Going with the flow this week. Today bees!
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
11”x14”/16”x20” matted. One of my favorite places – Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Definitely on a roll today. A very complicated scene but with good bones. Very enjoyable and came out really well. Love the blues and oranges.
When I’m in a bit of a painting funk like I have been for the past couple of months I find it easier to just pick a reference at random from my collection and just paint it. Every now and again I trawl through free-to-use photos, select a bunch that catch my eye and put them in a folder ready for situations like this.
So this is why I’m painting St John’s College, Cambridge. We lived in Cambridge for a number of years which was fab so this has a personal connection even though I didn’t actually take the photo. I love the intricate shadows on the lovely golden stone and also the way the building stretches horizontally across the canvas, leaving large areas above and below. But can I do it justice this time?
Anyway off we go.
Lately I’ve started doing digital notans of pictures. These are reducing an image to just black and white regions. Even more than a value study I find that if you can’t make a well-designed notan it’s highly unlikely to produce a good painting once you’ve got all the values and color in.
So this came out pretty well. The bushes and the left and right trees frame the building well. The shadows on the building also serve to create a good design. One thing I did change was to darken the roofs of the building. This framed the building and allowed some continuity between the left and right hand sides.
The drawing went well. I didn’t put in too much detail as it gets fussy but lightly marked where the windows and shadows went. The first washes I kept varied but warm with a little lavender dropped in here and there to cool things off and provide interest.
The next bit was the crucial bit. Putting in the shadows I had to be careful of keeping them dark but not so dark they look jarring. Too light everything looks wishy-washy. Too dark and it looks like you’ve gone over it with a sharpie.
the photo has actually darkened things up a bit here. The shadows were looking pretty good and had slight variations in color from warm to cool.
One other thing I finally remembered to do – work from left to right. As I’m right handed I’m constantly drawing or painting from right to left and messing things up as I go. Maybe I’ll put up a sign above my easel. Next to the one saying ‘tea is not painting water’.
So the final thing :
So this is the best result I’ve had in a while. The foreground and background were a bit nervewracking. You get one shot at these and I wanted to keep them smooth and not too fussy. Basically a deep breath and dive in with the brushes and stand back. This time I got away with it.
Two tries today. Both of the Boston skyline. The intention was to keep the colors muted and the values subtle. Not too much detail but enough to suggest buildings. The first one above was definitely the most successful but even this one suffered from some bad brushwork in the water. Nice in parts though.
Here’s the second:
It’s still a struggle closing the gap between vision and reality. Keeping the palette very muted and the values as close together as I can. I think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 14×11”.
This was my previous attempt.
Trying different things and hoping the mojo returns. Today – cats!
Still blundering around with the brushes awaiting some direction. Today – planes!
Or maybe a crocodile? I’m unclear as to the difference.
But anyway. Something happened today that doesn’t usually happen to me. I couldn’t think what to paint. Nothing was presenting itself as interesting and I almost gave it up as a bad job. But as I was noodling through some pictures of Marco Island I thought – alligators! They have a lot of those in Florida don’t they? So an alligator (or crocodile?) it was.
I wanted this to be quite subtle and to only suggest the bobbly skin they have. This left the definition in the teeth and eyes. I think he’s rather handsome.
This is a mystery scene as I was rooting about on pixabay.com for a New England street scene and this presented itself. This trundled along merrily although I can’t say I enjoyed it and the end result shows a lack of enthusiasm. But this isn’t the time to give up, at least for a while.
The drawing and initial washes. Maybe a bit tentative here but the final thing came out fairly punchy so all ended well.
After leaving things overnight I turned to the ipad and doodled a little on the photo. I find this helps identify the big shapes and allows me some practice before committing to paper. Watercolor really doesn’t allow you to do this so this is quite liberating.
Thinking back to my big shapes mantra the ipad doodling made me realize I should keep the big trees on the right dark and also darken up the roof of the tower on the left. Helps keep things together.
Not much to say about this. Going through a bit of a rough patch enthusiasm wise.