California Home 1 – Daily Painting

California Home 1 – 15″ x 11″ watercolor on paper

Can you tell I’m in the middle of a very experimental try-anything phase? Well, I am. I absolutely love the California school paintings of the 30s through 50s, as I’ve mentioned here before, so today I thought I’d try something in that style.

Last year, on a trip to Capistrano, I took this picture of a bougainvillea vine climbing over a wall onto what seemed to be a carport or something undefined. I liked the vine but I wanted it to be part of a larger scene – not just a big pink sprawling mass. I might still paint it again in oil or pastel, but that’s another story.

So, today, while letting the Alverno villa color study percolate in the back of my head, I took out my sketchbook and explored some other ways the vine could be part of an imaginary scene. I invented a cottage for the vine to crawl on, and made the fence lower so it could be seen.

This was one of several value sketches I did, mapping out different shapes that I thought might work.

I scanned that drawing and brought it into Photoshop CS, where I experimented with different colors in different layers. To make the fuchsia-red flowers pop I looked for a complement for the cottage roof – a blue-green. I picked analogous colors for the other trees and shrubs in the scene.

When I got it roughly sketched on the paper, I discovered that I had too much room to the right with nothing going on, so I drew in an old clothesline and tucked it behind a hedge because I didn’t want the fence to run full wide right off the page. And … I liked the allusion to an time before labor-saving devices, and the sun and breeze that it implies. I suspect that there are a couple of little kids playing with a floppy-eared dog in that back yard. Don’t you think? That shrubby background became a place to insert a couple of squabbling birds – geese or ducks, your guess.

So there’s the evolution of a California dream from a long-gone era and I hope you found the journey to its completion interesting. I’ll be putting this in my ebay store, tomorrow probably.


  1. wendy
    March 30, 2007

    Wow, you are really racing along this week. Thanks for sharing the evolution of a painting. It’s probably true that looking at a subject a few times, trying out ideas is really good, though at other times the first pic, the spontaneous one, may be the best. Bouganvillea is a marvellous plant to depict, though to touch it’s a bit prickly. I have one purple on trailing up and along the verandah, about three years old.

  2. Toni
    March 31, 2007

    I love reading about peoples thought process when it comes to painting, composition, and anything else that goes into a completed piece.

  3. Fran aka Redondowriter
    March 31, 2007

    I love how this turned out, Karen. Thanks for visiting the other day. Here you were right in my territory–and visiting your wedding site. I did join the South Coast Botanic Garden so maybe I’ll turn up at Descanso one of these days.

    I found a used book called the Yoga of Drawing I’m going to treat myself to tomorrow. I’m still convinced I can’t really draw.

  4. Katherine
    April 3, 2007

    Karen – that’s a period of painting which i decided I rather liked too when I was out in California last summer. It has a very distinctive look about it.

    I can see what attracted you to this. Speaking personally I’d have been very tempted to crop right in on the bougainvillea vine and swamp the picture with that.

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