This is a 30 x 30 canvas. I need to do a detailed underpainting because this is a complicated plan. So far, I have my sunlight and shadows blocked in. The underpainting is an important step because this is when I make the most decisions. I can tell that it’s close to correct perspective because I can fit the trees in with spacing that’s close to what I see there. And I decided how much Spanish moss will be in the painting, how much water, where I want the most contrast in order to make focal points, etc.
Now I have to go over the whole painting again, maybe twice, starting with the sky and the background trees at the top and working my way down the canvas into the foreground with layers of glazes. I’ll brighten it up a lot and give it some depth. I want the grays in the trees to look pearly so I’ll use warm and cool grays together and try to keep the values from light to dark with the same contrast as I see in nature.
I think the water will be the hardest part and it’s the last thing to finish. I don’t have that figured out yet.
This is a start. I have over 10 hours in it so far, and 6 trips to the swamp. including the times I sketched. It could still take weeks to finish because of the weather. I want to get there early in the morning and leave around 10 when the light is different and the park gets crowded. I didn’t expect to make this much progress this fast on the painting, so I think I can finish it in Dec.
This is watercolor with Inktense pencils. It seems like it took a long time to finish. I went over to the garden 6 times including the times I sketched it, first on charcoal paper and then again on watercolor paper. Each time I stayed there for an hour or two and made some progress on it then came home and worked on it off and on for hours, so I think I have over 20 hours in the painting. I enjoyed working on it very much.
The weather was beautiful! It’s cooling down but not cold. I didn’t turn the heat on in my apartment yet. It’s staying around 70 inside so far. I hate turning the heat on for the first time every year because it blows dust around and I don’t want to catch a cold because of it.
The garden is still beautiful with a lot of flowers blooming. The roses are so sweet smelling and the breeze makes the scent follow you down the walk.
It looks like I have time to try another watercolor painting before we get a good freeze. I’m waiting for that refreshing arctic air from Canada. Then I’ll start on my long time in the planning winter swamp painting in oils. Until then, maybe I can try to get a watercolor done at Back Bay.
This is watercolor with Inktense pencils in the grass. I’m not sure if I should work on the egret more or stop now.
When I see a beautiful place like this, I want to paint all of it. I wonder why the trend in art is to simplify. I need bigger paper so I can put more of the scene in the picture.
My theory is this, if an artist’s life is complicated they feel the need to simplify their art. Most peoples’ lives are complicated. My life is so extremely simple most people would die of boredom. That’s why I enjoy the complexity of nature so much.
I look at this scene and think about things like, that’s a great habitat for an egret but inhospitable for a human. How many snakes are down there? How many of those snakes are poisonous? Is the light better in the afternoon? Because the parking spot close to my little overlook will be full and I’ll have to walk a mile with my art supplies if I don’t get there early. Why did the trees die? An inlet is on the other side of that row of trees and the path floods. Did the marsh water get saltier, killing trees? Or did beetles do that? I might never know the answers to my questions but that’s the kind of things my mind goes to.
Since my life is so simple, I feel like my mind is more balanced, thinking about simple questions and not stressing about serious problems. It makes me look slow in comparison to other artists. I can’t call myself “prolific” because it takes a week to finish a watercolor. That’s ok. If I was an artist that felt compelled to make art in some type of frenzied state, (the other extreme) that would be unbalanced for me.
As always, feel free to opine.
This is watercolor with some Inktense pencil in the grass.
The tide was high all week and the sandy path to my overlook was flooded every day. At least the water looked the same every day too, because it’s a lot different at low tide. A lot of people walked in the water, some fishermen wearing waders and others, including me, took their shoes off and walked barefoot in the water. It’s still warm here.
A guy stopped and talked to me. He said Pleasure House Point is his favorite place for work and recreation. I asked him what kind of work he does and he said he tests water quality. Doesn’t that sound like a good job for a nature lover? He was interested in buying my painting and it was only half finished. He gave me his phone number. I’ll call him tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed I get a sale.
This is what I did to my fan brush. I cut it zig zag so I could make waves. I was trying to figure out a way to paint the water with wind going over it and this was what I came up with. I think I’m on the right path with this and I’ll use it again.
