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pouring

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Breaktime Caceres

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Break Time Caceres an Original Painting by Jenny Armitage

Break-time Caceres (watercolor 11 x 13) $300

This is old town Caceres.

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Florence in July

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July in Florence, Painting of Old Florence by Jenny Armitage

July in Florence (13 x 23 watercolor) SOLD

July in Italy is hot.  This July was particularly hot.  The week we were there, highs hovered in the upper nineties and topped one hundred from time to time.   It had been the same in Rome the week before.  But it didn’t feel quite as hot in Florence because of the narrow little streets.  It simply isn’t possible to find a street in old Florence without shade on one side or the other.  In this painting I tried to capture that cool shade under hot hot skies.

Like The Pilgrims at the Gate and The Arch of Titus, this painting is poured.   Pouring is not an easy process to describe so, this time I took photos of the painting in progress.

I begin the design process by making a value  sketch of the painting.   A value sketch is a rough black and white sketch with very clearly defined values.  It is my broad outline for the painting.  I refine it until I get a compositional plan I think will create a striking painting.

Next I create a detailed line drawing or cartoon.  A cartoon is the extreme opposite of a value sketch.  It has no shading at all, just lines.  It is as detailed and small picture oriented as the value sketch is loose and big picture.  If the value sketch is the destination, the cartoon is the road map. The image on the far right below is my cartoon for this painting after I transferred it to my watercolor paper.

Together my reference photo, the value sketch, and the cartoon function as my guides during the painting process.

With poured paintings, I always begin by washing the cartoon loosely with color.  The idea is to make sure none of the paper is truly white, even though it will read as white later.   In this case, I washed the sky and the pavement with light blue and the buildings with yellows and oranges.

Once the color wash had dried, I use a removable liquid mask to cover everything I wanted to remain white.  The mask shows as a blotchy coral color in my photos below.  Then I mixed some very watery cups of yellow and orange paint.  I wet the paper with clear water and then poured each cup of paint on  the base of the builds and tilted the paper to let the paint run off the top.    Then I poured cups of watery blue and purple on the lower left and tilted the paper to the right to let the paint run off.

Pour one above, shows the results of that first pour.

For pour two I masked the lightest values and poured again.  This time I used thicker paint and no yellows.  I added more reds and allowed the blues and violets up into buildings.

I masked medium values for pour three.  Then I poured yet darker paint and left out the golds.   After pour three had dried I removed some of the mask to check to see that I was maintaining the value contrast I wanted.  Then I re-masked the lifted areas and masked the areas I wanted to remain dark to medium values before doing the final pour.  In the end I did five pours total.

As you can see, each pour makes it a little harder to tell what the painting looks like as more and more of it gets covered up with liquid mask.   This is why the value sketch is so important to me when pouring.  It helps me remember where the majority of the lightest and darkest values must go.  The cartoon and the reference photo help me place the smaller details.  This helps me keep my eye on the final painting even as it disappears under mask.  But, there are always a few surprises after the mask is removed:

Once the mask came off, the brushes came out.  I cleaned up the windows, finished the figures and added the darkest values.

This painting has sold, but you may still purchase a fine art print.

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Inside The Musee d’Orsay

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Inside Paris Time, Painting, By Jenny Armitage

Inside Paris Time, (12 x 16 watercolor on paper) SOLD

We are just back from a fabulous trip to London, Rome, Florence and Paris.  Our first museum visit in Paris was the d’Orsay, a fantastic art museum that picks up chronologically where the Louvre leaves off.   Van Gogh Monet, Manet, Renoir, and Cezanne are all well represented.   But this painting is not about the art in the d’Orsay, but rather about the museum building itself.  The d’Orsay began it’s life as a train station.  The gigantic clocks which once informed train passengers of the time remain in the building both inside and out.   This clock is one of two facing the Seine River and the Tuileries Gardens.  Outside the clock faces appear opaque.  Inside it becomes obvious that the clock faces are actually windows  Museum patrons are as drawn to the view through the clocks as they are to the artwork in the galleries.

To capture the feeling of the light through the clock, I primarily poured this painting, using removable masking and cups of paint instead of brushes.  Only the final details and the view through the clock were added with a brush.   I used New Gamgee, Hansa Yellow Light, Cobalt Blue, Thalo Blue, Rose Madder Quinacridone, and Windsor Red.

This painting has sold but you can still  purchase an art quality print.

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Turret and Cupola

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Turret and Copula (11 x 14) $150

Turret and Copula (11 x 14) $150

Back to the Deepwood Estate but with a very different feel.  This is the west or backside of the house looking up at the turret and the tallest roof peak.  The afternoon sun brought the architectural details into graphic relief. I decided to play with the posterized nature of the light by pouring this painting.

Pouring watercolors is much like batik dyeing.  First I mask all the white areas of the painting.  Then I literally pour cups of paint across the paper.  After the first pour dries, I mask all the pastels and pour darker paint.  Then I mask the medium values and pour again with yet darker paint.   Once the painting is dry, I lift the mask and add the darkest values and the details.

In this case I used phthalo blue, deep red rose, and new gamgee for the first pout.  I tried to keep the yellow on the cupola.  In later pours I used only the deep red rose and two blues Phthalo and French ultramarine.  I saved the french ultramarine for the final pour.

I masked the sky after the first pour and overlaid it with cobalt blue when the mask was removed.  The details are all heavy purple and magenta mixtures of phthalo blue and deep red rose.


Or purchase a print at Fine Art America.com.

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Back to the Drawbridge and Masking Tape Woes

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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.

