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Florence in July

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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Reeds at Sunset

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Reeds at Sunset (11 x 15) $75.00

Reeds at Sunset (11 x 15) $75.00

This is the Willamette again, but it could really be anywhere.  I was struck by the way the reeds look like they are growing out of a sunset.

Like the Broken Dock I painted a couple days ago, I began this painting by masking everything except the water.  After the mask on the reeds dried, I painting the sky’s refection on the still water wet into wet beginning with an overall wash of very diluted burnt sienna.   When the shine left the paper, I added various mixes of quinacridone deep red rose and new gamgee (yellow).  I used cobalt blue and burnt sienna to ad the darker clouds and phthalo blue for the water.

Once the  sky had dried, I removed the mask and painted the reeds in new gamgee, colalt blue, phthalo blue and burnt sienna.

Or purchase a print from Fine Art

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A Paint Box Full of Gray

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There are various premixed grays and browns on the market, but I don’t use them. Nature doesn’t come in neutral gray, it comes in a infinite variety of grays and browns. The best neutrals for any painting are always mixed from the palette. Shadows look more real if mixed from the colors in the wall or ground on which it falls.

And grays are so easy to mix. To get gray, mix any color with it’s compliment: yellow and purple; blue and orange; red and green. Add more of the warm half of the duo and you get a warm gray or brown. Add more of the cool compliment and you get cool gray.

A Few  Mixed Grays

A Few Mixed Grays

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Gaining Texture But Losing Transparency

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Sisters on the Rocks II (9 x 12) $50

Sisters on the Rocks II (9 x 12) $50

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.

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