Monthly Archives: November 2011

Monochromatic Painting & Value

These are 3 examples of the exercise we did today in my new watercolour class.  When you paint with one colour as in these examples the only variable you have available to create a successful painting is value.  In these examples even though they each use only one colour, that colour is actually made up of 2 colours.  I did that only because I find these mixtures more interesting even though the exercise works just as well with one colour particularly if you use a darker value colour such as dioxazine purple or ultra blue.

The text is a little hard to read but if you  click on the image you’ll see a larger version.

Rock Study


This is the first of a series of sketches that I’m working out using the subject of the rocks found near our cabin on Echo Bay, Lake of the Woods.  Lately, I found some techniques that help me to express my impression of these rocks so I’m trying out various compositions with the intention of doing one some larger format paintings, starting with 18 X 24.


Linda’s House

This is the image I did at this Friday’s impromptu watercolour class.  It was a very interesting process because it was someone else’s project so I did no practicing except to do some thumbnails.  So when  it came time to do it I had no real plan or idea how to proceed so once again I did what I did on my recent plein air painting experience in Canmore, namely, I just covered the entire page with tinted water to reveal the whites.  Then once I did that I had to make a next stroke and on and on.  By the end of the process I was very happy with it.  It reminds me of something  that one of my favourite instructors, Brian Atyeo, used to say.  That every painting is a puzzle that we have to solve and as an artist we need the confidence to believe that we can solve it.  I like that and I find that usually I can make something of my paintings no matter how wonky they may seem at some point in the painting process.  Very liberating.  Just keep putting one foot in front of another.

Reflections Of Echo Bay

I seem to be in the midst of a period of prolific creativity.  I think it’s the result of a convergence of a number of influences.  I’ve been studying Don Andrews and  Joseph Zbukvic extensively.  I’ve poured over their videos and it’s all just making sense.  I have often heard that when you ready to hear something your ears open and I’m very much ready to hear (or rather see)  how they approach their paintings.  I’m interpreting it as a much freer and more spontaneous use of water.  We can only half control water but when you understand that and work with it rather than trying to control it it’s an amazing partnership.  Before I used to do what so many other watercolourists do ie do a detailed drawing and colour it in.  Now I may or may not do a detailed drawing but I paint right through it, letting the colour flow and create it’s own spontaneous effects.  I know that I’ve never had as much fun as I’m having now.  I’m also producing at a much greater rate and I feel that my images are getting much stronger.  It’s very liberating.  I’m just designing  a 1 day workshop that incorporates many of these ideas.  Stay tuned for that.

This image is a little study that I think has a nice feel.  It’s a favourite subject.  The rocks and landscape of Echo Bay on Lake of the Woods.  I used the 6 stroke method to do the water.  I really liked it but I forgot to leave the highlights at the bottom left so I added a second wash to the water leaving spaces for the lighter reflections.

Playing With Value

For years I’ve heard artists say that value is more important than colour.  I understood it intellectually but until I put it into practice I hadn’t really mastered it.  These images are versions of a lesson on value that I’m developing for my watercolour class which begins next Tuesday.

For each example I choose 1 colour.  When you paint with one colour the only element of painting that you have available is value.  To make it interesting I actually used 2 colours to mix a colour.  By mixing colours I’m able to get a more interesting colour range.  This activity works when you choose only 1 colour but it’s not as interesting.

The colour choices I made were various versions of:
1) blue and red, and
2)orange and blue

In each painting I’m consciously making washes that are light, middle and dark values.

I like the bloom that was created by the water in the 3rd example from the top.

Sibbald Pond, Wet & Wild

I’m developing a workshop that is based on the style of watercolour that I’m using at the moment.  I’m tentatively calling the workshop, Watercolour: Wet & Wild.  That’s because I’m now letting the water do it’s thing.  That means letting the water flow, swirl and mix the colours organically.  I’m loving it because it’s a complete antidote to what I’ve done for years in watercolour which was basically to do a detailed drawing and then colouring it in.  In this new approach I let the water flow and gently help it flow in ways that I want.

In this particular image the entire grassy area was done with 4 squirt bottles of various colours and 1 squirt bottle of plain water.  I squirted them horizontally across the paper and all the white spots where a product of this squirting process.  I added a few colours into this wash but basically let the water paint it.  The sky was another version of the ‘6 stroke method’.  I was very pleased with the  values of the 2 washes of trees in the background.  It creates a real sense of light.

Sibbald Pond | watercolour | 16 X 12

Echo Bay Rocks

We have a cabin in Echo Bay, Lake of the Woods.  I have spent many happy hours over the years painting that beautiful landscape.  I’ve always loved the huge granite rock faces where they dive into the water.  I’ve done a number of painting of rocks and water there.  I just love this one because it was done in this new experimental style that I’m using.  Actually I’m going to stop calling it experimental because the focus of this approach is nothing more than making use of what the water part of watercolour can do.  That means letting the water (with colour in it) run in various ways across the paper.  It literally paints itself.  It also creates beautiful luminous colours that I could never have mixed.  I’ve been very inspired by the work of Nita Engle with regard to how she applies colour to the paper in this style.

The sky was put in with a variation of her approach that I call the ‘6 stroke method’.  It makes for beautiful blending of colours.  I actually had a huge clump of foliage in the bottom left that reached fight into the rocks but it overpowered the image so I tried to erase it completely.  There are still some remains of that foliage.

This painting was  very technical for me because I had to do each section independently.  There were 2 separate washed just to do the water, 1 for the reflection of the rocks and another for the water further out.  I scratched the paper with an x-acto knife to get the white line behind the duck.

Murray’s Rocks | watercolour | 9 X 12

Sibbald Pond

This is a study version of the plein air sketch I did.  I used one of the new techniques that I’ve been experimenting with.  In this case I used 6 little squirt bottles filled with colour to squirt on all the grassy areas.  I liked the effect but I wasn’t happy with the colour.  I wanted something yellower and lighter.  That first application of paint is about as much fun as you can have in watercolour.  My job is just to watch all the colours happen and to guide the water as much as I can.

I had to do a lot of lifting out to tone down some of the colour.  I really like the foreground water and I love that distant row of trees in the background.  I also used mask to preserve the shape of all the water and also the dead tree and other stumps.  I don’t enjoy using mask but it meant that I could squirt with abandon to create the grassy area.

Capturing Downtown Canmore

This image is a studio version of the plein air sketch I did during a recent painting weekend in Canmore.  I was extremely influenced by my recent investigations into an experimental approach to watercolour.  For me it’s proving a liberating experience.  In this particular painting I began with a very light wash of cerulean blue and then just began adding other layers of increasingly dark values.  Special attention was paid to the figures at the centre of interest.

Downtown Canmore | watercolour | 9 X 12