In wildlife news, the birds were squawking loudly and I heard a fisherman yell out, “Shut up! We’re trying to fish here!” I thought it was funny.
They gave all of us Plein air artists a great swag bag at the Ghost Ranch with a lot of art supplies. The thing I wanted to try first is this little color sample test palette with 6 dry colors from QoR Modern Watercolors made by Golden. I was just playing around and made the colors bleed because it’s kind of fun to see what you get when they mix and also to watch the bleed.
That’s Mars Orange Deep on the dunes with Indanthrone Blue in the shadows and Manganese Blue in the sky. The blues don’t show up right in this photo because I took it in the yellowish light over my work table. They’re both good blues in real life.
They are some real nice bright colors and I might buy tubes of them in the future.
It rained today and it might rain tomorrow. That’s ok. It’s been dry here for 3 weeks. I started my watercolor at the Pleasure House Point marsh, but didn’t get very far with it yesterday. I will finish that thing some time soon. Not exactly sure how to proceed. At least I had good weather for my vacation. I’m glad I made it home before the bad weather moved in out west.
If I could describe the Ghost Ranch, I’d call it mystical.
I have to make this a fast post because it’s hard to stay connected.
A weird thing happened to my roomie and me. Half the time the lights don’t work in our cabin. Sometimes they flicker. Sue told the maintenance guy and he came right over. Naturally they worked then. He left and the lights went out 10 minutes later. I think it’s a bad circuit breaker, but are we haunted?
I went out at the crack of dawn to Sand Dunes National Park and the dunes had great shadows. First I walked out to the grassy knoll to have a look at the view from there. It’s fantastic! I went back to the car and got my watercolor paper and color swatches because it’s too far to lug even watercolors over the sand. I got plenty of exercise at the high altitude walking on the sand today. People go the whole way to the top and walk on the ridge. They surf down on boards too.
I thought it would be less weight to carry if I picked a few colors of Inktense pencils. As I was working on my charcoal sketch the light changed and the shadows were gone. It was getting close to lunch time. I decided to go back this afternoon and see if the shadows looked better a few hours later.
I wish I could draw a more panoramic view. This doesn’t give you the perspective. If I drew people on the ridge they would be tiny. This isn’t as much of the mountain as I’d have liked in the sketch, but at least I got the tree line in so the altitude is showing a little.
When I left the dunes a little while ago the shadows looked dramatic again. I have one more full day that I can spend up there, then I’ll have to move on again, so I hope I can get another sketch tomorrow.
It was so nice to be over there. The weather is great! This is a big holiday weekend so Pleasure House Point will have a lot of visitors. I’ll get back out next week with my watercolors and try to paint this. I’d like to use a bigger paper so I can show more sky and water. I think the biggest challenge will be the edges where the top of the sedge overlaps the water edge. I’ll probably do a couple practices on scrap paper.
A watercolor might be my last art project until I’m at art camp in New Mexico. I should start getting my things organized this week and pack art supplies. I’ll be off the grid and under the radar for a few weeks but when I get back I’ll tell you about my adventure. Driving across country alone is a zen thing. It’s a beauty and vast.
This is all Intense pencils. It was cloudy the past few times I went to First Landing State Park to work on this. The water looked smooth. I didn’t see waves from where I was standing. I always think I see two colors in the water and texture.
I worked on the painting at home for a few hours from my sketch and color notes, and went back to the beach to check my colors and values against real life. Then I came home, made some corrections and finished it.
I want to go to Pleasure House Point and try to get a sketch in between the rain showers tomorrow if I can.
I don’t call myself a professional artist, here’s one reason why.
This painting is really a flop. Lucky for me, as an amateur, it doesn’t matter when a painting doesn’t work out. If I was a pro it would be a big embarrassing waste of time to goof around with something for hours, then I don’t like it. If I only knew what I was doing I could be good. Yeah, I could be real damn good, but I’ll have to practice because doing watercolors isn’t as easy as the pros make it look.
I’ve taken a couple watercolor classes in the past and I might do that again, but I have a feeling it takes years to master watercolor. I might buy some magazines and see if I can get tips. Or, if you have any advice, dear reader, I’d appreciate it.
I did this at home. I’ll go to Back Bay and try again in another beautiful spot.