“Winter Sun” – oil on hardboard – 10 in x 8 in
I seldom paint snow because, well, we don’t have a lot of it in Southern California unless you go in search of it in the mountains. And that only lasts a short while unless it’s a particularly snowy year. But I’m hoping that there’ll be some this year so that I can try some plein air painting. It will be oil – I don’t think I could manage too well with watercolor out in low temperatures, although I did that once at Mammoth Mountain and it turned out OK.
At any rate, this is a practice painting in which I started to get some feel for the textures of a winter landscape. I used a wet canvas reference photo to work from. Unless I come up with something I like better (and soon) it will be my Christmas card for this year …
“Shell Game” – Approx 8.5 in. x 6 in. – Watercolor on 140 lb. paper
OK, I lied. I said yesterday that I was mainly working on loosening up with a big brush and soft flowing edges. So what’s the next thing I paint? This.
Actually this is a community project for those of us who are daily painters, suggested by the very talented Laura Wambsgans. I’d love to try one in oils but I stayed in my comfort zone, watercolor. I was planning to break an egg and paint the contents of the shell in a small pyrex cup, but I had no sooner cracked it and set the shell halves down on our quarter-sawn oak dining room table in a shaft of afternoon sunlight that I saw what I wanted to work with.
I found this setup very challenging, but very instructive as well. The dark background is composed of at least a dozen layers of glazes, but no black. I wanted to keep the edges of the shell crisp but I didn’t trust masking so all of those areas were painted around with a very small brush tip. After all the layers were finished I went in with a fine pointed brush to add the “tiger” stripes in the wood which is so characteristic of golden oak. This is one that I wish I had been scanning in stages, but I was trying to push to get it done on time!
I took this painting to our local art association group last night and entered it in the Artist of the Month competition and was happy to find out that it won first prize!
That was just the bit of encouragement I needed to keep working.
To answer the question Frank B asked earlier about what I’m discovering with this new direction …
I’m finding that for some watercolor subjects, specifically landscapes, I find that the faster I work the better the results are. When I fiddle around and keep working with something trying to ‘force’ a mood or effect, it really falls flat. But when I just let the water do what it’s going to do and keep things more impressionistic, I like the outcome. Using a bigger brush helps, too because it doesn’t allow me to get fussy. Now, clearly this wouldn’t work if I was trying to do something with sharp focus realism. I’m going to have to try the loose approach with other subject matter, too, and discover what happens.