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Pub Talk II: Half Poured and Half Painted

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Pub Talk II (9 x 13) $200

Pub Talk II (9 x 13) $200

In this version of Pub Talk I tightened up the composition a little by moving everyone closer together and tying the couples at the far table together with the painting on the back wall. I reduced the number of archways to simplify the pouring process.

I began the picture by painting the people tables and the picture at the far end of the room. This was really the whole lower half of the painting. I used cerulean blue for the older men’s hair and the shadows in the faces. Cerulean blue was much more satisfactory for this purpose than phthalo blue was in Pub Talk I. I dropped cerulean blue and phthalo blue into damp burnt sienna for the darker hair.

For the rest of the direct painting I used the same colors as before. I used layered washes of raw and burnt sienna for the skin again. The clothes are all various combinations of phthalo blue, burnt sienna and raw sienna. The tables are burnt sienna washed over cobalt blue.

direct paint

direct paint

Then I masked the lower half on the picture and poured.

It’s important when pouring to decide what colors need to predominate where and which direction to tip the board after the pour. I tried to place the yellows and reds along the left hand (sunlit) side of the arches. I placed the blues to the outside. I tipped up rather than at a diagonal because I wanted a peaceful cozy feeling.

I used raw sienna, burnt sienna, and phtalo blue for the first two pours. On the third pour I substituted dioxazine purple for the phthalo blue. On the final pour I used burn sienna, cobalt blue and dioxazine purple.

After the Third Pour

After the Third Pour

Removing the mask lifted a fair amount of raw and burn sienna as well was cerulean blue. I rewashed the peoples skin with these two colors. Then I darkened the ceiling fixtures and the archway walls.

Mask Off

Mask Off

Finished. And I do prefer it to the direct paint only version, although I think that may be in part because I got better at the people with each version.


Or purchase a print at Fine Art America.com.

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Skipping Stones and Body Paint

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Skipping Stones (11 x 14) $75

Skipping Stones (11 x 14) SOLD

Skipping stones is like testing an echo, faced with a smooth body of water and rocks at hand, all right minded people want to do it. This is my husband and girls skipping stones into the Williamettee River. Georgia learned to do two or three skips that day and Paula found some fresh water shells.

Because the painting is really all about basic body shapes and afternoon sun I began it painting by pouring. I wanted bodies washed in color. But I did so much direct painting afterwords that it hardly feels like a poured painting to me. Whatever I did, it wouldn’t come right and I almost gave up on it. I finally decided that for design purposes I should have made Stephen’s hat white like the girls’ hats. But with watercolor white is reserved paper not paint and there was no way I could lift enough paint to make his hat white again, certainly not white in comparison to the girls’ hats.

So I pulled out the white body paint. Body paint or gouache is opaque watercolor. Dark colors are lightened with white. Transparent watercolor dilutes gouache and it won’t cover it. Consequently, gauche must be added last. So I painted the shadow of the hat with transparent colors first and then I painted around the shadow with permanent white gouache. I had to apply it fairly thickly because opaque is one thing but covering is another. While I was at it I reclaimed a little white in Paula’s left shoe too.

The gouache white is bluer that the page, so Stephen’s hat is bluer than the girls. That’s fine because he’s farther away. If he had been close I might have had to paint the girls’s hats too just to even things up.

I’m not tempted to work in gouache. I like the look a transparent watercolor too much. But every once in a while a little gouache is a life saver.

Other than white, I used ceruleum blue, phthalo blue, raw sienna and burnt sienna for the first pour. For the next two pours I substituted cobalt blue for the ceruleum. Ceruleum is an opaque color (but not gouache). I used the same palette for the direct painting with the addition of raw umber.

Prints available through Fine Art America.com.

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High Noon at the Gravel Spit II

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High Noon the the Gravel Spit II

High Noon the the Gravel Spit II (9 x 12) SOLD

This is the same basic painting as yesterday writ larger. The method and pigments are the same, except that I didn’t do any direct painting on this one. I didn’t think any further definition of the boys was necessary.

I like it, but I think this one looks more like an ordinary crowd. I think the smaller numbers in the first painting focused the eye on the interactions between the young men. That part of the drama gets lost in a crowd.

This painting has sold, but you may still purchase a print at Fine Art America.com.

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Sneakers I: More Pouring

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Sneakers I (11 x 17) $125

Sneakers I (11 x 17) $100

This is my youngest daughter in a characteristic pose. I love the way she has clasped her hands in tight but spread her legs out with her feet pidgin toed.

I poured all of this painting except for her hands and feet and an under painting of the carpet. I painted her hands and feet first, and then masked them to protect them from the pour. I left the under-painting of the carpet pattern unmasked.

face and hand

face and hand

carpet underpainting

carpet underpainting

I masked and poured three times. When the mask came off: I adjusted the values, added shadows and shoe details; and touched up her face.

first pour

first pour

second pour

second pour

mask removed

mask off

I used Winsor red, alizarin crimson, and cadmium yellow for her face and hands. I used hansa yellow medium, burnt sienna and phthalo blue for the first pour. I substituted raw sienna for hansa yellow in the second and third pours. I direct painted with the pouring palette.

What would I do differently? Well I like this painting a lot as is. I would mask the hands and face before painting them and paint them after the pour next time. I think I would also leave the sunshine streaks across the carpet out.

I like the painting enough that I’m going to do it again without pouring.


Or purchase a reproduction of this painting at Fine Art America.com.

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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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Anatomy of a Painting Disaster: Part I

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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:

Working Photo

Working Photo

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

Cartoon For Painting

Then I became beguiled by the lovely colors produced by pouring it.

After the First Pour

After the First Pour

After the Second Pour

After the Second Pour

After the Mask Came Off

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.

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