“Flintridge Eucalyptus” 11″ x 15″ watercolor on Arches paper
This morning’s plein air outing took us to the beautiful home of one of the members of our group. There were literally so many views to paint that I had a hard time choosing one, but I finally settled on this perspective on their neighbor’s villa, with our friend’s stately eucalyptuses in the foreground. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know how I simply cannot resist these beauties.
I thought you might find it interesting to see how this painting began. If I had faced the subject straight on, the sun would have shined directly over my shoulder onto the paper, which would have made values extremely difficult to judge. I prefer to paint with shade on my paper, but when that’s not possible, I will move my easel so there is less sun falling on the paper, and I’ll tilt it vertically as well. This also makes it possible for my preliminary washes to run and blend.
At the end of the morning, the painting was almost finished (see below) but the villa in the background and some of the lawn still had white showing. Rather than making a permanent decision about these whites that I might regret, I took it home to think about it for awhile. Using a piece of acetate film, I tested a few different colors in overlay, then finally added warm tones to the whites as you see above in the final painting. Overall, I’m happy with how this turned out – I’m tempted to paint it in oils also.
The biggest temptation here was to RESIST painting every leaf, bush, twig and detail, especially in the background. The idea is to give an impression of the scene – to capture the feeling without explaining every part. Wise teachers like Edgar Whitney, Frank Webb and others say that by not putting in too much detail (just enough) it invites the viewer to participate in the painting. I agree!