Driving home from Edmonton yesterday, we took Highway 2A and went through a lot of towns that I had never seen before. We stopped for an hour in Lacombe and I did this painting of the downtown. It’s such a pleasant way to see and remember a place. I tried to do a lot of thinking and planning before painting the scene. This involved a lot of squinting to identify the value pattern. When I did this I was able to connect a number of buildings together because they were all part of one big shadow shape. My biggest challenge at the moment is to be able to accurately identify and paint the different values the first time. For example making sense of things like windows which are reflecting a darker value when they are also in shadow. I’m still reading and enjoying the book, Watercolor Solutions by Charles Reid. He is definitely a master of working with subtle differences in value. He also is great at deciding the pattern of values that will work best in a painting instead of just copying the pattern that nature presents.
The lovely warm weather just seemed to call me outside so I drove around a bit looking for some interesting buildings. Fortunately, there was sun so there were shadow patterns to play with. I was very pleased with both these little sketches. They are very close to what I was trying for. I’ve just been reading a book by Charles Reid and found his paintings and suggestions very interesting. I had his approach in mind when I did these.
For these quick little studies I’m using my sketch book which takes paint fairly well but is definitely not watercolour paper. But using the sketch book takes a lot of pressure off since I’m just collecting information. The resulting sketches make up for their lack of finished quality with increased spontaneity.
Two more ideas for my watercolour class. The image of the bridge is the first one in a series that I’ve done recently. It’s interesting when I look at them that it was this original one that inspired me. The dark under the arch contrasting with the white of the water. In each of the subsequent versions the bridge and the arch kept getting smaller and it became a composition about the building beyond the bridge. It reminds me of that saying, “make the painting about what it’s about”. I think I may have started losing my way and I may need to get back to this idea which is what excited me in the first place.
A little exercise on making blob people. I love the way that these spontaneous washes and strokes can be so suggestive of actions and emotions.
As I’ve mentioned many times, I find that it is very useful for me to do thumbnail sketches. I have little cardboard templates of the various sizes of paintings that I use. I then just trace one of them on paper and I’m ready to do a thumbnail. These particular thumbnails are all ideas that I’m working on for lessons with my watercolour class. I take various visual elements that I think will be useful for my class and try to put them together into an effective composition. The pay off for this effort is that I know if the painting will work with just a 15 minute investment of time, because if it doesn’t work here I can be pretty confident that the painting itself won’t work out.
The first 2 are different versions of a theme of a large stone bridge with some buildings visible above it and then a background of mountains. I did a painting of the first one (in an earlier post) but now I realize that the second one is a better composition. If I had known that before I did the painting I could have saved a lot of time. I also did a painting of the 20″ X 30″ image and as I live with that painting I’m coming to realize it is a very strong composition.
I just spent a week in Winnipeg visiting family for Christmas. I managed to get out of just a couple of hours to try to do some painting. The top image of the River Walk along the Assiniboine River was done when I actually walked along the river. Unfortunately, it was below zero and the water froze before I could do anything so I had to finish it indoors. The other two were done from the car in the North End.
What was the most interesting part of this effort was trying to adapt the painting process that I am teaching presently to these subjects. It was overcast both days and there weren’t any strong value contrasts or bright highlights. I don’t find any of them to be a “good” painting but as I look at them now I find them to be a very good record of the experience of being at those locations.
We have just finished our latest instructional DVD. It features well know Alberta artist Susan Woolgar doing 2 demos in pastel. The above image is the first demo and I think that it is one of the very best paintings I’ve ever seen done in a demonstration setting. In fact we loved it so much that we bought it for our own collection.
Susan is a master of the pastel medium and she shares a wealth of tips and techniques for pastel artists. She is also such an experienced painter that she has tremendous knowledge of the painting process no matter what medium you are using.
The DVD is finished and is presently off in Vancouver being replicated. If you are interested in buying a copy that normally retails for $45 you can take advantage of this one time pre-release sale and get copies for $35. Contact us to order. I should mention that in addition to doing 2 complete demonstrations Susan also demonstrates how to make your own pastel paper.
It’s been a few days since I’ve posted. We were in Winnipeg visiting family and also contacting some new artists for our instructional art DVD’s. We were really pleased with the artists that we met and look forward to branching out beyond Alberta.
Anyway, this is another image that I’m working on for my watercolour class. I was really attracted to the idea of the darks under the arches of the bridge leading into the rushing water. This was the first colour study and I wasn’t too happy with the first attempt so I came at it again. I liked it more after that but unfortunately I had gone a little too dark in some places that I wanted to be brighter. So I added some gouache and even some white acrylic ink. For the last few years I’ve been using a lot of opaque watercolours such as cadmiums. I’m appreciating them more as I use them because when diluted they react much like transparent watercolour but when used at full strength they do give you some ability to apply light over dark. You can see this in some of the yellow green highlights in the bushes on the bridge. I also used it in the last video clip of a door way where I put bright cad red light blooms over the darker green foliage.
This particular scene is becoming very interesting to me. I think that it would look good in a 20 X 30 format so I’ve done a little colour study using that format. I like the high horizon line though I think it could be even a little bit higher. Also the angle of the bank on the left has changed considerably from the previous post and I think a perspective between this one and the previous post would work best.
Anyway, that little plein air dash on Friday is having some very pleasant reprecussions.
This is the image that I did for my latest video lesson. For the beginning watercolourist this seems a very difficult painting and it is, but only in the sense that it has a lot of different techniques involved. However, none of these techniques are by themselves particularly difficult. In fact, thinking about this I recalled a saying that I made up when I was a public school teacher. That saying was: ‘hard is just more easy steps’. This painting certainly is an example of that saying.
Doorways are a very popular subject because they always seem to imply a story. Doorways draw us into the painting.
The video clip is now available at this link.