I have been doing many on-location studies of scenes in Calgary over the winter and spring. It has been a wonderful learning experience. The main lessons I have learned from this process are:
- Before I begin painting I need to plan the entire painting process including getting the composition, the colour family, value pattern and what story do I want to tell.
- Using a viewfinder really helps to simplify the composition. So much needs to be left out. Simplify, simplify, simplify.
- Choose an overall colour scheme before I start don’t try to recreate the actual colours.
- Decide on the value pattern that helps tell the story.
- Decide on what story I want to tell.
- Even though this takes a bit of time, the painting always goes more quickly and effectively if I do all of this.
This process is all very new for me. I normally just do a quick sketch and then start throwing paint.
The interesting thing about all these paintings is that the actual scene in each case (with the possible exception of the Dog Park and Tivoli) is not particularly attractive and each one except the dog walk was done on an overcast day. Also the figures were all from my imagination.
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I’m very pleased to announce that just today I received confirmation that I have been juried into the Alberta Society Of Artists with full signature status. It means a lot to me to step out into the big world of art an receive recognition that my work is at a professional level.
I now look forward to participating in their activities and to continuing to improve and grow as an artist.
Union Cemetery Wash 2
9 x 12
I’ve been reading a lot, lately, about the benefits of trying to complete a watercolour in 3 washes. I’m finding that it forces me to combine and simplify shapes and it gives me a focus to my painting process. Today I went plein air (on location) painting and consciously tried to apply this method.
I’ve been very influenced by a book I’m reading by my watercolour hero Joseph Zbukvic (Creating Mood And Atmosphere In Watercolour). He says that your painting starts the minute you begin looking at the scene, not when you first apply paint to paper. When you first look at the scene you need to simplify the scene into as few shapes as possible (5 or fewer is very good). Also you need to organize these shapes in terms of their value and colour. This preliminary thinking can be amongst the most valuable moments in the painting process.
So in version 1 my first wash identified the 3 main shapes: the sky the hills and the road. Much of the wash on the main hill is in fact a final wash as can be seen in the final version. In this first wash I also left a few white highlights to add interest and contrast later on. In wash 2 I added nearly all the shapes ie the trees, the accents on the hills and various grave stones. In the final wash I added the shadows, the dark tree on the right and various bits and pieces. So the entire painting took about an hour and a half and I think captures the feeling I was after.
Another idea I’m trying to keep front of mind is to have the painting tell a story. In this simple study I want you to be drawn up the pleasant curve of the road and up to the top grave stone and the flags. Interestingly the flags are at half mast because today was the Ralph Klein Memorial Service. So I think that that is also part of the story of this painting.
For me, however, the main point of this was simply as an exercise to further develop my understanding of this 3 wash process of painting a watercolour.