering way—she looked like Rudolph of Red Nosed Reindeer. All of my favorite skin reds for light complexions reds (alizarin crimson, rose madder, and quinacirdone) stain so her red nose was there to stay.
I took Wednesday off to think and painted something else instead. I began again Wednesday after dinner, resolving to keep my palette limited and to introduce value and temperature changes slowly. I began with a unifying wash of cadmium yellow and cadmium red. Then I laid in the pinker skin with cadmium yellow and alizarin crimson wet into wet. I added the blue tones to the ailizarin mixture rather under-laying it. I used the alizarin crimson with cobalt blue for her blouse to unify the reds. The result was still a little too much, so I washed burnt sienna over her skin. That helped tone it down a little more.
I think she’s much improved although still not as pretty as the real girl.
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