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Ompa Rainbow: Painting and Painting Again

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Ompa Rainbow, watercolor of a tuba by Jenny Armitage

Ompa Rainbow (watercolor 14 x 19) SOLD

I’ve recently begun painting on clayboard.  I love it.  But, may of the juried competitions I’d like to enter require that watercolors be on paper.  In response I’ve been repainting some clayboard paintings on paper.  “Ompa Rainbow”  is a paper repaint of  “Big Boy.”

Big Boy, Painting of a Tuba by Jenny Armitage

Big Boy (watercolor on cradled claybord 11 x 14) $300

The results of all this repainting  have been what I think are often better paintings, though not better  in every way.   Practice makes perfect is of course part of this equation.  But beyond that, looking at the finished work allows me to make serious design choices.

In “Big Boy” the idea was to make the tuba very large by looking up into a sky dominated by tuba.   In “Ompa Rainbow” I wanted to make the colors pop. I slid the tuba to the left to give it some space around the bell, but the big change is in the background.  “Big Boy” is set against  a blue background, resulting in a very cool painting, all blues, greens and yellows.  To make those cool colors really pop, I gave “Ompa Rainbow” a very warm background.  I also paid attention to color theory.  At the top, where the tuba gets blue the background is blue’s compliment, orange.  At the base, amidst all that glorious plumbing, the background becomes purple the compliment of the predominating yellow.   It’s a very warm red leaning purple though because red sets off green which is  the other color sharing dominance in the lower half of the tuba.

Brass Winds and Shadow, Watercolor by Jenny Armitage

Brass Winds and Shadow (11 x 14 watercolor on clayboard) SOLD

The Color of Music, Painting by Jenny Armitage

The Color of Music (16 x 20 watercolor on paper) SOLD

 

I made several deliberate changes when I repainted “Brass Wind and Shadows” as “The Color of Music”.  First, I backed up on the subject a little and allowed all the trombone bell to show.  The colors are deliberately brighter.  I lightened up the shadows.   In retrospect I like the lighter brighter colored version better but I think the tighter crop of the first painting works better.

Bouquet of Reeds, Painting by Jenny Armitage

Bouquet of Reeds (11 x 14 watercolor on Aquabord) $300

New Orleans Reeds, painting by Jenny Armitage

New Orleans Reeds, (12 x 15 watercolor on paper) SOLD

 

I did very little to the composition when I repainted “Bouquet of  Reeds” as “New Orleans Reeds,”  but I did deliberately change the mood by intensifying the colors.  I also reversed the basic value plan of the painting by making the background light rather than dark.  I’m not sure I like either painting better.  It’s the mood, not the quality that changed.

Jazz Buddies (watercolor on Aquabord) $300

Taking a Shile to Each Other, painting by Jenny Armitage

Taking a Shine to Each Other (13 x 19 watercolor on paper) SOLD

With “Jazz Buddies” and “Taking a Shine to Each Other” the later is to my mind a much better painting. With “Jazz Buddies” I intended to really show off the way the bright sun washed away the sax. I think I accomplished that.   With “Taking a Shine to Each Other” I went for drama and I got it by really darkening up the instruments and complicating the dark colors.

Prints of “Ompa Tuba” and the other paintings shown in this entry, are available through my print-on-demand shop.

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A Little Wind and Water

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A Little Wind and Water (5 x 7) SOLD

A Little Wind and Water (5 x 7) SOLD

Twixt Wind and Water

Twixt Wind and Water

Yet another little painting I did at the fair. This one is a smaller version of one of my favorite paintings, Twixt Wind and Water. The only thing I didn’t like about the original was the vertical format. I thought the painting would look better with more sea and waves to her left. So I played around with that idea in this smaller version. I do like the extension of the the sea, but I think I made a mistake in showing too much of her right side. If I do a full sized painting of this one again, I will keep the extended horizon but still crop-out most of her right shoulder.

