July in Florence (13 x 23 watercolor) $600
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 very rough depiction of the painting in black and white with very clearly defined values. It is my broad plan 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. The image on the far right below is my cartoon for this painting after I transferred it to my watercolor paper. It is really 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 reference photo, the value sketch and the cartoon function as my guides during the painting process. Usually, I make a cartoon and value sketch whether I pour or not. But when pouring, the value sketch and cartoon are particularly important.
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 can off, the brushes came out. I cleaned up the windows, finished the figures and added the darkest values.
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