“Tumbling Down” – 10 x 14 – mixed media on watercolor paper (wc and acrylic)
Last night, after I decided to stop working on an oil painting (for the moment), I took out a watercolor pad and thought I’d experiment with some of what I heard Jerry Stitt talking about – painting what things are “doing” rather than literally what they look like. This was the result.
I started with big bold washes with a wide hake (goat hair?) brush, and then started layering with other watercolor washes. I dropped thick paint into wet areas and let it run. I used the edge of a flat brush to sculpt some of the rocks. Dry brush was added here and there for foliage. Most of the white of the waterfall was the reserved white of the paper.
After the watercolor was dry, I went back in with acrylic (both diluted and full strength) to add more crevices to the rocks and to add to the spray effect over dark rocks. Knowing that I was going to include acrylic, I didn’t use any masking.
I only vaguely used a reference photo as a starting point and to understand the flow of the cascade. Most of the rocks were made up as the paint did its own thing and I needed to respond to it. That’s something else that I found fascinating from Stitt’s demo – he did his paintings completely out of his head based on his response to a very quick gestural drawing and what the paint was doing on the paper. Stitt has been painting for so many years that his knowledge of land forms is vast, so in a sense he’s relying on an internal reference library and a near photographic memory. But what he says is true. At a certain point in a particular painting you need to make the painting work and forget trying to match a scene “out there” in reality. I observed the same ability with watercolorist Barbara Nechis who invented landscapes as she painted … again building upon years of experience as a painter and observer of nature. This is yet another reason to keep a sketchbook and draw nature wherever you go. By this simple act you are committing nature to memory.