Reference Photo

Reference Photo

As you can see, both paintings show a complete change in compositional thinking from when I took the reference photo. Taking the photo, my thoughts were all about the shape of her figure and the rock. But when I looked at the photo up close, I fell in love with the hair spilling out of her braid. That required some rethinking. Looking at the photo again, I’m tempted to include more of her body to increase the feeling of movement.

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The Counter-Weight Part IIA: A Pouring Demonstration

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After the last of the viable mask has been removed, I wet the paper generously to remove the last remnants of the of the mask. This is a necessary step because unless the masked area has been washed, it will take paint unevenly or not at all.

Then I laid in the sky. This time I went for blue (cerulean blue, and French Ultramarine).

With Sky

With Sky

From here on out it’s all detail. I used a mixture of French ultramarine and Windsor red for all of the brush work. I varied the temperature of the mixture to match the surrounding pour image and to cool shadowed areas. I mostly left the poured passages alone.

The Counter-Weight (11 x 14) ($100)

The Counter-Weight (11 x 14) ($75)


What would I do differently? Well, the current composition is unobjectionable but it lacks excitement. The early painting had movement and especially depth that this one lacks. I may go back to the bridge with sketchbook and camera in hand, but not today.

Here are some other examples of paintings I have made using the multiple mask and pour method:

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Counter-Weight IA: A Pouring Demonstration

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Pouring is one of my favorite techniques. It literally means to pour paint across the paper. It can either be the atmospheric beginning to a painting or a major part of the painting process. Some people use it to create abstract shapes to suggest the painting subject. But however much pouring is used, it provides transparent color passages that can be gotten in almost no other way.

The method I use most frequently was popularized by Jean Grastorf in her book Pouring Light: Layering Transparent Watercolor. Her technique uses multiple masks in much the same way batik uses multiple wax resists.

When I first began painting I used her pouring and masking method as an aide to help me paint with contrast, because it forced me to divide my picture into five distinct tonal values or less. It also helped me loosen up about color. These days I pour only when I think the subject of the picture will be enhanced by pouring.

Sunday I photographed just such a picture, one of the counter weights to a local railway drawbridge recently converted to a pedestrian bridge. The silhouetted subject is perfect for pouring.

Working Photo

Working Photo

After one false start detailed in the previous two posts I had a drawing of the bridge I liked. I began the painting by transferring it to a block of Arches 140 cold-pressed paper. (Because removing mask is hard on paper I always use the more durable 140 weight cold-pressed paper when pouring.) My photo of the bridge has loads of minute detail. In my cartoon I simplified. I want the silhouette of the bridge tower and counterweight to predominate. Too much detail would take away from the graphic nature of the image.

After making the cartoon I taped off the edges of the painting and began masking the sky plus everything I’d like to remain white. The trick to masking is to use nylon brushes and to soap the brushes frequently. This keeps the mask from gumming up the brushes and saves your quality brushes from rack and ruin.

Once the mask was dry, I mixed three cups of very thin paint: cadmium yellow, phthalo blue, and Windsor red. I deliberately choose staining colors, because mask lifts pigments. Then I wet the paper (an important step as otherwise the paint tends to run off the paper without staining) and poured the yellow straight across the top of the tower. I tilted the paper right to let the paint run off and wiped up the excess. Then I poured the red just below the yellow, tipped the paper, and cleaned the excess again. Some of the red bled into the yellow making orange. Then I poured the blue the same way across the counter-weight adding a dull purple where the paint crossed the red paint I had just poured.

After the First Pour

After the First Pour

When the paint had dried completely, I masked all of my lightest values and poured slightly thicker paint over the paper in roughly the same places. After the paint dried I masked the medium values and repeated the process with milk-thick paint. When the final pour had dried, I pulled the mask off, revealing a bold but rough painting in vivid color.

After the Mask Came Off

After the Mask Came Off

It’s all brush work from here.

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