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I told my family that I was taking them to see lots of big pretty rocks and I did. We did both rims of the Grand Canyon, Bryce National Park, Petrified Forest National Park, Capital Reef National Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, and more, not to mention many Indian ruin sites.
We had a blast, But, for me, summer vacations are at least half about painting material. Here is the first of what I hope will be many paintings of the Southwest.
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I did this little painting at the gallery last Wednesday. It is another view of rocks below Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Newport, Oregon.
I painted it loosely without using mask reserving the white paper in the clouds, waves and foreground by painting around them. I added the spray on the rocks with opaque chinese white. I used phthalo blue, cobalt blue, raw sienna, burnt sienna, and a hint of quinacridone deep red rose.
This painting is currently on display at Art in the Valley, Corvallis, Oregon. You may still purchase it by mail on inquiry through the contact page of this blog.
On our last trip to Newport, my husband and I found a tiny little state park, not even big enough for a highway sign from 101 let alone our road atlas. It is a wave watchers paradise. Wet fireworks. We spent a happy hour there with out noticing either the time or how damp we were getting. This little part of the rocky headland didn’t produce such spectacular spray, but we were fascinated by the whirl pools the breakers kept forming against the rocks.
I began by masking the whites. Then I painted in the rocks in burnt sienna, phthalo blue, cobalt blue and a little raw sienna. The water is phthalo blue, burnt sienna, and raw sienna.
This is the second painting I’ve done of the tide coming in at Seal Rock Wayside. The first was a little postcard sized painting I did while demonstrating at the fair. That little painting sold immediately. I liked it too, so when expanding it to a full sized painting I didn’t mess around with the composition much. But I did want to get some more variety into the rocks and spray.
Like the previous painting, I began by reserving the whites with liquid mask while painting in the ocean and rocks. I used phthalo blue and burnt sienna for the ocean.
I used the same basic technique to lay down the rocks as I did with the first little painting. I started with raw sienna and quinacridone gold. Then I added burnt sienna and quinacridone deep red rose. While the burnt sienna and deep red rose were still wet, I dropped in cobalt blue and phthalo blue. Finally I added some heavy burnt sienna and some French Ultramarine.
Once the painting was dry, I scrubbed the edges of the rock where the spay hit them with a stiff filbert brush to show how the waves obscured them. Then I broke out the white gouache (an semi opaque white) and added more spray. Over the dark painted rocks the gouache white looks gray. I used the gouache primarily for the shelf of the biggest rock and the bases of the rocks on the shore side. Finally I pulled out the razor and scratched in fine white lines where the water spilled over the rocks and little cuts for droplets of spray. All four techniques work very differently, and each has a character of it’s own. I like the variety that resulted from using them all.
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The Oregon coast is littered with spiny gray-black volcanic rocks. I love them, but it’s hard to get watercolor that dark without losing the vibrancy that drew me to the paint the first place. Last time I attempted this subject I painted on canvas because watercolor can be laid on canvas much more thickly than on paper. There are things I like about this approach to the problem.
As you can see above, canvas does allow for very dark values. But there are problems with this approach. For one thing, watercolor lifts extremely easily from canvas and so I lost some of my ability to layer washes effectively. Also wipe-out techniques tend to return the canvas to white rather than merely lightening the paint.
This is the beginning of my experiment with hot-pressed paper.
Like canvas, hot-pressed paper will take higher value darks than my favorite cold-pressed paper. The reason is much the same– more paint sits on the slick surface of hot-pressed paper. Paint has a tendency to lift from the surface of hot-pressed paper too, but not as easily as from canvas.
As you can see hot-pressed paper, does allow me to layer translucent paint effectively provided I make sure each layer is completely dry before I add the next one. All of the lighter colors are in now and I’m working on the darks. Things are just beginning to look three dimensional.
I’m going to prop this painting up on the dining room buffet so I can ponder it during dinner. There are some compositional issues I need to resolve before I go further. For on thing I don’t like the rock pile dead center in the painting. I need to move it to one side of the other. I may lighten the sand and grass up to echo the sea and sky too.
After painting four very wet paintings working mostly wet on dry, I just completed a very dry painting working mostly wet on wet.
This is Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico. For those of you who don’t know of it, Bandelier is a kind of pocket sized Mesa Verde located not far from Santa Fe. The major cliff dwellings can be seen in a half day self guided walking tour.
I took the photos for this painting a couple summers ago while visiting my father. The slender young women reaching the top of the ladder is my niece. She and my daughters climbed every ladder and explored every dwelling. Besides the fun of climbing the dwellings interiors are a cool contrast to the hot dry trail.
The palette is burnt sienna, cobalt blue, phthalo blue and yellow ocher.
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This painting is almost all rock. To get the gritty texture I used naturally sedimentary pigments mainly burnt sienna and French ultramarine. Sedimentary pigments break into fine pieces and settle into the indents of the paper. I used granulation medium to heighten this effect.
But while granulation medium increases texture, it decreases transparency. Very little of this painting still looks like watercolor to me. Only the climbing girls, the sky and the background cliff look transparent. I liked this effect on the rocks in Sisters on the Rocks I because it exaggerated the transparent look of the scenery around the rocks. And in this painting is does heighten the transparency of the the girls. But, in future I don’t this I’ll use granulation medium for quite so much of a painting’s total area. It makes a better spice than a main course.
Stay tuned, I’m not finished with Sisters on the Rocks yet.
“A solitary rock is always attractive. All right-minded people feel an overwhelming desire to scale and sit upon it.” Dorothy Sayers, Have His Carcase.
Sayers was right. And my children are certainly right-minded. Given a rock they will climb. And the volcanic rocks found on our beaches are just meant for climbing. They’re tall and the have plenty of hand and footholds. And what a view there is when you reach the top.
This is once again a three pigment painting: burnt sienna, yellow ocher, and French ultramarine. The earth colors are perfect for our cold gray coast. I used granulation medium for the rocks. Given that extra bit of texture in the paint, they practically painted themselves. I did the sky wet into wet and the sand in layered washes.
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