Arroyo Twilight

I think I tend to be a little too conservative with color. It’s a rut I’m trying to get out of by occasionally getting experimental and pushing the colors far beyond realism. So, today my husband and I went out for a little “golden hour” painting time – the last 25 minutes of the day before the sun went behind the nearby Verdugo Hills. There wasn’t time to fiddle and fuss about being neat or getting the shapes and values right – the light was changing rapidly by the minute. I had a very good time splashing around while he read to me about Calder from today’s LA Times.

This watercolor sketch is another view of the same arroyo I painted last week – an area that is either dustbowl dry or full of water depending upon the season. Right now there are cattails in a marshy area – redwinged blackbirds everywhere and ponds full of poliwogs. It’s my idea of a great painting location.

If you draw or paint, in what areas are you ‘pushing yourself’ to be more experimental, regardless of the outcome? Are you taking chances? How does it feel when you do?


  1. Jean Mikulla
    April 17, 2006

    Karen I haven’t looked at your site this past week end, and I just want to say I love all of the paintings, the tulips, the bunny the scenes. Everything that you do has such a nice fell to it. I think that you have an excellent sense of color. Jean

  2. Tami
    April 17, 2006

    Karen, I like these brighter colors, not to say that I don’t like your softer work. It is great to look at the beautiful things you paint and read that you feel your are still learning also. I so enjoy your paintings!

  3. Karen
    April 17, 2006

    Thanks Jean, Tami. I appreciate your thoughts.

    Tami – I am just beginning to learn! There is so much to know that I’m aware I’m just barely scratching the surface. That’s why I try to practice every day, to read a lot about drawing and painting, to study the works of people I admire, and to not be afraid to try different things and to ask questions. I learn a lot from failed experiments – maybe even more than from successful ones. So I try to make new and different mistakes daily.

  4. Laura
    April 18, 2006

    I think this is a wonderful sketch—you’ve definitely got the golden light part beautifully.

  5. TeriC
    April 18, 2006

    Karen, it is BEAUTIFUL! It makes me want to go and see it.

    I take a chance and it usually ends up as a lesson learned of what not to do, but I keep trying.

  6. Karen
    April 18, 2006

    Thanks, Laura, Teri –

    Teri, I quite agree and I think that taking chances is an essential part of growth. I find that knowing what not to do can be as important as knowing what to do. I learned to walk by falling down a lot, not by staying put. I think art works much the same way.

  7. Jennafer
    April 18, 2006

    Lovely painting, Karen.

    In answer to your question, I push myself by pushing myself. In essence, I usually will paint/draw something until I like the way it looks,
    but is not necessarily far enough. I then get afraid to push it further because I might ruin it (when I liked it to begin with).
    Incidentally, I find this is true of other life things… like I am learning to telemark ski downhill. I am unable to get past the point
    in learning that I am at, because I’m afraid to push it a little further (by pointing my skis downhill after turning, thus going
    faster). Do you find that your being conservative with color also appears somewhere else in your life somehow? The nice
    thing about art, is that I can push my boundries more, without having to worry about falling!

  8. Karen
    April 18, 2006

    Great comments, Jennafer.
    I think that I compartmentalize a bit, but when I was skiing (downhill) I definitely had a zone that I didn’t get beyond (blue squares was my limit and I mostly did parallel curves, I hated to point them downhill unless it was at the end of a run and ended up into a big wide bowl with lots of space to slow down in. Point em downhill on a narrow run, no WAY! )
    When I practice I use inexpensive aquabee paper so I don’t worry about ruining it with rash decisions. I have defined it as a practice from the get-go, so I’m less concerned with the outcome. If I was using good Arches, yes, I would certainly tighten up and take fewer risks.

  9. Lin
    April 18, 2006

    BEAUTIFUL … so twilight-ish!!

    Pushing myself … absolutely — each time I attempt something new, different, something to sketch that I haven’t done before — angles and
    perspectives of all sorts — colors and color mixing without a clue as to what I’m doing … plunging forward regardless of outcome — just to TRY
    something and learn from it …. yep — pushing all the time! LOL

  10. Katherine
    April 19, 2006

    Karen – well done for pushing the boundaries! Nice colours in this one.

    I made progress with colours when I stopped using any manufactured blacks browns and greys. IMO they all have a very deadening effect on a painting – so darks now tend to be mixed using complementaries.

    What I’ve been trying to do of late is to push myself to use the colour one shade ‘louder’ than the natural colour – and a purer colour – no murkiness. So, for example, if it’s a pale grey I might look hard for any reflected colour and may use (say) a lavender colour or a pale blue (but it could be anywhere in the colour spectrum – just not grey!). And it’s amazing how many ‘loud’ colours you can use in a painting and for them to look totally ‘natural’!

  11. Starr
    April 19, 2006

    This one doesn’t look conservative to me! It is lively and colorful and very nicely done. I also enjoy reading your commentary. How nice that you are getting out and about to paint. I’ll be back to check often…

  12. Robin N
    April 19, 2006

    Great corner you turned Karen.
    Ways that I have been pushing myself are to attempt more figurative art and to push color notes in my color work.

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