The Vermont Landscape is quite special in this region. Fields and farms and wonderful skies. I’ve painted this farm once before and wanted to do another version with a slightly different feel. I recently took part in a Dan Marshall challenge of a Colorado landscape. It had a wonderful stormy sky so I took inspiration from that.
Reference Photos are Often Not Perfect – so Change Them!
The original reference photo had a rather uninspiring almost cloudless blue sky so that came out and I put in some dramatic clouds and gave them some interesting shapes. I wanted to keep the bright sunlight on the roofs so I kept the sky clearer to the right so the whole thing read well. Doing this also helped focus the painting on the farm as center of interest. I went back and forth about the road. Sometimes roads can help a composition but, in this case, I couldn’t make it work without it looking a little hackneyed. So out it went. I ended up with a composition I like. Most of the detail is in a band across the middle with large areas above and below with relatively little going on.
A Value Study can Often Help Solve Problems
I didn’t do a value study this time. In most cases this really helps. If a painting doesn’t work in black and white and in a 5×7″ format it’s unlikely to work on a larger scale and in color. But in this case I’d had a warm up with the previous landscape. I’d also painted this subject before and so knew my way around it. So I took a chance and it paid off.
Portraying the Character in a Vermont Landscape
The sky is the main character in this work. The farm buildings still in sunlight contrast with the approaching storm clouds. I felt that this highlights the vulnerability of humans and our abilities to control our environment with the sheer power of earth’s climate whims. The buildings are put in broadly with broad strokes of color and minimal detail. The sky is, in contrast, painted wet in wet in multiple layers.
Landscape Video Demo
I often video my paintings for teaching purposes but in this case I didn’t. If you’re interested in the nitty gritty please have a look on my youtube video channel or have a look at the videos on my site. I’ve included a landscape done in a similar manner below.
I was pretty happy with yesterday’s sketch but wanted to get closer on the colors. The sand especially was a little too *pow* for me so back to the color swatches to get closer. The changes I made were to push the sky a little more towards green, the water a little darker and the sand with way less chroma. It’s still the same color which is mostly yellow ochre with a little permanent rose. But to take the chroma down I added some lamp black and a little water to bring the value back to where I wanted it.
Here’s today’s and yesterday’s side by side.
Now personally I prefer today’s version. However other members of the household prefer yesterday’s.
It was definitely worthwhile doing the same scene twice. It takes the pressure off when you’re doing the first one and you can experiment with a few things that you might not otherwise.
I really like painting a watercolor cityscape. Great shapes, lots of things going on, and I get to interpret my everyday surroundings.
However this was a huge saga. I’m just going to leave this one here for now but the struggle to get to this point was filled with disaster and frustration. But I got there in the end and I’m very happy.
Watercolor Cityscape Reference Photos Need a Lot of Editing
One of the problems was that the reference photo had a lot of problems. The color scheme was a little odd and there was a lot of extraneous detail that had to be edited out. I also had the problem of the time of day. I originally wanted to do a night painting but I couldn’t get the atmosphere right. So I turned it into more of a dusk painting, lightening up the sky and adding in some more clouds.
Don’t Change Materials When You’re Trying Something New
In hindsight one of my problems was that I changed to use Arches watercolor paper rather than my trusty Fabriano Artistico. I knew that this one was going to be a struggle and could have done without having to readjust back to Arches.
Not Every Painting Works Out First Time
I did several versions of this painting. In fact I almost gave up after the first two. But in this case perseverance paid off and the final thing came together very well.
Lessons Learned for Watercolor Cityscape
I think I need some bullets here.
Simplify! There’s a lot going on in a city street and you can’t put it all in.
Work out your big value shapes ahead of time. If they don’t work the whole painting won’t hang together.
Decide on a color scheme and don’t just blindly follow the photo. The original colors are nothing like how it ended up but it’s definitely a better painting for it.
Suggest that detail and don’t put in every little thing. Sometimes just some dabs and a little contrast here and there can portray a multitude of things
Subtle values changes in a larger value shape add a great deal of depth to a painting. This is starting to become one of my things. If I manage to achieve it in a painting I always think it’s better for it.
If it doesn’t work first time think about it first. Do some value studies, reexamine the color scheme. Don’t just blindly try another one – that almost never works for me.
Boston Common watercolor painting – day 13 of 30 in 30. I used to walk through the Common on my way to get my hair cut at a fancy Newbury St salon. This was back when we both had the fancy jobs and I hadn’t had any mad ideas of giving everything up and painting full time. Can’t say I miss the hair cuts but I do miss Boston Common. I wanted to focus on the statue and keep the buildings (probably a hotel?) misty and in the background.
Intersecting shapes attracted me to the composition
One of the things that really attracted me to this composition was the way the horse’s legs intersect giving an abstract pattern. As the statue is against the light the values are very close on the figure and the horse. This gives it a subtle, misty feel which I really like. The added texture due to granulating paint (mostly cerulean blue) and some water splattering adds to the effect.
Verticals are vertical – do I really have to say this again?
But oh that lamppost! It’s gone past loose to sloppy and I didn’t keep it straight. Lost edges are fine here (in fact probably essential) but I didn’t keep my eye on the ball here and the painting suffers.
On balance a good outcome
But on the whole this came out rather well I think. I love the texture on the statue and the muted colors. I’m getting behind on a painting a day so they’re coming thick and fast right now. Helps in some ways as you don’t worry too much over details.
A video to end with
I didn’t record this one (wish I had done now!) but here’s a link to a another Boston painting which was livestreamed in November. If you want to be notified of any upcoming videos or livestreams please subscribe to my youtube channel and join my mailing list.